L’Oceanogràfic – Europe’s Biggest Aquarium
L’Oceanogràfic opened its doors in 2003, and was an immediate hit. The price of entrance isn’t cheap, but you could easily spend all day here. And you’ll need to, if you plan on seeing everything. This is the largest oceanarium in Europe, with sections dedicated to the Red Sea, the Arctic, the Mediterranean, coral reefs, mangrove forests, tropical waters and the oceans. There’s an auditorium, a dolphinarium, a spherical bird sanctuary and multiple restaurants. Grumble about the ticket price all you want, but by the end of the day it’s hard to deny you got your money’s worth.
Most of l’Oceanogràfic is below-ground, in a series of massive tanks where you can watch the animals, and even interact with them. Yulka, one of the aquarium’s two belugas, is famous for her friendly curiosity about life outside the tank. She’ll hover before the glass, watching as much as being watched, and is a real show-off with her tricks and games.
In fact, most of the animals within l’Oceanogràfic seem relatively happy. The seals, for example, are downright joyful. Or possibly insane. It’s not encouraged by the staff, but these guys will actively play with spectators, flipping, rolling, diving and jumping, almost on command.
One of the best parts of l’Oceanogràfic is the Shark Tunnel — a tube-shaped aquarium through which visitors can walk side-by-side with manta rays, sunfish, and a variety of sharks. Despite the thick glass, it’s hard not to feel a rush of terror as a Sand Tiger Shark swims slowly above your head, revealing its jagged, flesh-ripping teeth.
Unfathomably, l’Oceanogràfic offers kids the chance to spend the night inside of the Shark Tunnel. The children are nestled all snug in their beds, while man-eating monsters swim over their heads. Even at my age, that sounds horrifying. Respect to the kids who actually participate in this, especially those who somehow manage not to wet themselves.
Besides the sharks, belugas and seals, there’s a whole lot more to discover at l’Oceanogràfic, including a dolphin show, penguins, weird jellyfish, and frequent temporary exhibits. Don’t let the high entry price keep you away; this park is one of the coolest experiences Valencia has to offer.