Almost every large Spanish city is made up of small beautiful streets and open squares, with fountains and cafes in between. Open squares seem to be a universal constant in Spain, and it fits perfectly with the incredibly social nature of the people, and their love of gathering together and celebrating culturally important events and days. Cities like Malaga, Seville and Caceres all feature huge open squares right at the heart of the city, and these Plazas function as gathering places in times of festivals, meeting points for every and anyone at all times, as well as being incredibly attractive and beautiful places for tourists to visit. They often sit right on the border (or inside of) the older parts of these cities, and have been at the centre of the culture of the city for their entire existence (often more than 1000 years). Cover photo credit @ Leonid Andronov
This square houses the most important government buildings, as well as being the central tourist hub, and the easiest way to access the older parts of the city like the Cuitat Vella area.
This is the square where the famous Las Fallas celebration culminates, and also where the best fireworks and noise displays take place during the 'mascletas' part of this crazy festival. This is not just a tourist spot though, and is really more of a central convergeance point, from which you can head to any and every corner of the city. To the north of the square is Cuitat Vella, to the east is Turia Park, to the south is hipster and cool Rusafa and the beach, and to the west is Extramurs (local family area with great food).
Something not to miss in the square (but that is incredibly easy to not see) is the rooftop bar accessed from this central plaza. The Ateneo Sky Bar is one of the very best places to see Valencia from a birds eye view, from one of the highest points in the city. It's only three euros to scale the building, and that includes a discount on drinks from the rooftop bar. I'll be honest and tell you that every time I've been up there, I've balked at buying a drink, as a medium cocktail is around 10 euros!
Standing in the square is an experience in itself. You will be surrounded by local people weaving their way around camera-happy tourists as they head to work, as well as the noise and colour that accompanies every lively Spanish city.
I find it impossible to stand in this square and not be amazed at the life and energy that is swirling around, and especially on festival and celebration days, the level of excitement is brilliant.
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