Valencia is best known for the spectacular complex called the City of Arts and Sciences. And despite it now being over a decade old, it still looks like something from the future. Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences even featured in an episode of Doctor Who as a city set in the future! But what is it exactly? Here, we explain what you can see and do at the City of Arts and Sciences and why it shouldn’t be missed.
The City of Arts and Sciences, a Guide
Located on the old riverbed that is now the Turia Gardens, the City of Arts and Sciences spans 1.5kms. Designed by architects, Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela, the complex’s unique architecture is an attraction in itself. And interestingly, whilst the buildings look very futuristic, many of the designs are based on natural objects. There is an eye, a water lily and even a whale skeleton. What makes the buildings and the site as a whole so fantastical are that it offers so many different unique views. It really is a photographer’s playground.
You can admire the architecture from the various gardens and pools that connect them and which are free to access. Even if you’re just interested in the architecture and wandering around the site, you could easily spend a couple of hours here. It’s worth doing a couple of visits too so you can enjoy the complex in the day and at night when it’s all lit up.
What to do at the City of Arts and Sciences
But the complex also comprises a number of different attractions, which offer more to see and do at the City of Arts and Sciences. We’ve got more information on each of these below. Obviously, if you plan to enjoy any of the exhibitions or events inside any of the attractions, you’ll need to factor in more time depending on the activity. There are also different ticket options available. In addition to buying tickets for an individual attraction, you can also buy a combination ticket to visit two or more of the attractions. Remember it’s free to wander around in the open spaces.
Oceanographic: the largest aquarium in Europe
The building’s design was inspired by a water lilly. The Oceanographic houses a range of marine ecosystems and has over 500 species including dolphins, sharks and penguins. There is also a restaurant surrounded by a giant fish tank so you feel like you’re dining underwater. Adult tickets for the Oceanographic are €29.70 and child tickets are €22.30. There are also concession tickets for seniors, disabled, students and families. To find out more about the Oceanographic and to buy tickets, visit: oceanografic.org.
Prince Felipe Science Museum
The science museum features a host of interactive exhibitions aimed primarily at children. The building itself was designed by Calatrava who took a whale skeleton as inspiration. Adult tickets for the science museum are €8 and child tickets are €6.60. You can learn more about the Science Museum by visiting: cac.es/en/museu-de-les-ciencies
Designed to look like an eye, the Hemispheric (featured in the top picture) is an Imax cinema and planetarium. You can see what’s currently showing and buy tickets at: www.cac.es/en/hemisferic.
Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia
To me, this building looks like a helmet – a really fantastic helmet worn by a character in Star Wars (also featured in the top picture). The Palau de les Arts (or Arts Palace) is Valencia’s Opera House and is used to host a series of concerts, dance shows, theatre and musicals. To see what’s on and get tickets, visit: lesarts.com.
This is an open space housing a large garden and numerous sculptures. It’s free to visit and is a good spot to take a break from sightseeing and enjoy the smells from the plants.
Completed in 2009, the Agora is the newest building at the City Arts and Sciences. It was designed to be another venue to hold exhibitions, concerts and conferences.
Visiting Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences
The City of Arts and Sciences is located in the southwest of the city – just a few kilometres from the city centre. If you’re driving from outside the city, the site is easily accessible from the V-30 and V-31 motorways into Valencia. Follow signs to Av. Ausias March and once on that road, you should start to see signs for ‘Ciudad de les Arts y las Ciencias’.
There are two car parks at Umbracle (Avda. del Professor López Piñero, 5 – 46013 València / GPS: 39º 27′ 15” N, 0º 21′ 7” W). If you’re buying a ticket to one of the attractions, there is a parking promotion for €6/day. Otherwise, the hourly rate is €2.30.
The site is open all year-round with attractions generally opening at 10am. However, opening hours vary depending on the season and are reduced on public holidays. You can also find a number of cafes and restaurants around the complex. For more information on visiting the City of Arts and Sciences including the full opening times and details of combination tickets, visit: cac.es.