Hungry visitors flock to Valencia, the city that gave paella to the world, to try the real thing for themselves. The traditional paella valenciana contains rabbit, chicken and snails, and many people travel to its place of origin at the Albufera natural park, just south of the city. Others prefer to enjoy a paella marisco (seafood paella) on the beachfront. But if you don’t have time to leave the city centre during your stay, no problem: there are plenty of great paella spots right here serving every variety. Here’s our pick of the best.
Restaurant, Spanish, Mediterranean, European, $$$
Casa Roberto, Valencia | Photo courtesy of Casa Roberto
Near the lively Ruzafa district, just a short walk from the Old Town, this restaurant is much loved locally for its very traditional paella (complete with plenty of snails), as well as other local rice dishes such as arroz al horno, an oven-baked rice and potato dish, and paella negra, in which the rice is tinted with squid ink. Be sure to book in advance on weekends.
Vegetables, chicken and rabbit are the base for traditional Valencian paella
Why just eat paella when you could also learn how to recreate it for yourself back home? The ‘School of Valencian Rices and Paellas’ is the place to go for a more hands-on approach. It’s not overpriced or touristy, despite being so close to all the main Old City sights such as the Cathedral and Plaza de la Virgen. There are all kinds of traditional, unusual Valencian dishes on offer, and the staff are happy to talk you through the menu.
Another popular spot in the historic centre, this time in the El Carmen neighbourhood, El Canela prides itself on adding modern flair to traditional Valencian cuisine. Alongside the rice dishes they serve an array of fresh fish and seafood. Food here is on the pricey side, but it’s an ideal place for a special dinner, and it has many small, intimate dining rooms that can be reserved for a private dinner, making it ideal for family celebrations.
This Old City restaurant may be on the pricier side, but their paella and arroz negro – a rice dish coloured black with squid ink – never disappoint, and you can’t beat the central location. Other dishes on the menu get mixed reviews, but we’re here for the paella. Book ahead if you can, because this place gets very busy, especially on weekends.
Seafood paella at El Raco del Turia, Valencia | Photo courtesy of Roca del Turia
This is a homely, local place with the typical Valencian decor of wooden furniture, ceramic tiles and framed photos of previous generations adorning the walls. It’s very popular with locals, but the staff also speak good English and will be able to help you decide on your paella and the wine to go with it from their well-stocked cellar. This restaurant is in the lively Canovas area, known for its nightlife and just a short walk from the historic centre.
Another great spot in the historic centre, this one is tucked away in the winding lanes of El Carmen. Enjoy great quality Spanish wines and fresh seafood tapas while you wait for the main attraction; your paella can take up to an hour to cook, but lingering for hours and starting with a plate or two of tapas is just part of the Sunday paella tradition. The experience is made even better by cheerful service and relaxed outdoor seating, or tables indoors amid exposed wooden beams and traditional Valencian ceramic tiles. Booking ahead is essential at weekends.