The Ciutat De Les Arts I Les Ciences (City of Arts and Sciences) is a breath-taking, sprawling complex of unconventional, rhythmic and almost abstract buildings designed by Spanish architects – Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela. The futuristic design of the buildings seem to have maritime and skeletal influences, with a nod to biomimicry in the buildings.
I recommend allocating at least half a day to exploring this ‘white concrete village’. There is no entry ticket to this place unless you wish to enter specific buildings or events. Buses from the city stop right outside the centre so it is fairly convenient to access via public transport. As soon as you embark, you feel you have stepped into a science fiction movie set!
The first building we encountered was L’Oceanografic– a maritime museum hugely popular with families and listed as the fourth best thing to visit in Valencia on TripAdvisor! We didn’t go in, but managed to capture the impressive glass façade with its floral inspired architecture and geometric forms, designed by Candela.
Next stop on the architectural walk was L’Agora– a large multifunctional space that is used for conventions and events. This was the only building we saw with a distinctive blue facade. We had a little sneak peek of the cavernous interiors through one of the glass doors as it was not open to public on the day. All around were little sparkling pools which, along with the breeze, helped keep ambient temperatures down. It is indeed a marvellous piece of construction and looms over you like the underside of a large ship.
Past L’Agora, as we moved further along, we came across the only bridge construction that forms part of the complex – Assut de l’Or. It is a white cable-stayed bridge designed by my favourite architect – Santiago Calatrava. It is a testament to his love for combining structural design with architecture, with sweeping lines and seamless finish.
As you go under the bridge and emerge, you enter the main hub of the entire complex. Right in front of you is the Museu de les Ciencies Principe Felipe – another Calatrava creation.
It is essentially a science and technology museum and you will need to buy tickets to enter the main spaces. However the ground floor level is free entry, and I would recommend using the facilities there and taking a break before continuing. There is a lovely café and an Italian restaurant where you can stop for some coffee and cake, or in my case, some wine!
The design of the building is meant to resemble the skeleton of a whale!
Directly opposite to the museum is the L’Umbracle – a beautifully landscaped garden and walkway under an elliptical, arched structure that houses plant species native to Valencia.
Walking inside L’Umbracle, temperatures were definitely cooler (thanks to the palm trees) and provided us with much needed refuge from the heat. It was also a very relaxing way to learn about the city’s indigenous flora.
This is also the place where we had a taste of our first Horchata (Orxata in Catalan) – the Valencian secret to keeping cool under hot temperatures. This refreshingly ice cold drink, made of tiger nuts, is sweet and nutty to taste. We immediately felt the difference upon drinking it, as it cooled and refreshed our bodies and made the walk in 34 degrees of heat more palatable.
Continuing our journey, we were now standing in front of what I think is the most beautiful (and a personal favourite) building of the entire complex – L’Hemisferic or The Eye!
It is a planetarium and IMAX cinema. The design is made to resemble the eye, when seen in conjunction with its reflection on the pool, complete with retina and eyelid. It is indeed the most iconic and magnificent of all the buildings.
Last but not the least , we ended our walk in front of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia – a theatre and opera house, again designed by Calatrava. To me it looked like a giant whale, with its sweeping curves of white concrete, metal and glass.
Santiago Caltrava is known (often criticised) for his theatrical, out of context and outlandish designs. I am in love with his style and this visit to the Ciutat De Les Arts I Les Ciences was a fascinating journey to understand his designs a bit deeper. It was a stimulating and engaging experience which will stay with me forever.
More information can be found at