We really enjoyed Valencia. It was the perfect blend of a big enough city where there’s a ton of things to see and do but not so big that it felt overrun with tourists. Our Airbnb was great – probably the most organized host we’ve encountered, we had great luck with parking, the weather was beautiful, the people were friendly and the food was amazing. What else could you ask for? Below are some of our recommendations for Valencia and a few tidbits that stood out for us.
Ok here’s the thing you need to know about paella in Valencia.
- People in Valencia never eat paella for dinner, only lunch. It’s too heavy for dinner.
- Authentic Valencia paella does not have seafood in it. It’s chicken, rabbit and snails.
- According to local folklore the reason paella in Valencia is so good is because of the minerality of the water. Just like bagels in New York I guess.
- Good paella restaurants require you to order a day in advance because it’s a very time consuming dish to prepare.
- The paella pan looks intimidating (in terms of size) but it’s very very thin, so you definitely want to get your own.
After much research we decided to have our Paella experience at Casa Carmella which according to the locals is the place to have your Paella. The restaurant is right by the beach and we scored some seat in the patio in the back for lunch. The waitstaff was nice and we ordered w/o issues despite a language barrier. We didn’t realize this until after the end of the meal, but they cook all their paellas over wood – color us impressed.
Agua de Valencia
The first time we heard these words we thought it was orange juice (Valencia oranges right?). We were partially right. There is orange juice in it, but it’s only 1/5th of the drink. This drink is strong and sweet, a dangerous combination. Here’s the formula:
- 200ml orange juice (Valencia OJ of course)
- 50ml gin
- 50ml vodka
- 700ml cava (or champagne)
- A pinch of sugar
We tried Agua de Valencia at Casa Carmela and can attest to the fact that it’s delicious and strong. This is a recipe we’ll be bringing back home with us.
Horchata & Churro
L & I both thought we knew Horchata – but it turns out that the horchata we have back in the states is quite different than what they have in Spain. Mexican horchata is made from rice and tastes like rice pudding. Spanish horchata on the other hand is made from tiger nuts and tastes distinctly different. According to our guide not only is it refreshing on a hot day, but it’s also quite nutritious and a hangover cure (especially after you’ve had too much of the agua de valencia). There are horchaterias all over the place but we tried it at Horchateria Santa Catalina in the Central Market.
Central Bar @ Valencia Central Market
This place reminded us a lot of El Quim in Barcelona – it’s a bustling bar seating only restaurant located in the city’s main market. And just like El Quim the food is spectacular (except it’s much cheaper). We loved everything we tried there. What is also great is that they let you order half portions of almost everything so it’s easier to sample/share. In no particular order we had:
- Mixed fried seafood platter
- Blood sausage with eggs sandwich
- Cuttlefish sandwich
- Patas Bravas
(get photos from Lil)
Coffee Time Artisan Roasters in Ruzafa Market
I have to admit that the coffee in Europe has been pretty fairly unremarkable. Your average espresso is just OK. It’s cheap – around €1 but that’s because mostly robusta (vs. arabica) beans are used. When we got to Valencia I resolved to up my coffee game. I’m happy to report that Coffee Time in Ruzafa Market satisfied my inner coffee snob perfectly. It’s a small counter run by a man who really knows his stuff. You can order coffees from a variety of origins and pick the way you want it prepared – aeropress, v60, espresso machine, etc. You can tell he was really proud of his craft – he put the fresh grounds to my face to let me smell it, with a look that said “isn’t this stuff great?”
The city of arts and sciences are a collection of futuristic looking buildings which house various museums. The Airbnb host told us that the opinions of locals on this place is mixed and I can see why – it definitely doesn’t feel like something that belongs to one of the oldest cities of Europe. That being said we enjoyed exploring this place – it’s got great trails for running or biking and the buildings themselves are very interesting to look at. Definitely worth a visit.