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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Ruzafa Neighborhood: From Seedy to Yuppie in One Crisis

One of the most remarkable transformations to occur in Valencia in the past five years has been the neighborhood of Ruzafa, one of the oldest in the city. The area has never been without a certain charm but not too long ago most people in Valencia would have considered it a good place to buy drugs and little else. I don’t think that I had ever walked down Calle Denia without being offered drugs or sex as North African dealers and South American hookers worked seemingly from dusk to dawn. There are still plenty of drugs to be had in the form of cocktails in the new avalanche of bars that line the streets and sex, too, is readily available but strictly on an amateur level—one of the main reasons many people go to bars in the first place.

Things began to change in the neighborhood at almost the exact moment that Spain’s economy went into the toilet. As a jobs program the city’s administration began a works project to redesign Ruzafa to make it more pedestrian-friendly by widening sidewalks, eliminating a lot of on-street parking, narrowing the roads, and adding bike paths. Beginning with Puerto Rico street the works were agonizingly snail-like in their progress but crews seemed to learn speed and efficiency as the project pressed forward until almost every street in the area has now been renovated.  

The neighborhood is a much better place for pedestrians than it was before when every street was choked with cars and worse, parked cars cluttered every inch of both sides of the street. Several streets have been closed to car traffic and little plazas (like in the photo) dot the landscape. Ruzafa is a great place to live with dozens of cool restaurants and bars, a big public market, and something like 80 artist studios. Most of the buildings have some historic value making Russafa (in Valenciano) a jewel inside Valencia.