Paella is the most famous Spanish dish of all, but not everyone knows that its true homeland is Valencia. No visit to the city would be complete without tasting the real thing, which is served with chicken, rabbit and vegetables – sometimes with snails, too, but definitely not with peas. We’ve listed some of the best paella restaurants in town.
Restaurant, Spanish, Mediterranean, European, $$$
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Casa Roberto, Valencia | Courtesy of Casa Roberto
In the lively, bohemian Ruzafa district just a short walk from the Old Town, Casa Roberto is one of the best-known and best-loved paella restaurants among Valencians. Opened in 1986, it offers one of the best traditional paellas in Valencia. Casa Roberto’s paella follows the classic recipe, although adding slightly more snails and a good portion of vegetables. Beyond paella, it serves all kinds of traditional Valencian rice dishes, as well as popular tapas, including a famous jamon serrano. If you want a truly Valencian environment, Casa Roberto is the place to go.
In the heart of Valencia’s Ciutat Vella and not far from the central Plaza de la Reina, family-owned restaurant La Riuà has won plenty of awards over the years for its excellent paella and other traditional Valencian dishes. The restaurant’s signature dish is, of course, paella Valenciana, but they also do a mean arroz negro, a dramatic-looking rice and seafood dish coloured black with squid ink.
These paella experts have been studying and serving up typical Valencian gastronomy for over 60 years. Casa Salvador is a prestigious restaurant serving no fewer than 13 varieties of paella on its lengthy menu. The location gives it even more special appeal: the restaurant is in a typical Valencian country house just outside the city, by l’ Estany de Cullera, a peaceful freshwater lagoon.
If you ask Valencians where to go for the best paella, one name you’ll hear again and again is Restaurante Levante. And if you’re looking for a quiet, traditional restaurant far from the crowds, it’s the perfect place to go. It’s in Benisanó, a small town north of Valencia, where few tourists venture, but that’s not to say it isn’t welcoming to visitors. As well as the excellent paella and other rice dishes, a major attraction here is their vast wine cellar, with a collection of some 10,000 bottles from all over Spain.
For a truly traditional experience, try Valencian paella in the countryside at La Genuina, a much-loved restaurant housed in a barraca, a type of typical house seen in the rural areas around Valencia. You’ll see plenty of them in the surrounding fields on the short journey there, and once you arrive, you’ll be treated to a truly authentic paella, plus all kinds of other local delicacies, in a stunning rural setting.
Why just eat paella when you can learn how to cook it for yourself, too? This unusual cookery school aims to help visitors understand Valencian culinary traditions, with an expert chef taking them step-by-step through the dish, including a trip to the local market to seek out the freshest ingredients.
If you’re looking for the perfect place to eat paella by the beach, look no further than the famous La Pepica. Best known for being visited by everyone from Hemingway to Spanish royalty, it’s almost considered a historical attraction. Reassuringly, locals insist the kitchen has maintained the quality of its dishes over the years and despite its rise to fame. Do make sure to book ahead.