As a region, Valencia boasts some fantastic beaches. If you’ve never been before, they include one of the most popular and best loved stretches of Spanish coast: the Costa Blanca. Azure blue waters and white sandy beaches – what’s not to love? But having visited the capital of the region (also named Valencia) for the first time this year, I reckon it’s only going to be a short time before people are flying over to enjoy its city life too. Not as obvious a choice for a city break as Barcelona or Madrid but Valencia’s got lots going for it. Like all great cities, there’s lots of culture to enjoy, fantastic places to dine and a thriving nightlife to boot. But it’s the things that make it so unique that I really love. The stand out architecture of the spectacular City of Arts and Sciences is one. The Turia Gardens in Valencia is another…
The Turia Gardens in Valencia
The gardens is a 9km stretch of park that used to be a river. And just like as the river used to, the gardens snake through the middle of the city with the Valencia Bioparc (a 10-hectare zoo) at one end and on the other side of it is the futuristic-looking City of Arts and Sciences.
The City of Arts and Sciences includes the Oceanographic, which is an aquarium. So you could also say the Turia Gardens has a zoo at one end and an aquarium at the other!
It could have been a motorway…
Some people still refer to it as the river but that is possibly because it was one until 50 or so years ago. The decision to transform it into something else came following a flood in 1957 that devastated the city. Authorities decided to divert the river south instead. Interestingly, initial talk about what to do with this new space had focused on turning it into a motorway. Valencians, however, had a different idea in mind for the space. And following a long campaign, plans to turn the former river into the city’s ‘garden of Eden’ won out. I’m so glad too!
As a park (or gardens), it’s not going to blow you away with its beauty. Its charm is so much more about the life that happens in it. It’s here that you’ll find the heart and soul of Valencia with people running, strolling, cycling, playing, relaxing and picnic-ing. I even came across a small group of people setting up under one of the many bridges that cross the park with some music and a beer cooler. It was winter when I visited so it was a bit chilly but I can imagine the park is the only place to be when the temperatures start climbing.
I couldn’t help but be amazed about what a transformation the park would have been to the city. From playgrounds to sports grounds and nature spots to modern and historic bridges, it really is a space that everyone can enjoy.
Journey through the park that was a river
Here are some snapshots from my various strolls through the park starting at the Bioparc end of it, which feels a bit wilder and more like a nature reserve. There is even a giant pond (or small lake) that you can cruise on atop a big swan.
We went in mid-February so there weren’t a lot of flowers in bloom… Other than the hardier types that are around all year like the one above.
Places to play
This athletics track is one of several sports grounds. It’s a nice one too with seating all around it. We also passed a small football pitch, which was kept occupied with people playing into the night. One night, we decided to stop for a bit to watch a late night game and ended up being treated to one player looking a bit sheepish as he ran out of the changing rooms with just his modesty because he’d left his bag with his clothes in outside!
Further along and closer towards the City of Arts and Sciences complex, there’s a fabulous playground modelled on Gulliver’s Travels. If you look it up on Google maps, you can see what looks like the shape of a man sprawled out. That’s Gulliver! You can play Crazy Golf here too. The golf place is between Gulliver and the City of Arts and Sciences.
Places to chill
The park’s not just for the active, there are some really lovely spots to sit and enjoy the quiet too… (Or if you do stumble across a musician or few, spots to be entertained). They include a lovely stretch that features orange groves and water fountains towards the middle of the park. We couldn’t resist trying a few of the oranges but I wouldn’t recommend it… They look juicy and ready to eat but these were super sour!
And bridges galore
There were bridges galore to enjoy too. They included historic, pretty ones as well as more modern, contemporary ones. You get to enjoy them whilst being on them as well as being beneath them. It’s amazing to think that although you can walk under any of these bridges now, 60 years ago, you’d have to swim or use a boat!
Beneath the bridge in the third picture below, there was a row of hawk (or eagle) heads with open beaks for the water to drain from above. You can find some cool street art down here too.
The Turia Gardens are definitely worth spending some time in… If you’re getting around the city by bike or on foot, it’s quite likely, you can head into the park for a more pleasant journey away from the roads. To make the most of your time here or just to learn more about the park and what you can find within it, this page by Route You is fantastic: Valencia along the old Turia riverbed.