Valencia

Short history

Valencia, a city located on the southeastern coast of Spain, has a long history. Originally founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC, Valencia flourished as a trade center under Roman rule. In the early Middle Ages, the city came under Visigothic, Moorish, and then Christian control. The Muslim rule left a lasting impact, evident in the city’s architecture and culture.

During the Renaissance, Valencia experienced a period of economic prosperity due to its silk trade. The city became a cultural center, attracting artists and intellectuals. However, Valencia suffered setbacks in the 19th and 20th centuries, including the devastating Spanish Civil War and economic challenges.

Today, Valencia is known for its cultural life, architecture, and delicious cuisine. The city continues to evolve while preserving its fascinating history for future generations to discover.

Geography

Valencia is located on the eastern coast of Spain, by the Mediterranean Sea. The city is situated at the mouth of the Turia River, surrounded by hills and mountains.

Valencia has a Mediterranean climate, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, damp winters. Summer temperatures often exceed 30°C (86°F), while winter temperatures rarely drop below 10°C (50°F). The city experiences very little rainfall, with most of it occurring in the autumn months. The Mediterranean Sea also has a moderating effect on the climate, helping to keep temperatures relatively mild throughout the year.

Population

Valencia is the third-largest city in Spain with a population of approximately 800,000 people. The majority of the population is of Spanish descent. However, due to its history as a port city, Valencia’s population include people from North Africa and other Mediterranean countries.

In terms of religion, the population of Valencia is predominantly Roman Catholic, with many historic churches and religious sites scattered throughout the city. In recent years, there has been a growing number of immigrants from other parts of Europe, as well as North and South America, leading to a more diverse religious picture.

The official language spoken in Valencia is Spanish, although Valencian, a dialect of Catalan, is also widely spoken in the region. English is becoming more common, especially in tourist areas and among the younger population. 

Main sights

  • Famous landmark in Valencia is the City of Arts and Sciences, a unique complex designed by Santiago Calatrava. This futuristic structure houses an opera house, science museum, and oceanographic park.
  • Another iconic sight is the Valencia Cathedral, a Romanesque and Gothic-style cathedral that houses the Holy Grail, believed to be the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper. The cathedral’s architecture and religious significance make it an important cultural and historical place in the city.
  • The Old Town is a historic part of the city, with iconic buildings such as the Silk Exchange and the Serranos Towers.
  • The Central Market, a food market with a modernist building.
  • The Turia Gardens, a green space created from a diverted riverbed, provides a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, perfect for relaxing walks and picnics.

Food

One of the most famous dishes from Valencia is paella, a flavorful rice dish cooked with a combination of meat, seafood, and vegetables. Paella is traditionally cooked in a paellera, a shallow pan, over an open flame for optimal flavor and texture.

Another local favorite is horchata, a refreshing drink made from tiger nuts, water, and sugar. Horchata is often enjoyed cold and is a popular choice for cooling down on hot summer days in Valencia.

Turron, a nougat made with honey, sugar, and almonds, is a traditional dessert often enjoyed during the holiday season in Valencia. Turron comes in various flavors and textures.

In addition to these dishes, Valencia is also famous for its fresh seafood, including grilled sardines, prawns, and squid. The seafood in Valencia is often sourced locally and cooked simply to highlight the natural flavors of the sea.

The city’s central market, Mercado Central, is filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses sourced from Valencia and the surrounding region.

Fun facts

  • Valencia is known for its unique celebration of Las Fallas, an annual festival in March where colorful and elaborate sculptures are displayed throughout the city and eventually burned in bonfires.
  • The Turia Gardens, formed in the former riverbed of the Turia River after it was rerouted, span over 9 kilometers and offer a green oasis in the heart of the city, perfect for leisurely walks and outdoor activities.
  • Valencia is famous for its oranges, with the region being one of the largest producers of this citrus fruit in Europe.
  • Valencia is home to the annual La Tomatina festival, where participants throw overripe tomatoes at each other in a friendly food fight.
  • The Lonja de la Seda, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Valencia, is a great example of Gothic architecture and was used as a silk exchange during the city’s medieval period.