It was a dark and stormy night when I visited the Valencia Aquarium, The Oceanografic in the outlandish City of Arts and Sciences complex. No really, it was dark and stormy. When I arrived at around 6 PM, the sun had set, and it was raining intermittently. I was cold and worn out and definitely ready for a couple of hours of underwater magic.
The Oceanografic closes at 8, but I had a 9 PM reservation at L’Oceanografic Submarino Restaurant, a suprising gem hidden beneath the strange, intriguing building above at the right (designed by Felix Candela to resemble a water lily). I figured I’d arrive at 6 and kill the hour in between, not realizing that meant I’d be visiting an aquarium in the dark. Had I known that many of the exhibits are outdoors, or that natural light illuminates some of the enclosures, I’m not sure I would have chosen to visit at night, but I did — and I’m glad. There was an esoteric thrill to the ambience. As people poured out of the last dolphin show holding jackets over their heads to stay dry, I couldn’t help but feel like I was participating in some kind of secret aquarium lock-in. And, the other-worldly atmosphere of the restaurant at the end of the evening felt all the more exclusive.
The Oceanografic has to be one of the finest aquariums I’ve seen anywhere. It’s beautifully, artistically designed, and I never felt like I was in a preschool, which is what aquariums often feel like to me. Let’s start with a video of one of the most wonderful sights at the Oceanografic: the jellyfish (be sure and select the HD option!).
I’m partial to the jellyfish, but wouldn’t want to underrepresent the aquarium’s other precious marine inhabitants (of which there are over 45,000). Here’s a quick tour of some of the highlights:
The Valencia Oceanografic, which opened in 2002, is the largest aquarium in Europe at 360,892 square feet. It is a center both for education and for research, and has already been privy to over 100 animal births. The aquarium is divided into 10 sections, with 80 percent of the exhibits underground.
There are several restaurants at the aquarium, and one opens up for dinner at 9 PM: Submarino. That’s where I headed, slightly drenched, after killing the in-between hour in the nearby mall, for what turned into a lavish, decadent dinner of inspired modern cuisine on my final night in Valencia. The decor was stunning and the circular underground dining area was surrounded by wall-to-wall windows into an enormous tank of palometa, swimming counter-clockwise all around.
Check out the gallery for images of the amazing Submarino restaurant, and some more of the terrific marine animals the Oceanografic has to offer.
[Photos and video by Annie Scott.]