There are many ways to enjoy your first visit to a country. In Valencia, it’s most certainly by eating. Packed with a rich gastronomic scene, Michelin-starred restaurants, and an abundant supply of seafood, Valencia is a foodie’s paradise.
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City of sun, seafood, and paella
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain next to Barcelona and Madrid. It might not be top of mind when you think of Spain, but it is most certainly emerging as one of the country’s must-see cities thanks to its promising beaches, exceptional gourmet cuisine, daring architecture, and year-round sunshine. Many find it even relatively cheap to stay here and have an extended holiday.
There’s no denying that seafood is integral to life in this city situated along the Mediterranean coast, and that’s reflected in its rich food culture where the bounty of the sea is front and centre.
Read our essential Valencia city guide and learn how to eat your way around this beautiful Spanish city.
What to eat
Paella is almost synonymous to Spain and Valencia is the home of this iconic dish. Paella valenciana consists of saffron-infused rice, beans, stock, rabbit, chicken, and, sometimes, snails. Traditionally, it is cooked over charcoal fire and enjoyed for lunch with the family. Who would’ve thought this simple farmer’s recipe would become one of the world’s most famous dishes.
Trivia: While paella is commonly known as the dish, the term actually refers to the huge, flat pan in which it is cooked.
If you’re not into rice that much, this local dish may just save you from hunger while exploring Valencia. Similar to paella, fideuà uses pasta instead of rice to create a heavy meal packed with seafood goodness, including prawns, mussels, and squid. It often comes with a slice or two of lemon for seasoning.
All i pebre
It’s not every day that you will find eel in restaurant menus. But since it’s Valencia, you can expect to find seafood extravaganza like all i pebre. A stew cooked with chunks of fresh eel and potatoes, this hearty meal is simmered to perfection with garlic, paprika, and ground almonds.
Arròz a banda
Not to be confused with paella, arròz a banda is another local favourite rice dish served with fish served first while the savoury stock-infused rice with a dollop of aioli (garlic mayonnaise) as a second course. This dish originated from the nearby coastal city Alicante but is a mainstay in Valencian restaurant menus.
In Valencia, you surely can’t miss the local’s favourite tapas (savoury appetisers or snacks)— esgarraet . A tasty combination of salt-cured codfish and sweet strips of red capsicum, it is a tasty dish that swims in a pool of extra virgin oil with lots of bread on the side.
Buñuelos and churros
Almost the same as a doughnut, buñuelos are deep-fried bread shaped into either a ball or ring and covered with sugar. It’s a favourite among locals and tourists alike because of its sweet flavour. Like churros, also a common snack sold in streets here, these often come with a chocolate dip.
What to drink
Agua de Valencia
Originally translates to water of Valencia, agua de Valencia is a strong cocktail drink made of vodka, gin, cava, and fresh orange juice. Popular among locals, it is often served by pitcher for sharing. Though every local bar sure adds their own special kick to this drink, try to look for one that squeezes fresh orange juice.
Horchata de chufa
Horchata de chufa is a smooth, creamy milk beverage made from tiger nuts (chufas), often sweet, and served chilled. It’s a great afternoon chiller for tourists getting around the city and also a perfect pair to farton , a long, soft bread sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Known as the champagne of Spain, cava is a light, bubbly wine which pairs well with tapas. While it is mostly produced in the Catalonia region, where Barcelona is a part of, it’s also good to try this fine sparkling wine in Valencia. It comes as both white (blanco) and rosé (rosado), and often enjoyed during special occasions such as weddings.
Everyone knows sangria as the typical Spanish summer drink that pairs well with tapas. But this lovely concoction of red wine, triple sec, brandy, lemon-lime soda, sugar, oranges, lemon, and ice makes it so refreshing during summertime. It’s perfect after a long walk through the city or while strolling along the broad beach.
Clara de limón
The most typical drink you could find in bars across Spain and, of course, Valencia is clara de limón or lemon beer. It’s a simple mix of beer and lemon soda, a combination that’s different but not too strange. However, you may find that some brands call it differently such as clara , radler , or shandy . You can also either buy a bottle or make your own.
Where to eat
Richard Camarena Restaurant
If you love everything gourmet and have money to spare, this fancy restaurant next to an art centre serves creative dishes that will have you riding a roller coaster. Head and owner chef Richard Camarena serves unique dishes featuring the region’s seasonal produce and inspired by traditional Valencian and Mediterranean cuisines. The restaurant has two Michelin stars and three Repsol suns to its name.
Not too far from the city centre, Le Pepica is found along the broad beach of Playa de Las Arenas. With a seafront view and many specialty rice dishes, they offer everything from paella to arròz a banda . Founded in 1898, this restaurant has welcomed notable guests including Ernest Hemingway, King Juan Carlos and the royal family as seen on photos hanging on its coastal-inspired walls.
Bodega Casa Montaña
Famed for its best-tasting tapas and a rich selection of wine, this Valencian wine cellar dates back to 1836. The remarkable heritage of Bodega Casa Montaña is reflected through its beautiful decor and classic menu of Valencian tapas. Try out its excellent set of wine pairings and get a full experience of the friendly service of the true Valencianos .
This huge central market is located in the historic centre of Valencia. Perfect for adventurous appetites and wandering eyes, the Mercat Central is a major tourist attraction that boasts of picture-perfect stained glass windows and nearly a thousand carefully arranged food stalls. Buy everything from fruits to vegetables, fresh seafood to exclusive cured meats, and a myriad of spices to cheap snacks.
Phrases to know
Make the most out of your trip by equipping yourself with these basic Spanish phrases to start every conversation whilst getting around the city or ordering your first dish in a restaurant.
|You’re welcome.||De nada.||De na-the.|
|Sorry.||Lo siento.||Lo see-yen-to.|
|Please.||Por favor.||Por fa-vor.|
|Do you speak English?||¿Habla,inglés?||Ah-blah eeng-gles?|
|I (don’t) understand.||Yo (no) entiendo.||Yoh (no) in-tee-eh-doh.|
|What’s your name?||Cómo te llamas?||Koh-moh te ya-mas?|
|My name is…||Me llamo…||May ya-moh…|
|What time is it?||¿Que hora es?||Kay o-ra es?|
|I’m hungry.||Tengo hambre.||Teng-go am-bre.|
|Is there a restaurant near here?||¿Hay algún restaurante cerca de aquí?||I al-goon res-thou-ran-te ther-ka de a-kee?|
|What do you recommend?||¿Qué me recomienda?||Kay may re-kom-ee-en-dah?|
|I would like a menu.||Quisiera un menu.||Key-see-ye-ra un me-nu.|
|How much is it?||¿Cuánto cuesta?||Kwan-to kwes-ta?|
|This is delicious.||Esto es delicioso.||Esto es deli-thee-yo-so.|
|The bill, please.||La cuenta, por favor.||La kwen-ta por fa-vor.|
|Where is the toilet?||¿Dónde esta el inodoro? / ¿Dónde está el baño?||Don-day es-tah el ee-noh-doh-roh? / Don-day es-tah el bah-nee-yo?|
Good to know
- The Spanish standard time for eating is essential to note when you’re travelling anywhere in Spain. Spaniards tend to eat later than usual (8am breakfast, 12pm lunch and 8pm dinner). Lunch is considered the main meal of the day and it starts from 2pm to 4pm. Beyond this time, most, if not all, restaurants close. You will find shops and restaurants opening up again for dinner around 8pm until 11pm when locals usually eat light and share some drinks with friends.
- While the Michelin Guide awards star ratings from one to three to recognise the best of the best restaurants and chefs across the globe, Repsol Guide gives out sun ratings to the greatest labourers in the gastronomic scene around Portugal and Spain.