Paella is one of the gastronomic treasures of Spain and, as a result, one of the must-try dishes as the thousands of tourists that visit Barcelona, the other cities of Catalonia and the rest of Spain do each year. Its great reputation is no accident, with a base of rice, each variety of paella made today includes some of the most delicious, authentic, and signature products that form part of the gastronomic culture of our country.
The Paella, whose name refers to a type of pan and comes from the enormous pan that is used to make it which is called a “paellera”, has its origins in the region of Valencia in the 18th Century, specifically in the area of Albufera. This is why the traditional paella, also called the original or classic paella, is also called Paella Valenciana (in english Valencian Paella). The ingredients used to make it are based on the typical food of the Valencia region that were and still are, farmyard animals and vegetables from the Valencian garden.
As the years have gone on, bit by bit the paella has changed from a Valencian dish to a traditional Spanish dish. Each region in Spain has taken the original recipe and adapted it to the particular gastronomic characteristics of their region. That is why it is currently possible to find various types of paella, with each one being made with different ingredients.
The different types of authentic Spanish Paella
So that a paella can be called as such, it doesn’t necessarily have to include the original ingredients but it does have to have the right type of rice (medium-sized grain and the most common are from Valencia, Senia, Bomba, Bahía and Albufera) and it should be made as tradition dictates. However, when we refer to Paella Valenciana, or the original paella, the use of certain basic ingredients have to be included as well as adding in some others ingredients too.
The original recipe is based on the use of different food from the area of Albufera. This includes rice, undoubtedly one of the most important foods in the region of Valencia thanks to the large amount of crops, which is cooked and fried with meat from the farm and vegetables from the Valencian garden.
Ingredients: rice, tomato, olive oil, water, saffron, salt, butter beans, chicken, rabbit and green beans. You can also add other ingredients without losing the title of “Paella Valenciana”: garlic, paprika, rosemary, duck, artichoke and snails.
Seafood Paella is the most popular version of the original Valencian paella and the most typical of coastal towns in Spain, including the city of Barcelona. To make it, use different types of seafood and fish as well as fish stock, whilst taking out the vegetables and meat from the original recipe.
Ingredients: rice, tomato, olive oil, onion, pepper, fish stock, saffron, salt and different types of seafood and fish, usually prawns, lobster, mussels, clams, cuttlefish or calamari.
Paella de Montaña, or Mountain Paella, also simply called mountain rice or chicken paella, includes different types of meat which can vary depending on the most typical products of the region where the paella is being made.
Ingredients: rice, tomato, olive oil, water, salt and different types of meat (chicken, rabbit, duck, ribs, sausage / butifarra), also used to give flavour to the stock when cooking the rice. You also need to add vegetables and mushrooms to this paella.
Paella Mixta, or Mixed Paella, as the name indicates, comes from mixing the recipe of two paellas which in this case is the seafood paella with the mountain paella. It is another common variant and can be found across Spain except for the region of Valencia. To make it, add meat (chicken and rabbit) and different types of seafood.
Ingredients: rice, fish stock, tomato, onion, pepper, olive oil, saffron, salt, chicken and rabbit or duck and different types of seafood and fish, usually prawns, lobster, mussels, clams, cuttlefish or calamari.
Vegetable Paella is the ideal option for vegetarians and vegans, as it contains no meat, fish or any animal product.
Ingredients: rice, onion, pepper, tomato, olive oil, vegetable stock, and different vegetables (green beans, aubergine, asparagus, beans, cauliflower, artichokes, etc.).
To conclude this “quick course” on paella, note that the fact that a paella is not the original Valencian Paella is not to say in any way that it is any less tasty. And as we say in Spain “para gustos los colores” (everyone has their own different tastes!) Moreover, in Barcelona, as we mentioned before, it is more common to eat Seafood Paella (my personal favourite :P) or even the Mixed Paella. Having said that, not all cooked rice with different ingredients is a paella. Which is why you should go to a bar, restaurant or a restaurant specialising in seafood that works with the best quality ingredients and that makes proper paellas.
If the paella is made with fresh ingredients and is homemade and not with pre-prepared ingredients, then it is a dish that will take a while to cook. Which is why it is always recommended to order a starter to share whilst you wait for the paella to arrive. It is most common to order a tapa or seafood starter, such as shellfish (clams, mussels, calamari, prawns, etc.). They are not usually large dishes, so you can stall your hunger without filling up too much whilst waiting for that long anticipated paella.
Where to eat the best paella in Barcelona?
There are many restaurants that specialise in making paella in Barcelona. Many of them can be found close to the beach, such as La Barceloneta along the waterfront and the rest of the coast in Barcelona. And if the restaurant has a terrace and the weather to go with it, we suggest you go for the terrace. As Barcelona is a seaside city with a long fishing tradition, the most popular paella is definitely the Seafood Paella although it is, of course, also possible to find other types of paellas. Personally, I love to eat paella in La Barceloneta, as some of the authentic and historical restaurants located in the narrow and historic streets or even some in a more open space, have a terrace which sometimes offer a great view of the beach and waterfront. But you can’t only find a great paella next to the sea, so if you find yourself in another part of Barcelona, don’t worry! As you’ll also get the chance to try a delicious paella.
Paella Experiences in Barcelona
To delve even further into the world of the paella, whether you live in Barcelona or are staying for a few days in the city, it’s a great idea to go to one of the paella experiences which allows you to watch and you can even make your own paella. You can attend a cooking class at one of the many cooking spaces, where you can make a delicious paella under the supervision of a professional chef.
At Paellaparty.bcn, two young entrepreneurs who are locals from the area of Gràcia had the excellent idea of bringing the paella to wherever you are; to your home, a terrace or garden or any space where you can cook). Maria from Valencia and John from the United States, but who has already become an expert “paellero”, will prepare a delicious paella for you. Completely homemade for any type of private event that you want to organise and ideal for that perfect day off with friends or family. But the concept of PaellaParty.BCN is not just about cooking you paella, they offer you a live experience, where, between conversations and a few laughs, you can also see and take part in the process of making a paella with the help of two experts.
In short, Maria and John will prepare you, according to what you ordered beforehand, the long anticipated and traditional Valencian paella or any of the main varieties of rice (with seafood, creamy rice, black rice, etc.). Everything is homemade and the ingredients are always fresh and of the highest quality, bought from shops and markets in Gràcia.
All these suggestions offer a unique way to have fun with friends, your partner or family (although you can also go by yourself, as I did a while ago) whilst you learn to cook one of the most famous and delicious dishes of our national cuisine. And, naturally after some time cooking and seeing the chef at work you finally get to taste the paella or rice dish. In my view, they are one of the most interesting gastronomic experiences and I highly recommend you to try it.
Best restaurants and “Marisquerías” in Barcelona for eating paella
It is impossible to name the bar, restaurant or “marisquería” (a restaurant specialising in seafood) where you can eat the best paella in Barcelona. This is because, fortunately, there are a lot of bars, restaurants and marisquerías in the city that offer an excellent paella, as well as other types of rice (personally I recommend you to try the delicious “arroz caldoso con bogavante” creamy rice with lobster). When choosing what paella to try, you should also bear in mind the individual taste of each person in the group. So here you will find an extensive list and a map of the best places to eat a great paella. And if you are lucky enough to go to more than one of these restaurants, you can then decide which paella is the best ;).
CAN SOLÈ c/ de Sant Carles, 4 La Barceloneta Historical (since 1903) + info
XIRINGUITO ESCRIBÀ av. del Litoral, 62 Bogatell Beach Terrace with beach views + info
ENVALIRA pl. del Sol, 13 Gràcia District Traditional Catalan dishes + info
GALLITO pg. Mare Nostrum, 19-21 Terrace with sea views Sant Sebastià Beach + info
CA LA NURI PLATJA pg. Marítim Terrace next to the beach La Barceloneta (Somorrostro Beach) + info
7 PORTES pg. d’Isabel II, 14 Since 1836. Covered terrace La Ribera – Born (La Barceloneta border) + info
EL PACÍFICO c/ de Vila Joiosa, 52-54 Terrace next to the beach with sea views La Barceloneta + info
GARLANA c/ de Capità Arenas, 27 Terrace Sarrià neighborhood + info
RESTAURANT BARCELONETA c/ de l’Escar, 22 (“Pescadors” dock) Terrace with views of Port Vell La Barceloneta + info
CASA PASCUAL 1916 Pas de Sota Muralla, 7 Terrace La Ribera – Born (La Barceloneta border) + info
TERRAZA MARTÍNEZ crta. de Miramar, 38 (Miramar Gardens) Terrace with views Montjuïc Hill + info
RESTAURANTE ELCHE c/ de Vila i Vilà, 71 Specialised in rice dishes Poble Sec + info
LA FONDA DEL PORT OLÍMPIC muelle de Gregal, 7-10 Terrace next to the port Port Olímpic + info
EL CANGREJO LOCO muelle de Gregal, 29-30 Next to the sea and with fantastic views Port Olímpic + info
ELS SET D’EN JOAN c/ de Mallorca, 6 Specializes in fish food Hostafrancs neighborhood + info
RESTAURANT CADAQUÉS BARCELONA c/ Reina Cristina de Barcelona, 6 Rice, fish and seafood Port Vell + info
EL SUQUET DE L’ALMIRALL pg. de Joan de Borbó, 65. La Barceloneta Terrace + info
PAELLA BAR BOQUERIA Pórticos Mercado Boqueria Small terrace El Raval + info
CARBALLEIRA c/ de la Reina Cristina, 3 Seafood restaurant since 1944 La Ribera – Born (La Barceloneta border) + info
SENYOR PARELLADA c/ de l’Argenteria, 37 Historical building La Ribera – Born + info
ARENAL pg. Marítim Terrace next to the beach La Barceloneta (Somorrostro Beach) + info
CAL CHUSCO c/ de l’Almirall Aixada, 5 Excellent homemade food La Barceloneta + info
CAN LLUÍS c/ de la Cera, 49 Since 1929 El Raval + info
RESTAURANTE SALAMANCA c/ Almirall Cervera, 34 Terrace with beach views La Barceloneta + info
CHURRUCA 5 c/ de l’Almirall Churruca, 5 Terrace La Barceloneta + info
MESÓN BARCELONETA pg. Joan de Borbó, 10 Terrace La Barceloneta + info
TAVERNA CAN ROS c/ de l’Almirall Aixada, 7 Since 1908 La Barceloneta + info
L’ARROSSERIA XÀTIVA c/ de Bordeus, 35 | c/ Torrent d’en Vidalet 26 Specialised in rice dishes Les Corts | Gràcia + info
MANÁ 75 BARCELONA pg. Joan de Borbó, 101 At the foot of W Barcelona La Barceloneta + info
EL XIRINGO c/ de Sant Carles, 23 La Barceloneta An authentic place + info
EL RACÓ DE L’AGÜIR c/ de Tamarit, 117 Sant Antoni Specialised in rice dishes + info
Map of best restaurants and marisquerías of Barcelona
In Catalonia, the area of las Terres de l’Ebre, touching the region of Valencia, is one of the best places to try an excellent paella, including the original Valencian Paella. Other areas that are essential for trying paella is the Costa Brava, in this case the seafood paella is definitely recommended and the area has some charming seaside towns.