First Heritage Fallas
Valencia’s main festival, Las Fallas, will be more special than ever, as this year it celebrates its new Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity status, awarded by UNESCO in November. From March 15-19, the streets and squares of the city will be filled with enormous, colourful papier-mache figures – some beautiful, others a satirical take on the past year’s events. The festival’s bittersweet end comes at midnight on March 19 when, after days of concerts, fireworks, parades and festivities, all the fallas figures are set alight. This year, the display in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament (the main central square, outside the town hall) is expected to be the biggest ever.
A Gastro-Cultural Feast
This year, Valencia’s foodies have a few things to look forward to. Bombas Gens, an old factory building on the outskirts of the city, is expected to reopen in spring as a new gastro-cultural centre. The renovated building, a striking example of 1930s industrial architecture, is to contain a new art centre and will also become the new home of local chef Ricard Camarena’s eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant. Plus another Michelin-starred restaurant, La Sucursual, is set to reopen this year at the Veles e Vents building, another example of exceptional architecture now becoming known for great food and art.
If you’re in Valencia this year, make the most of what could be your last chance to visit El Cabanyal, the old fishermen’s quarter – at least in its present state. It has long been under threat from local government plans to bulldoze much of the area in order to make way for a modern boulevard, extending all the way from the city centre to the sea. But as legal battles between the city hall and El Cabanyal’s residents’ associations drag on, another problem is arising. Valencians now say the area is becoming gentrified and – dare we say it – hipster central, so even if it survives, it could lose much of its original charm.
World Food Capital
Valencia has been named as the World’s Food Capital 2017 by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation), meaning it will be central to the global debate on sustainable, healthy ways to feed the world. The city was chosen because of the Valencian huerta, a lush 10,000-hectare market garden surrounding the urban area, large parts of which you can get out and explore on hiking or biking tours.
Major New Cycle Routes
Cycling is a delight in Valencia, with a wide network of cycle lanes connecting the historic centre to the beach via cycle paths in the green gardens of the former Turia riverbed. The city’s cycle path network is now being expanded, and the cycling ring road is expected to be completed this year. This 20-kilometre cycle lane, running alongside the main traffic lanes of Valencia’s inner ring road, will connect the city’s different boroughs, allowing cyclists to travel more freely and safely through the city.
2017 will see the long-awaited opening of the luxurious new Marques House, located in the city centre next to the famously elaborate, baroque façade of the palace housing the National Museum of Ceramics and Sumptuary Arts. The hotel includes the historic Café Madrid (expected to reopen in March), once a local institution in which the cocktail Agua de Valencia is said to have been created.
On the Silk Trail
Valencia was the City of Silk in 2016, and this year it will host a meeting of the Silk Road Task Force, all in honour of the city’s important role in the global silk trade in the 15th century. You can brush up on your history while you’re here with a visit to the Museum of Silk Art and to La Lonja (The Silk Exchange), a World Heritage site.