31 July 2014

Valencia – Astonishing City of Arts and Sciences

There are not many places you can visit on Earth that enable you to imagine that you have been transported to a city of the future or, indeed, to an alien culture many light years away from our third rock from the sun. However, the City of Arts and Sciences is just that sort of place.

The City of Arts and Sciences is something of a Phoenix in nature. Its home is the old bed of the river Turia. In 1957 the city of Valencia suffered a great flood and the river was diverted, which enabled the area where the City of Arts and Sciences now stands to become a park in 1980. The city itself started construction in 1994 and the last finished great project there was opened in 2005.

The collection of buildings come together to form a whole which takes the breath away. Certainly, if a location scout from the Star Trek TV series had had the budget to scout this place as a possible location the chances are they would have died and gone to heaven on the spot.

For all their futuristic look, however, the buildings do not house aliens with large translucent heads. Their aim is to inform and entertain and so their raison d’être is generally more down to earth. Let’s take a look at each of them a little more closely.


It looks like it contains a giant brain, some sort of super computer which runs the whole city and keeps its inhabitants in its thrall (until Kirk & co arrive and pull the plug of course).  In fact it is an Imax which functions as cinema, laserium and planetarium.

It has a surface area of over thirteen thousand square meters.  As the first element of the city to be opened to the public in 1998 it is only fitting that it is first on our list.  The Eye of Knowledge which opens up, was designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava.
The Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts

Have the Cylons been to Earth before?  From a particular angle the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía may look like something out of Battlestar Galactica but it serves an an Opera House and cultural center for the city of Valencia and surrounding districts.  The absolute coolness of this building is hard to underestimate.

The statistics are staggering.  Underneath the enormous roof structure which is at a height of seventy five meters above the ground and is two hundred and thirty meters in legnth there are a staggering seventeen floors with three of them being underground.

Opened in 2005 the first opera performed there was Beethoven's Fidelio.  One can only imagine what the composer would have made of this imposing, incredible structure.


L'Oceanogràfic represents the marine habitats of the world.  This sublime structure has an area of around one hundred thousand square meters and has environments which mimic those of all the major seas and oceans.

It is the largest marine complex in Europe and has close to 500 different species in its environs, including fish (as you might expect) but also reptiles, mammals and birds.  All in all there are nine underwater towers which are split on two levels.

Each of the major marine ecosystems of the planet can be found here, from the polar to the tropical.  There is even a section of mangrove swamps.


L'Agora is quite stunning.  Opened in 2009 it is 80 meters in height and covers over five thousand square meters.  It has been used for indoor tennis tournaments, among others and its elliptic shape give it an other worldly look that few other buildings in the world can match.

Its name comes from ancient Greek, where Agora were used as a place of assembly, somewhere people would gather to hear ruling dictates from their leaders or council and they also functioned as a marketplace.  As such, the Valencian version is to serve the same multi-functional purpose.

Even though it does sometimes rain in Valencia there is no getting away from the majestic presence of their twenty first century Agora. No need to worry about shelter, though. Up to six thousand people can fit in to the amazing structure.


L'Umbracle hides something.  Below it, the carpark of the city lurks but what better to have on top of a carpark than a promenade of over three hundred meters in length which combines fantastic architecture, beautiful plant life and a view of the city which cannot be beaten?

It also contains some exquisite art, sculptures by world renowned artists.  There is even a terrace which caters for party goers and has become one of the top nite spots in Valencia. L’Umbracle's primary purpose in terms of utility is as the entrance point to the entire city.

Fifty five fixed and fifty four unfixed arches combine to create this amazing eighteen meter high space. 

Prince Felipe Science Museum

El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe (to give it its full Valencian title) is teh size of a medieval gothic cathedral and to some extent resembles one too.  Most people, however, think that it resembles the skeleton of a whale or some prehistoric beastie.

The north of the building is a gigantgic structure of glass and steel which runs along the entire two hundred and forty meter length of the building which also stands at forty meters tall. 

The museum covers over forty thousand square meters and is home to a multitude of different exhibitions.  Currently there is a Star Trek exhibition in the museum where you can pilot the Enterprise from its bridge (not wholly scientific we know, but considering that the city looks like one huge set from the series we thought we would mention it).

The City of Arts and Sciences - an amazing, futuristic environment which astonishes and enthralls in equal measure.