This futuristic confection of a city looks as though it must have been beamed down to earth from somewhere else entirely! Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences is a truly ambitious, space age cultural complex that aims not only to entertain and stimulate the minds of its visitors, but to fill people with enthusiasm for science, technology, nature, and art. This city within a city, most of it designed by the distinguished Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, is composed of five great buildings in the midst of a space of greenery and clear water, which mirrors the architecture. Work on the sixth building, The Ágora (which will give the complex a multifunctional space) has just begun. The complex is set in the dried-up river bed of the Turia, midway between the coastal district of Nazaret and the old city of Valencia. The architect is proud that "people can walk through and around the main buildings without paying. It is a city to be discovered by promenading." There is, indeed, room to promenade more than seven miles around the complex!
There are 5 main elements in the City of Arts and Sciences:
· The Marine Park (Oceanográfico) is Europe's largest, and contains sections dedicated to each marine zone on earth. Plan to spend at least 3 hours marveling at a collection of thousands of species of marine flora and fauna, including dolphins and sharks. You could easily spend an entire day in this underwater city, which was designed by the late Spanish architect Felix Candela. Children love it!
· The Opera House (Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia), which contains 4 distinct auditoriums for different opera, theatre, and music shows, has exceptional acoustics and has become one of Europe's most important opera halls. Its mission is to promote a passion for dance, theatre, and classical music among a wide cross section of society, including children.
· L'Hemisferic, which looks like a huge eye floating above a pool of water, represents the eye of wisdom. You can spend an hour watching surprising audiovisual projections in the IMAX theatre or planetarium, where you must lie on the floor to see the hemispheric screen above. Several shows are presented each day. This is probably the most engaging part of the city for children!
· Príncipe Felipe Science Museum (Museo de Ciences Principe Felipe), the centerpiece of the complex, is an innovative centre of interactive science. Some people believe the museum resembles a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton from the outside, and it reminds others of the spine of a huge, prehistoric fish. Ultra-interactive exhibits focus on topics such as physical laws, electricity, sport sciences, sound, planetarium, human body, and more. The museum rules are simple: "pull, push, twist, touch." Some installations are challenging and require you to use your brain; others are just for fun!
· L'Umbracle, a landscaped vantage point and car park, is the access gateway to the city, and is free. Here, art and nature combine to create a welcoming, peaceful space in which to stroll, relax, and view plants from around the world as well as the "Parade of the Sculptures." Plan on taking 3 hours for a full visit.
When you visit Spain, make it a point to spend several days at Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences. You'll emerge filled not only with enthusiasm for science and the arts, but with special memories of the beauty and wonder of this extraordinary place.