Admire Valencia’s building renaissance, which began in the late nineties with the completion of local architect Santiago Calatrava’s City of Arts & Sciences. Calatrava, who also designed the proposed WTC Transit Hub, created a futuristic complex of snow-white structures rising over the dry Turia riverbed. The buildings house a glossy, interactive science museum and one of the world’s largest aquariums. Take in a performance at the pistachio-shaped Palau de Les Arts, the final installment of Calatrava’s art complex. There’s symphony and opera here, but look for a Zarzuela performance, a uniquely Spanish lyrical drama that blends operatic and popular song.
Back outside, walk the once forgotten port, now a gleaming marina with a new harbor and the Veles e Vents (“Sails and Winds”) structure, designed by British architect David Chipperfield. Stroll the breezy paseo that follows the curve of Playas de las Arenas and Malvarrosa. Get a drink at Bianco La Terraza, and get a vitamin-rich buzz from Agua de Valencia, the local cocktail of orange juice, cava, and a splash of gin or vodka.
Remember the city’s past in Old Town, where a thirteenth-century cathedral boasts two Goya paintings. Barrio del Carmen, another historic neighborhood, is experiencing a nightlife rejuvenation. Cocktail lounges rise alongside historic bars like Sant Jaume (Calle Caballeros 51), a former pharmacy where wine bottles sit in place of apothecary.
Set things on fire at the Fallas Museum, celebrating the annual March festival at which effigies called ninots (like cartoonish-looking tourists or George W. Bush) go up in a flaming parade.