Ever since I left Germany many years ago my husband and I are always keeping our eyes and ears open for new places around the world we could call home one day. We have lived together in the States (in the smallest state called Rhode Island) and are now living in the tropics - in Panama.
This spring we decided to pay a visit to Valencia, Spain. We had 5 magical days there in many ways. But the most impressive and satisfying part was how stroller/ bike & kid friendly this city is. Coming from a UNESCO world heritage site ourselves (we live in the old town of Panama City called Casco Viejo filled with Spanish & French colonial buildings, narrow streets and even narrower side walks) where its almost impossible to push a stroller (well, unless you go on the streets...) we realized it made such an impact on our experience, such a relief. It was smooth strolling anywhere, even in the old part of the city which is quite big. Kids can find a park and place to play frequently. The biggest park is the Jardi del Turia which stretches around the city like a ribbon. What used to be a river has been transformed into a 7 kilometer promenade of flowers, parks, ponds, playgrounds, fountains and sports facilities.
We rented bikes and wound our way through the park to the stunning City of Arts and Sciences. A stunning architecture surrounded by beautiful clear waters you should not miss. You can rent clear kayaks and those hamster balls which looked like so much fun. Or visit the planetarium, IMAX theater and laserium ( all under one roof of the "L'Hemisfèric"), the open-air aquarium "Oceanografic" (the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world.) - Valencia's opera & performing arts center ("Palau de les Arts"), the science museum ('El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe") and the walkway/ garden called "L'Umbracle". So much to explore - you can easily fill 2 days just in that park alone. Oh and the best part is it brings you almost to the beach & port. Its an amazing complex not just for kids and its highly educational.
The other end of the Jardi del Turia is home of the Bioparc Zoo, a new generation zoo with boundless nature within the city of Valencia. Their concept is called zoo-immersion: A philosophy and design technique that attemps to immerse the visitor in a faithful re-creation of natural habitats. The animals, the vegetation and the landscape form a setting that invites the visitors to discover the complexity of the natural ecosystems surrounding them.
Another must visit is the Mercado Central which (older) children will love as its very lively, lots of colors and mountains of veggies & fruit etc to look at. Its not only one of the largest markets in Europe (500+ stalls) but one of the most beautiful ones in Spain. Try and get a spot at the tapas bar "Central Bar" inside created by Michelin-star chef Ricard Camarena.