Visitors enjoying a villa holiday in Valencia, Spain are sure to find one dish on the menu wherever they dine. Paella is a popular local rice dish, first created on a lagoon near Lake Albufera. The name “paella” is the Catalan word meaning “pan”, in particular a shallow pan used for cooking paellas.
Authentic Valencian paella contains rice, chicken, rabbit, snails, duck, butter beans, runner beans, artichokes, tomatoes, rosemary, paprika, saffron, garlic and salt. These dishes are still available in Valencia, but elsewhere in Spain the dish has developed into a seafood paella, dressed with shellfish and containing shrimps and spices. Mixed paella can have whatever the chef chooses to throw in, including meat, seafood, vegetables and beans. Saffron is used to give the dish its classic golden colour. It is always a very tasty dish.
Valencia has more to offer than just good food. It is actually Spain’s third largest city and has a reputation as a “City of Arts and Science”. It makes a great base for those wanting a holiday with more than just a beach, shopping and nightclubs. Valencia is a major port and was once the capital of the Kingdom of Valencia. After the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, it was the capital of the Republic for a short time, before the region was reunited with Spain under the dictatorship of Franco.
Valencia’s rich and important heritage has left it with some interesting historic architecture in the Old City. Cobbled alleyways are lined with mansions and historic churches. The massive Serrano Gates were once one of 12 entrances into the city through the old city walls. As a former silk manufacturing city, the old Silk Exchange is a beautiful Gothic building to visit, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside is a wonderful Hall of Columns carved in detail to display the wealth of the city at that time. It was built in 1482 and completed in 1548. Valencia Cathedral is even older. This bulky monument was completed in 1238. Its most important treasure is a chalice, thought to be the Holy Grail used at the Last Supper between Christ and his disciples.
The most visited attraction in Valencia however, is the modernist complex of buildings housing a variety of attractions and museums and known collectively as the “City of Arts and Sciences”. The building shaped like a giant eye is L’Hemisferic and it houses a planetarium, laserium and an IMAX theatre. El Museu de les Ciencies Principe Felipe has a massive exhibition space as well as the interactive Museum of Science. L’Umbracle is a landscaped pergola through a garden of native plants, while L’Oceanografic is a huge aquarium in an imaginatively designed contemporary building. Finally, the El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia is a performing arts centre which hosts opera, theatre and musical performances in its four halls.
Whether you are looking for history or modernity, Valencia has plenty to offer beside paella!