Ciudad de las artes y las ciencias Valencia – spain

A truly mind-blowing confection of some of Europe's most awesome architecture, the City of Arts and Science in Valencia is fast becoming one of Spain's top tourist attractions.

This futuristic "city within a city" must surely rank as one of the world's most exciting and imaginative millennium projects. The entire complex, designed to celebrate the arrival of the 21 st century, looks as though it might have been beamed down to earth from another planet.

And it's a down to earth approach which really defines this space age cultural complex because it's all about firing the masses with enthusiasm for the arts and science. The breathtaking structures are enough in themselves to lure visitors in their millions. You don't have to be an opera buff or science boffin to enjoy a day out here - in fact if you're on a tight budget you can just wander round this incredible "city" without even buying an entrance ticket.

Santiago Calatrava, who master-minded most of the complex, says" I am proud of the fact that people can walk through and around the main buildings without paying. It is a city to be discovered by promenading."

You can promenade for more than seven kilometres around the complex thanks to the vision of this internationally acclaimed architect, artist and engineer who allowed his imagination free rein when it came to designing one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by his native city.

Many Valencians admit to having visited the arts and science city scores of times without ever having bought an entrance ticket to any of its four star turns: the "Hemesferic", Planetarium, the Principe Felipe Science Museum, the Oceanarium and the Reina Sofia Arts Palace

The Hemesferic was the first building to be completed in 1998 - an extraordinary Calatrava creation resembling a huge eyeball floating above a pool of water. The eye even blinks with the aid of a steel and glass shutter operated by hydraulic lifts. When you've finished drinking in the impossibility of the building's architecture it's well worth taking in a show at the Hemesferic's planetarium or Imax theatre.

The centerpiece of the whole complex is the equally awesome science museum which opened alongside the Hemesferic in 2000. Some people reckon it looks like a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton from the outside whilst others see it as the spine of some huge, prehistoric fish. And certainly for many visitors the building itself is the star exhibit despite the many fascinating hands-on science displays contained within it.

Children love the fact that the museum is a far cry from those fusty halls of hallowed ancient artifacts with show cases bedecked with "don't touch" signs. Touching is essential for most of the Felipe museum's exhibits which encourage learning through curiosity and entertainment this is "edutainment" 21 st century style and there are few places in Europe which do it better.

Next door to the museum you'll find the "Oceanografic", Europe's biggest marine park which is home to 500 species of fish and other sea creatures from every ocean of the world. It's a fascinating underwater world where you can take a virtual stroll from one side of the Atlantic to the other through a shark tunnel or get a real feel for marine life in the touch pool. You could easily spend an entire day in the oceanarium which boasts everything from white whales and walruses to dolphin displays and an underwater auditorium with a Red Sea aquarium as its backdrop. The Oceanografic was designed by Spanish architect Felix Candela (the other three buildings in the complex are all the work of Calatrava.)

he city was completed with the official opening of the majestic 1,888 opera house (Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia) by Spain's Queen Sofia in October 2005. This impressive multi-hall "palace of the arts" has a mission to promote a passion for dance, theatre and classical music among a wider cross section of society including school children.

You can buy individual entrance tickets for each building or reduced price tickets allowing entrance to two or more attractions.

Opening Times:

Mon-Fri 11am-2pm and 4-8pm, Sat-Sun 11am-2pm and 4-9pm.

Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe
Mon-Fri and Sun 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-8pm

Mon-Fri and Sun 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-8pm