Following Manchester United affords me the opportunity to visit some fascinating places. Most recently that was Valencia, in Spain.
I was there at the historic Mestalla Stadium to witness my team just about qualify for the next round of the Champions League. But my favourite part of the trip was exploring the city and and enjoying its many and varied architectural treats.
Valencia was first built by the Romans, and although you’ll need to visit a museum to see evidence of that, just by walking around the streets you’ll see a wealth of buildings dating back as early as the 14th century. There are many magnificent examples of the locals’ take on gothic.
The obvious focal point is the cathedral, and there are many other beautiful examples too, including a basilica just metres away and a pair of 15th century towers which have protected the city as recently as the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.
The central market, which has a magnificent ceiling, is one of the largest of its kind in Europe, and the nearby Silk Exchange is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
Compact by design, the centre itself can be taken in within a single day – with a wide choice of galleries and museums for anybody with a little more time to spare.
Anybody who loves ingenuity and mixing form with function, as I do, will marvel at the Turia gardens.
Tired of the city flooding whenever the River Turia burst its banks, the city decided to reroute the river around the population and turn the now-dry riverbed into an attraction fit for both tourists and locals. It’s now a popular home to public art, sports facilities, flower gardens and, best of all, the City of Arts and Sciences.
A project costing almost one billion euros, it features extensive gardens, an IMAX cinema, an aquarium, a science museum and an opera house. But these are no ordinary buildings: architects Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela were tasked with creating something that will live long in the memory.
Photos show how original and inspiring the unique collection of buildings are, but I recommend walking among them to feel the full effect.
Valencia is not far along the coast from Barcelona, a city I have written about previously in this blog. And the influence of the noted and highly unusual architect Antoni Gaudí can be found in the city, too, not least in the magnificent Colon Market.
So whether you’re a fan old architecture from eras past, new and inspiring takes on public works, or you like to sip a fine wine on the beach while watching the sun set (which was also part of my trip) I can recommend Valencia as a destination rich in experiences.