According to many sources, the City of Arts and Sciences (Ciudad de la Artes y las Ciencias) was built to bring more tourism to the city of Valencia.
Valencia is well known for its delicious paellas, fragrant orange trees and relaxed coastal atmosphere. Las Fallas, the annual festival where dozens of giant cardboard and paper mache structures are burned, consolidates the city as one of the best in Europe to enjoy distinctive events.
Nevertheless, high officials in the early 90s felt like the city had the potential to do better in terms of tourism. After all, in certain way, the city had to compete with mega stars like Madrid and Barcelona.
Once everything was set up straight, a planetarium, opera house and science museum were commissioned to native son and famous architect Santiago Calatrava. Construction of the project began in 1994 on the old bed of the Turia River.
So, what was the result of a project that cost millions of dollars and took more than ten years to complete? In short, the complex ended being one of the most striking architectural achievements in modern times.
Calatrava delivered an incredible collection of futuristic buildings complemented by surrounding aspects also designed by the architect.
I have to admit I was attracted to Valencia because of the City of Arts and Sciences. I am not an expert on architectural terms; therefore, I believe it is better to showcase what this complex offers in pictures.
This is the most iconic (and photographed) building in the complex. It serves as a planetarium, IMAX cinema and laserium.
Calatrava drew his inspiration for the building from an eye which serves as a universal ‘eye opener’ to all who enter it and learn from what is found within. The enormous dome which houses the planetarium and IMAX cinema is flanked by aluminum rods which structurally serve to support the building but which appear aesthetically as the eye socket. Calatrava’s construction only gives half the picture: the reflections in the man-made ponds which surround the building serve to complete the full shape of the eye.
Part of the building open and closes as a real eye. The shutter (or lid) is built of elongated aluminum awnings that fold upward collectively to form a brise soleil roof that opens along the curved axis of the eye. It opens to reveal the dome, the “iris” of the eye.
It is said that the echo inside the building is so good that two people located on opposite sides can talk without problems.
Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe
This is the biggest building in the complex. The three story building is made up of a series of levels and bars which resemble a whale’s skeleton.
The building houses several science related exhibits and lots of hands on activities.
This is the parking structure of the complex. It has space for 900 vehicles and it is not what you associate with a typical parking structure. The architect thought about pleasing the visitors during the design phase.
The parking structure is located underground. For this reason, it is not visible at floor level. Nevertheless, the most striking feature of L’Umbracle is the enormous promenade supported by metal arches located above the car park.
The promenade is landscaped with plants native to Valencia (including palms and orange trees). The plants displayed were carefully picked to change color with each season. There are over a hundred aromatic plants including rosemary and lavender.
In addition, the promenade space is used as an outdoor art gallery with sculptures by contemporary artists.
Palacio de las Artes Reina Sofia
The Palau of Arts is an opera house and performing arts center. It contains four auditoriums: a main room, magisterial classroom, amphitheater and theater of camera.
With this building, Calatrava intended to create an enormous sculpture hanging above the horizon. White concrete and broken tiles where used in the outside surface (the building glimmers under the sun).
But, without a doubt, the distinctive feature of the Palau is the feather-like roof. It is surrounded by 87,000 square meters of landscape and water, as well as 10,000 square meters of walking area.
This is the largest oceanographic aquarium in Europe with 110,000 square meters and 42 million liters of water. It was built in the shape of a water lily and is the work of architect Félix Candela. Previous to researching this article, I didn’t know this complex involved another architect.
Each building represents different aquatic environments. This aquarium is a home to over 500 different species including dolphins, belugas, sawfish, jellyfish, starfish, sea urchins, walruses, sea lions, seals, penguins, turtles, sharks and rays. It also inhabits wetland bird species.
Candela passed away in 1997, years before the aquarium was finished.
The Agora is a space designed to hold a variety of events such as concerts, performances, exhibitions, conventions, staging of congresses, and international sports meetings.
El Pont de l’Assut de l’Or
This a suspension bridge that connects parts of the complex, whose 125 meters high pillar is the highest point in the city.
Here are other photos presenting several buildings of the complex together.
- Clarification: In this article, I state the City of Arts and Sciences was built to attract tourism. This statement is based on several credible sources. However, other sources indicate other motives.
- The futuristic complex can be reached from Valencia’s center by bus or taxi (the metro does not have a stop there). Find more information on the visitor’s center or at your hotel’s reception.
- The buildings in the complex can be enjoyed for free. They are so outstanding that you do not need to pay to go in and enjoy the features.
- Find ticket information for the science museum, the aquarium and the planetarium here: http://www.cac.es/
- The opera or Palau of Arts has its own website: http://www.lesarts.com/
- Do not forget to enjoy a cup of Valencia’s refreshing horchata. Small carts selling the beverage are scattered throughout the complex.
Have you visited or would like to visit the City of Arts and Sciences?
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Pretty awesome, right? It is amazing how the architect conceived this place.
Lady Fi says
Wow – amazing shots of this cool architecture!
Thanks! It is a fun place to stroll and take pictures.
image-in-ing: weekly photo linkup says
Amazing architecture! It looks other-worldly!
Thanks for linking up at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2015/11/chicago.html, and Happy Thanksgiving to you!
Rhonda Albom says
When we were in Spain, we did not get down the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean to Valencia (although we did enjoy Paella everywhere and even cooked some in La Coruna). Those modern buildings are fabulous but I still enjoy the old world architecture that is everywhere in Spain.
Spain is great because you can admire the old world architecture in a lot of cities. However, there are a lot of great examples of modern and contemporary architecture. During my last trip, I was amazed at the great array of styles we were able to enjoy.
Great city–visited at Las Fallas festival and had a fantastically good time.
Would like to visit the city during that time. I visited because of the City of Arts and Sciences but was very impressed by the beauty of the Old City.
Photo Cache says
Wow, the architecture is incredible. Is this where Valencia oranges orinated?
The Valencia oranges are an hybrid developed in Southern California. The agronomist accredited with the development called them Valencia because the city was associated with sweet oranges.
I haven’t yet visited Valencia, but I hope I will one day. great shots and great city.
Thanks Klara. I really hope you can visit the city one day.
Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders says
Oh my goodness, those buildings are beautiful, and how exciting that there’s even more beauty on the inside! I especially love the one that looks like an eye!
It’s also so cool how the reflection just adds to the beauty of the buildings!
Marcella @ WhatAWonderfulWorld says
Wow, what an amazing structure! It looks truly unique and I love all of the photos you snapped there!
Marcella, this one of those places that feels greater when you see it in person (even though you have seen tons of photos). It is very unique. I have never seen anything similar.
This is what I call awesome modern architecture. The lines of all the structures are magnificent. I would LOVE to visit the area. Each building…even the car garage…is one of a kind and so eye catching. A fascinating blog contribution this week.
Oh, Genie, thanks for your kind words. I think I can not describe better the entire complex.
Fabulous shots of some amazing architecture – wow! Now I just need to get to Valencia! (Thank you by the way for commenting on my Whale story at Margaret River.com – I so appreciated you popping by)
Yes, you have to get to Valencia. And, I loved your article about the whales. Today, I saw an Instagram photos of the ones that are right now passing thru Southern California on the way to Mexico.
Very unique architecture with wonderful reflections. – Margy
The neat thing is that the reflections are an integral parts of the design. It is so mesmerizing.
Malinda @mybrownpaperpackages says
The architecture of these places is just incredible. Fascinating to me since this is the career direction I have decided to go in. Thanks for linking up to #wednesdaywanderlust – please enjoy the break but feel free to join in each week on social media
So, are you studying architecture? That is very cool. I have always been interesting into lines, curves and shapes. I think it is related to my love for geometry.
Bumble Bee Mum says
I have never visited Valencia, but I would definitely love to visit this City of Arts & Sciences when I do! Love the architecture and I bet the kids will love the planetarium and aquarium.
The great thing is that this city has something for each age. The adults will be surprised by the futuristic buildings but kids would love the science museum and the aquarium.
Tanja (the Red phone box travels) says
Great photos! # wednesday wanderlust
Love all the architectural details, especially the details of the suspension bridge
The suspension bridge was kind of a surprised since I have not notice it in photos I saw before my visit. It is very tall!
Hi Ruth! I’ve not been to Valencia. I love this architecture, and my try to get there this winter on my way back to Barcelona. I think it would be worth a stopover! #TPThursday
I think it is worth a stopover too! The City of Arts and Sciences is awesome but the rest of the city deserves a visit too.
budget jan says
I love that the building has an eye that opens and shuts. The Spanish are surely the most innovative country for public buildings – such variety. I love Spain and the fact that they are so open to radical building styles is a big reason for that.
L’Hemisphere is the center of the complex and the most innovative building in terms of materials and technology. I agree with your comment about buildings in Spain. There is great modern architecture in a lot of cities.
Oh my! What beautiful architecture and what amazing blue colors. I love it! You certainly had an amazing trip! Thank you for sharing it with us at Photo Friday!
Hey Jen, I was captivated from the moment I saw that blue water. It is the perfect compliment for the white buildings. Every thing seems to be floating around.
Trekking with Becky says
WOW! Your shots are amazing! This is my first look at Valencia. I’ll have to come back to this post in case I ever get the chance to go. THANKS! 😀
Becky, so great this is your introductory post to Valencia. I still have more to post about the city.
Rachel Heller says
We were in Valencia very recently but only for a day, and we focused on the older parts of the city, which are also definitely worth seeing. We only saw the City of Arts and Scenes buildings driving by. Very impressive! And you did a great job photographing them!
Thanks Rachel! I stayed on the old part of town and had the opportunity to walk and enjoy the grand buildings and lively plazas. I really enjoyed Valencia.
You know, even though we (Norwegians)flock to this part of Spain, Valencia hasn’t really made it on to the radar. This looks like a fabulous city, though. Love the futuristic architecture.
I am assuming the Norwegians are after the mild weather and beaches. I walked around the beach and wasn’t that impressed. i guess it is different during high season. Also, I believe there are other nice beach towns in the province.
What a fabulous building and it looks so striking against the vivid blue sky
Thanks Molly! We couldn’t have had better weather during the time we visited.
Very futuristic, aren’t they? Lots of clean, straight lines and sharp angles. Beautifully designed, but like a lot of buildings of glass, feel cold. Clearly, though, they put a lot of thought into it. The trees that change color with the seasons is a good idea to ‘soften’ the design.
I admire the overall vision, though I’m not sure I like the eye design, feels a bit Big Brother-ish. It might be a different experience up close.
Glass seems to go well with classic architectural styles so I’d love to see how well these complement the existing buildings.
Thanks for the tour, Ruth. I can’t recall ever wanting to visit Valencia but your post leaves me intrigued.
Marcia, you bring up several interesting points. Not sure if a lot of modern, contemporary or futuristic designs give a cold impression. I liked the complex because of its originality and wonder how the architect transported the idea from his mind to a reality.
Adrienne Lee says
We visited Valencia a few years ago and were also amazed by the architecture.
Great to know you liked the city!
Wow, Ruth, those are spectacular buildings. It looks like it a landing zone for alien spaceships! So great architecture…and Horchata? Definitely on the Must See list! 😉 #WednesdayWanderlust
Thanks Rob! Love your cool description. That horchata is like nothing I have ever tasted before. To me it was delicious and refreshing.
I want to go to Las Fallas so bad! It’s such an interesting festival. Valencia has some pretty incredible architecture. I could probably spend all day in the Promenade smelling the plants.
I would like to visit Las Fallas too. That would be an amazing experience. Valencia has several neighborhoods where a lot of cool things are happening. I didn’t have a lot of time to explore those. Definitely, this is an interesting city.
Sally@Toddlers on Tour says
What a visually striking building. Some of it looks like it should be ahelmet on Darth Vader’s warriors
Oh Sally you are so funny. But, I think I can see a Star Wars movie filmed around here.
Great knowing about these unique structures.
Thanks Indrani! Good to see you liked the buildings.
Wow… what impressive architecture!
Thanks Zita. I find it impressive too.
i’d love to visit Valencia – it’s on our short list. My husband and I would love to see the Calatrava buildings. We have a friend whose sister lives there and she’s told us how family-friendly it is. It’s pretty flat so everything is easy walking and cycling.
Oh yes! the area is pretty flat and the streets are not as stretch as in other cities in Spain. There are several parks in the area (apart from the City of Arts and Sciences), so, kids will have many activities to chose from.
Oh wow the architecture is absolutely stunning here Ruth! It’s only in the past few years I’ve started to really appreciate the art and the design in cities and buildings and this is an amazing example of just that. You captured these places beautifully! – Tasha
When I was younger, I wasn’t into paying attention to design or architecture. I think travel has helped me to appreciate better my surroundings (including buildings and structures).
I wanna go here as well! But always keep forgetting about it until I see photos 🙂
Ha! You have to put Valencia in your list and mark it with a color that pops out. It is a great city.
Lyndall @SeizeTheDayProject says
Wow – such beautiful photos of these incredible buildings Ruth! These architects have certainly left their mark in Valencia 🙂
Yes, Calatrava has designed a lot of amazing structures but I am not sure if he will ever create a complex with so many unique buildings.
Paula McInerney says
I love, love, love Valencia and so pleased to have read about this. We were only there a few months ago and loved exploring the city of arts and sciences, and everything else there. Do the paella cooking course; all details are on our website.
Paula, I read your paella cooking course months before visiting the city. I am not sure why but we didn’t book the course on time. I regret not doing it.
What a great experience you had! It doesn’t look like the parts of Europe I’ve seen, very modern! But I would love to see Spain one day.
I know. Maybe this is not what we think about the Old continent. The nice things is that I found a lot of modern and contemporary architecture in Spain.
I am not a big fan of modern architecture, but I have to admit this project looks really stunning. There is simplicity and elegance, yet grandeur in these modern lines and your pictures caught these features perfectly.
Calatrava has created a lot of amazing buildings and structures but I think there is none like this project.
Lyn (aka) The Travelling Lindfields says
Wow – these buildings are amazing. The last thing I would have expected in Spain. We really have to go back to Europe – things have definitely changed.
I haven’t visited Valencia but I’m big fan of modern architecture and happen to own a coffee table book about Calatrava! He created some buildings (or rather updates to buildings) for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and he created similar arches to those of the promenade in Athens’ Olympic stadium. Needless to say that those arches are Instagram famous!
Ahh. I have to check those buildings and arches you are referring to. I went to Athens the year after the Olympics but didn’t visit the Olympic Complex.
Vicki Green says
Since I’ve not been to Valencia the modern architectural style is a surprise. I like that the landscaping around the promenade was done with fragrant native plants.
I like the idea of fragrant plants too. The other nice thing is that orange trees, one of the symbols of Valencia are everywhere.
Beautiful pictures! I loved the City of Arts and Sciences and looking at your photos makes me want to go back to Valencia, such a pretty city. You can definitely spend a whole day in the City of Arts and Sciences and not get bored a single moment. 🙂
if I ever go back, I’ll try to go inside some of the buildings. I am sure the views from the inside are great too.
Wow! What a building! Fantastic photos!
Thanks Birgitta. Glad you liked them.
Indah Nuria Savitri says
Truly amazing architectures. We couldn’t stop admiring this complex when we visited the city 🙂
Great to know you visited the complex! I imagine you guys were stunned by the architecture.
Oh yes, the architectural design is so great, and your photos are wonderful too. I haven’t been to Spain, but i heard those places. Thanks for visiting my post about NZ, i was able to come here.
Andrea, I love your NZ posts. Love to take a look at the beauty in other parts of the world. Thanks for stopping by.
Linda W says
Those are quite the interesting buildings! Nice photos, too.