The city of Valencia holds some unexpected surprises. We recently discovered the Bioparc Valencia, a unique 25-acre zoo located at the western end of the Turia Garden in the Parque de Cabecera. With friends visiting from the U.S., we thought the zoo would be a nice way to spend the morning. To our delight, this was not like any zoo that we had ever visited before.
The Bioparc concept of zoo-immersion puts us humans right in with the animals. Visitors are separated from the animals by natural barricades of stone, water features, and some nearly invisible wires and plexiglass.
You feel as if you are walking amongst the animals in their natural environment. In some cases, you really are. Lemurs lounge in the trees above you, so lets hope they are as docile as they seem!
The Bioparc is dedicated to the conservation of endangered habitats. You follow a path winding through recreated habitats of the African savannah, the forests of equatorial Africa and Madagascar, and the African wetlands. African plant species that are native to each habitat are used in the recreations.
The animals are not isolated in cages, but coexist as they would in the wild. (With exceptions made for the carnivores, I presume.) In the recreated African Savannah, for example, white rhinoceros, zebras and ostriches live together with herds of giraffe and antelope in the same space.
Why are we writing about visiting the zoo on a food blog? Well, we worked up an appetite during our faux safari. There are cafeteria-style restaurants within the Bioparc, but for better food at similar prices, we went outside to the Bioparc Cafe. We had really low expectations for a “zoo” restaurant, but we were so pleased with the experience that we wanted to share it.
The Bioparc Cafe is located just outside of the entrance to the Bioparc, so you could eat there without visiting the Bioparc. The Bioparc itself has been open since 2008, but this new cafe was added in the summer of 2015. Like the zoo, the cafe is also designed with conservation in mind using repurposed materials. The tables and chairs are made from used planks of wood and walls are decorated with pallets.
The cafe continues the focus on learning by encouraging healthy eating habits. Symbols on the menu let you know which dishes are low in fat, high in fiber, or full of energy.
There is a set menu for $15.20 (for 2 people min.) with a choice of two appetizers to share, one main dish, a dessert, and drink included. The a la carte menu has appetizers, salads, pastas, sandwiches, pizzas, and more. There are lots of kid-friendly dishes, but also enough grown-up dishes to keep us so-called adults happy. We were also impressed to see a wine list with over 20 Spanish wines by the bottle and a handful of wines by the glass.
We started with hummus that tasted very fresh, topped with paprika and diced peppers. Plus, it was low fat and high in fiber, according to our menu.
Their pizzas are shaped like the continent of Africa, a fun touch for all ages. The pizza topped with pesto sauce, smoked salmon and fresh arugula was tasty and full of energy, as indicated by the muscle man icon.
The heart-healthy Bacalao confitado was fit for a fine restaurant. A meaty filet of cod, still juicy inside, floated in a pisto of tomato and fresh vegetables.
We left feeling pretty pleased with our day and excited to return. If you really love the Bioparc, you can put the amount you paid for tickets toward an annual pass. We did, and the 10% discount for annual pass holders in the restaurants and shops paid made up the difference. The cafe is open for lunch daily from 12:30pm to 4:45pm, and on Friday and Saturday nights in August the kitchen stays open until 11:00pm.
Av. Pío Baroja, 3, 46015 València, Spain
Open 10:00AM – 9:00PM Daily
Av. Pío Baroja, 46015 València, Spain