Where to Go for a Taste of Valencian Paella and Other Rice Dishes

Paella is the best known Spanish dish internationally, but to sample the real thing you should head the our charming region of Valencia, where the recipe originates.

The Valencian Paella Trail

For gourmet tourists wishing to become paella connoisseurs, the Valencia Region Tourist Board has devised a culinary itinerary to help them learn more about this tasty and colorful specialty dish as well as some lesser known traditional Spanish rice recipes.

By following the Paella Trail, visitors will not only find out that there are in fact hundreds of different kinds of paella and rice dishes, but also learn about the traditions and ritual of cooking paella as well as learning some insider’s tips to cook the ultimate paella dish.

The Paella Trail encompasses:

Valencia’s Mercado Central

Valencia’s Mercado Central

Valencia’s Mercado Central

Completed in 1928, the city’s Central Market in the old town is a magnificent example of Modernist architecture (and allegedly Europe’s largest indoor market). This is the place to shop for both the traditional pan (‘paella’ is the name of the traditional flat metal pan provided with two handles riveted to the sides) and all the typical ingredients for a traditional paella. If you are tempted to head straight for a seafood counter… don’t! Beside rice, the traditional Valencian paella recipe includes green and broad beans, chicken or rabbit (or even game) as its main ingredients, but no fish!

The Paella Village of El Palmar

El Palmar

El Palmar

The village of El Palmar lies half an hour south of Valencia among the vast fields where paella rice is grown in the nature reserve by the Albufera lake. Not surprisingly, El Palmar is packed to the brim with restaurants serving traditional paella and other rice dishes. Don’t be shy and ask your chef for some tips on how to cook the perfect ‘paella valenciana’ – you may even be treated to a live demonstration!

Xativa’s Hearty Arroz al Horno

About half an hour inland from the Albufera lies the historic town of Xativa, home to Europe’s first paper mill (paper was made from rice) back in the 11th century. Climb up to the town’s hilltop castle and then feast on the area’s typical ‘arroz al horno’, an oven-baked rice dish with potatoes, chickpeas, tomatoes, black pudding and pork ribs.

Gandia’s Fideua Swaps Rice for Pasta

Back on the coast is the seaside resort of Gandia, whose sandy beaches rank high with Spanish holidaymakers. A few minutes inland, the medieval town centre is well worth a visit both for its cultural heritage and for a taste of the local ‘fideua’, a different kind of paella where pasta is used instead of rice, garnished with fish and squid.

Arroz a Banda in Benidorm

Further south in the Valencia region, the province of Alicante (including the popular Costa Blanca resorts) is famous for ‘arroz a banda’, a tasty rice dish cooked in fish stock. Sample it at one of the many seafront restaurants in Benidorm alongside a glass of Alicante white wine.

Fiesta del Arroz in Sueca

Lovers of paella and other rice-based dishes should also check the Fiesta del Arroz (Rice Festival), held every year in early September in the town of Sueca and featuring the ‘Concurso de paella Valenciana’, an international contest for the best Paella.

Wine Pairing

Suitable wines to accompany paella Valenciana would be:

  • Ribera del Duero rosado
  • Salice Salentino rosato

About The Author

Amancay Diaz

Born in the UK to an English mother and Spanish father, Amancay relocated to her father's home town of Alboraya in 2010. She moved to the centre of Valencia in 2012, where she works as a real estate agent selling properties to expats from the Northern European countries.

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