Constructed in 1876 over the ruins of a convent, the enormous Casa de la Beneficencia occupies an entire city block. Until 1982, the building was used to educate children, but today it’s home to two separate museums: the Museu Valencià d’Etnologia and the Museu Prehistòria de Valencia. These are fields of study which complement each other well and, if you have a lot of time, both museums can be visited with a single ticket.
L’Iber Museo de los Solditos de Plomo lays claim to the largest collection of tin soldiers in the entire world, with over one million tiny figurines lining its shelves. It’s a strange museum, made even stranger by its location within a beautiful palace on one of Valencia’s most popular streets. Collections as eccentric as L’Iber are usually based in the dusty attic of a scary old hermit.
Even if you’re the kind of person who refuses to visit a museum, it’s impossible to completely avoid art in Valencia. For years, underground artists have been transforming the city into an open-air gallery, covering walls, fences and entire buildings with works of beauty and ingenuity.
A tangled web of streets, alleys and plazas, El Carmen has largely shaken off its seedy past to become Valencia’s most famous neighborhood. For many, El Carmen is the city; when you “go downtown,” this is where you generally end up. With hip restaurants, cool shops, insane street art, excellent museums, and an eclectic mix of people milling about its plazas, El Carmen is beautiful, strange, and occasionally sketchy, but it’s never boring.
A thousand years ago, a formidable set of walls protected Valencia from marauders and invading armies, and anyone hoping to gain access to the city had to pass through one of its twelve monumental gates. Today, the medieval walls have disappeared, but two gates remain: the Torres de Serranos to the north, and the Torres de Quart to the west.
As Valencia’s first family of art, the Benlliures left an indelible mark on the city’s cultural landscape, around the turn of the 20th century. We visited their former home on Calle Blanquerias, which has been converted into a museum dedicated to the family and their astounding artistic output.
The neighborhood of El Carmen takes its name from the massive, ancient convent around which it was built. Today, the monks are long gone, but the Convento del Carmen has found a renewed purpose as one of the city’s premiere cultural spaces.
Among the first events on the Fallas program is the Cant de l’Estoreta, when the history of the festival is presented to the public. But whom should be entrusted with so solemn a task? Why, little kids, of course!