PopulationMetro: 1,595,000
Enigmatic customs and historically paramount places make this Spanish city an undiscovered gem.

If there’s one city that offers more than mere data might suggest, it would be Valencia, Spain. It ranks #38 globally for Place, which includes its weather—the 12th-best in the world—along with neighborhoods, landmarks and monuments, and parks and outdoor activities.

For instance, here’s a landmark: the UNESCO World Heritage site called La Lonja, the 15th-century silk exchange and one of the best examples of Gothic civil architecture in Europe. This cathedral of commerce is three buildings that make up a paradise of palm tree-shaped columns and enigmatic carvings, porticos, marble, friezes and a garden—the Courtyard of the Orange Trees—that have fascinated since the first stone was laid in 1482.

Valencia’s Mercado Central, one of Europe’s largest and oldest food markets, is across the street. One more landmark: the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, is a marvel of a more modern sort located a mile and a half along the Turia River. It includes the Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Europe, the Hemisfèric planetarium, with its 3D and digital projections; gardens; an innovative interactive science center; an opera venue and performance space.

CITY PERFORMACE
Place
Place 52
Product
Product 19
Programming
Programming 5
People
People 56
Prosperity
Prosperity 23
Promotion
Promotion 9

Valencia’s parks include several beaches, some within Albufera Park, a wetlands reserve with a lake and walking trails. One outdoor activity of choice would have to be Las Falles, an event on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

On March 19, the city honors St. Joseph, patron saint of carpenters, by creating elaborately beautiful and often satirical falles, dolls up to 100 feet high, which are paraded through neighborhoods and fêted in street parties punctuated by fireworks and festivities lasting many days. Then, they’re burned in a spectacular bonfire to the delight of the dancing masses.

Of course all this is oh-so-‘grammable, and the city ranks #53 for Instagram Hashtags, a subcategory that improved its Promotions category by seven spots over last year.