La Lonja, the Silk Exchange, is one of Valencia’s best known buildings, and an absolute must-see attraction for a visit to the city. UNESCO has even declared it a World Heritage Site:
Built between 1482 and 1533, this group of buildings was originally used for trading in silk (hence its name, the Silk Exchange) and it has always been a centre for commerce. It is a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The grandiose Sala de Contratación (Contract or Trading Hall), in particular, illustrates the power and wealth of a major Mediterranean mercantile city in the 15th and 16th centuries. (UNESCO)
Located directly across from the Mercado Central, the building is large and impossible to miss. The contract hall, which serves as the entrance, is alone worth the visit. 8 massive, spiraling columns give support to this spacious and beautiful room. Take special note of how the columns bloom up into the ceiling — they’re meant to evoke Valencia’s palm trees.
Adjoining the contract hall is a lush orange garden. Doing business hundreds of years ago must have been a pleasure (sometimes).
Once you’ve gone across the garden and up the stairs, you’ll enter into la Lonja’s most impressive space, the Consolat de Mar. Look up or down, either way you’ll be amazed. The floor has an incredibly dizzying pattern, and the 15th-century golden roof is crazy.
But my favorite feature of La Lonja is not the stately rooms nor the soothing orange garden, but the dirty, perverted gargoyles. Although ubiquitous on the grounds, they’re easy to overlook, so keep your eyes peeled. I’m not sure why the architects chose to incorporate sculptures of beastiality, molestation and sexual depravity… anyone know? One theory I’ve heard is that they wanted to emphasize that La Lonja was in no way a religious building (if so, mission accomplished!)
Considering that La Lonja is free to visit, there’s no excuse to skip it.