A derby written deep into the city’s landscape and history

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Written by Alejandro Fernandez.

 

Spain’s third-biggest city is home to two LaLiga Santander clubs, with Valencia CF and Levante UD playing a huge role in the daily life of its 800,000 residents for the last 100 years

With both clubs’ stadiums located relatively close to the tourist and commercial centre, supporters arriving from overseas can use football as a stepping-off point to learn more about the great history of the city and wider region.

Many of Valencia’s other most popular tourist spots have links with one or both of the clubs, while visitors who take the time to explore some of its hidden corners can discover just how deeply football is written into the fabric of the city.

Mestalla

Valencia CF’s Mestalla stadium has hosted the club’s games since May 1923, making it the oldest football ground in La Liga. The 55,000-seater stadium has been regularly renovated over the decades and hosted games in both the 1982 World Cup and 1992 Olympic Games, with its orange seats featuring the black bat with extended wings from the club’s crest being particularly iconic.

An official tour brings visitors through the history of both the stadium and the club, telling the story of Valencia’s six LaLiga Santander titles and the exploits of famous past heroes including Mario Kempes, Fernando Gomes and current LaLiga ambassador Gaizka Mendieta. The guided stadium visit also includes behind the scenes access to the dressing-rooms, press area, tunnel and pitch.

Around Mestalla

A must for many Mestalla match-goers is Bar Manolo del Bombo, run by legendary Spain fan Manolo who follows his club and national team far and wide. The national treasure has decorated his establishment with hundreds of flags, scarves, photos and other souvenirs from his travels. Its address – Plaza del Valencia Club de Fútbol – tells you just how close it is to the stadium.

Another sight not to miss in the stadium’s surroundings is the imposing bronze and iron monument of homage to Valencia’s supporters by world-renowned local sculptor Nassio Bayarri, unveiled on Avenida de Suecia during the club’s 75th anniversary celebrations in 1993.

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Estadi Ciutat de València

Levante UD’s home ground is the Estadi Ciutat de València, located in the Orriols district just to the north of the old town. The 26,354-seater stadium, built in 1969, bounces on matchdays, when Los Granotas‘ loyal fanbase are in full voice. The stadium’s refurbishment – with the installation of a brand-new roof, new lighting and new video scoreboards – has turned the Estadi Ciutat de València into one of the leading mid-sized stadiums in European football.

Quieter during the week as the team train at their facility in the town of Buñols outside the city, the stadium also houses the club’s offices and a recently refurbished and extended club shop. The Estadi Ciutat de València’s mystique grew in 2005, when Málaga CF player Duda claimed that a ghost appeared to him on the pitch, causing him to miss an open goal during a league game.

Historic old town

Valencia’s historic old town has over 2,000 years of history for visitors to discover, with the large palm tree-filled square in front of the city’s town hall square having particularly close links to Valencia.

This is where Los Che fans always gather to celebrate trophy victories, many aware that their club was first established near here back in 1919. The ‘Bar Torino’ which hosted that inauguration meeting no longer exists, but the club recently commissioned a commemorative wall-plaque to mark its foundation location at number four, Calle Barcelonina.

A short stroll away, just past the city’s 13th century cathedral, is the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados. This 17th century baroque basilica is home to ‘Our Lady of the Forsaken’, patroness of the city, who at the start of each season receives an official visit from the squads of both her favourite teams.

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Turia garden park

Both the Mestalla and Ciutat de València stadiums are within walking distance of the city’s old centre. Each trip involves crossing the old course of the river Turia, which was diverted in the 1960s due to dangerous floods. This has allowed for a nine-kilometre-long ‘city garden’ which features 18 bridges as well as many museums, children’s play-grounds and full-size football pitches.

Crossing the Turia on the way to Levante’s ground you pass through the 14th century ‘Serranos Gate’, with its imposing stone towers, while a short detour could mean taking in the Royal Gardens or the city’s Fine Arts Museum.

The fastest way to Mestalla is to cross by the ‘Puente de Las Flores’, which is a riot of colour all year around. A short stroll away is the modern City of Arts and Sciences, with its world-class Oceanographic Museum.

The Fallas Festival

There is no event more important or impressive in the city than the annual Fallas Festival, or Falles in the local Valencian language. From March 1st to March 19th, there are processions and events around the city, often involving firecrackers, fireworks and the famous ‘ninot’ statues, while March 15th to March 19th is Fallera Week.

Every year, Valencia and Levante play a role in these celebrations. Often, given the passion for football that exists in the city of Valencia, the statues have a footballing theme. If you visit in the month of Fallas, you might see giant sculptures depicting the likes of Valencia legends David Villa and Mario Kempes or Levante mascots Blau and Grana.

Source by Football Espana

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