Paella is one of the popular Spanish dishes, with its many variations known worldwide. However, our home of Valencia is the birthplace of paella, in the form of Valencian paella. Firstly, let's get one thing straight: the traditional recipe contains a delicious mix of chicken, rabbit, green beans, garrofós (a variety of lima or butter beans), and occasionally snails. It remains a huge part of local tradition, with families in the region often sharing a paella for Sunday lunch. Learn more about this dish and where you can get the best paella in Valencia.
The history of Valencian paella dates back to the Muslim era when the Moors arrived to Valencia in 711, introducing the region to their irrigation systems of the rice harvest. The paella itself is said to be originally made by rice farmers who cooked the rice over a fire at meal time, using ingredients they had available to them around the field to mix it into the rice. This has now become a world-renowned dish, but the irrigation system for the rice is still done the same way as it was in 711.
The rice harvest for the paella takes place in the surrounding rice fields of Albufera Lake, the same location it occured in the Muslim era. There is only one harvest that happens each year around September. After the harvest, the fields are flooded in winter in order to avoid having bad plants in the field (this creates a unique sight for your Valencia photos!). Around March, the water is taken out of the fields and the fields are then prepared for the next few months until the seeds are ready to be planted in May. After the seeds are planted in May, the field is flooded and then the harvest takes place in September.
Because Valencia is the birthplace of paella, there are unsuprisingly many options in the region for delicious Valencian paella.
One of the best ways to enjoy valencian paella is alongside the views of the Mediterranean on one of the beautiful Valencia beaches. If you are on Playa Malvarrosa, head to Casa Carmela for authentic Valencia paella. Here, you can even take a look at the paellero which is where the paellas are cooked. If you are at closer to the Marina, try Hemingway's favorite: La Pepica. Due to the popularity of these restaurants, make sure to call ahead to get a reservation.
If you prefer to try paella in the City Center after checking out some of the many spots along the Valencia sights map, head to Casa Roberto, Palace Fesol, or El Raco del Turia for some of the best paella in Valencia.
For an incredible experience, consider making a short trip out of the Valencia city to try paella straight from where its rice is harvested: Albufera. Head to Bon Aire, located in the outskirts of Albufera in the village of El Palmar, which has won many awards for its paella. Or, order paella from Nou Racó, located inside Albufuera Park on a beautiful pier.
Now you can make an authentic Valencian paella from the comfort of your own home! Join award-winning tour company, Sea Saffron, as they help you bring the best of Valencia to your very own kitchen. Your passionate hosts will take you on a culinary journey as we share, step-by-step, how to prepare the perfect paella. With ingredients readily available from your local supermarket, cook along with us on this interactive, live cooking class! Whether you are missing the taste of Valencia or simply want to learn a new skill, join us for a night of fun, food and storytelling!
Don’t love the sound of Valencian paella? Don’t worry - there is a lot of other traditional Valencian food that you can try at these restaurants that are just as treasured in the area as paella. For example, there is arroz al horno. This dish is baked in an oven and includes pork, blood sausage, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, and garbanzo beans. There is even a festival every year in Xátiva, a city near the coast in Valencia, that is held in honor of this Valencian dish. Or, try Arroz en Fesols i Naps which is completely unique to Valencia, seldom found out of the autonomous community. It is a broth made of green beans, turnips and pieces of pork.