Las Vegas, NV
With the energy of Madrid, the warmth of Sevilla, and the artsy spunk of Barcelona, Valencia is a smaller city that combines the best of its neighbors through a mix of extremes. Layers of history unfold with a short walk through the city, from the almost year-round extravagant costumes and sword-slinging of the Moor-and-Christian celebrations to the menus dotted with regional language Valencià, both of which are remnants of the clash between Moorish invaders and Catalan crusaders that left an indelible mark both on the city’s culture and architectural landscape. Old city gates overlook the plethora of church belltowers scattered throughout the city, while incredible ever-changing street art and quirky architecture like the Art Deco theater shake up the antique charm of plazas in the Ciutat Vella. Winding around the northern boundary of the old city is the lush Jardín del Turia, and it’s hard to believe that not long ago these grassy paths were instead the Río Turia, diverted after the river flooded the city with 2m of water in 1957. Located along its former banks is a mix of the best of the old city’s artistic treasures, a young and hip university area bustling with student life, and the ultramodern, ultra-contrasting architectural marvel of Calatrava’s City of Arts and Sciences. Despite its beauty and respectable pedigree, the town is anything but a reliquary of heartwarming buildings. Cuisine and culture are matched with incredible beaches, and the oranges and Valencian tomatoes will have any produce-lover in rapture for weeks. Sticky paella dots nearly every table in town (as it should—Valencia is its birthplace), while flamenco fills even the smallest clubs.