The Ultimate Guide to Las Fallas Festival in Spain
What Is Las Fallas Festival
Here you’ll find the ultimate guide to Las Fallas Festival in Spain. It is full of energy, magical statues that blow your mind, fireworks, and fire, lots of fire. What is Las Fallas Festival? It is, one of the best festivals I have ever been too. The festival goes for a few weeks, but the major excitement is usually over five days at the end. It is full of energy, magical statues that blow your mind, fireworks, and fire, lots of fire. The whole premise of Las Fallas is the building of a gigantic statue/monument, and then on the last night, they light it on fire with fireworks and burn it to the ground while playing classical music. There’s so much to see and do, and it is a uniquely Spanish cultural experience.
The Las Fallas tradition has been going on for centuries. The burning is made on the transition from winter to spring. Many people say it began by carpenters burning pieces of wood that they used for their work. Soon it morphed into actual monuments. The first-ever prizes were award in 1901, and the festival has grown in splendour and creativity ever since.
Now the monuments, which the Valencians call Ninots, are sponsored and the larger ones can cost over one million dollars. They are astounding works of art and surpassed my expectations and imaginings. What makes it even more amazing is that these monuments are created by normal Valencians, the skills being passed through generations.
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Where Is Las Fallas Festival.
Las Fallas Festival takes place in Valencia in Spain. The city is filled with beautiful old buildings and historic charm. Apart from participating in the festival you can wander the longest park in the world, visit the unique science museum, explore the historic centre and church, and of course, eat Paella, lots of Paella. Valencia is the birthplace of Paella, and they treat it like a religion there. Make sure to book yourself a gastronomic experience during Las Fallas festival, especially as most of the Paella restaurants book out.
How To Get To Valencia
You can easily get to Valencia for Las Fallas by several different means.
Flying is another alternative and several airports have direct flights to the Valencia airport. Vueling, Easyjet and Ryanair all have direct flights.
Driving to Valencia is usually easy depending on where you’re coming from. From Barcelona, it’s a three-hour drive and you can stop at the Delta del Ebro for the most amazing seafood Paella of your life. Just be prepared to pay for parking once you make it to Valencia. You won’t need your car for the duration of the festival and parking is at a premium. If your accommodation has parking this would be the best option.
When Is Las Fallas Festival.
Las Fallas in Spain takes place in March every year and ends on the Spring Equinox. For 2020 the main event with the monuments (called Fallera Week), runs from the 15th of March to the 19th of March. During this time, you can wander the streets and visit the monuments. There are over 800 of them, so even with all that time, you’ll struggle to see them all. You’ll definitely want to be at Las Fallas for the 19th March, which is when the burning takes place. This is the most epic moment of the festival and is the culmination of late nights, parties in the streets, judging of the monuments, and massive amounts of fireworks. The burning starts at 10pm on the 19th of March and ends at 1am on the 20th of March.
What To Do At Las Fallas Festival
With a festival of this size and length, there are lots of things to do at Las Fallas Festival. The first time I attended I had no plans and had researched absolutely nothing, which is very unlike me. We still had a great time as you can stumble across all sorts of strange things just by wandering around. However, having a bit more of an understanding of what is going on will definitely help you get the most out of your Las Fallas experience. Please see a list below of what you should do during Las Fallas Festival.
Explore the Monuments
This is the main reason to come to Las Fallas Festival in Spain. The monuments are beautiful works of art that can be tiny, medium-sized, or tower above you for several stories. They’re everywhere in the city, filling up plazas, on side streets and blocking main roads. There are over 800 of them, so if you just walk around you will stumble across many of them. There are several different types and levels of the competition, meaning there’s a huge verity to see. There’s always a major monument and then beside it a children’s monument, which is how they train the younger generation. If you want to make your wanderings more organised you can find an actual map of Las Fallas which has the locations of the monuments marked on it. This is not released until much closer to the festival.
Visit The Winning Monuments
Make sure you visit the winning monuments when at Las Fallas Festival. As I said above, there’s 800 of them, so it will be tricky to get to all of them. But you should definitely make sure you visit the winners, which is announced on the second day of the festival. These ones are the best of the best and are truly amazing with their detail and execution. There are different categories, and the best to see is the Special Category.
Special Category is usually the biggest and the best with the most sponsors and money. You can find the names of the winners on the Visit Valencia website once they have been announced. If you wish you can attend the actual awards ceremony in Plaza del Ayuntamiento. In 2020 it will be held on the 17th of March. This is all in Spanish and Valencian, so if you don’t speak them it might get a bit boring.
On the government-run Visit Valencia website, the description of a mascletà starts with “our passion for fire is only comparable to our passion for gunpowder”, which should give you an idea of how crazy these are. A mascletà is a fireworks display, which has no colours or pretty lights and is just lots and lots of noise and smoke. Almost every monument has one of their own if they’re big enough, so they’re spread all of the city.
Each day of the festival it all begins with the biggest one in Plaza del Ayuntamiento, which is the city hall and the heart of Valencia. This begins at 2pm, and you will need to be there early if you want a front-row seat. Once the major one has begun the others kick off in staggered bursts, so you can follow them around the city. Mascletàs are exciting but very, very loud. The government website even warns you to listen to them with your mouth open so you don’t damage your eardrums. If you have a small child, I would bring them with hearing protection, and do not bring your dog.
Party In the Streets of Valencia
There are street parties everywhere. Which if you book the wrong accommodation, could make your place a bit loud. In that instance, it would be best to join them. Each street party either has a live band or a DJ. You can see some famous Spanish names here. There’s always a bar for drinks and Portaloos for toilets. As this is Spain the parties don’t get busy until around 1am and they go until 5am. Each one we stumbled across always had a great happy vibe and the music ranged from typical Spanish pop to nineties dance music.
Parades and Flower Offering
Each monument group in Valencia will parade through the streets of Valencia to make an offering to the Virgin, the patron saint of Valencia. They all dress up in traditional Spanish dress and have a band accompanying them. As there are many groups, these parades happen almost every day of Las Fallas. We quite easily stumbled across many of them without even trying.
They all head to the Plaza de la Virgen to add their flower offerings to the Virgin’s cape. This is a huge fifteen-meter monument of the Virgin Mary, made of flowers. Her cape is completed by the second last day of the festival, and the smell is amazing. Hay fever sufferers, make sure you have your meds. By the end of the festival, a girl is always chosen from the parades, as the Queen of Las Fallas.
From the 15th of March to the 18th of March there are firework displays every night at midnight. The biggest and best is the night before the actual burning. The best place to see the fireworks from is Túria Park. This is the major park in Valencia and you can go into the park or gather on the bridges that span it. Just bear in mind that the park is also a favoured area for the detonating of personal fireworks, which I cover in my next section.
Buy Your Own Fireworks
Las Fallas Festival in Spain is all about fire and gunpowder, and this means lots and lots of fireworks. Buying your own smaller fireworks is legal in Spain and for the length of the festival, Valencia will sound like a war zone. Explosions are everywhere. Be prepared for walking down the street and having an ear-piercing explosion go off right next to you. Kids and adults enjoy the fun, and there are multiple different kinds that you can buy.
There are shops opened specifically for Las Fallas that just sell fireworks. Most people are pretty careful with their fireworks, but it’s always good to be aware and move away from a situation if you think it’s getting out of hand. Coming from Queensland, Australia, where personal fireworks are illegal, this was a fun cultural activity for me to get involved with.
Valencia has a similar culture and language to Catalonia, so they also have the tradition of the Correfoc. You can find my post here about one festival in Barcelona. Correfoc means Fire Run and is usually a parade with drumming and people dressed up as devils. They hold sticks with fireworks at the end of them and spray them around the gathered crowd. On the last day of Las Fallas Festival, they have a large Correfoc parade down Carrer de Colon, the major road in Valencia. Don’t stand at the front if you don’t want to get sprayed by fireworks. It’s fun, but the sparks hurt if they touch your skin and they can burn holes in your clothes if you don’t get them off fast enough. The whole event is loud and crazy.
The Burning – La Cremà
The culmination of Las Fallas is la Cremà or the Burning. This starts on the last day of the festival with the winner of the Children’s Special Category at 10pm. The winner of the Special Category then burns at 12am followed by the city hall monument at 1am. The burning is always on the day before the Spring Equinox. If you want to get close to a burning you have to pick your preferred one and then get there early as the crowds get big, especially at the Special Category winners.
La Cremà first starts with fireworks, and classical music, which is incredible as the fireworks are right above you. Then the fireworks are lit within the monument, which starts the burning. The monuments soon catch fire and it turns into a strong blaze. Each fire is controlled expertly by firefighters. They will hose the actual fire to keep it controlled and hose down the surrounding buildings to make sure sparks don’t cause any extra fires. The whole experience is crazy and exciting, and something you’ll never experience anywhere else. The atmosphere in the crowd is so energetic and friendly, and the actual burning is intense and very pagan.
Fun Activities in Valencia
Las Fallas Museum
If you want to get to know more about Las Fallas and see the evolution and history of the festival then the Museo Fallero de Valéncia is the best place to start. The museum is dedicated to the festival and is a beautiful representation of the culture and the art that captures people’s hearts. Every year a Ninot (statue), is selected and added to the museum.
Valencia Cathedral and the Holy Grail
The Valencia Cathedral is a beautiful building at the heart of Valencia. During the festival, it’s where they build the Virgin monument and where the flower offerings are taken by the parades. The Cathedral rests on the site of a Roman church and has aspects of Gothic, Romanesque, and Baroque architectural styles. The most famous relic in the Cathedral is what they claim to be the Holy Grail. Don’t get too excited, as multiple churches around the world claim this. Whatever it is, it’s a beautiful chalice and the stained glass windows in the room are stunning. There are also famous works by Goya and Maella.
The Túria park in Valencia is one of the longest parks in the world. It used to be the Túria River but after a particularly bad year of flooding in the 1950s, the city decided they’d had enough. They damned the river and then moved its course around the city. This left a large riverbed running through the city, which some bright person turned into a park. It’s lovely to walk through, and multiple bridges still span it. The recommendation is to hire bikes and ride its length.
The Science Museum in Valencia is a work of art. You will most likely have seen photos of it on Instagram. Tickets cost eight euros, but it’s also worth just visiting the outside of it. It has permanent exhibits on evolution and DNA and always has a few temporary exhibits to discover.
Valencia has beaches quite close to its doorstep, it even has a marina. While technically not super close to the city centre, the beach is only about two kilometres away and is easily accessible by public transport. Las Arenas is the closest one to visit. It gets popular in the summer months, but during Spring it is not crowded. The weather during March and Las Fallas festival can range from a low of seventeen degrees and can get as high as twenty-seven degrees.
Paella Cooking Class
After eating all the Paella that you can, why not learn how to make it for when you head back home. After the biggest Paella failure you could ever imagine my husband and I headed to Valencia to take a cooking class. My husband has even done it a second time with friends from Australia. Each time it’s been a great experience. The place we’ve used is Escuela de Arroces y Paella Valenciana.
The class is run in Spanish and English and the chef’s always making jokes in Spanish, which don’t always translate into English. You get to buy all the produce fresh from the Central Market and then are guided through the process of cooking Paella, which is very traditional. For example, you can only use a wooden spoon to cook it, and you must never stir the Paella once you’ve put the rice in. They do cater to special diatery requests and you can choose what type of Paella you make.
The Central Market of Valencia
The Central Market of Valencia is the biggest fresh produce market in Europe. The building that houses it is in the art nouveau style and is definitely part of the experience. Lose yourself amongst the colourful stalls. See the locals buying their fresh produce. You can get some traditional souvenirs here, like saffron, the most important spice in Paella and delicious spices and cheeses from Spain. There are also the famous Valencian oranges to try. If you want to stop and eat the produce just make your way to the Central Bar. This little bar serves up tapas and drinks amongst the hustle and bustle of the market.
Day Trip to El Palmar Valencia for Paella
Valencia is the home of Paella and the best place to try it is the tiny town of El Palmar. This little village is surrounded by rice fields. Unfortunately, due to it being Spring, they won’t be green and lush looking, but the main attraction is the food. More than half the town is restaurants, and all of them make Paella. This is where the special Paella rice is grown, and where the cooking of it is an art form.
There are multiple different Paellas, but the most traditional one is the chicken, rabbit and snails Paella. This was the first one and it can take the longest. If you wish to visit the town always book a table, especially if you end up at one of the popular restaurants. And if you want to try the traditional Paella, they usually ask you to book this in advance, as it can take two hours to cook. We didn’t realise this, but they let us order it, as we were happy enough to drink two bottles of wine and sit in the beautiful warm sunshine and try and recover after the craziness of Las Fallas. The restaurant we ate at was Arroceria Mornell, and I recommend it.
Where to Stay in Valencia for Fallas Festival
A modern hotel in the centre of Valencia. Excelent rating and a short walking distance to most attractions in Valencia.
Cheap and cheerful hostel/hotel. This is super central and close to metro stations. Old building but clean rooms.
Brand new, modern hotel. This is on the main road in Valencia, but because of the newness will still be quiet. Walking distance to everything.
This flat is modeled in the art nouveau style. The building is old, but the decorations look beautiful. Walking distance to everything, but not so close to the centre that it’s very noisey.
Where to Eat in Valencia
La Salvaora does traditional Spanish food in elegant old fashioned settings. The prices are still low, but the food is rich and delicious.
The perfect bar for ice cold beers and simple but delicious tapas.
This Paella restaurant has won awards, so you know it must be good. If you want to eat here during Fallas make sure you prebook. You can also preorder your Paella so that you’re not waiting over an hour for it to be cooked. You have a mix of locals and tourists here and it is located in the city centre.
This restaurant is run by the grandchildren of the chef that first opened this iconic Valencian institution. Known for its traditional Paella it’s definitely a place you must book in advance for.
Safety and Health
Noise – If you’re going to Las Fallas, be prepared for lots of noise. It sounded like a war zone the entire time, with fireworks exploding every minute. This is exciting, but also very loud. Be prepared with ear protection for young children and don’t bring your dog unless it doesn’t mind fireworks.
Theft – Like most big Spanish cities, it’s a good idea to watch your belongings, especially with so many people around. Carry a light bag with a few essentials as you will spend a lot of time walking and on your feet. It’s always best to watch out for pickpockets, so be careful of putting valuables in your pockets.
Safety for Women During Fallas – Unlike some other festivals in Spain (like San Firmin) Las Fallas is usually quite safe for a woman. It’s family-friendly with lots of great activities, and the drinking and partying is usually contained within designated areas. There are lots of people around at nighttime, so the streets never felt dangerous. I didn’t experience any problems with grabbing or catcalling. It’s always good to watch your drink, since they free pour, so you’ll end up with the equivalent of four drinks instead of one.
Smoke – Valencia is in a perpetual haze due to all the fireworks. Around two when the Mescletás start is the worst when the air becomes thick with smoke. It can even sting your eyes sometimes. If you have breathing difficulties it might be advisable to wear a mask and sleep with windows closed and air conditioner on. The smoke also acerbated my hay fever, something I did not expect. I spent a fair amount of time with itchy nose and eyes and sneezing.