“Paella, paella … se bueno! Se bueno!” Chef Beni chants over our large pan of Valencian paella. In English, the verses translate to: “Paella, paella … be good! Be good!”

Think of it as a magical spell, the cheery chef offers.

The rice dish is a staple in Valencia and enrolling in a paella masterclass is a quintessential experience in Spain’s third-largest city (after Madrid and Barcelona).

Another must-do activity is an evening stroll around the leisure and entertainment complex called the City of Arts and Sciences. That’s when the lights will cast an ethereal glow over Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava’s uber-modern structures – perfect for that Instagram-worthy shot.

But if a taste of culture tops the agenda, a guided tour in the morning around this ancient city will reveal amazing sights and sounds. The Valencia Cathedral, for one, is home to what’s claimed to be the famed Holy Grail. If you’re visiting on a Thursday, get to the Apostles Gate at midday and catch the Water Court in action. This 1,000-year-old tradition has farmers meeting to settle disputes over the area’s irrigation system.

Join the locals of Valencia and shop for produce at the bustling Mercado Central. Photo: Spain Tourism Board

Join the locals of Valencia and shop for produce at the bustling Mercado Central. Photo: Spain Tourism Board

Valencia is a city that effortlessly blends the old and the new. And what keeps this template together is the amazing people that populate this thriving metropolis.

You’ll experience that friendly vibe at the Colon Market and Mercado Central – two venues that allow you to live and dine like a true Valencian.

Valencia, the capital of the similarly named autonomous region, is, in fact, an excellent gateway to an Andalucian adventure in Spain.

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