Ramon Espinosa / For The Times
Why they shouldn't: Two reasons: paella and Fiesta de las Fallas, one of which you can get any time and the other of which you get only in the spring.
Valencia doesn't have a Sagrada Familia as does Barcelona, 200 miles distant, or a Prado as does Madrid, also 200 miles away. But this eastern seaport city does have a Calatrava, which, to my mind, was the finishing touch on its transformation from a second-tier town to a world-class city. Architect Santiago Calatrava, born near Valencia, designed the City of Arts and Sciences, a complex that has given Valencia its signature work, finally making nice use of the dried-up beds of the Turia river.
But the real soul of the city is its food and its fiesta. Until you've had paella in Valencia, you can't really claim to have eaten it.
The fiesta is a collision as well -- of artistry, music, political satire, fireworks, pageantry and history. The fallas are papier-mâché depictions of some aspect of society, many of them lampooning their subjects and all of them part of the March 15 to 19 celebration that ends in their burning. There is a slight letdown when it's over, but know that you have fresas y nata season to look forward to -- strawberries and cream, sold in stores and on the street. They're the punctuation on the surprise that is Valencia.
-- Catharine Hamm
Pictured: Fiesta de las Fallas