There is a lot to do in Valencia. From seeing the “holy grail” to lounging at Malvarrosa, to visiting the second best Aquarium in the world, there is something for everyone. However what may be the most popular thing in Valencia for tourists and locals alike is eating Paella.
A common misconception is that Paella is a seafood dish. While that be a popular version around the world, a true Paella Valenciana is made with no seafood at all! It is an entirely land based dish utilizing chicken, rabbit, and snails. Don’t worry though, if you want a seafood paella, there are still plenty of places that do it here in Valencia.
A common thing I get asked is where to find the best _______ in ________. Whether that is the best pizza in NYC (how should I know), the best gelato in Florence (Gelateria dei Neri), or the best Dim Sum in Hong Kong (I’ve written a list here). In this article I’m going to explain where to get the best paella in Valencia.
You should note that when planning a trip to Valencia, reservations are a must. I know it seems strange not to be able to just walk in some place and sit down, but most places require you to call ahead, even if it is the same day. This is partly because many of the restaurants are wildly popular, or so small that there just is not enough seating. One restaurant only lets you make reservations more than 2 days in advance!
What Is Paella Valencia
The original paella, paella Valenciana, is said to have originated in a small lagoon town called Albufera, next to Valencia. It is said to have been created around the mid 19th century, and many people view it as Spain’s national dish. Many people being non Spaniards, as Spanish people consider it purely regional to Valencia.
The ingredients are rice (always round-short grain rice, oftentimes ‘bomba’), chicken, rabbit, (sometimes) duck, snails, green beans, and butter beans. The color traditionally comes from saffron, which is the stigma of the crocus flower.
Read more: Things To Do In Valencia
It is cooked on a large round shallow thin pan over direct fire, and barely agitated. According to Valencians there is one way to make Paella Valenciana and one way only. If you follow the correct step by step instructions, you will have done a decent job of it.
As the rice cooks and the liquid is absorbed or evaporated, the edges and bottom will start to toast and crust to the pan (which incidentally is my favorite part of the entire dish) letting you know the paella is finished. This part of the rice is called socarrat.
Paella Valenciana is served directly in the center of the table, and all the patrons can just dig in using a serving spoon to bring it to their own plate, or eat it straight from the pan.
Where To Get The Best Paella In Valencia?
This is the part of the list that may upset some people, as everyone probably has their own favorite spot. That being said, this is mine, and after a week in Valencia eating paella every single day, I think this is the best paella in Valencia.
This place has been open since 1922 and is located on the far end of Malvafrosa beach. It was originally just a small place for swimmers to change and get a quick meal, but has quickly become a Valencian institution. While not the cheapest you’ll find, I think that Casa Carmela makes the best Paella Valenciana in the entire city.
The restaurant is in a large villa so from the outside it does not look all that big. However once you enter the sliding glass front doors you’re greeted with the clanging of pans and the hiss of gas burners because the kitchen is right in front for everyone to see. As you progress through the restaurant you’ll mass the main dining hall and can go to two smaller dining rooms farther back. Behind these is an open air garden area with even more seating and a bar. I am guessing that as the restaurant became more and more famous they started to open more space.
Because the paella can take up to an hour (yes even with a reservation) you can order drinks and bread right away. I was very impressed with the fresh bread, which I ate with olive oil and salt. For starters we got the fried squid which came with an aioli, as well as the Valencian Salad. For drinks we got a couple pitchers of sangria which was tasty, although not as strong as I usually like it.
The paella from Casa Carmela is served from the cooking pan to the table. For our four person paella there was about an entire chicken, an entire rabbit, and somewhere around 12-20 snails. I’d say this is a pretty good amount of food, especially as we were not able to finish some of the chicken.
You absolutely have to make a reservation here, which you can do by calling (+34) 963 710 073 , or by going to their website and sending them an email.
Every part of my paella was cooked perfectly, and the service is impeccable. If you only have once day in Valencia and want paella, I really suggest Casa Carmela.
Casa Carmela is open: 13:00-16:00 Tuesday-Sunday
Price per person for Paella Valenciana: 19.50 Euro
What About Other Types Of Paella In Valencia?
Well then you are in luck, as I’ve had so much paella here I have a list of places to go to!
Seafood Paella: LA PEPICA
This place is also right on the beach, near the harbor and is the one you’ll need to make a reservation for at least 2 days in advance. Luckily they have an easy reservation system on their website!
Mixed Paella: LA RIUA
While La Riua restaurant is located right in the center of Valencia and quite popular with tourists, don’t let that deter you. They have a huge selection of paella and is an absolute delight of a restaurant. I recommend the black paella (arroz negre) in which the rice is dyed with cuttlefish ink!
Honorable Mention: RESTAURANT LEVANTE
Restaurant Levante makes a very, very good paella Valenciana. I think it is almost as good as Casa Carmela so if you can’t get a reservation at Carmelas in time, this is a perfectly fine substitute. The original one is quite far so I wasn’t able to go to that one, but they opened one close to Valencia center which is much more convenient for those visiting the city. You can make a reservation on WhatsApp by sending a message to +34 680 264 006
Click here for the Restaurant Levante menu!
Thoughts On Paella In Valencia?
I greatly enjoyed writing (and eating for) this list and I hope you find this good advice. If you have any questions about paella in Valencia, or eating around the city in general feel free to leave a comment!
This article originally appeared in Cooking To Entertain in 2019 and on Jet Set Together in 2020
Written by: Alona Tiunina