Oceanographic Valencia’s stunning huge aquarium
L’Oceanografic is a very large marine complex that represents 12 different marine habitats from around the world. It is a larger than life aquarium with sections that replicate oceans and seas across the planet to educate visitors about aquatic life. There are thousands of animals to be found within its walls. The complex is located in Valencia, Spain and is part of the huge City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia complex.
Allow a good part of one day to visit the L’Oceanografic by itself because it alone is massive with plenty to see and tour. The actual building is an architectural feat that was designed and brought to reality by Felix Candela, Alberto Domingo, and Carlos Lazaro.
As mentioned, Oceanografic is a large aquatic park that doubles as a training and research centre as well as a place for spending leisure time. Contained within the two floors and many rooms of the complex, are over 45,000 different animals that make up more than 500 marine species. Some of the many animals that are on display at the Ocaenografic include walruses, penguins, manta rays, sharks, sea lions and Beluga whales. The animals are spread out across nine different underwater towers that are split across two levels. Each water tower features its own ecosystem similar to the most prominent aquatic ecosystems on the globe.
The roofs of Oceanografic are a design feat by themselves not counting what is actually inside of the park. They are the work of Felix Candela and incorporate the natural structure of fauna and flora in the sea. Two of the buildings feature water lily roofs which are the trademark of the aquarium. The actual structure of the Oceanographic complex covers 110,00m2 making it quite a place to visit.
While there are nine underwater towers, the actual park is split into ten large areas. Each of the marine areas represents a specific ecosystem on the Earth: the Arctic and Antarctic (polar oceans), the Mediterranean habitats, the tropical seas, the Red Sea, the islands, and the temperate seas. Additionally, the park has an immense auditorium that features the Red Sea aquarium within it, any garden areas, an immense dolphinarium, and over 80 plant species that also live in the water. Outside of the actual parklands, there are also plenty of services within the building for visitors including restaurants and shops. Of all the services, the underwater restaurant is likely the most worth noting as diners eat with an aquarium surrounding them on all sides.
There are a total of 18 different buildings that make up the Aquarium at the City of the Arts and Sciences, or L’Oceanografic. Each of the buildings identifies with one of the oceans or is set up as a service building. The entrance is a sight to behold on its own with 26 metre glass walls that Felix Candela the architect designed. The ground floor is where shops, general services such as dining, information points, and similar items are located. From the ground floor you can continue into the ten areas that represent the oceans and seas. The other eight buildings include the Submarino Restaurant, Oceanos Restaurant, Pizzeria and Ice Cream Parlour, Ice Cream Parlour, Hamburger bar, Offices, La Lonja Restaurant, and the Education & Research building.
Of course, the most exciting buildings are the ones that actually house the wildlife. In the Mediterranean building visitors will find a plethora of life that is present in the Mediterranean Sea. The aquarium building itself is split up into areas of the sea since it is so vast. These include the Mid Shore, Upper Shore, Meadows of Posidonia, Ports, Coral, the Breaker, and a perennial favourite of the children, the Touching Pool.
Nearby are the wetlands which represent the sub-tropical and tropical environments that are found on the earth. This section also contains animals and plenty of plant species that are native to the wetlands. Here you will find two main areas represented in exhibits titled the Mediterranean Marsh and the Mangrove Swamps.
You will find much larger representation of tropical aquatic life by moving onto the Temperate and Tropical building. This is a larger building then the others and contains a number of exhibitions that move visitors slowly through all aspects of the tropical zones in the world. The exhibitions include the Seaweed Kelp Forests, the Seal Exhibition ,Sea Turtles exhibition, The Passage across the Atlantic Ocean, the Aquarium of the Senses, the Izu Peninsula in Japan, and the Oval Room where all of the tropical zones are spoken for that are not yet addressed such as the Caribbean and the Indo-Pacific. The seals and the sea turtles make this building quite attractive to youngsters and adults alike and on a good day the seals put on quite a show.
The Oceans building is next up on the list and is a large aquarium that is filled with animals and plant life that you may expect to see if you were to travel from the Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda all the way over to the East Coast near the Canaries. The imaginary trip allows you to see up close how the ocean life changes as you bridge the gap between the two coastlines of the continent.
As you might expect the Arctic and Antarctic buildings are much smaller, but both have some stunning animal exhibits that keep them busy. While the plant species are limited in these colder climates, the animals living there are some of the favourites of those visiting the aquarium. At the Arctic building visitors can enjoy seeing the walrus exhibition and the Beluga exhibition. Over at the neighbouring Antarctic building the star of the exhibition is the Humboldt penguins.
The Islands building is equally small, but it also has a fun colony of Patagonian Sea Lions that are well worth stopping by to see. There is substantially more aquatic life here compared to the Arctic’s so there is at least a bit more to be seen. The coral is also a sight in itself.
Up next on the list is the Red Sea which is architecturally notable given it is housed in a roof that looks a lot like a pilgrim shell. The auditorium is unlike any other given that its entire backdrop is actually an aquarium that features animals that are found in the Red Sea. 440 people can be seated in the auditorium and the exhibition features divers that swim throughout the aquarium feeding the animals that live within it. A show here is definitely worth checking out so make sure to pick up a schedule when you come into the entrance of L’Oceanografic.
Also located on the grounds of L’Oceanografic is perhaps the most impressive dolphinarium in all of Europe. The Dolphinarium Exhibition is home to five pools allowing visitors to sit back and watch the dolphins show all they are capable of. Dolphins are highly intelligent and majestic animals and the large viewing animals allow visitors to see for themselves. There is over 23 million litres of water making up the Dolphinarium and the exhibition can seat up to 2,210 people at a time. When you first walk into L’Oceanografic make sure to stop by the information desk and check the timetables to see when the dolphins will be performing.
While the exhibits will truly take your breath away, a visit to Oceanografic is not complete without a trip down to the Underwater restaurant. You will never have an experience like what this restaurant can offer as you literally will be dining surrounded by water. The Aquarium restaurant is located in the flagship building of the park right in its centre and it is easily spotted by the lily-shaped roof.
The restaurant is situated on the lower floor with a large aquarium that surrounds it all sides. Right above the restaurant is a floor that is designed like an island that is covered by a lake. This is the hub that connects all of the building themes together, but it doubles as the ceiling creating an even cooler ambience for the restaurant with water above and around. As if this is not enough, on an island that is close to the restaurant is a colony of flamingos so that visitors can get a close look at the breeding areas of the birds and their day to day antics. The menu itself is very refined and a sample of the best fine dining available in Valencia.
While this may be the most notable restaurant on the premises, the Underwater Restaurant is not the only choice. Also located on the grounds is the Oceans Restaurant. Here you will find a dining room in the interior of the restaurant, but on sunny days diners prefer to sit on the outdoor terrace which offers grand views right across the central lake. Diners can also choose to visit the La Lonja Restaurant for a self-serve option. The dining room can fit up to 350 people and there is also an outdoor terrace that is situated next to a delightful garden.
The hours of admission for Oceanografic vary based on the time of the year that you choose to visit. During the low tourist season which stretches from the second week of October to the first week of June the park is open Sunday through Friday from 10h to 18h. On Saturdays the park offers extended hours of 10h to 20h.
During the medium tourist season the park offers a variety of different closing times based on the month of visit. From June 18th until June 28th the park is open Sunday through Friday 10h to 19h. From June 29th until July 7th the park is open 10h to 20h. From September 9th to September 15th the park is open from 10h to 20h. Finally, from September 16th through September 30th the park is open from 10h to 19h. During all of these times the park is open from 10h to 20h on Saturday.
During the high tourist season the park is almost open from sunrise to sunset offering hours of 10h to 24h every day of the week. Although this is its busiest time, it is also the best time to get a full day out of a visit as you can stay longer and more shows are held throughout the day. The peak high season starts on July 13th and runs until August 31st.
Tickets for adults are 27.90 € and children are applicable for a reduced ticket which is 21.00 €. The reduced ticket price is available to children between the ages of four and 12. Children that are under the age of 4 are free with a paying adult. Those who are over the age of 65 or are retired can also receive the reduced ticket price with a document that supports their age and current status. Additionally, the disabled are also eligible to receive the reduced ticket price with a document that supports their status. Youth and students that have an applicable card are also able to receive a 15% discount off of the regular adult fee by showing their card at the ticket office.
School groups are also able to receive a discounted ticket rate so long as there are 15 people or more included in the group. The ticket price per student in a regulated group is 12.55 €. Student groups that are from social programmes, rural associations, and curricular diversifications may also be eligible for the school group price even if they cannot meet the minimum of 15 people per group. Please call ahead for scheduling information for this type of group. Also included in the school groups’ discount rate are EPAS, Universities, Popular Universities, and workshop schools.
Adult groups are also eligible to receive a discounted adult group ticket that starts at 18.65 € per adult. In order to meet this rate the groups must have a minimum of 20 people attending the museum at the time. It is preferred that adult groups call ahead and book their tickets, but if you cannot take advantage of advanced booking you may buy group tickets at the ticket office. However if you do so the discount will only be applied after the staff member in charge for the day approves.
For most people L’Oceanografic will take about four or five hours to tour. Of course, this depends on how heavily interested you are in the material and how motivated you are to get through the exhibits. If you choose to dine at the complex then you can plan on spending more time there. Although you could in theory tour the entire City of Arts and Sciences in one day, in order to get the most out of the L’Oceanografic which is a large part of it, it is suggested that you plan a trip to the city of at least two days. You also can take several trips and see the Principe Felipe Science Museum and Oceanographic on different trips. You will also feel less rushed if you plan your visit this way.
In order to help travellers, when you enter the Oceanographic there is an information point next to a left-luggage service. Here you can leave belongings and your luggage for just two euro per day. You do not have to book in advance to use this service. While at the information desk also be sure to ask about the times of dolphin exhibition sessions. Depending on the season multiple shows are held a day but the times vary due to weather conditions or large numbers of visitors that day. The information desk will always have an updated schedule for the day available to guests coming in.
If you are planning a trip to the Oceanographic there are numerous hotels that offer accommodations nearby. Several of them offer exclusive discounts to those who are headed to the City of Arts and Sciences. You can inquire about it when you call them to book a room or you can secure online reservations using their online websites.
Outside of its main use as a tourist and educational attraction, Oceanografic is also used as a premier research centre that is focused on marine sciences. The goal of the scientists and researchers that work at L’Oceanografic is to make people more aware of how important conservation of aquatic life is as time moves on. The large aquariums and tunnels allow visitors to feel submerged as if they are part of the aquatic world during their visit. The hope is that this will allow them to feel more connected to marine life.
There are two research laboratories at Oceanografic that are dedicated to the recuperation and conservation of different marine species that originate from all over the globe. Within those labs researchers work hard on creating educational and scientific programs that can be utilized by other aquariums to help frame their educational efforts. The end goal of everyone working at Oceanografic is to spread the concept of conservation to as many people as possible to prevent further destruction of aquatic ecosystems.
All images by Ian Theobald local photographer