For many people, paella is the quintessential Spanish food, and one they wouldn’t dream of leaving without trying. Make your trip unforgettable by heading to one of these spots for the best paella in Madrid!
You’ve arrived in Madrid and you’re hungry. Surrounded by signs advertising a variety of different paellas, you settle on what you assume is the national dish of Spain.
So what do you do if you want to try the best paella in Madrid? Trust us to help you find one! Here are our recommendations for paella restaurants in Madrid, as well as a bit of background about the dish itself.
What Is Paella?
It is widely accepted that paella originated in Valencia, a region on Spain’s eastern coast. Bordering Valencia we also find Murcia, another area famous for its rice dishes.
The reason rice dishes evolved in this part of Spain is largely due to the Moors, a Muslim people of north African decent. They controlled various parts of Spain from the years 711 to 1492, and had an enormous influence on Spanish cuisine.
The Moors planted rice in the area that we know today as Valencia and Murcia. The crop flourished in the region, which led to rice dishes becoming an important part of the local cuisine. The types of rice we find in the area (specifically the bomba and calasparra varieties) are very unique because of their ability to absorb a lot of liquid while still holding their shape, which makes them perfect for paella.
The first paellas were not glamorous and quite unlike the seafood-laden versions you may be familiar with. They were more or less a barbecue-type food typical in the countryside.
People used local rice, beans, and snails to make the first paellas. As their paellas evolved, they added in rabbit and chicken hearts and livers. Nowadays you can find just about anything in a paella, but if you want to try the really authentic version, go for the snails!
So, this brief history leaves one thing clear: paella is not a typical dish in Madrid! However, if you’re in the city craving your dose of this symbolic Spanish dish, don’t worry—the following places serve some of the best paella in Madrid!
Where to Find the Best Paella in Madrid
1. Casa de Valencia
This restaurant, true to its name, serves up an authentic Valencian paella in Madrid. Founded in 1975 and inaugurated by the King and Queen of Spain, Casa de Valencia hasn’t changed much in nearly 50 years. Don’t go expecting a trendy place—you come here for the food!
We recommend the arroz del senyoret, or “gentleman’s rice.” Hailing from Valencia, this is a delicious twist on paella where you don’t have to do any work—all of the seafood comes pre-peeled! Their paella valenciana, perfectly cooked and seasoned, is just as delicious.
2. El Caldero
Sometimes when talking about Spain’s famous rice dishes people forget about Murcia. Bad idea!
Murcia is home to some of Spain’s best rice dishes, such as the famous arroz al caldero. It’s technically not a paella since it’s made in a pot. But it’s just as delicious as its better-known cousin, and Restaurante El Caldero is the best place to try it.
Insider’s Tip: Don’t miss El Caldero’s homemade aliolis, the perfect condiment for any of their rice dishes.
3. Restaurante Samm
If you don’t mind going a bit north of Madrid’s center, there’s a treat in store for you at Restaurante Samm, another contender for the best paella in Madrid. Here they make the rice just right, and you get to enjoy it on their lovely interior terrace.
To complete your memorable meal, don’t miss the appetizers at this place, either. The calamari with alioli is to die for!
4. Bar La Gloria
Malasaña is Madrid’s brunch capital, but those looking for something more traditional in this neck of the woods, Bar La Gloria makes a point of not serving it! Forget the eggs Benedict—here you can find an authentic paella valenciana every Sunday.
Given this spot’s popularity, reservations are necessary to make sure you don’t miss out on the Sunday paella! Groups can also inquire about paella on Saturdays.
5. Casa Benigna
Come to Casa Benigna for the quirky and eclectic decor; stay for the exquisite Mediterranean rice dishes made with the freshest natural ingredients.
Founder Norberto hails from a small town in the province of Alicante and brought the culinary traditions of his homeland to the Spanish capital in 1990. With recipes lovingly passed down from his mother, Carmen, Norberto and his team have created a welcoming haven of great food and great company right here in Madrid.
6. La Barraca
Owned and operated by the Solís family for three generations, La Barraca has been a reference for Valencian cuisine in Madrid since 1935.
The secret to their beautifully presented paellas is as simple as it gets: high quality bomba rice from the fertile paddies of the Valencian region. They also have a respectable wine list, so you’re sure to find the perfect glass to pair with your paella.
Best Paella in Madrid FAQs
For consistently great paella, head to its home turf of Valencia. However, migration to Madrid from other parts of Spain, including Valencia, over the centuries has fortunately made it easy to find great paella here in the capital, too.
Outside of Spain, the most popular image of paella is the seafood version laden with shrimp, mussels, clams, and more. However, the original version of paella from Valencia is more turf than surf—it uses chicken, rabbit, and (traditionally) snails!
Short-grain Spanish varieties of rice, like bomba and calasparra, are ideal for paella. This is because they can absorb much more liquid (and therefore, flavor) than other varieties without becoming mushy.
Update Notice: This post was originally published on November 28, 2013 and was updated with new text and photos on September 30, 2021.