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Mediterranean & Adriatic

About Valencia

Valencia, Spain

Situated on the banks of the Turia River, the city of Valencia, Spain, overlooks the Gulf of Valencia on the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. A metropolis of marvels, Valencia is a thoroughly contemporary city that constantly strives for innovation. But at its core, Valencia clings to a long history that rivals that of any city in the Mediterranean.

Valencia was founded in 138 B.C. after its Roman settlers conquered local Iberian warlords. They proudly named the city “Valentia,” meaning valor. In 75 B.C., Pompey, then leader of the Roman Republic, razed Valentia to the ground. The city was soon rebuilt, however. By the 4th century, the Roman Empire was starting to crumble, but Valencia was flourishing. But its prosperity was short-lived. During the power vacuum left by the fall of imperial Rome in the 6th century, Valencia was sacked several times, most notably by the Visigoths.

In 714, the Moors took Valencia without bloodshed. During the long Moorish occupation, the city was named Medina al-Turab, the “City of Sand.” But a different nickname quickly caught on – Medina bu-Tarab, the ”City of Joy,” – thanks to the great prosperity of the 10th century.

In 1092, the Castilian nobleman Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, better known as El Cid, laid siege to Valencia. The battle was immortalized in the classic Poem of the Cid, though the exact author is shrouded in mystery. El Cid’s siege lasted until 1094, and he ruled the city until 1099 when he was killed in battle. Afterwards, the city passed into the hands of the Almoravids.

In 1238, King James I of Aragon arrived to form the Kingdom of Valencia. Under the Crown of Aragon, Valencia weathered many disasters, yet survived the Plague better than many cities in Spain. By the 15th century, Valencia was experiencing another Golden Age. It had grown into an important port on the Mediterranean, and was the first city in Iberia with a printing press.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw Valencia embroiled in several struggles, from a threat to its unique Valencian language to civil and world wars. But at every turn, Valencia found a way to prosper. Today, it is the third largest city in Spain and enjoys its status on the global stage.

Valencia Lifestyle and Culture

For lovers of paella, Valencia is a culinary mecca. This lively rice and seafood dish – invented here by fishermen – is served a thousand different ways. Paella’s origins reflect the city’s rich blend of Roman and Moorish cultures. Romans brought irrigation to the countryside, turning it to fertile farmland, and developed the port into a fishing capital. For their part, the Moors introduced rice to the city. Paella became the perfect marriage of the two.

Paella isn’t Valencia’s only contribution to cuisine. The city is also home to horchata, a sweet drink made from tiger nuts, sugar and water. Locals will tell you that there’s nothing more refreshing than ice-cold horchata on a hot day.

Winemaking here dates back to Neolithic times. Valencia is one of Spain’s largest exporters of wine. The region produces several different and equally famous styles,Moscatel and Valentino among them,. Several different wines are made from the native bobal grape, beloved for its fruity expressions.

Valencia Sights and Landmarks

Some of the most beautiful porcelain works are made in Valencia at the Lladró Factory and City of Porcelain. Begun in 1953 by brothers Juan, Jose and Vicente Lladró, the porcelain factory and museum has an international following. At the museum, artisans demonstrate the secrets of the art form, including the creation of the world-famous, intricate porcelain lace.

Albufera Natural Park is a gorgeous natural reserve and wetland. A freshwater lagoon and estuary, it is well known for its incredible biodiversity. Historically, the lagoon was a saltwater fishing site. Irrigation and the addition of canals diluted the waters and it has been “fresh” since the 17th century. Now, it is home to hundreds of species of fish and birds, surrounded by a backdrop of traditional Valencian houses.

The picturesque town of Xàtiva is famous as one of the region’s first important centers of learning, thanks to the early Arab technology of paper manufacturing. Xàtiva was also the home of the notorious Borgia family, well-known for forcing their way into the papacy.

Valencia Entertainment and Activities

History and heroics define the nearby ancient city of Sagunto. Back in 220 B.C., it defended itself from the mighty forces of Hannibal. Today, this hillside marvel is a magnificent spot to walk through history, tracing the paths of Romans, Visogoths and others. Narrow lanes lead to the incredibly preserved ramparts of the ruined citadel. While here, you can head underground to the San Jose Caves, a natural underground river of otherworldly beauty. Its subterranean river is the longest navigable underground waterway in Europe.

To sample some of Valencia’s fine wine, visit Utiel-Requena, the largest winemaking area in Valencia. The region takes its name from the sister towns of Utiel and Requena, where vintners grow and ferment the bobal grape. In the medieval town center of Requena, 8th-century caves are still in use,originally created by the Moors to store food, wine and olive oil.

Back in Valencia, the innovative City of Arts & Sciences is catapulting this historic port into the future. This impressive complex of culture and entertainment graces the cityscape with space-age domes and spheres and curvi-linear structures. You’ll find museums of science, botanical gardens, an aquarium and more here.

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