L’Iber Tin Soldier Museum
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.
The scope of L’Iber’s collection is breathtaking, with over a dozen rooms loosely organized by time period. There are collections dedicated to World War I, Napoleon, and Ancient Rome, and you can find almost every kind of soldier imaginable, from US Confederates to ancient Egyptians. You’ll see prehistoric hunters bringing down a mammoth, medieval warriors laying siege to walled cities, and a darling little Francisco Franco protected by his fearsome Moorish Guard.
In one room, there’s a recreation of the Battle of Almansa, which pitted France and Spain against the rest of Europe, and was the decisive conflict in the War of Spanish Succession. Thousands of figures are deployed across a vast field, which has been brought to life in vivid detail with rivers, trees, hills and roads. If you know your stuff, you might be able to distinguish the Portuguese infantry from the Irish regiment, as well as the Dutch, the French and the English, all recognizable in their distinctive uniforms. History buffs could spend an hour taking in just this single exhibit.
The man behind the madness is Don Álvaro Noguera Giménez (1939-2006), who was one of Valencia’s most important 20th-century businessmen, head of the real-estate agency FICSA, and apparently an unparalleled tin soldier fetishist. His collection is set within the stately halls of the Gothic Palace of Malferit, and it’s worth the cost of admission just to see the interior of this classic Valencian residence.
Given its prominent setting on Calle Caballeros, we had walked by L’Iber probably a thousand times before ever setting foot inside. I’m not sure what held us back — the idea of a “tin soldier” museum certainly captured our curiosity, but we kept putting it off for whatever reason. But it was worth the wait. L’Iber is one of Valencia’s most memorable museums, and almost definitely its most unique.