Jürgen and I live in Valencia, but we spend at least half the year traveling the globe. And when we're not at home, we rent out our apartment. If you're looking for a base from which to explore Valencia, you might want to consider our place. Wait... do I sense some hesitation? Well, please allow me to convince you.
The Valencia edition of "For 91 Days" wasn't exactly compliant with our usual 91-day concept. Jürgen and I started this iteration of the blog in February of 2015, and finished in November. That's more like 271 days. But we had an excuse! Valencia had long been our "home base," and we finally decided to make it official by purchasing an apartment in the city center.
Although it sounds crazy, there are a lot of visitors to Valencia who never bother to see the city center even once. These are the people who come primarily for the Mediterranean. The beach is a few kilometers from downtown, and when the sun is shining and the waves are sparkling, it's hard to resist spending yet another day on the sand. "Tomorrow we'll make it into town, get some culture." And then tomorrow comes, and the sun is shining again...
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.
A humble meal originally from the rice fields of Valencia, paella has become the most emblematic dish of Spanish cuisine, and is now served in restaurants across the world. But for our money, the best is still made in the Comunidad Valenciana. We visited La Matandeta, a popular restaurant near the Albufera, to learn how the perfect paella is made.
The natural lagoon of the Albufera extends to the south of Valencia, separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a narrow strip of sand. It's the largest natural lake in Spain, and supports a diverse ecosystem of birds, fish and plant life. With its abundance of rice fields, paella restaurants, and traditional houses called barracas, the Albufera has become an important piece of Valencia's cultural identity.
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.
At either end of the Plaza de la Reina, you'll find Valencia's two most emblematic church towers. The Micalet, or "Little Michael," is attached to the city cathedral, while the bell tower of the Santa Catalina church is at the end of Calle Paz. Both towers can be ascended; the ticket price is negligible, but the cost to your legs will be great.
If passing through the Plaza de la Virgen at noon on a Thursday, you'll have to fight your way past a huge conglomeration of people gathered at the cathedral's back door. You might want to pause and join the group yourself, in order to see Valencia's Tribunal de las Aguas: the oldest continuing court in Europe.
Originally built in 1238, shortly after the Reconquista, the Iglesia Catedral-Basílica Metropolitana de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora de Valencia is the religious center of the Comunidad Valenciana. It's located in the heart of the capital, sandwiched between the city's two most important plazas: La Reina and La Virgen.