Enchanting Valencia

Hotel Palacio Marques de Caro

Valencia is a charming city on Spain’s Mediterranean coast offering a wealth of opportunity for travelers looking for impressive sights, rich history and delicious cuisine. In fact, just last month, the city was voted one of Lonely Planet’s “Top 10 Visits for 2011.”

Exploring the Sites Valencia exemplifies the allure of today’s Spain, blending the traditional and cutting edge. The city’s old quarter, for instance, is full of Gothic and renaissance monuments like the late Gothic Silk Exchange, a UNESCO World Heritage site; the Gothic-Romanesque-Baroque cathedral and a 15th century Gothic palace that houses government offices.

In the City of Arts and Sciences, meanwhile—designed by native architect, Santiago Calatrava—visitors will find the Hemispheric, a dramatic eye-shaped planetarium complete with IMAX theater; the Prince Felipe Museum of the Sciences, with a wealth of interactive displays; the modernly designed Oceanographic aquarium (pictured) and the 60-ft.-high Umbracle that shields a promenade of palms and tropical plants.

Wining and Dining Like the rest of Spain, Valencia has a reputation for exceptional cuisine. Much like its architecture, the city’s cuisine features a blend of traditional and modern dishes. Known as the birthplace of paella, this region is also home to 13 Michelin-starred restaurants, two of which just received the honor.

The latest edition of the 2011 Michelin Guide has bestowed one star on Ricard Camarena of Arrop in Valencia’s Hotel Palacia Marques de Caro. Chef Camarena starts from the traditional roots of Valencia cuisine and adds his own spin to create delicious dishes such as cod with eggplant terrine, calamari in its ink with leeks, cilantro and lime, and roast suckling goat infused with green onions. A 3-course meal at Arrop runs about $76.

Also recognized by the 2011 Michelin Guide was Paco Morales, the chef at the Hotel Ferrero in Bocairent. Nestled in the Sierra Mariola in Bocairent, about an hour’s drive from Valencia, the 12-suite Hotel-Restaurante Ferrero is a Relais & Chateaux property. At the onsite Restaurante Paco Morales, guests may choose from dishes such as baby prawns with wild fennel, hake cooked in the broth of bomba rice with white asparagus, Iberian pork with green asparagus and ramps and roasted pigeon with goat cheese raviolis. The chef offers Innovation, a 13-course tasting menu, priced at about $114, as well as a 5-course Roots menu for about $70.

Vacation Packages Central Holidays is currently offering a 10-night escorted tour to Spain, including visits to Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Granada. Rates run $2,589 pp dbl land-only.

The tour company is also offering a 6-night Spain itinerary that spends three nights in Valencia, as well as three nights in Madrid. Land-only rates start at $671 pp dbl.

For more information on both tours, visit centralholidays.com. And for more information on travel to Valencia, visit en.comunitatvalenciana.com.