Spain’s ‘Super-Festival’: Las Fallas
Every March the streets of Valencia are filled with fireworks, music, traditional clothing and giant papier-mâché sculptures taking the form of politicians and celebrities, as the city gears up for the annual Las Fallas festival. The renowned festival will be more special than ever this year, as it celebrates its new status as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity awarded by UNESCO last November.
Las Fallas takes place from 15 to 19 March to welcome in the spring and is known worldwide as one of Spain’s most unique and wild celebrations. More than 2 million visitors flock to Valencia during the festival.
800 giant sculptures are crafted out of wood, papier mâché and plaster in the lead up to the celebration and are then burnt to the ground on 19th March while fireworks are set off from every angle.
The ninots are crafted to symbolise current events, often depicting politicians, royals and celebrities, and are burnt as a way of dismissing any negativity as residents and festival-goers welcome in the new season.
What to expect from this year’s festival:
- From 1 to 19 March, every day at 2 pm in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the city vibrates to the sound of the traditional mascletà, a display of gunpowder explosions that beats out a unique sound. Afterwards, the city’s terraces fill up as people go to enjoy a typical aperitif and some traditional Valencian food under the Mediterranean sun.
- Every night from 15 to 18 March, the sky of Valencia is filled with the light and colour of impressive firework displays. At 12 midnight, people gather on Paseo de la Alameda to enjoy the best display of colour and light. Not to mention the spectacular Nit del foc (Night of Fire), which is held during the early hours of the 18th and offers a fireworks display which is the only one of its kind in the world.
- On 15 March the plantà of fallas takes place, when more than 800 sculptures are installed in the city’s streets and squares during the night. On the morning of 16 March Valencia is filled with caricatures which can be enjoyed by visitors during the following days.
- Although the festival honours Saint Joseph, it is Our Lady of the Forsaken, patron saint of Valencia, who gets the locals’ devotion. Over two days (17 and 18 March), the different Fallas Commissions, dressed in their finest traditional clothing, parade through the city centre to bring flowers to the Geperudeta, the “little hunchback”, as the Virgin is affectionally called because of her nodding posture. The flowers will be carefully placed to form a colourful dress for the giant statue set up at the Plaza de la Virgen. Come on 19 March, when it is complete, to enjoy the glorious smells and admire the spectacular floral display
- The night of 19 March all the Fallas monuments are burnt apart from two ninots (figures) chosen by vote, which are saved from the flames to join the collection at the Fallas Museum.
- Taste the typical buñuelos from one of the many stalls in the streets. These are deliciously sweet fried doughnuts, usually made with a pumpkin paste, and very typical of Las Fallas. For the full experience, grab a cup of thick, hot chocolate to dunk them in.
- There are guided tours to better understand this festival that can be booked at the tourist offices in the city. Get the festival programme to plan your visit to Valencia.