What is Valencia’s Las Fallas festival?
Las Fallas is Valencia’s most important festival. The main festival is held in Valencia city, although there are smaller fallas celebrations throughout the region. During this crazy fiery festival, huge elaborate paper mâché sculptures called fallas are set up across the city. On the last night, they are ceremoniously burned during the Nit de la Cremà during a crazy firey display.
In the days leading up to the burning, there are numerous firework displays, parades, and cultural events, which are all worth visiting.
It is thought that the tradition was started by the city’s carpenters who would celebrate the arrival of spring by burning the pieces of wood that held up their lights during winter. Gradually they began adding other scraps of wood and rags to the bonfires so that they somewhat resembled human figures, animals or other characters.
This has evolved so much so that today the fallas can represent anything from satirical scenes featuring Spanish politicians to scenes from popular stories and legends. Prizes are awarded for the best ones.
When is it held?
Las Fallas is held throughout March, with the last few days from March 15th to the 19th, being the most important. The night of March 18th is also an important time during the festival when the Nit del Foc (Night of Fire) takes place with huge firework displays. The festival culminates on March 19th, when all the fallas are burned all together across the city.
If you plan on visiting this year, arrive a day or two earlier so that you can go around and marvel at all the fallas before they’re destroyed.
Last year in September 2021, a slightly shortened version of the festival was held to make up for the two festivals that were cancelled during the pandemic.
Rules and restrictions during Las Fallas 2022
Masks are currently required for all indoor venues in Valencia, except in bars and restaurants when eating or drinking.
Masks are no longer required outdoors in Spain where a safe distance can be maintained, however during Las Fallas, it’s typically very crowded, especially during the Mascletà and the burning of the fallas, so it may be required at those times.
Nightlife venues are open, but a mask is required on the dancefloor, as well as any other area, when not drinking. Smoking is also prohibited, both inside and in the outdoor areas of clubs.
Drinking is not allowed on the streets.
Covid passes are no longer required to enter indoor venues in Valencia.
What can I expect to see?
Besides the fallas themselves, one of the most important events to watch is when groups of falleros dressed in traditional costume parade through the city streets to offer flowers to a giant statue of La Virgin – Our Lady of the Forsaken – in front of the Cathedral. Each bunch of flowers is added to her dress until her costume is made up of fresh flowers.
The Mascletà is another event that shouldn’t be missed. Taking place at 2pm during each day of the festival, it’s a deafening display of hundreds of firecrackers, which almost seems to shake the city. Be aware, it’s more about the noise and the atmosphere than being able to see them, as there are typically large crowds and they don’t produce colours, only white smoke.
- Don’t expect to get much sleep if you visit Valencia during Las Fallas, as loud firecrackers and fireworks are let off at any time of the day or night.
- When you’ve seen as many fallas as possible, choose your favourite to watch being burned, as all of them are set alight at the same time. This year, the burning of the children’s fallas will take place at 8pm on March 19th, followed by the burning of the larger fallas at 10pm. The winning falla will then be burnt at 10.30pm and the large falla in front of the town hall (ayuntamiento) at 11pm. To avoid crowds, access to this square may be restricted, so arrive early if you plan on watching this one.
- Make sure to try some of the traditional foods associated with Las Fallas. These include buñuelos de calabaza (pumpkin fritters) dipped in hot chocolate and churros. While in Valencia you should also sample some orxata or horchata – a sweet milk-like drink made from tiger nuts.
- It’s difficult to park during Las Fallas and your car may get damaged, so we recommend taking public transport instead.
To learn more about Las Fallas while you’re there, visit the Museo Fallero.
Words you need to learn when visiting Las Fallas:
Falleros are the people who make the falla sculptures. During the festival, they will dress up in traditional Valencian costumes made from Valencian silk and lace.
Falleras are the females who make the falla sculptures. Each year one fallera is chosen to represent each group of falleros. It is she who is in charge of lighting her group’s falla when the time comes. There is also a fallera mayor and a fallera mayor infantil – an older girl and a younger girl who are chosen for the whole city. They act like the festival queen and princess.
Ninots are the individual character sculptures within the each falla. There can be up around 10 in each big scene. Each year, the locals vote for their favourite ninot which will be saved from the flames. This ninot is called the Ninot Idultat, and rather than being burnt along the rest of its falla, will be preserved in the Fallero Museum.
The mascletà is the huge firecracker display which takes place at 2pm every day during the festival.
The offering of the flowers to the Virgin by the groups of falleros in traditional costumes.
Cremà means burning, and the Nit de la Cremà or Night of the Burning takes place on the last day of the festival.