Science and Culture Complex Delights Travelers in Valencia, Spain

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The six structures in the City of Arts and Sciences are encouraging development in Valencia while adding to the city’s tourist offerings and dramatic architecture.

Stunning Architecture on the Mediterranean

This cultural and leisure center spans nearly two kilometers of a former river bed with plenty of open space and pools surrounding its six principal structures. The striking roofs and architectural elements of leading Spanish architects Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela harmonize with the play of light and sea in this Mediterranean city.

The City of Arts and Sciences complex emphasizes four main themes: the cosmos, biosphere, culture and the science of human life.

Dolphins in Europe’s Largest Aquarium

The largest marine complex in Europe, the Oceanografic opened in Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences in 2003 with 45,000 specimens of 500 marine species. It is the only place in Europe where beluga whales and walruses are on exhibit and it has one of the largest dolphin shows in the world.

It features 10 exhibit areas:

  • Mediterranean: nine aquariums with 7,400 fish, invertebrates and other marine life of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Wetlands: a sphere simulating mangrove swamps and fens.
  • Temperate to tropical: 70-meter underwater tunnel, longest in Europe, travels from temperate waters of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans to the warm waters of the tropics.
  • Oceans: The Oceanografic’s largest aquarium takes visitors on a virtual voyage across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to Bermuda through a tunnel where bull shark, gray shark, sunfish and other species can be observed.
  • Antarctic: Penguins frolic on a rocky cliff and under water.
  • Arctic: Igloo-like dome is home to walruses and beluga whales.
  • Islands: features islands along the coast of South America where Patagonian sea lions live.
  • Red Sea/Auditorium: a 466-seat auditorium with an aquarium replicating the Red Sea with masked butterfly fish and Napoleon fish.
  • Underwater restaurant: in the center of the complex with a roof in the shape of a water lily.
  • Dolphinarium: Exhibit and show pool with room for 1,500 spectators.

Imax and Study of Planets Through Astronomy


Inside the Hemisferic, which opened in 1998, Imax films and astronomy shows are shown using two projection systems and a 900-square-meter concave screen. Digital animation and astronomy productions utilize full dome projection.

With its egg-shaped roof designed by Santiago Calatrava, the building is a stunning addition to the skyline. Surrounded by an ornamental lake, it has a perimeter ring named for popular astronomy writer Carl Sagan.

Science Museum Delves Into Our DNA

The Science Museum Principe Filipe opened in 2000 with 387 interactive modules devoted to science and new technologies. The glass and concrete structure, resembling the skeleton of a whale, is surrounded by water that covers a surface area of 13,500 square meters. Highlights of the exhibits include:

  • Forest of Chromosomes: A sculpture of human DNA soaring 15 meters in height and 123 interactive modules related to specific gene functions.
  • Space Adventure: a gyro-chair used in astronaut training, an International Space Station exhibit, and an exhibit devoted to 3D vision.
  • Exploratory: experiments with physical principles such as optics, electromagnetism and mechanics.
  • Electricity Theatre: a scientific animation paying tribute to electricity in sometimes hair-raising ways.

Opera House Is Work of Art

Inaugurated in 2005, the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia is a majestic opera house, a signature work of Santiago Calatrava. The stark white roof, or “feather structure, as the architect describes it, makes a bold statement similar to that of the famed opera house in Sydney, Australia. Two shells of laminated steel with a ceramic coating surround the outside of the building.

Standing over 70 meters high, the building is a stunning white structure mirrored in the more than 10,000 square meters of water surface surrounding it. Access to the building is from a raised footbridge.

Inside, the main hall, master hall, auditorium and the Theatro Martin y Soler, host international productions in opera and major music shows.

Meet and Play on the Mediterranean

The most recent building in the complex opened in 2010. The Agora has been built as a multi-functional setting for a wide variety of events, such as conventions, concerts and sporting events.

Resembling a pointed ellipsis, its fixed roof has glass panels. On the upper part of the roof, two mobile plates open and close like wings, allowing the regulation of natural light.

Garden in a Car Park

Even the parking structure in the City of Arts and Sciences is an integral part of the overall design. The Umbracle has two-story enclosed parking for cars and motor coaches and a promenade where visitors take in the view of lakes and landscape surrounding the architecture.

At the top of the structure a garden features 83 different species of plants indigenous to the Valencia region. An open-air art gallery has nine sculptures by contemporary artists.

Visiting Valencia

The City of Arts and Sciences is the modern face of Valencia. Visitors to the city also can explore its old town with baroque churchesand Roman ruins. In March, take in Fallas, Valencia’s biggest annual event.

For more information on travel to Spain, contact the Tourist Office of Spain.