Spain knows how to throw a party and none is more colourful and spectacular than Las Fallas in Valencia in March, renowned as being Europe’s largest street party – attracting over two million visitors a year to enjoy the extravagant fallas displays, round-the-clock festivities, fireworks and open-air music concerts.
The stars of this extraordinary five-day festival are some 700 small and large scale fallas (or monuments) displayed on more than 400 streets around the city, made up of huge papier-mâché effigies, some up to 30 metres high, showing satiric or humorous caricatures of celebrities, politicians or the hottest issues of the year.
The fallas stay there from when they are installed on the street to the night of 19 March, when they are burnt in the exciting finale of the festival. Well-known personalities such as Jose Mourinho, Steve Jobs, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga, as well as royals such as William and Kate and political figures such as Obama, Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, have all received the honour of being portrayed in a falla.
During the festival the city comes alive to the sound of firecrackers, music and street parties, culminating on the final night when Valencianos wait to see the fallas set alight. It’s one of the best times to be in the city to witness this unusual ‘live street art’ and the true character of Valencia as reflected through the festivities – extrovert, temperamental and imaginative.
Another main part of the festival is the ‘Flower Offering to the Lady Forsaken’ – when around 100,000 falleros participate in a two-day parade dressed in colourful traditional costumes, to offer flowers to the patron saint of Valencia in Plaza de la Virgen. After two-days of floral tributes the city’s most atmospheric square hosts a figure of the Virgin covered in approximately 40 tonnes of red, white and pink carnations and it’s visually one of the most amazing scenes of the festival.
The festival also includes scores of other cultural and religious events, including concerts and dances, marching bands and parades, and some of the noisiest and most spectacular fireworks displays in the world. Hundreds of kilogrammes of gunpowder are burnt each year in a combination of daily ‘mascletas’ (daily fire cracker displays) and evening shows such as the Nit del Foc (night of fire) on 18 March.
The origin of the festival stems from the days when Valencia’s carpenters and furniture makers celebrated the onset of spring by clearing out all the offcuts from their workshops and having a communal bonfire in the neighbourhood square.
Highlights of Las Fallas:
- The ‘Mascletá’– visit the city’s main square, Plaza Ayuntamiento every day at 2pm from 1-19 March to witness a ‘concert of gunpowder’ with hundreds of fireworks and firecrackers exploding simultaneously
- La Plantá – on 15 March the artists and falleros responsible for the fallas install their monuments in streets, marking the start of the festivities
- L’Ofrena – on 17 and 18 March the falleros form processions throughout the city en route to Plaza de la Virgen. Upon arrival they offer flowers to the city’s patron, La Virgen de los Desamparodos (Our Lady of the Foresaken).
- After two days of floral tributes the square is the proud host to the Geperudeta, a figure of the Virgin covered with approximately 40 tonnes of red, white and pink carnations.
- Gather beneath the Serranos Towers, one of Valencia’s best-known monuments for ‘La Crida’ for the official opening of the Fallas festival
- Night of Fire (Nit del Foc) – the pyrotechnical festival that takes place on the night before the main day of the Fallas in the historical centre
- Procession of Fire (Cabalgata del Foc) – street processions with fireworks, demons and flaming torches on 19 March. This passionate display in honour of fire begins in Calle Ruzafa and finishes at Porta del la Mar.
- Nit de la Cremá – On the night of the 19 March the Valencian people welcome the coming of spring with the burning of the monuments that have taken a year to construct.
- Eating at one of 22 restaurants offering a €15 ‘Fallas menu’ comprising starter, main course and dessert
- Visiting the “Ciudad del Artista Fallero”, a number of huge workshops where the Fallas monuments are constructed. It’s a frenzy of activity all year round and is great place to see how a falla is made
- Taking a tour of the Las Fallas Museum to see the ‘ninots’ (figurines of the fallas), the history of the festival, how the fallas are made and how the event has evolved over the years.
Organise your trip in this link
Buy a Valencia Tourist Card at the airport or at www.visitvalencia.com for discounts across the city and free public transport within the city (bus & metro), including travel from the airport.