Fallas in Valencia is spectacular, and the biggest party of the season, in fact, it’s the biggest party of the year. The pandemic meant skipping the celebrations two years in a row, and there was a mini-one last September, a very subdued one at that.
Now, the folks are ready to expand all that pent-up energy and party like there’s no tomorrow. This post will include some images from past Fallas as the city gets ready to unveil the ones for this year. I will also attempt to explain all about this event.
Fallas in Valencia Spain Experience: Q and A
What is Fallas all about?
The Fallas is to celebrate Saint Joseph. You know, the one that was married to Mary and was, therefore, the legal father of Jesus. A saint indeed if you ask me! A lot of towns in the Valencia province celebrate, but the Valencia city Fallas is the biggest and definitely the loudest.
Las Fallas was designated a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016. A lot of locals leave the city to avoid the crowds and noise. I think after a lifetime of the shenanigans, they deserve the rest.
At the same time though, a ton of tourists come from all over the world to experience Fallas. The numbers keep increasing yearly with the last one receiving over a million visitors from all over the world. I think everyone should experience Las Fallas at least once in their lifetime. At this point, it has nothing to do with religion. It’s all about mingling and partying.
How does Fallas (monuments) happen?
Each neighborhood in Valencia has a Casal Fallera, an organization that is active year-round and whose principal duty is to raise money to build their Fallas ninot contributions ( usually 1 adult and 1 kiddie monument in the bigger neighborhoods).
The efforts are never-ending as they start working on the next Fallas as soon as the current one ends. All of the neighborhoods compete and hope to be voted “Best in Show”. For the most part, one of the “richer” neighborhoods usually wins since they have more money raised. I understand some of these Fallas can cost over €180,000 ($220,000). That’s a lot of money that could be put to better use in my opinion, but that’s just the way it is.
When does Valencia Las Fallas take place?:
The Fallas festivities occur over a 3 week period, ending on the 19th of March yearly. Most of the most excitement occurs during the last week when the Fallas are moved from the Museum of Sciences (for display and voting purposes) to the neighborhoods.
It’s almost impossible to see them all of course, as they number over 700. This is why it’s a good idea to see them under one roof prior. It is not unusual to walk miles daily in order to be able to see some of the magnificent displays. The Fallas can be of any theme, and political satire is usually popular. Current shows and movie-themed ones are also common to see.
What is used to build the Fallas monuments?
A lot of styrofoam, soft cork, firecracker-filled cardboard, paper-mache, and whatever else works from what some guy was trying to explain to us. I’m always amazed at how they can manipulate these things to make such statement works of art. No wonder it can take a full year to accomplish.
Is Valencia Fallas noisy during Fallas?
Yes! Yes! and Yes!!!! Fallas comes with a whole lot of noise. La Despierta, which means wake up, begins daily at 8 AM ( I swear l have heard them at 6! ) during the last week. Brass bands roam the neighborhoods playing very loud music and they are followed by Falleras, who are dressed up in fine traditional outfits and they are, in turn, followed by merrymakers, with a lot of them throwing very noisy firecrackers.
For the whole time during Fallas, in addition to the daily fireworks show at 2 PM ( The Mascleta) at the city plaza, there are morning fireworks, noon, afternoon, mid-afternoon, early evening, late evening, midnight :-).
You name the time, and there are fireworks going off it seems, in addition to the petards and others loud making bombs that the kids set off. Barking dogs add to the mix because they’re terrified. Our dogs don’t bark much anymore, but they get very anxious.
After Malta and their crazy fireworks for pretty much any occasion, including their Feast of St. Joseph, it’s not as big a deal to them, thank god. Every day, I’m thankful that we are not right in the center of the old city, it would have been too close for comfort. Our beagle is a howler.
What else happens during the Valencia Fallas? :
Apart from the Mascleta, and the Despierta, there are:
- Offerings of flowers to the Virgin Mary (takes place over 3 days)
- Cavalcada del Foc ( grand parade on the last day)
- Night of Fire (Insane fireworks at the old river bed, Turia over 4 nights. We were able to see the last one right from our balcony since it was the grandest of all)
- Street Disco. Yep… DJ’s play at strategic points throughout the city
- Paella cooking contests (this is the birthplace of paella after all 🙂 )
- La Crema (The Burning). The culmination of a year’s work reduced to ashes. All the Fallas are destroyed by burning them to the ground. Children’s first, the the bigger ones. The last burned is at the center which is done around 2AM. No, we will not be attending that. Only the Falla voted “Best” is saved from this fate. Being the last hurray, you can just imagine how insane it is.
Thoughts on the Fallas Festivities:
Something that amazes me about the Fallas and pretty much events in Spain is that, despite the insane number of people on the streets at all times of the day and night, there is a minimal police presence. The ones there are usually for traffic control.
You are allowed to drink alcohol openly, yet no one is staggering around drunk that l see. No fights, just people having a good time. Could this happen in the States? Nope! It could not. We don’t even think twice about stepping out at any hour of the night.
Getting crushed by thousands of people while watching the fireworks and my thought was not of safety, it was wondering what would happen if l had to pee! :-), would l have enough time to make it to the nearest portapotty? It’s a terrific and freeing feeling.
I know all countries have their issues, but safety for me is a big concern and it’s nice to be able to live your life free of that drama (sensibly of course!). I remember feeling the same in Seville when we lived there. The sense of freedom is exhilarating.
The fire department definitely has their hands full when La Crema happens. The heat is quite intense and often, they will douse surrounding buildings so they don’t catch fire. The times of the burning are scheduled, so the trucks can get from place to place to assure safety. The good thing is that the Fallas, which also means torches in Spanish, burn very quickly.
It’s great walking off the main streets for a bit of relative quiet every so often. The hawkers were selling everything from churros to Jamon to chestnuts, and the famous horchata
This one l thought was pretty. Audrey Hepburn headed for breakfast at Tiffany’s perhaps?! Pity they all have to burn in the end.
Some of these gowns can cost thousands and are usually handed down from generation to generation.
Should you visit Valencia during Fallas?
Yes! It is a wonderful city that gets to go crazy for 3 weeks. Everyone should visit and experience Fallas at least once in their lifetime. The children will definitely love it. The younger generation will enjoy being able to drink and party in the open till the wee hours.
The older people (like us!) enjoy people watching while sipping a beverage. Everyone will enjoy the Mascleta, the Fallas, and the Ninots (big dolls). The best part is that the major streets are closed off and the city becomes even more pedestrian-friendly. It’s fun walking from one barrio to the other checking out the various Fallas. A very enjoyable experience.
Tips on experiencing Valencia Fallas as a tourist:
- Reserve your room or Valencia hotel very early on. It’s almost impossible to find accommodation close to the Fallas.
- Wear your comfortable shoes. There is a whole lot of walking to be done.
- Dress comfortably. This is not the time for high heels and mini-skirts. It is also still kind of cold and windy at this time of year.
- Bring your earplugs :-). You will need it.
- Download the Fallas event app which is available in the Apple store and on GooglePlay so you can plan your days accordingly.
- Use public transport to get around. The metro is crowded, but still better overall. Some of the bus routes are changed so beware. Make sure to ask the bus driver about your stop.
- Step away from the crowds. Some of the prettiest Fallas can be found on relatively “lonely” streets.
- Don’t be afraid to get lost. Valencia is safe and you will eventually find your way 🙂 .
- Eat! Try paella or the local favorite, churros con chocolate. There are long waits at restaurants, so beat the crowd by trying a place on the side streets.
- Consider doing a tour if you want a closer look or go inside the big Fallas displays as the general public can only get so close.
- Drink responsibly. Period.
Conclusion of Las Fallas in Valencia:
Las Fallas is an absolutely wonderful experience. At least once. I have friends that seem to look forward to it yearly, and l have other friends who definitely make it a point to leave the city as soon as the festivities start. I say live it once and then decide. Las Fallas is just one of the many things to experience in Valencia and a possible reason why a lot of ex-pats now call it home. Valencia and las Fallas await.