Everyone knows paella is a must-try when in Spain, and especially in Valencia, where the dish was originally invented. If you’re looking for a place to try an authentic version of paella valenciana in the Old Town district, it’s worth doing some research. Though there are a lot of tourist traps, the area does have some great restaurants where you can try the real deal at a reasonable price. Here’s our round-up of the best.
Outdoor tables in the streets of El Carmen.
In the north of Valencia’s Old Town, a tangle of cobbled alleyways holds several excellent cafes and restaurants, including local favourite Yuso. You can’t miss the painted wall murals in their outdoor space, with plenty of seating for sunny days. Inside, the tiled décor couldn’t be any more Valencian. The quality of their dishes is reliably good, and friendly waiters are happy to recommend the best tapas starters and local wines to round off your meal. Booking is essential at weekends.
A short walk from the central Plaza de la Reina, this award-winning traditional paella restaurant is a far cry from some of the more tourist-oriented spots in the area. La Riuà is loved not only for its great paella valenciana; the menu features plenty of other Valencian favourite dishes including arros negre, seafood rice coloured black with squid ink.
Vegetables, chicken and rabbit are the base for traditional Valencian paella
Why just eat paella when you could learn how to cook it yourself? The ‘School of Valencian Rices and Paellas’ in the heart of the Old Town is a unique, fun cooking school/restaurant that aims to give visitors an understanding of the local cuisine, as well as help preparing their own tasty meal. The class even includes a shopping trip to the nearby local foodie paradise, the Central Market of Valencia, where you can practice your Spanish shopping vocabulary.
This modern, elegant restaurant, in the heart of the lively El Carmen neighbourhood, is set in the cellar of a historic building which even boasts its own Roman aqueduct. The owners will proudly talk you through their thoroughly Valencian menu, which features several types of paella and other rice dishes as well as fresh meat and fish cooked on a charcoal grill. Booking is recommended, and the restaurant is only open at lunchtime during the week
Just around the corner from the Torres de Quart in the El Carmen neighbourhood, this Old Town favourite blends traditional Valencian cooking with creative, modern touches. Several types of paellas feature on the rice-heavy menu, as well as all kinds of fresh fish and seafood. Service is friendly and efficient and the restaurant is set across several rooms, each with a slightly different atmosphere, meaning it’s good for anything from a large family gathering to a romantic dinner.
Within the multifunctional shopping, art and event space El Mercado de Tapineria, this modern, friendly restaurant pays great attention to detail and all the food here is made using top-quality ingredients, as well as paella there are all kinds of local favourite dishes on the menu, from cuttlefish to croquettes. Local families love this spot not just for the food but also the sunny outdoor terrace area.
The concept is as simple as the name. This local arroceria, or ‘rice restaurant’, serves up excellent paellas and other local rice dishes, washed down with a jug of sangria or agua de Valencia. The open kitchen gets noisy, so we recommend booking ahead and asking for a table by the window. The waiters are very friendly and speak English and Italian.