Spain’s third-largest city, Valencia, trails behind Barcelona and Madrid in terms of size. Yet it has some great spots for cooling down during the Iberian heat. Join us on a tour of the best local secrets, with a car that’s open for everything new: the new smart fortwo cabrio.
From the Mediterranean, a soft breeze wafts across the historic Old Town. It keeps Valencia cool – and its people laid-back and even-tempered. Locals love to take their time and savor the finer things in life. Just picture Barcelona on an early morning, without all the tourists. Or Madrid, if it was on the coast. So, think relaxed to the max and blessed with all-embracing warmth – in terms of climate and character. Not to forget some choice modern architecture like the futurist “City of Arts,” juxtaposed with venerable cultural treasures like the city’s gothic cathedral. Eager to take a peek behind the scenes, we asked two creatives in the know about the best local secrets for a perfect day out in Valencia: Ismael Chappaz and Juanma Menero of the Espai Tactel gallery. With the smart fortwo cabrio, the only real cabriolet of its class, the two went for a joyride through their exciting city.
Ismael, Juanma, say we just touched down in Valencia. What’s the best way to delve right into local city life?
Ismael Chappaz: Naturally, we’d adopt the perspective of an avid art lover and would head straight for Plastic Murs. It’s a fantastic gallery with a changing roster of amazing exhibitions on new, contemporary art and pop surrealism. And once we’re there, our own gallery Espai Tactel is only just around the corner.
Sounds like a pretty creative hood …
Juanma Menero: Yes, we’d definitely recommend spending a few hours in Eixample, which is what this district is called. It’s on the edge of the Old Town and features the classic Spanish grid layout. Buildings tend to be very historic and affordable, so over the past few years the neighborhood has attracted many small stores, galleries, students, and artists. To us, Eixample is one of the best areas in town at the moment.
Generally speaking, is Valencia a good destination for modern art?
Ismael Chappaz: Definitely. Spain’s first museum of contemporary art, the IVAM, opened in Valencia, so art is very important to Valencia. At the moment, there’s also a stronger sense of art opening up to the city and its people: Recently, at a public “breakfast for pedestrians,” they announced the construction of a public sculpture garden.
Speaking of IVAM – which of the exhibitions on display are absolute must-sees?
Juanma Menero: Make sure to see the permanent display by Julio Gonzáles, one of the 20th century’s most important sculptors. And right now, they’ve got a very nice exhibit by German visual artist Harun Farocki. IVAM is way too big to see everything in a single afternoon, but for instant inspiration you could head over to the museum’s book store – the well-stocked Librería Dadá. You are bound to find something intriguing!
It’s early afternoon and Ismael Chappaz and Juanma Menero are out and about in the new smart fortwo cabrio. Above them, the sun adds extra brightness to the Old Town’s walls. The black and titanium grey car provides an elegant contrast – as do the two black-clad gallerists. They epitomize the artistic side of Valencia style: very busy, excellently networked, always on the lookout for new trends – yet very easy-going and laid-back.
Time for a quick lunch stop. Where are we headed?
Ismael Chappaz: Since IVAM is very close to the Old Town, we are making a beeline for the heart of the city: Our destination is the magnificent Mercado Central and its Central Bar, which is the budget restaurant by Michelin star chef Ricard Camarena, who wanted to be able to offer his food in a price range affordable to the market workers. Make sure to try one of his imaginative and incredibly tasty bocadillos and tapas!
Let’s say you need a break from art. Where do you go?
Juanma Menero: I might opt for a spot of shopping; that’s always fun. And while there are plenty of small boutiques around, Valencia’s best fashion designer deserves a special mention: Siemprevivas makes minimalist womenswear that keeps inspiring us, even if we don’t wear it ourselves. For a change, we might also make our way to the botanical gardens, Jardí Botanic, for some fresh air and a bit of exercise.
Well, a day in Valencia deserves an equally eventful night out. What’s on your list and plate?
Ismael Chappaz: At night, the Vuelve Carolina restaurant is a perfect choice. Before or after, we might watch a movie at Cinestudio d´Or, an incredibly atmospheric retro movie theater. Or we meet up with friends at one of the many art openings, e. g. at the Las Naves art center. Afterwards, we’re off to the XL Xtra Lrge club, which – unlike the name suggests – is pleasantly small and cozy. And depending on how long you are planning to stay out and up, the sunset above the Mediterranean is incredibly striking; it’s something you should experience at least once in your life.
The Espai Tactel gallery was founded in 2011 by Ismael Chappaz and Juanma Menero. Today, it counts among Valencia’s best-known new art spots. Every year, Espai Tactel stages six six-week solo shows.
Local Secrets Valencia:
Calle Denia 45 bajo, 40006 Valencia
Calle Denia 25 bajo, 46006 Valencia
Guillem de Castro 118, 46003 Valencia
(situated inside IVAM, the Contemporary Art Museum)
Guillem de Castro 118, 46003 Valencia
Best lunch spot:
Mercado Central de Valencia
Plaza del Mercado s/n (Puestos del 105-131)
Doctor Serrano 13, 46006 Valencia
Calle Quart 80, 46008 Valencia
Best restaurant for dinner:
Calle Correos 8, 46004 Valencia
Retro movie theater:
Almirante Cadarso 31, 46005 Valencia
XL Xtra Lrge
Gran Vía de les Germaníes 21, 46004 Valencia