Updated: Feb 19
Did you know that during the Spanish Civil War, art from the Prado museum was transported from Madrid to be safeguarded against airstrikes in the Torres de Serrano? Or that the only one of Diego Velazquez’s self-portraits to be universally accepted by art critics, aside from his brief appearance in ‘Las Meninas’, is held in the city of Valencia’s Museum of Fine Arts?
The Moorish influences, stunning landscapes, and millennia of artistic history make this vibrant cosmopolis a haven for artists and art lovers alike. Valencia’s impact on the art world, both within Spain and abroad, is impressive. The city is home to many renowned works from old Spanish masters and the modern fruits of more contemporary artists. So many incredible places to visit in Valencia for true art lovers!
In this chapter of our Art Lover’s Guide to Valencia series, we’ll introduce you to the first layer of the metaphorical onion, the Valencian art scene.
Museum of Fine Arts Valencia
A short walk across the Turia Gardens, away from the cobblestone streets and narrow plazas of the Old Town, the Valencia Museum of Fine Arts is housed in a beautiful old palace with striking blue domes. The 17th-century Baroque building is a work of art itself, while its collection attracts art connoisseurs from all over the country.
It is the second-largest fine art museum in the country and home to a unique collection of Gothic and Renaissance works, including traditional gothic panels embossed with gold and hanging in ornate frames. Valencia’s beloved son Joaquin Sorolla has a permanent exhibition where you can wander through the scenes of windswept beaches and the traditional life of this coastal community.
On the first floor, works by Velazquez hang beside Goya, Sarto and Murillo, and you can appreciate the delicate brushstrokes of the Spanish masters up close. A collection of contemporary works is found just moments away from invaluable archaeological remains, including the tomb of Saint Vincent Mártir, the patron saint of Valencia and a stunning 16th-century Renaissance courtyard.
The Valencian Institute of Modern Art (IVAM)
For a look inside the contemporary art world, head to the Museum of Modern Art Valencia to explore a permanent collection of some 12,000 pieces, including Julio Gonzalez's sculptures and Ignacio Pinazo's impressionism. Opened in 1989 just a stone's throw from the Turia Gardens and beside the lush Botanical Gardens, this modernist building was Spain's first modern art museum. The IVAM focuses on the new, shining a light on the avant-garde, abstract, new figurative, informalism and pop art movements of the 20th Century.
The IVAM also encourages the growth of new contemporary art movements and the emergence of new talents with lectures, workshops and temporary exhibitions.
Below the modern art collection, you can see the ruins of the medieval city walls, built to extend the city beyond those left by the Muslim and Roman Empires. The medieval walls were demolished by order of the Civil Governor in the latter part of the 19th Century, and this particular section was lost until building work began on the IVAM. This wall is a historical remnant of days gone by.
The National Museum of Ceramics
Ceramics have been of the utmost importance to Valencian culture since ancient times, from Neolithic pottery to the works of today's artisans. Ceramic tiles were a key product for satellite villages around Valencia, and El Cabanyal is known for its brightly tiled exterior. As such, it's no shock that the city is home to the largest ceramic collection in Spain, gifted by Gonzalez Martí.
The Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas dominates the quiet square in the middle of Valencia's city centre, its marble façade and elegant baroque detailing impossible to miss. Ignacio de Vergara was the mastermind behind this 18th-century ornate building, and it stands as a fascinating portal into Valencian history. Step inside and be taken back centuries.
This museum houses a wide range of items, from ceramics and 18th-century clothes to artwork and a model Valencian kitchen. Ceramic collections include samples from antiquity, Iberia, the Middle Ages, the Muslim world, Florence, Valencia and modernist styles. It also features pieces donated by Pablo Picasso and sculptures by Benlliure of the 20th century.
Higher Art College of Silk Valencia
When the Muslim Empire arrived in Spain during the 8th Century, it opened up a wealth of trading prospects. Silk played an integral role in helping Valencia thrive as a key hub for the Silk Route. To this day, the Higher Art College of Silk pays tribute to its remarkable past.
Nestled in the El Pilar neighbourhood, also known as Velluters, meaning velvet makers, is a 15th-century Gothic building that merits attention as an attraction in its own right. The exquisite decorations include gilded accents, gorgeous ceramic tiles, and grand wooden doors and windows. It's truly a sight worth seeing.
Silk merchants played a major role in the city and its history. The Higher Art College of Silk was pivotal during the 16th Century Brother Revolt, and at the outset of the 19th Century, it contained more than 5,000 silk looms. Everyone is welcome to stop by the Silk Museum Valencia to learn about its past and be awed by the impressive silks, looms, haberdashery, tiles and wooden figures crafted by hand.
Booking a stay in Spain’s art lover’s paradise
Valencia is renowned for its fascinating past and remarkable attractions. From the Palacio Vallier, an iconic hotel in the heart of the Old Town, to the luxurious and relaxing Caro hotel near Turia park, there is no shortage of historical boutique venues providing exquisite experiences. Visitors can explore gorgeous palaces, lush gardens and take in the city's unique culture.