Central Market, Valencia
This morning we discover the exciting city of Valencia on a coach tour of its main sights. The centrepiece of this cultured city of contrasts is the ribbon of green that curves its way from the port to the riverside Parc de Capçalera, hugging the historic old town as it goes. Once the Turia riverbed, this delightful urban park is now a series of manicured gardens, wooded areas, water features, whimsical play areas and monuments, all crossed intermittently by a series of handsome bridges.
On the port side of this green thoroughfare we'll see the City of Arts and Sciences, a truly fantastical collection of buildings designed by world-famous local architect, Santiago Calatrava. An opera house, science museum, IMAX cinema and aquarium rise out of still pools of bright blue water like something in a science-fiction movie!
Contrasting the futuristic with the historic, we'll also follow a local guide on a walking tour through the old town, where leafy, boutique-lined avenues branch off down narrow alleyways, leading to little squares overlooked by pastel-coloured town houses, and a diverse smattering of architectural masterpieces. Our tour includes entry to one-such building, the Silk Exchange, which is a UNESCO-listed site and striking Gothic marvel. It's not difficult to imagine the city's prosperous 15th-century merchants trading under the grand vaulted ceiling of the interior hall, supported by towering fluted columns.
Just opposite sits the modernist market hall, which you may wish to visit during your free time for lunch. Built in 1928, this vast structure blends coloured glass and iron to beautiful Art Nouveau-style effect – to step inside is to submerge yourself in a swirl of smells, sounds, movement and colour, from the rainbow of fresh produce grown in Valencia's fertile ‘huerta’ gardens, to the calls of traders and the bustle of local shoppers.
In the afternoon we travel out of the city to the ‘huerta’ to learn about the history and production of ‘horchata’, a traditional drink made with tiger nuts to create a version that's unique to Valencia. Of course, we also get to sample this creamy, sweet and malty drink, perfect with a ‘farton’, a spongy finger-shaped pastry glazed with sugar.
This evening we enjoy dinner in a portside restaurant, with views over the fine golden sands of the city beach and out to the Mediterranean Sea.