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Situated in the square which bears the same name, you will find the Ayuntamiento de Valencia (Valencia Town Hall), a key point of reference for visitors and inhabitants equally. Built in an eclectic style, it is home to the daily hectic movements of officialdom. It is also the best seat in the house, as it were, to watch the most characteristic events of the city, such as the daily mascletá (daylight fireworks) during the week of the Fallas festival. The Ayuntamiento was built in the 18th century. Inside there is an elegant marble staircase, a ballroom and the council meeting room. The City History Museum can also be found under the roof of this noble building.
The ceramics museum, Museo Nacional de Ceramica y Artes Suntuarias Gonzalez Marti recently re-opened after having been closed for many years, and it is one of the most famous in the city. Built at the end of the 15th century, it was totally reformed in 1740 by its owner, the Marquis de Dos Aguas, in a baroque style with a notable rococo door fashioned in marble. The permanent collection includes ceramic works of art, spanning every era. Particularly outstanding are the famous Arab and the later Christian ceramics from Manises, a small town located on the outskirts of Valencia. Check the website for more details.
The Plaza de Toros, situated next to the Estacion del Norte train station, was built between 1850 and 1860. Its architect, Sebastian Monleon, inspired by the iconic Colosseum in Rome and the Nimes amphitheatre, designed it in a neoclassical style with brick as the main material. This round bullring features segmental arches on the lower level and rises to three stories of arched levels, offering spectacular 360-degree views wherever you're seated. The plaza has a polygonal base, with 48 sides in total, based on an interior ring within the bullring itself and a massive 108-meter (354-foot) total diameter. It's perfectly suited to its function while at the same time there's a monumentalism to it, characteristic of 19th-century architecture. More than just a bullring, Plaza de Toros draws crowds for the famous 'matadors' who come for the Feria de Julio and Fallas festivals. The plaza also serves as site for the occasional circus, concert venue, or political rallies.
Valencia's North Station is an example of Modernist art at its best. and is found next to the bullring, on Xàtiva Street; built between 1909 and 1917 by Demetrio Ribes. One of its most noteworthy features is the central hall with its beautiful floral mosaics and colorful tilework, while its facade depicts facsimiles of traditional Valencian icons. The bays are as attractive now as they were years ago; elegant and replete with architectural nuances. This building is perhaps a good reflection of the culture in Valencia at the turn of the last century. All of this is now harmoniously mixed with modern transportation technology for a smooth travel experience. The station services both commuter and long-distance trains that link Valencia to its Spanish and farther European neighbors.
Leaving the Plaza de Ayuntamiento and heading along Avenida Maria Cristina, you will run into the popular Plaça del Mercat. In olden days shoppers, merchants, passers-by and all kinds of people used to come together here, creating a beehive of activity. In this still bustling plaza you will find three of the must-visit buildings in the city: The Mercat Central (Central Market), a living example of the Modernist movement from the turn of the century, the Lonja de Seda (Silk Market), an exemplary Gothic building declared Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO, and the Iglesia de Santos Juanes, a beautiful Gothic-style church built in 1368.
The quickest way to see all the city's sights is to take this modern double-decker bus with an open top through the streets. It's equipped with a multi-lingual audio system (headphones included) that describes the one-hour tour in eight languages. You start and end in Plaza de la Reina and travel through the old town, Túria riverbed and the Arts and Sciences Centre.
An imposing Gothic masterpiece, the Cathedral of Valencia consists of three naves, a polygonal apse and monumental dome. Construction began in 1262 and finished in 1702, though before it was a cathedral, it was the site of a mosque and a Roman temple. The cathedral's three doors reflect the mixture of styles: the Palau (palace) door is archaic Romanesque mixed with primitive Gothic; the Door of the Apostles is pure Gothic, and the Hierros Door is Baroque. Every Thursday at midday, the Door of the Apostles is the site of the oldest tribunal in all of Europe, the Tribunal de las Aguas (Water Court), which resolves the conflicts arising over the use of water in the nearby fields. Another outstanding feature is the Gothic bell tower, known as the Miguelete, whose 207-step stairway takes you up to some of the best views over the city. The cathedral also houses the Catedralicio Diocesano Museum and the Santo Cáliz Chapel.
One of the only two gates to have survived the destruction of the historic city walls in 1865, the Torres de Serranos impress with their sheer enormity and grandeur of scale. Constructed between 1392 and 1398, this massive gateway served as the main entrance to the city and proved to be a fitting choice for ceremonial functions despite the fact that it was originally conceived of as nothing more than an imposing addition to the city's defenses. Designed by Pere Balaguer, the gateway was built upon a remarkable Gothic design, with ornamentations and embellishments that have withstood the test of time. From 1586 to 1887, the Torres de Serranos was re-purposed as a prison for nobility, and has been variously used ever since. Today, the monumental gateway is a popular attraction, is pinnacle affording those who brave the climb fantastic views of the city of Valencia. Composed of a pair of pentagonal towers with a common gallery and architectural nuances galore, the Torres de Serranos is still central to social life in Valencia, and is noted as the host of the opening ceremony of the Fallas each year.
The recently renovated and expanded Museo De Bellas Artes De Valencia houses a vast collection of paintings and sculptures. Located next to the Royal Gardens, the museum's principal source of prestige stems from its collection of 15th-century paintings from Valencia's Golden Age. The museum also has valuable paintings from the Valencian School by artists such as Joanes, the Ribaltas, Espinosa, Vicente López, Sorolla, Pinazo and others. Likewise, the collection includes works by Pinturicchio, Andrea del Sarto, Van Dyck, Murillo, Velázquez (a famous self-portrait), El Greco and Goya. It also boasts an interesting selection of contemporary art, sculpture, a collection of prints and another of archaeology. The museum also has a library, archive and a small shop. Call ahead for more details.
One of Spain's most important contemporary art galleries, the collections of the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno is spread out over two buildings: the Centro Julio González and the Centro del Carmen. The first is dedicated to the father of contemporary Spanish sculpture and contains nine showrooms. One is for Julio González's work, one has paintings and drawings by Ignacio Pinazo and the others show pieces by famous avant-garde artists like Tàpies, Chillida, Arroyo, Paul Klee and Millares, among others. On nearby Calle Museo, the second building shows temporary exhibitions of contemporary art by young local and national artists. The institute also has a souvenir shop, book shop, library, archive, educational workshop, photograph library and cafe.
In the popular Monteolivete neighborhood you will find tMuseo Fallero installed in an old hospice next to the Creueta de la Mare de Deu de Monteolivet (The Small Cross of the Mother of God). In 1834 this building was converted into a military barracks and later on a military jail. Today it houses the collection of Ninots, the satirical images of people and events burned every year during the Fallas festival. These obviously have not been burned, but are the ones saved from the flames by popular demand every year since 1934. You will also find a good collection of posters and photos related to the Fallas festival on display.
The first of its kind in Spain, this totally white futuristic cityscape made up of enormous modern buildings is the work of famous local architect Santiago Calatrava. You'll find it in the Túria River Bed. Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias complex spreads out over 350,000 square meters (86.4 acres) and consists of four different structures but related sections: the Arts Centre, Science Museum, planetarium and Ocean Park. Each of these are must-visit spots for tourists.