Armed with a pen, paper and a list of questions, we set out into the streets of Valencia to meet some locals. As we suspected, this turned out to be a simple task. Valencians practically live outdoors, especially during the summer, and are friendly and approachable. Almost every person we stopped was happy to take a few minutes out of their day to answer our questions.
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.
Valencia is home to the best zoo in the world. Alright, that might be too bold a claim, but the BioParc is at least the best zoo Jürgen and I have ever visited. Designed in a way that makes cages (almost) obsolete, the BioParc allows an unobstructed view of the animals, and lets you get close to them... uncomfortably close, sometimes. Let's just say, it's a good thing hyenas aren't strong jumpers.
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.
If you're looking at the Turia Riverbed using a satellite program such as Google Earth, you might be surprised by the presence of a giant tied onto the ground with ropes. And zoom in closer... what are those little specks climbing all over him? Lilliputians?
Although it's possible to superimpose your own schedule onto Valencia, life is a whole lot easier when you submit to the city's way of doing things. But what does a normal Valencian day look like? Here's a quick, generalized rundown. Don't worry, there are going to be a lot of snack breaks along the way.
Jesus and the Virgin Mary rank high, too, but the two most important religious figures in Valencia are a pair of Vicentes. San Vicente Martir met his grisly fate here, while a thousand years later San Vicente Ferrer would become one of the city's most influential sons.
It should come as no surprise that the most popular sport in Valencia is football. This is Spain, after all. Of the twenty teams in La Liga, Spain's First Division, three are from the Comunidad Valenciana (at least in the 2015-16 campaign). And two of these are based in the city itself: Valencia Club de Fútbol and Levante UD. We attended a Monday night derby between them.
Following the San Martín Obispo and San Esteban, the San Juan de la Cruz completes Valencia's trio of churches which have been recently restored to their original Baroque brilliance. Like its brothers, this is one of the city's oldest churches, founded in 1343, immediately after the Reconquista. And also like its brothers, it's just... wow.
The San Esteban is among the oldest churches in Valencia, and has become a popular spot for baptisms. Along with the nearby San Martín and San Juan de la Cruz, it forms part of the city's trio of exquisite baroque churches.