Valencia, a year of the world’s design capital. Let’s find out now, more creatively than ever

Young, creative, full of art, worldly. The stunning Calatrava City of Arts and Sciences, the green promenade of the Turia Gardens, the Cathedral, Chipperfield and Vasquez Marina: Right between avant-garde and tradition, Valencia never ceases to amaze. Especially this year, when the World Design Organization has chosen it as World Design Capital: It is therefore the perfect time to discover the work of the many architects and artists who have made it an international point of reference. A period filled with events, from the World Design Experience, a festival filled with concerts, exhibitions by local and international artists, to the World Design Street Festival, which will fill the streets with installations and exhibitions.

The capital of the province of the same name, Valencia is located in the center of a fertile land, La Huerta and stretches on the banks of the Turia river and along the sea, up to Albufera Park. A city tour starts from the center, ciutat vella. The heart is the Plaza de la Virgen, the large square paved in pink marble, surrounded by the Generalitat and the Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados. By climbing 200 steps you reach the top of Miguelete, the cathedral bell tower, from where you can enjoy a beautiful view. Defensive walls, with the impressive Torres de Serranos and Torres de Quart, enclose the Barrio del Carmen, the center of nightlife.

The ancient Lotija de la Seda, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is only a short distance away, where 5,000 weavers worked in the 18th century. The Silk Museum, born three years ago in a magnificent 15th-century building, traces the history of the noble fabric industry, including frescoes by José Vergara and 18th-century Valencian pottery.

If architecture interests you, take a walk among the wonders of the area, such as Casa Noguera and Casa Ernesto Ferrer, both at Plaza del Ayuntamiento. Speaking of surprising buildings, Mercat Central is among the most beautiful in all of Spain, offering a tasteful stop in an Art Nouveau glass and iron structure, enhanced by crystal domes and colored ceramics. Remarkable is the Palazzo del Marqués de Dos Aguas, which behind its beautiful baroque façade houses the National Ceramics Museum, where you can take a closer look at local crafts and the history of local pottery signed by great artists. The Museum of Fine Arts, the second largest art gallery in Spain, is also not to be missed. The seventeenth-century building exhibits the masterpieces of Goya, Van Dyck, Velázquez. The artistic journey continues at the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, where you can find a remarkable collection about the avant-garde of the twentieth century.

A relaxing stop is necessary, perhaps among the tables of the historic Horchateria Santa Catalina: it is not just any place, it is an old place, decorated with hand-painted majolica, where you can try the famous horchata, the typical local drink, based on sweet cypress, a plant grown in the local landscape, which refreshes and provides energy.

To visit the city, following the common thread of design, you can choose a central solution that represents the spirit and aesthetics of freedom in the capital Turia: Palacio Santa Clara, Autograph Collection, is a historic building, designed by the famous architect Francisco Javier Gorlich in 1916 , in modernist style. The Art Nouveau lines are already evident from the outside, with the rounded dome and the cute shapes that continue inside, animated by different textures, floral and vegetable motifs, Belle Epoque furniture. The El Modernista bar takes you back to the Prohibition era and offers tapas and local cuisine, aperitifs and cocktails prepared by the mixologist based on whiskey in an atmosphere of other times. Do not miss the terrace, with a bar tucked away in a small dome, Dome, a swimming pool and views of the city roofs. A short walk takes us to the magnificent Mercat de Colon, housed in a beautiful modernist building, recently renovated, where you can find clubs, cafes and restaurants, in a sparkling atmosphere.

The central market

But it is also worth going outside the center to visit Bombas Gens Art Center. Located in a working-class neighborhood, in a former factory from the 1930s, restored with a careful restyling, the building in geometric style with an art deco facade houses an extraordinary collection of photographs. It is a destination outside the usual tourist routes where you can not only find industrial art and archeology, but also a lot of solidarity: the center hosts children at risk of social exclusion, and involves them in artistic activities.

Another cultural space opens this summer, the new CaixaForum Valencia, a cultural center that will further enrich the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. Santiago Calatrava’s work was created in a space of 6,500 square meters, which will host events, exhibitions, meetings and activities for everyone. In addition to the exhibition area and the auditorium, there will also be living areas for visitors and citizens, such as the cafeteria and bookstore.

Inside the complex we also find the Science Museum, in the shape of a whale skeleton, in which you play with human and dinosaur genomes, planets, currents and gravity. As you cross the L’Assit d’Or bridge, one of Calatrava’s most spectacular works, you arrive at Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Europe, where you can meet species that live in the oceans, from penguins to the giant tortoises that originate from the Aldabra. atol. Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia houses the Opera House and Hemisphere’s 3D digital cinema.

However, not only design. Valencia is this year also the European capital of smart tourism (along with Bordeaux), two awards that come after many years of commitment to promoting a humane, inclusive and sustainable development of the city. In fact, it was the first to verify the impact of tourism activities’ carbon footprint on the city and to develop a green plan for the reduction with the aim of achieving neutrality.

Just take a tour of the Turia Gardens to understand. The old river bed, transformed into a huge park, offers a different way to cross and experience the city: You can walk or bike, among flower beds, meadows and tree-lined avenues. Palau della Musica could not have found a better scenography: designed by José María de Paredes, National Architecture Prize, it is one of the emblematic buildings where you can attend concerts with perfect acoustics and enjoy a beautiful view from the maxi windows .

From there you arrive at the port, the new Valencia, where the design highlights the natural beauty of the place. The symbol of Marina Real Juan Carlos I is Veles y Vents, an elegant terrace building designed by Chipperfield and Vasquez, built in 2006 for the America’s Cup. The structure consists of four large horizontal platforms, superimposed on each other and surrounded by external dehors that provide to the quay and the inner canal of the harbor.

From here begins the promenade of Malvarrosa, the beach packed with areas to live, clubs and restaurants with excellent paella, all with a beautiful view of the Mediterranean. Nothing better, to end the city tour, is to sip an Agua of Valencia at sunset, the traditional cocktail of champagne, fresh orange, gin and vodka, with the beautiful privileged sea view.

Reaching Valencia from Italy is easy, cheap and fast. With Vueling you can fly from Rome to the capital Turia in a few hours: As for Smart Tourism, the Spanish company reduces CO2 emissions with a number of sustainable initiatives that push you to enjoy your holiday, but with respect for the planet.

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