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Spain's Best-Kept Secret: Valencia

"The European Green Capital for 2024 wins plaudits for its network of bike lanes, farm-fresh cuisine and climate-neutral targets", writes local resident Sarah Gordon.

There is a park that winds its way nine kilometres through the centre of Valencia. Once the riverbed of the city’s mighty Turia River – before it was rerouted around the city – it is now a lush ribbon of green, dotted with palm trees and fragrant pines and laced with trickling streams.


Known as Turia Gardens, this green artery is both the city’s playground and the preferred route for Valencians and visitors to navigate Spain’s third largest city.


It’s easy to cycle or stroll between neighbourhoods along the park’s lanes, from the gothic Old Town in the west to the City of Arts and Sciences to the east, where a collection of futuristic buildings by Santiago Calatrava house a science museum, opera house and Europe’s largest aquarium, among other attractions.


With Valencia named European Green Capital for 2024, Turia Gardens has become a symbol of how the city so effortlessly embraces a sustainable lifestyle.


This is a place where life is lived outdoors. The eastern flanks of Valencia are fringed by golden beaches and the city is ringed by a 120 sq km green belt of farms, known as la huerta, or “the orchard”.


An expansive green area, linked to the city with cycle lanes and peppered with traditional countryside restaurants tucked among the fields, this is where produce for the markets and restaurants is grown.  


Just north of the city is Turia Natural Park, home to nearly 20,000 acres of Mediterranean forest. And a 10km cycle south of the city is Albufera Natural Park – home to a vast lake and wetlands, where birdlife flourishes and Valencia’s denomination of origin rice is grown for its paellas.

Valencia’s natural riches may make sustainability an intrinsic focus for locals, but its Green Capital status is also part of an ambitious government plan in recent years.


Eva Fernandez from Visit Valencia explains: “Valencia has always stood out for its interest in enjoying time in the fresh air. It is something that comes from its own citizens."


“But there is also a clear commitment to a healthy lifestyle. And here I highlight the creation of a 200km network of bike lanes in the city that facilitates sustainable mobility.


“This has been completed in recent years with the creation of the metropolitan cycling ring, a 50km route that connects all the city’s green infrastructure.”


Today, Valencia’s three main squares have been pedestrianized, 97% of residents live within 300 metres of a park, and the city also has a plan to both reduce CO2 emissions by 80% and become climate-neutral by 2030.


For clients this translates into a city that effortlessly combines culture and nature. They will find a city that is easy to explore on foot or by bike, and a place where they can combine art museums, Modernist buildings and the tangled lanes of the Old Town and time spent in the parks and on the beach.


With 300 days of sunshine a year, lunches can be enjoyed at terrace restaurants in all seasons, while local chefs showcase the best ingredients from around the city.


Chef Ricard Camarena is a great advocate for Valencia’s fresh produce and in 2020 won a Green Michelin star, alongside his two regular Michelin stars, for his focus on sustainable and organic farming.


Of his multiple restaurants in the city, casual tapas spot Bar Central, in the cathedral-like indoor Central Market, is an ideal place to dine on simple tapas dishes that showcase the freshest ingredients.


As Valencia steps into the spotlight as Europe’s green capital, welcoming visitors to explore its green spaces and laid-back lifestyle, clients may well fall in love with Spain’s most underrated city.

Source: TTG Media


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