Valencia is Spain’s third-largest city after Madrid and Barcelona. Famed for its historic Old Town and its expansive beaches, Valencia also lays claim to arguably one of Spain’s biggest and most innovative urban renewal projects, the Turia park. The Turia River used to flow through the city but devastating floods in 1957 prompted the city government to divert the flow of the river around the city. After a lengthy and hotly-contested debate about what to do with the old riverbed, the government turned it into a leafy park which stretches almost 9 kilometers. These days, the park is home to a variety of Valencia’s best attractions including the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, extensive flower gardens, fruit orchards and space for all sorts of sporting and cultural activities. It has become a very popular spot for both locals and visitors who come here to relax, enjoy a picnic with family and friends or to utilise the mile upon mile of jogging and cycling paths. The old riverbed is, as I soon discovered, also home to two of Valencia’s spectacular wildlife parks: the Bioparc (at its northwestern end) and the Oceanogràfic (adjacent to the City of Arts and Sciences at the southeastern end of the old riverbed).
The Bioparc is a massive park that showcases African flora and fauna. The park is divided into various sections, each of which houses a specific eco-system. There’s the savannah, a section devoted to Madagascar’s unique wildlife, the Equatorial forests and wetlands.
I’ve been to many zoological parks around the world but the Bioparc is certainly unique. I especially love how the park encourages ‘immersion’. The enclosures are so cleverly designed that visitors often feel as though they are walking through the animals’ natural environment, not simply observing the animals from behind a fence. The Bioparc truly is a lovely place for a morning or late-afternoon stroll.
The Oceanogràfic is Europe’s largest aquarium and houses a great diversity of marine environments including the oceans, the Arctic/Antarctic, wetlands and the tropical seas. The curvy white roofs of the pavilions, designed by Félix Candela, will grab your attention as you enter the park but head below and you’ll find yourself in a fascinating marine world with massive basins and tanks interconnected by glass tunnels.
While in Valencia, make sure you set aside some time for these two parks. I definitely enjoyed visiting both and I’m pretty sure you will too!
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