If you are reading this, chances are you have heard about Las Fallas and are considering a vacation to Valencia just for the event. Although Las Fallas is most known as the Spanish festival when everything is burned to the ground in the end, the celebration celebrates much more than that.
The largest festival in Valencia, Las Fallas, has been recognized as part of the famous intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO.
Its roots may be traced back to the Middle Ages when carpenters would burn the pieces of wood they had used to prop up their lights during the winter as a way to welcome the coming of spring. Rags and discarded garments were added to the bonfires throughout time, giving them the appearance of effigies; eventually, this tradition gave rise to the artistic ninots (puppets in Valencian).
In recent times, the city has become known for its stunning papier-mâché statues, known as fallas. Ninots are paper cutouts that are assembled to form a falla, which is a scenario that is generally satirical or political in nature and features contemporary figures like celebrities or public figures.
There are two primary fallas: the falla infantil (for kids) and the falla principal (for adults). Typically, you may find one of each in every neighborhood.
During the festival, which takes place annually from March 15th to March 19th, the entire city comes alive as the streets become an outdoor art exhibition and nonstop party. After being on display for a few days, the fallas are burned as part of a ritual cleaning rite celebrating the entrance of spring.
Top 8 Main Events of the Las Fallas Valencia Festival
There will be nonstop street celebrations for the five days of the event. People are often firing firecrackers, cooking paella on the sidewalks, or overflowing out of pubs and restaurants, all of which might be shocking at first but are ultimately harmless forms of entertainment.
While there is no shortage of things to do in Valencia, it is important to keep in mind a few essential events in order to make the most of the festival. This is a thorough reference to the main activities of the Las Fallas festival, many of which occur on specified dates each year.
- La Despertà
- La Mascletà
- La Plantà
- Award giving ceremony
- Nit del Foc
- Flower Offering Ofrenda Fallas
- Cavalcada del Foc
- La Cremà
The daily event begins with La Despertà, or “wake up call,” at 8 a.m. The fallers (members of the local falla clubs) accompany the brass bands as they parade through the streets while playing festive music and setting off fireworks.
One of the most enjoyable parts of Las Fallas is La Mascletà, an explosive and incredibly noisy display of firecrackers.
The major and most significant Mascletà takes place at Plaza del Ayuntamiento every day at 2 p.m. between March 1st and March 19th. The noise level can exceed 120 dB (as loud as a jet engine!). Thus, if you want to protect your hearing, you should keep your mouth open during the show.
La Mascletà at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento attracts a large number of people because of its unique tradition of setting off dozens of colorful firecrackers on strings at once. If you want a nice place, you should get there early.
La Plantà, which takes place on March 15th, is when the fallas are finished being built in advance of the celebration. Every year, the citywide fallas are entered into a competition, so on the day before the judging, you can expect to see a lot of hectic activity as each neighborhood prepares its falla.
The winning fallas will be awarded, and the ninot indultat will be selected on March 16th. The ninot indultat will be the sole puppet spared from the bonfire on the last day of the festival, and it will be displayed in the local Museum Fallero for all time.
Women and young girls in Valencia wear intricate silk clothing that makes them appear like they have stepped out of another period. Among all the falleras in the city, two are selected annually to serve as Fallera Mayor and Fallas Queen.
This “royal” title is much sought after because of its prestige and the financial investment required to compete for it. The garments alone might cost several thousand euros due to the high quality of the Valencian silk used in their construction.
On the morning of March 17th, starting at 9 a.m., the falleras will begin parading from their respective neighborhood casals to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, where the awards will be presented.
The Plaza de la Virgen is the site of La Ofrenda, a flower offering ceremony, on the 17th and 18th of March. Every single one of Valencia’s casals comes together in the square to honor the city’s patron saint, the Virgen de los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Forsaken).
Flowers are used to construct a large cape around a statue of the Virgen that is displayed on a pedestal. There are millions of flowers, so the air is fragrant, and it’s a perfect place to soak in the festival vibes and look for falleras.
Get yourself to the Passeig de l’Albereda in the early hours of March 18th for the spectacular Nit del Foc (Fire Night) fireworks show of Las Fallas. The fireworks will begin at 1:30 a.m., but you should arrive a few hours early to get a prime viewing location.
The festival’s spectacular ending begins with the colorful and energetic Cavalcada del Foc (Fire Parade), which features a variety of fire displays. The parade has floats, gigantic machinery, costumed participants, musical performances, and street entertainment.
On March 19th at 6 p.m., from Calle Ruzafa to Plaza de la Porta de la Mar, the streets of Barcelona will be closed for the annual Cavalcada del Foc. It becomes crowded, like with every major event in Las Fallas, so get there early if you want a decent place.
When the fallas are set on fire during La Cremà (the burning), the event truly comes to a head. All of the casals started the night off by lighting the Falla Infantil (the kids’ falla) on fire at 8 o’clock. The city’s big fallas are burned at 10 o’clock, followed by those in the downtown area an hour later.
Seeing these works of art, which often cost millions of euros and required a great deal of talent and effort to build, reduced to a pile of ashes is a genuine sight and experience.
Fire departments from all across Spain make the trip to Valencia for La Cremà despite the fact that building massive bonfires in the heart of a city seems like madness. Each of the major fallas is set ablaze at a different time, allowing fire brigade personnel to move efficiently from one falla to the next, ensuring a safe and orderly burn.
History of Las Fallas Valencia Festival
Here’s the short version. Carpenters and woodworkers in the Middle Ages produced a great deal of garbage. St. Joseph’s Day (March 19th) has become a day of custom for the guilds in Valencia to burn all of this. Someone (maybe under the influence) chose to decorate the wooden planks at some point.
These elaborately clothed boards evolved into comedic puppets and dolls by the 1700s, which were then set ablaze at night. After hundreds of years of change and, presumably, rivalry amongst neighborhoods, we now have a four-day, nonstop celebration that costs over seven million euros (2018) and has hundreds of monuments dotted across the city.
While the most well-known celebration takes place in Valencia, other places (like Alzira, further to the south) also hold fallas celebrations since the custom was widely practiced in the area.
The Las Fallas festival in Valencia, Spain, was recognized as part of the worldwide “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” by UNESCO in 2016.
Hundreds of community groups in Valencia will each pay for and build their own falla. The first step is to settle on one basic idea. Then, they’ll have a competition to hire artistas falleros, who will be in charge of the visual presentation.
Many of these artistas falleros have their own signature styles, and it is not uncommon to be able to identify an artist just by their body of work. After sketching up the concept, creating a scale model, and getting it authorized, construction may begin.
The foundation for each falla is a wooden framework. Plaster molds are used as a base for the components and ninots, which are subsequently filled with flammable material and painted.
Molds were traditionally filled with a mixture of wood, cardboard, and paper pulp. Styrofoam, resin, and fiberglass are some of the modern substitutes utilized now. These materials allow for lighter components, allowing for taller and larger structures to be constructed.
The environmental impact of burning these newer materials has sparked debate, and some people have complained that the thick black smoke they emit makes it hard to see the falla while it burns.
Getting around Valencia during the Las Fallas Festival
It may be a challenge to use Valencia’s public transportation system when the Fallas sculptures have essentially taken over the city. Even while it does its job well, the metro’s limited number of lines can make it inconvenient at times, especially for getting around the downtown area.
If your hotel is within a half-hour walk of the city center, I highly recommend bringing a pair of comfy shoes and just walking around Valencia. It’s a terrific method for becoming familiar with the area.
As mentioned throughout this piece, the main activities of Las Fallas tend to draw huge crowds because of the festival’s popularity. The best approach to ensure a good viewing position is, as always, to be there many hours before the action begins.
It may sound extreme and dull, but with little planning and refreshments, you can have a good time. Hundreds of people gather around a flaming Falla sculpture to take pictures and videos with their smartphones.
The magnificent celebration of Las Fallas, held annually in Valencia, Spain, is mostly unknown to the general public. Throughout the year, hundreds of community groups plot, design, and build impressive memorials. They are on exhibit for four days (March 16-19) at various locations across the city. Each one is destroyed in one final night fire before the cycle begins anew. It becomes a really wonderful four days when you include a nonstop party, food vendors serving Valencian cuisine, and lots of fireworks.