The beauty of La Lonja de La Seda, Valencia
Since ancient times, Valencia was a major center for trade and business as the city is located on the southeastern coast of Spain. A walk through the historic part of the city will give you a glimpse of how the market thrived with success during the Golden Era. Even though we weren’t so keen on including this city in our Spain itinerary initially as we thought Tomatina Festival is the only highlight of this place. But a plate of delicious paella relished midst the beautiful surroundings of ancient Valencia was just about enough to change our mind and we are so glad we visited this city.
Related post: From the streets of Valencia
With 2 days in hand to spend here, we decided to make the most of it and visit some of the must-visit places in the city. One among them is the La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia (originally a Silk Exchange), which a commercial building built in the 15th century when the city was booming with its economic expansion. Hoping to avoid the crowd, we started off early morning to visit the place and luckily enough we were one of the first visitors for the day.
The external façade of the building has gargoyles protruding out of the walls and this got us confused for a second if we are indeed at the right place (hard to imagine a modern-day trade building having a gothic themed structure right?). Anyways, after confirming at the reception that this is the Silk Exchange we started off our tour with the handy audio guides. Built between 1482 and 1548, the building is a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture and symbolizes the power and wealth of the city during the 15th and 16th century. The exchange was built as a meeting point for merchants and financiers to conduct trade in a fair way.
The first section of the tour takes you through the Patio de los Naranjos, small yet beautiful orange garden with luscious citrus fruit hanging temptingly. Next comes the main Trading Hall (Sala de Contraction), which is the highlight of the Exchange. Tall spiraling pillars adorn the rooms with the ceiling a fascinating interlude of ribs and columns giving it a treelike illusion. This room is also famously called as the Hall of columns and the interesting thing about the hall is the inscription etched in golden letters around the four walls depicting the importance of honesty among the tradesmen. The details of the hall totally got us hooked and we just couldn’t help but wonder how this place was on its busiest days.
Apart from the hall, there is a Chapel of Immaculate Conception, which has Gothic style interiors. On the first floor of the building is the Tribunal del Mar room, yet another magnificent room in Renaissance style that was once the Pavilion of the Consulate and has beautiful carvings on the ceiling. The tour also takes you around the building gives you interesting tidbits about the external architecture. Overall the place is a work of marvel with vivid details on walls, ceilings, windows and doors and honestly one could spend whole admiring the unique masterwork.
La Lonja de La Seda was declared as the UNESCO Heritage Site in the year 1993. Tickets can be purchased on the spot and cost about 2 Euros and entry is free of cost on Sundays and Public Holidays.
After finishing the tour of the Silk Exchange we decided to hit the food market that was right next to the building to appease our hunger. The Central Market/ Mercat Central is another famous attraction in the city as it is one of Europe’s oldest running food market and a perfect example of Valencia’s Modernist architecture. Almost 400 vendors sell fresh produce like fruits vegetables, meat, fish and other local delicacies.
The market is a real heaven for food lovers and to be honest we were in a bit of a fix on what to eat as every stall had a mouth-watering display of food items. We finally settled on desserts and some fresh strawberries washing them down with the homemade horchatas, we then moved on to explore rest of the old town.
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