Check out Valencia's sci-fi ultramodern opera house

The Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia might look like a spaceship or a Stormtrooper helmet, but it's actually one of the most amazing music venues in the world. Here's a look inside.

Geoffrey Morrison
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
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Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía

Some say it looks like a spaceship, or a sci-fi helmet, but whatever it looks like to you, it certainly doesn't look like an opera house. And yet it is one. Here's a look inside the amazing Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia, Spain.

For more about this epic concert hall, check out The sci-fi wonder of Valencia's opera house.

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Soaring surfaces

The Palau was designed by Valencian-born architect Santiago Calatrava who has designed incredible buildings all over the world.

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Take a tour

The best way to see the whole building is on a tour, which costs 11 euro (about $15, £10 or AU$20).

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Aula Magistral

The smallest venue at the Palau, the Aula Magistral seats 378. It's used for music performances, of course, but also conferences and lectures.

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Sun shining in

Various practice rooms line this subterranean passage, which is illuminated by sunlight shining through a partially glass ceiling.

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Martí i Soler theatre

The Martí i Soler Theatre is located under the base of the plume arch that seems to float over the Palau. It seats 400 and is primarily used for baroque opera and chamber music performances.

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Back, or rather under, stage

Our tour took us underneath the main stage at the Sala Principal, or Main Hall. 

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Large lifts

The ceiling here is actually the underside of the stage that's currently in place in the Sala Principal. It descends when not in use into the pit at the bottom. 

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Strike the set

It's a vast space, large enough to hold two complete sets.

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Sala Principal

The Sala Principal seats 1,412. It's mainly used for opera, but can be configured and used for other performances as well.

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Fitting it all in

The grand space with its huge stage also has one of the largest orchestra pits in the world. During my visit, they were working on a set for an upcoming run of "Le nozze di Figaro."

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If you don't understand Italian

The back of every seat has a small screen that gives a real-time translation.

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Beautiful balconies

The unfinished concrete of the Sala Principal balconies are quite striking.

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Spiral staircase

The Sala Principal stairs have an almost organic spiral.

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From below

The same helicoidal stairs, viewed from below. That's me in the picture with Paloma, our excellent tour guide.

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The Auditori is the largest venue at the Palau, even larger than the Sala Principal, seating 1,490. The supports give it an organic, inside-a-rib-cage feel.

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Concerts and more

Primarily the Auditori is used for symphonic concerts and movie premieres.

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Built-in parks

There's a small park in the Palau. The terrace functions as a reception and waiting area for the Auditori concert hall.

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Valencia view

The famous Spanish sun wasn't bright over Valencia during my early-autumn visit.

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Aesthetics and acoustics

Hard, flat surfaces can be an issue when managing the sound of a space. In a combination of aesthetics and acoustics, sections of the rear walls have bowed-out domes to reflect sound away from the listeners. 

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For your next event

Some of the spaces in the Palau are available for private events so, you know, if you want a spot for your next low-key birthday party.

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Water and gardens

The Palau is surrounded by 60,000 square meters (71,759 square yards) of gardens and 11,000 square meters (13,156 square yards) of water.

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Tiles for Antoni

Most of the exterior is covered in small ceramic tiles, an homage the legendary Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí.

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Sydney who?

The Palau is the tallest opera house in the world, at 75 meters, or 246 ft.  

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When you're hungry

The space at the bottom is the Contrapunto restaurant and bar. 

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Beautiful plumage

The metal "plume," that arches over the Palau is secured to the footbridge on one end and floats at the other end. It's attached to the building at only one point.

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City of Arts and Sciences

The Palau is at one end of the City of Arts and Sciences complex, which has multiple incredible buildings.

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Two of the buildings, and the bridge in the distance, together definitely resemble something. I can't put my finger on it, but it's making me hungry.

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L'Hemisfèric on its own resembles an eye. The center sphere, the iris if you will, is an Imax theater and planetarium. 

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El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe

Technically it's a science museum. I think it's the Cylon Resurrection Ship from Battlestar Galactica

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Better at night

It's all even more stunning at night.

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Palace of Arts

There are multiple tours available several times a day, most days. Or you can always get a ticket to one of the many performances

For more about this building and our tour, check out The sci-fi wonder of Valencia's opera house

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