One of my favorite aspects of traveling is learning all about the history of whatever city we end up in. it just makes all of the buildings come alive. That’s why I always go on a city tours as soon as we arrive to a new place. This time we were in Valencia, Spain. It truly surprised me with all of the history behind it. My family and I had a great time exploring Valencia with our guide.
Out of all of the cities in Spain that my family and I visited, Valencia was the one that surprised me the most. Before our trip I had heard a lot of great things about Barcelona, Madrid, and Malaga. But not so much about Valencia. At least not as much as the other cities.
But it worked out for the best! It’s better to have lower expectations and be surprised than go in with high expectations and be left feeling like you are the only one not seeing the city for what it is.
Valencia was founded in 138 BC so you can only imagine everything it has gone through and all of the history hidden in each corner. However you need to go for a tour of the city to learn about its highlights.
I never thought of myself as a history buff but now that I think about it, the first thing I’m attracted to whenever I visit a new city is a tour where tons of historical and fun fact are provided. That’s exactly where I started in Valencia.
As I always do, I contacted the local tourism office for advice. Valencia Tourism Board was one of the most helpful ones in all of Spain from the start.
Maximo was the one person from their staff who took care of my questions. He was born and raised in Valencia and a papa of two younger kids. He was able to recommend all sorts of things that would accommodate both my interests and the kids.
Valencia, Spain: Start with a Tour
The first thing Maximo helped me arrange was a city tour with Turiat. Our guide was Fabiola, a lovely mama of young kids. She was a great guide and all of her patience towards my kids made her special.
Turiat specializes in cultural and gastronomic tours. I decided to go on the Valencia City Tour. I wanted us to get acquainted with the historic area.
My Greatest WOW Moment: Guess What's Here?
I fell in love with Valencia from the very start. I think it is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited in Spain.
But the “wow moment” for me was when saw the Holy Grail, Christ’s drinking cup from the Last Supper. It is in this city! It has been here for the past 500 years, and doesn’t look like it is going anywhere soon.
I was also impressed to hear that the Renaissance movement first entered Spain through Valencia. To this day it is one of the most important cities for artists and musicians of the region.
Odd Findings in Valencia
I found a lot of unusual things here. But two stood out to me.
1. The narrowest building in the world – 108 centimeters wide. To get to the top floors, the family that lived here during the 19th century had to put in a step ladder.
2. Building replicas for the blind – This is an important structure in Valencia. It was completely redone for blind people so they are able to get a good sense of what it looks like.
Fun Facts About Historically Important Sites of Valencia City
These were only a few of the spots we visited.
Torres del Serrano
- This is one of the 12 gates from an ancient city wall called the Christian wall.
- The wall and gates were built in 1392 and 1398.
- It's one of the best preserved monuments of Valencia.
- The city wall was pulled down in 1865.
- This gate used to be the main entrance to Valencia.
- The towers that remained from the gate were used as prisons 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 in the 14th century.
- It was built as a chapter and burial place for bishops and canons from the Valencia Cathedral.
- 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 was designed by the architect Antoni Dalmau in the 15th century.
- These are among the oldest Renaissance works in Spain.
- The lower section shows six Old Testament scenes. There are also six episodes from the New Testament at the top.
- The chalice is an oriental cup made of agate. It has been dated to the first century B.C. But its handles are from medieval times.
- The story behind the chalice is based on a combination of history and legend.
- People say that it was taken to Rome by St. Peter and looked after by the popes.
- Pope Sixtus II sent it to Huesca in Spain to protect it from the Emperor Valerian persecution of Christians.
- 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.
Plaza de la Virgen
- This is the main Plaza of Valencia.
- It is surrounded by Santa Maria Cathedral, Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados and Valencia Regional Government Palace.
- It was built in the 15th century during Spain’s renaissance.
- It is home to a Neptune sculpture by a famous local artist.
- Markets started in Valencia during the Arab occupation.
- In n 1264 King James the First approved the first weekly market in the city.
- The first permanent market started working in 1344 in Valencia
- Mercado Central is one of the oldest working markets in Europe. It was built in 1914.
- Its design has a modernist style.
- Mercado Central was also the first market to offer home delivery in 1996.
- It is the largest market in all of Europe.
Lonja de la Seda – The Silk Exchange
- This is a Gothic style building from 1548.
- The government of Spain declared it a national monument in 1931.
- It was declared as a world heritage, UNESCO, site in 1996.
- What makes it important: Its architectural style (late Gothic), being the symbol of the golden century of Valencia (15th century) and being a symbol of the commercial revolution of the late Middle Ages.
- It was used as a market where merchants and bankers from Europe and Asia traded, mainly textiles.
- Within the building is a chapel where the merchants prayed to have a good year.
- A prison and court are also located here. 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.