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Valencia History

Founded as a Roman military colony called Valentia Edetanorum in 138BC, Valencia is one of the oldest cities in Spain. Its original ruler was Roman consul Decimus Junius Brutus Galaico. Razed in 75BC by Pompey to punish it for supporting Sertorius instead of him, it was rebuilt 50 years later and quickly became one of the most important cities in the Roman province of Tarraconesis.

Following the end of the Roman period, Valencia was occupied by the Moors, Visigoths, Catalans and Aragonese. When Islamic culture settled here in the early years of the 10th century, Valencia prospered thanks to a booming trade in paper, silk, leather, ceramics, glass and silver-work. The Saint Vincent Cathedral was turned into a mosque and the Moors left their marks in Valencia’s architecture.

In 1238, Valencia was besieged by the King James I of Aragon who kicked out 54,000 Moors and repopulated the new kingdom with Catalans and Aragonese. The Christians reconverted many edifices back into churches, including the cathedral. Despite the best efforts of attackers, and the harsh punishments meted out by royals and church, by the 15th century Valencia had developed into one of the biggest cities in the Mediterranean.

This was Valencia’s golden age, a period in which the city became so rich, it was able to lend Queen Isabella I the money to fund Christopher Columbus’ inaugural voyage to the Americas. But despite its efforts, Valencia was among the cities banned from trading with the fledgling Spanish Empire and it went into a steady decline. Then, during the War of the Spanish Succession, it was captured by the British and held for 16 months.

Eventually returned to Spain, much of the 19th century was dominated by more war: the War of Independence and a succession of civil conflicts. The 20th century, although bringing with it another war, also brought some relief as the city industrialised and started to grow once more. Today it is a hub for the tech industry, as well as a popular spot for tourists.

Did you know?
• The controversial Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) was born in Valencia in 1431. He broke his vow of celibacy and had several children.
• The Torres de Serranos, towers built to defend medieval Valencia, were used as a prison for aristocrats between 1586 and 1887.
• Valencia Cathedral claims to house the Holy Grail.

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Featured Hotels

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Hotel Villacarlos

This simple, traditional hotel benefits from easy access to Valencia's beaches and cultural attractions via nearby bus and metro links. The functional rooms are decorated in creams and wooden furnishings and offer free Wi-Fi and flatscreen TVs. Ask for the rooftop suite; it has its own sundeck.

Hostal Antigua Morellana

Set in an 18th-century townhouse, this classic Spanish inn is run by four sisters and situated in a narrow lane close to Valencia's historic silk exchange and cathedral. Its cosy, no-frills rooms feature memory-foam mattresses and private bathrooms, as well as TVs and free Wi-Fi. Some rooms also have small balconies.

Hotel ibis Valencia Alfafar

Opposite Albufera Natural Park, this straightforward, chain hotel features modern, budget rooms with flatscreen TVs and Wi-Fi access. Hotel amenities include a restaurant, a bar and a fitness centre, plus guest parking, a business centre and an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast.

Hotel One Shot Colon 46

Within walking distance of the Cathedral, this hotel is part of the Spanish hotel chain One Shot and offers simple chic for a reasonable price. The unfussy rooms have smart TVs, mini-fridges and rain showers, and those on the top floor have balconies. There's a cafe in the first floor where breakfast is served.

Hotel Ad Hoc Monumental

Situated near Valencia's Cathedral and the Serranos Towers, this charming hotel dates back to 1881 and boasts original features such as exposed brickwork and wood-beamed ceilings. The airy rooms are decorated in old-world style, and many have marble floors and private balconies.

Hotel Las Arenas

Set on the beach, this resort-style hotel dates back to 1898 and offers bright, modern rooms with city, garden or sea views. Its renowned spa and wellness centre includes indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis, bubble beds, ice fountains and a relaxation garden. Its brasserie offers the best in modern Spanish gastronomy.