Valencia, Spain, is without a doubt the best city to eat paella. Valencia is located on the eastern coast of Spain and is the paella capital in the world.
Often people think that paella is a dish that is eaten throughout the whole of Spain, which is not the case. The roots and development of paella are concentrated around the rice fields of Albufera, near the city of Valencia. Until today, the Valencia region is still the leading producer of paella rice.
Valencia and rice
The relationship between paella and Valencia can be traced back to the Moorish occupation in the tenth century. Over a thousand years ago. It was the Arab Moors who introduced rice cultivation to the Valencia region.
The Romans had already built an ingenious irrigation system many centuries before. Because of this, the lake of Albufera slowly transformed from saltwater to a freshwater lake.
This transition from salt to fresh water made Albufera perfectly suited for large-scale cultivation of paella rice.
Because of the presence of rice cultivation and the increasing amount of rice consumption, rice has taken a very prominent role in the local Valencian cuisine. Paella is the most famous example of this.
Valencia and paella
Even today Valencia is still the best city to eat paella. The town is full of restaurants that have paella on the menu. There are also so-called Arrocerias or ‘rice restaurants.’ These establishments often only serve rice dishes.
The Valencians are incredibly proud of their paella so far that the dish Paella Valenciana was declared a cultural heritage several years ago. Due to this official status, the recipe of the authentic Paella Valenciana is now protected. This means that a paella can only be called “Paella Valenciana” when it is authentically prepared with ten essential ingredients.
The fact that paella is known all over the world is an important reason why the recipe has been protected. The downside to the great renown is that the recipe and the method of preparation have developed in many exotic forms.
A lot of the exotic varieties are completely removed from the original paella recipe. In many cases, the dish truly can no longer be called paella, not to mention Paella Valenciana.
A famous saying goes: “Every paella is a rice dish, but not every rice dish is paella.”
Valencia and eating paella
Now you know why Valencia is the best city to eat paella, it’s time to take a look at where to eat paella in Valencia. Valencia may be the home of paella, even there you may find paella of poor quality.
In recent years, tourism, and therefore the number of restaurants, in Valencia has increased rapidly. This trend has two sides. On the one hand, it is a positive development because as a visitor to the city you have simply more options and there is more competition. This could be positive for quality and price.
However, it is also the case that increasing tourism often shows an increase in the number of inferior quality establishments. Because after all, the customers are coming anyway…
Even in Valencia, it is therefore recommended to do some research before eating paella. Before entering a restaurant, you may want to check some review sites or ask local people where to eat delicious paella.
You can also read the article 11 restaurants for excellent paella to get started. We have selected 11 restaurants with good quality authentic paella.
Some tips on eating paella in Valencia
- Make sure you are at a restaurant between 1:30 PM and 2:30 PM.
- Be sure you finish eating around 4:00 PM, as many restaurants will close again.
- Do not order paella in the evening. Paella is eaten during lunch.
- Make a reservation in advance when you are going to eat paella. Definitely in the weekends.
- If desired, state at your reservation which type of paella you want to eat.
- Keep starters limited. Paella is a substantial meal.