Visiting Valencia and Turia Gardens
The Spanish city of Valencia transformed a river bed into a 5.5-mile park that runs through the city—Cara Greenberg visits and reports back.
Is there any other other city on earth with a 5-1/2-mile-long park running through it? Valencia, three hours south of Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast, may be unique in that regard. It's a bustling modern city of close to a million, surrounding a historic center dense with architectural monuments from the medieval to the modern.
Here, the Jardines del Turia (Turia Gardens), snakes through the city as a long line of plants and paths. The Turia was a river until it flooded once too often, taking 100 lives. In the late 1950s, city officials resisted the lure of a super-highway, deciding instead to divert the river's course and repurpose the dry riverbed as an unbroken string of parks, gardens, and playgrounds.
The Turia's varied landscaping conveys just a hint of classical Spanish gardens, with their fountains, arches, and symmetrical design. Created piecemeal over several decades, the Turia is generally more casual and less manicured than other Spanish parks, with lawns, palm trees, orange groves, and a rose garden, all linked by paths for cycling and strolling.
There was a big push to landscape in the 1980s, when the city hired Spanish Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill to design several sections, and thousands of trees were planted.
The University of Valencia’s botanic garden, founded four centuries ago and most recently refurbished in 2000, forms a “wing” of Turia park at its northern end. The greenhouse, filled with rainforest plants, dates from 1861.
The riverbed park ends at Calatrava’s fantastical City of Arts and Sciences, the futuristic museum complex that has been the pride of Valencia since its completion in 2005.