Paella-love is worldwide phenomenon, but if you want a truly authentic paella experience, Spain is the only place to head. With hundreds of restaurants across the country, each with their own version of the dish, it's not difficult to find a tasty paella. But where can a traveller find a paella experience that will create indelible travel memories?
The ultimate paella experience has to that delivered in Valencia, the city considered the true home of paella! Traditional Valencian paella contains no seafood and is believed by locals to be the true original recipe. Instead of fruits of the sea, the Valencian paella consists of round-grain rice, green beans, rabbit, chicken, saffron, occasionally duck and butter beans and is cooked in olive oil and chicken broth.
Paella should be freshly made to order and served in the pan – the flat round pan from which it gets its name. If you have not pre-ordered your paella, you can expect to wait up to 30 minutes for it to be freshly cooked but all the best things in life are worth waiting for!
Best Valencia restaurants serving paella
There are many excellent restaurants serving traditional Valencian paella, but good starting places would be the nearly 100-year-old, Casa Carmela located on the beach front of Malvarrosa or the Levante Restaurante in the Campanar neighbourhood. The Levante also has an impressive selection of 10,000 bottles of Spanish wine from which to choose, if you are a wine buff.
As with many traditional dishes, paella has humble beginnings, originating on Spain's Mediterranean coast where the country's rice cultivation first began. Locals and farmers often made casserole-style dishes with fish and spices, using the ingredients at hand.
Many of us may have only have ever tried the seafood variety of paella, which is just as delicious. If this is the version you prefer, a good spot which to head would be La Pepica which can be found not far from Playa la Malvarrosa, Valencia’s best-known beach. This restaurant is just as well-known for its famous guests, as its food, with past visitors including, Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles.
For a good all-round tasting experience, where you can sample a dozen or more varieties of paella and see which tickles the taste buds, head for La Riuà, located in the heart of the Old City.
Acclaimed paella restaurants in Barcelona, Malaga and Madrid
Travelling a little further afield outside of Valencia, Barcelona also has plenty of fantastic family-owned restaurants and some would argue it is the next best destination in which to try paella. Here, they make it with seafood - mostly mussels, crayfish and shrimp. Quinto Quinta is a must-visit venue, with impressive 360-degree views over the city and a chic modern vibe. An hour or two here can pass very quickly.
If you're planning a trip to Malaga, however, Bodega El Patio is the place to go. Here you will find traditional Spanish home-made food, served daily.
In Madrid, three generations of the Solis family carry on their culinary legacy using traditional family recipes at La Barraca, found in the heart of the city, just off the main avenue. Here they specialise in many delicious Spanish rice dishes but their paella is the most memorable. Once you ‘ve enjoyed your meal, it's worth a sightseeing stroll to the nearby Cibeles Fountain, in the Plaza Cibeles.
This impressive 18th century neoclassical fountain depicts the goddess Cybele on a chariot pulled by lions and is well worth a picture. If you’re a footie fan, however, it’s even more notable, as it is the place in which Real Madrid football club celebrates its team victories, with the team captain placing a Real Madrid flag and scarf on the statue!
Put some travel insurance behind your paella experience
Sampling the delicious paella is just one reason to head to Spain. If you do, however, do remember to purchase your travel insurance before you travel, ideally the minute you book, so you get instant cancellation protection in place, should plans unexpectedly alter. Spanish health care treatment may come at a high cost, if you do not have travel insurance to cover it, and who knows what could occur, from a trip and slip by the pool to a road traffic accident or serious health incident.
Travel insurance will also be transfer you back home with the best medical attention en route, if necessary, and will, of course, cover lots of other things, such as theft and losses of possessions and passport, personal injury and the cost of your trip.
Head to www.europesuretravelinsurance.com to buy a single trip or annual multi-trip policy today, whether you live in the EU or EEA, the United Kingdom, Monaco or Gibraltar.