Those of us who have children know very well that it is not easy to let them walk for hours when we are out and about. The secret is to motivate them, and for that you should know a city well. We will make it easy for you and will tell you some interesting stories about each district in València to motivate the children. If you also want to reward them for their patience, promise them a horchata with fartons, the favourite snack of Valencian children! (Tiger almond milk and yeast pastry).
1. Open secrets in the Museu de les Ciències
Are you going to visit the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències? Surprise your child and show him/her how the sound waves work. Go to the arches at the entrance of the Museu de les Ciències, put each one at one end and speak. Even if you are about 50 metres away, you will hear each other perfectly without anyone knowing what you are talking about! If you go towards Hemisfèric, you will find the most sought-after selfie motif of these days: the giant letters of València; you will not be able to resist!
2. A river without water in the Jardín del Turia Park
We drive our visitors crazy when we tell them the way to any sight: on the other side of the river, if you cross the river, you will find... Again and again, we call river what is no longer a river, and our visitors look for the water where there is no more water. The best story you can tell your children when you walk through the Jardín del Turia Park is how it was decided to turn the riverbed into the city´s real green lung. After the 1957 floods, it was decided to divert the river to the south of the city. But there was still the problem of what to do with the dry riverbed. One of the proposals was the construction of a 12-track highway that would cross the city, a project that can be seen in the Museum of Valèncian History. Fortunately, under pressure from the neighbours, this idea was abandoned in favour of transforming the old riverbed into a park landscape, the development of which was to begin in the 1980s with the intervention of the architect Ricardo Bofill in the first of the sections carried out next to the Palau de la Música. Try to get your children to guess the total length of our "river". And do you know how long it is? The answer is shown at the end of this article.
3. The flowers that gave the Playa de la Malvarrosa (Hollyhock Beach) its name
There are many stories about the name of the Malvarrosa beach: that the sea turns mauve at dawn, that an old paper mill coloured the sea water … but the historical and actual origin of the name goes back to 1856, when the Cabanyal was a swamp. Can you imagine that? The French botanist Jean Felix Robillard Closier, who at the time worked in our spectacular botanical garden, transformed a swampy area into fertile orchards with flowers popularly called malvarrosa (alcea rosea) and used them to produce essential oils in a factory he built very close to the fields.
4. A disease cured from the Ensanche district
At that time, it was not the coronavirus but the cholera that attacked València in the second half of the 19th century. It was one of those outbreaks of the disease that were repeatedly brought in by seamen from foreign countries and whose ships called at Spanish ports. It was 1885, and the Catalan doctor Jaime Ferrán successfully investigated the cure for cholera. He was therefore called to Valencia by the local authorities to try to stem the spread of the disease. He settled in a house in the Ensanche quarter to continue his research. And there, in a kitchen set up as a very primitive laboratory, he discovered the vaccine against the disease. So, if you walk through the Ensanche district, take a detour to Pascual y Genís Street, 22, and on the façade you will find an plaque with the bust of the doctor Jaime Ferrán, the perfect excuse to ask your children: Do you know why this man became famous?
5. A gift in the shape of a blue lady
If you stay near the Palacio de Congresos or take a walk there, you will have the greatest gift you have probably ever seen. More precisely, a gift to the city of València thanks to the patronage of some private companies and the artist Manolo Valdés. It is an 18-metre high sculpture inspired by the Dama de Elche, an Iberian figure made of limestone that is now kept in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid. The sculpture shown here, known as the Dama Ibérica (Iberian Lady), is made up of 22,000 miniatures of the barely 20-centimetre tall sculpture, which is located on the Avenida de las Cortes Valencianas roundabout since 2007.
Another work by Valdés can be seen in the Marina de València, where the La Pamela sculpture is exhibited - a huge female head that protects itself from the Mediterranean sun by covering itself with a straw hat. Thanks to the Hortensia Herrero Foundation, this elegant lady arrived in the city's most significant seafaring district and is part of a series of giant busts inspired by Henri Matisse, to which Valdés added everyday objects.
6. Thousand and one stories of the city centre
Walking through the historical city centre, you will easily be able to entertain the children. It offers you enough stories until the end of curfew. One of the most famous of València is the legend of the dragon of the patriarch. According to the legend, an alligator lived in the Huerta (orchards), frightening the inhabitants. No one had been able to put an end to the animal, but a prisoner asked for his freedom in return for killing the animal. He made himself a dress with mirrors, and armed with a spear he set out in search of the dragon. The dragon saw his own image in the mirrors, was startled, became dizzy, and the prisoner succeeded in killing the animal. You will not be able to see him now, but it will be an ideal trip with the children when the monuments of the city can open again.
We will end our walk with the Casa de los Gatos (Cat House), a miniature house in Museo Street, no. 9. Look closely: the window curtains, the main entrance, the fountain by the door... there are no details missing! Even the inscription of its author, who built the house to commemorate El Cid and his entry into the city of Valencia in 1904 after a long siege. At that time, hardly any of the city's inhabitants (in Spanish: "cuatro gatos"; literally "four cats". in today's Barrio del Carmen quarter. And another interesting item: if you look at the house from the front, you will see a tile with the sign of the last flood in the city in 1957, so you can continue the walk with the story of the transformation of the Turia riverbed that we told you above.
PS: The Jardín del Turia Park is 9 kilometres long. Did you guess correctly?