Valencia surprised me more than any other city we have visited in Spain. Before arriving I’ve heard plenty about Barcelona, Madrid, and Malaga. But not so much about Valencia itself. Certainly not like the other cities.
And, honestly, I think it’s better to go with lower expectations and be surprised on a grand scale, rather than with high expectations and be left in a kind of ‘hmmm, am I the only one not seeing this city for what it is compared to everyone else?”
Valencia was founded in 138 BC, so you can imagine the history and changes this modern, yet medieval city has gone through. However, if you don’t do a tour of the city, you will never really know.
My husband says I’m a history buff. Although, I’ve never truly saw myself as that. But now after a deeper inspection, the first thing I’m gravitated to when visiting a new city is a city tour. And, of course, that is exactly where I started in Valencia.
As always, I first get in contact with the tourism board of the city. Valencia Tourism Board has been one of the most helpful ones in all of Spain from the start.
Maximo was the main person I was in contact with and he was so great. Besides being born and raised in Valencia, he was a papa of two younger kids. He immediately knew my needs and to accommodate both my interests and the kids.
Things To Do in Valencia Spain – Start With a History Lesson
His first arrangement was the City Tour with Turiat. Our guide was the lovely, Fabiola. She too, was a mama of young kids (my kids ages, in fact). So aside from being a good guide, she had the patience of a mama and worked well with my five year old’s odd requests.
The company specializes in tons of cultural and gastronomic tours, but for our purposes we did the intro Valencia City Tour to get aquatinted with the historic area, and also have a solid understanding of Valencia’s history and impact on Spain and the world.
My Greatest WOWOW Moment
I fell in love with Valencia from the start. I think it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Spain.
But what was a ‘wow’ moment for me was when I found out that the Holy Grail, Christ’s drinking cup from the Last Supper, is here! Here in Valencia. All those movies wondering where it is, are nonsensical. It has been here for the past 500 years, and doesn’t look like it is going anywhere soon.
Also, the Renaissance movement and art works first entered Spain through Valencia. Making Valencia, to this day, one of the most important centers for artists and also musicians.
Odd Findings in Valencia
There are quite a few off the norm things to see here. But these two stand out the most for me.
1. The narrowest building in the world – 108 centimeters wide. This was once a family home back in the 19th century. To get to the top floors they would have to put in a step ladder and move it every time they wanted to go up or down.
Today it’s used as a storage space for the bar.
2. Building replicas for the blind – every important structure in Valencia is fully redone for blind people to be able to get a good sense of what it looks like. And to read the history of it.
Fun Facts About Historically Important Sites of Valencia City
These were only a few of the spots we visited. You can literally write tomes on the history and all that Valencia has gone through from the start.
Torres del Serrano
- This is one of the 12 gates from the ancient city wall. It was called the Christian wall.
- The wall and gates were built in a gothic style between 1392 and 1398.
- It is an important landmark and one of the best preserved monuments of Valencia.
- The city wall was pulled down on 1865.
- This used to be the main entrance to Valencia city.
- Its towers were used as prison for nobles.
- During the Spanish civil war it was the place where the artwork for Prado Museum were stored.
- It is now open to the public.
Capilla del Santo Caliz (The Holy Chalice Chapel)
- The Chapel of the Holy Chalice was built by Bishop Vidal de Blanes in the 14th century.
- It was built to serve as a chapter house and burial place for bishops and canons from the Valencia Cathedral.
- It was also used to hold courts of the realm and theology classes.
- It is three meters square and 16 meters high.
- The Holy Chalice (Holy Grail – Christ’s drinking cup from the Last Supper), can be seen in the shrine in the alabaster altarpiece.
- The decoration where the Chalice is was designed by the architect Antoni Dalmau in the 15th century.
- It was designed in a delicate and Flamboyant Gothic style, with canopies, openwork and pinnacles.
- These are among the oldest Renaissance works in Spain.
- The lower section shows six Old Testament scenes which are linked to six episodes from the New Testament at the top.
- It shows images such as Moses holding a brazen serpent in the desert and Jesus raised onto the cross and Sampson breaking down the gates of Gaza and Jesus breaking down those of hell.
- The chalice is an oriental cup made of agate from the first century BC. It has medieval handles and feet.
- The story behind the chalice is based on a combination of history and legend.
- According to tradition, it’s the one used by Christ during the last supper.
- It was taken to Rome by St Peter and looked after by the Popes.
- Pope Sixtus II ordered it to be taken to Huesca in Spain to protect it from the Emperor Valerian persecution of Christians.
- It is said that during medieval times it was venerated and protected by the knights of the Holy Grail.
- It has been part of the cathedral’s relics since the 15th century, and was installed in this chapter house in 1916.
- The Virgin Mary Statute is now a Valenciano tradition for women when they are pregnant. They bring her an offering and then walk around the Cathedral nine times to have a healthy pregnancy and birth.
Plaza de la Virgen
- This is the main Plaza of Valencia and is surrounded by Santa Maria Cathedral, Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados and Valencia Regional Government Palace, three of its icons.
- It was built in the 15th century during Spain’s renaissance. But before that it had been a forum during the Roman occupation.
- It is home to a Neptune sculpture by a famous local artist.
- Markets started in Valencia during the Arab occupation.
- King James the 1st approved the first weekly market in Valencia in 1264.
- The first permanent market in the city started working in 1344.
- This is one of the oldest markets in Europe that is still working.
- It was built in 1914 and holds up to 400 merchants.
- Its design has a modernist style – bright natural light, steel and ceramic.
- It was also the first market to offer home delivery of fresh products in 1996.
- Its last remodeling happened on 2004.
- It is the largest market in all of Europe
- This is a gothic style building from 1548.
- Spain declared it a national monument in 1931.
- It was declared as a world heritage, UNESCO, site in 1996.
- It is important because of its architectural style (late gothic), for being the symbol of the golden century of Valencia (15th century) and for being an important symbol of the commercial revolution from the late middle ages.
- It was used as a sort of market where merchants and bankers from all over the continent and Asia for trading, especially by the textile industry.
- In the same building you have a chapel where the merchants prayed to have a good year.
- Plus, a prison and court. If a merchant didn’t pay for his goods, he was immediately put through a trial, convicted and ushered to an attic which was the prison.