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This is not your usual city park. The Turia Gardens, or Jardines del Turia, lie in a former riverbed which snakes through Valencia city centre like a long green ribbon, stretching all the way from the Bioparc to the City of Arts and Sciences and on towards the sea.
Best explored by bike, the nine kilometre long ribbon of greenery is popular with everyone from runners and cyclists to families and nature lovers. It’s crossed by no fewer than 18 bridges, surrounded by major museums and monuments on either bank, and contains some of the city’s most incredible architecture. It is possible to see the whole thing in a day, but you could spend much longer exploring, if you have the time.
The park is such a central part of the city today that it’s hard to believe it almost didn’t exist. When the Turia river was first diverted to the south, following disastrous floods in 1957, city planners initially wanted to build a highway. But public protests in the 70s led to the creation of the green space we see now. Various architects, planners and landscapers have slowly developed different parts of this now diverse urban space over the last 30 years or so.
This is such a large and varied park that you could visit with anyone, at any time, depending on what it is you feel like doing. From exercise al fresco to dining or taking in an opera, there’s an incredible variety of things on offer in this park.
Starting at the northern end of the gardens you’ll find the famous Bioparc – a city zoo known for its use of landscaping and natural features rather than enclosures. If you leave from here by bike or on foot, you’ll snake around the Ciutat Vella (Old City) district. From your submerged viewpoint in the park, you can still spy the blue domes and church spires. The Old City is flanked on this side by the Serranos Towers, a grand gateway to the historic district dating from the days when it was a walled city.
You’ll duck under both medieval and modern bridges, including the flower-covered Alameda Bridge, designed by the famous Spanish architect Calatrava. This is also where you’ll find the Alameda metro station, a convenient point to enter or leave the park if you have very limited time to explore.
As you make your way through the gardens you’ll be accompanied by cyclists and runners, walkers, rollerbladers, dog walkers, dance groups, yogis and slackliners. On a sunny day the grass is dotted with groups playing boules, picnicking or just lounging around. Though this much-loved park is used by so many city residents, it never feels too crowded or chaotic and the well-organised cycle lanes and pedestrian paths keep everyone moving.
You’ll soon come to the pretty area of fountains, terraces and columns at the front of the city’s opera house, the grand Palau de la Musica, which is one of the most important concert halls in the country and sits right in the Turia gardens.
There’s plenty for kids to do, with numerous playgrounds, skate ramps and climbing frames dotted along the length of the gardens, not to mention the huge Gulliver’s park. The gardens are even big enough to accommodate serious sports facilities including full-sized football pitches, and an athletics track.
Keep going and you’ll eventually finish up at the spectacular City of Arts and Sciences complex, the futuristic buildings and surrounding water features shimmering in the sun. If you have time you could check out an exhibition, watch a film, or just make the most of the view; this isn’t a bad place at all to enjoy the sunset.
Bioparc Valencia, Av. Pío Baroja, 3, 46015 València +34 902 25 03 40
Palau de la Musica, Passeig de l’Albereda, 30, 46023 València +34 963 37 50 20