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.
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.
On the second Sunday of May, Valencia celebrates its patroness, the Virgen de los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Forsaken), with a lethargic and low-key event. Subdued worshipers calmly line the Plaza de la Virgen, offering whispered prayers and privately reflecting on their faith as their beloved icon passes quietly by. (Are you detecting any sarcasm, here? Because I’m laying it on pretty thick.)