Las Fallas 2020: Valencia city becomes an outdoor animation theatre Las Fallas is Valencia’s biggest arts festival, it transforms the city virtually into its own cultural theme park with various attractions to satisfy the 2 million people that attend each year. If you are looking for an event full of fun, culture and tradition then […]Las Fallas 2020 Plaça de l'Ajuntament, s/n, 46002 València, Valencia, Spain Valencia Spain
Las Fallas is Valencia’s biggest arts festival, it transforms the city virtually into its own cultural theme park with various attractions to satisfy the 2 million people that attend each year. If you are looking for an event full of fun, culture and tradition then Las Fallas is the one you want to attend.
Las Fallas is a 5-day festival that takes place on the streets of the city of Valencia in Spain. This festival has now become a major tradition for the Spanish people and is considered one of the craziest festivals on earth.
The highlight of Las Fallas festival is the creation of ‘ninots’, which are very large cartoon-like sculpture figurines that are handmade using various types of materials including wood, plaster, cardboard, Styrofoam, polyester, and a lot of papier-mache.
These huge figurines can sometimes take up to 12 months to make and end up costing thousands. The ninots typically represent the current “state of the world” type situations and often take the mickey out of celebrities and public figures. Very similar to the burning of Guy Fawkes on bonfire night, the ninots are first paraded around the streets and then engulfed in flames under a massive, and very impressive, display of fireworks.
During the festival, a group of judges examine and rate all of the figurines and select winners from varied categories who will receive prizes on the award night. The festival parade sees thousands of locals dressed in traditional handmade attire dancing through the beautiful Valencian streets to traditional Spanish music. Along with any good street festival comes masses of delicious street-food.
‘The original Valencian fire fiesta, created by carpenters, artists and silversmiths will have you captured by music, dancing and fireworks’
While Las Fallas is a week long event, there is an array of events on for the whole month around the city of Valencia as the locals put the finishing touches on their work. You can see these sculptures beforehand. The handcrafted animations are all strikingly different.
There are unique events that pop up all over the city, including the sea of people parade, where finely dressed women wear handwoven dresses and hairpieces made by local silversmiths that light up like jewels in the Spanish sunlight.
Join the firecracker parade called ‘Mascletà’. Locals walk in a procession smashing small wrapped packages filled with gunpowder onto the road is a long standing tradition. This parade can reach a deafening 120 decibels as the firecrackers hit the ground. Bring headphones or your ears are ringing! Fire is one of the symbols associated with the event, so there are daily gunpowder parades and fireworks displays at night during the festival week. These happen during the day, at 2 pm there is the main parade. It’s more about the noise than the light for this part of the celebration.
At the religious flower-offering parade finely dressed ladies march together bringing flowers to a massive 15 meter tall construction which represents the Virgen de los Desamparados. The flowers become the decoration of the virgin’s cape. The virgin is the patron saint of Valencia. You can admire the cape for two days before the end of the festival.
For the grand finale all the fallas (sculptures) will be set ablaze. This takes two hours! They begin adding the smaller ones as the bigger ones are all lined up beside the fire and added as the night continues.
It’s your last chance to view your favourite ones before they go up in smoke. All that handmade work gone in a puff of smoke.
Long standing cultural events like this that have been in Spain for centuries are designed to toy with people’s emotions. They sure have a strange way of keeping themselves entertained, but this is what draws people back every single year!
Every main street in Valencia has its attractions throughout the festival week. As all offices shut down and everyone is exploring the city on foot. There are over 700 fallas sculptures on display, each set tells a unique story.
Guided tours by the Valencia Tourism Board are a great way of getting the most out of the festival. It is one of the best ways that visitors can hear the stories of the culture and traditions of the event. The public can also vote for their favourite structures so touring around is very interactive. Join one of the many street parties at night, some are outdoor concerts or discos. This is a great place to get a feel for the spirit of the festivities.
Spain’s weather is usually nice but it can still be cold in Spring, especially at night. Wear some warm clothes as most of the event is taking place in the evening. Many locals wear traditional costumes in celebration of the Valencian tradition. Women dress in silk and lace dresses in all different colors while the men look more like pirates.
Earmuffs for all the firecrackers and fireworks!
Las Fallas festival starts on Friday the 15th of March 2019 and will finish on Tuesday the 19th of March 2019. The festival takes place on the last days of winter. As the festival is a street festival it is a free event although there are small festival guide companies that charge around €13 for a guided tour of the festival.
In 2020, the official event takes place from 15-19 March.
The first night of the festival is called ‘The Plantà’, which is a hive of activity for the model makers. They spent the whole previous year creating their animated figures. There is so much to see on the streets as all of the figurines end up in place to be judged the next morning. Watch the artists erect their story sets in shifts, all night long, while you enjoy street entertainments, fireworks, food and music.
The second day is the award ceremony, where all of the artists parade towards Plaza del Ayuntamiento to receive their awards. It’s a big ceremony, it’s an artisanal honor to receive recognition for the most unique works. The night lights up the city once again with festivities amping right up once the darkness hits.
The third night brings extra fireworks. Nightly midnight shows at Alamenda will be enhanced by Nit del Foc, which is a unique fireworks display in the wee hours of the morning before the day even kicks off!
The Cremà is the grand finale of the festival, it is on the last night and always on St Joseph’s Day. It’s a parade of sorts when the whole city seems to come alive with fire. Following the Cremà route, the burning begins to happen at 10 pm first with the smaller fallas. They then move on to the bigger ones as everyone follows, finishing up around 12.30. It’s a lengthy procession with plenty of entertainment and good cheer, they just love fire here!
The very last standing monument at Plaza del Ayuntamiento will be burned at 1 am, marking the end of the event. Astonishingly, by the next day, there is no trace of the fire, leaving visitors with a clean city to enjoy for another day.
Be alert: Firecrackers can be set off at any time, even by children standing next to you, so be alert and aware of your surroundings.
The best professional fireworks: There’s an extra night time firework display at Turia Gardens during the event week, this is where you can see the best professional fireworks with many colours and shapes in the pyrotechnics.
Location, location: Locals like to let off firecrackers under windows at 8am, so check with your accommodation if you are likely to be in one of these locations. No alarm needed!
Las Fallas comes from an age old tradition. Spanish carpenters marked the end of winter by burning discarded pieces of wood they would no longer need for lighting up the dark nights. This pagan ritual took place on the feast of Saint Joseph.
By the time the 18th century has rolled around, the ritual had evolved to the carpenters carving caricatures out of the wood and displaying them to demonstrate unacceptable social behaviours, entertaining the community with its irony and criticism. These cartoon carvings were surely wonderfully creepy.
Like many areas of Spain in the late 1800’s, the people were repressed and prevented from performing their traditions. A magazine encouraged a competition in 1885 for the best Las Fallas. This led to the event becoming more artistic and popular than ever.
The Valencia Town Hall began awarding prizes for the best fallas in 1901. Las Fallas began to gain popularity in 1929 and actively encourage visitors when it created handmade placards for each of the ‘scenarios’ so they could tell the story of each set. Fallas week was imagined in 1932 and the rest is history.
From these ancient beginnings to burning 700 structures in one night, it is now known as one of the most unusual activities to happen in Spain. In 2017 UNESCO recognised the event as an ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”
Learn about the history of the Las Fallas in its museums, as all of the past figurines that did not burn down are part of the collection. It’s a great insight for the visitor to the history of this event.
One of the highlights of visiting the modern complex City of the Arts and Sciences is the Oceanogràfic Oceanarium. Its magnificent scale is astonishing, as well as the fact that it is home to 500 different species of 45,000 animals. Beluga whales, dolphins, sea lions, walruses, penguins and sharks all swim past in the tank which literally pumps seawater from Valencia’s waterfront into the complex.
Climb 207 steps to the top of the El Miguelete, a cathedral built in the 1300’s. Admire the gothic construction on the way up to 50 meters, where you can enjoy the view of the city from the top tower. There is a ten tonne bell called ‘Miguel’ made in 1432, begging to be rung…
At Las Fallas, you can expect to taste the absolute best Spanish dishes with platters of sausages, an array of grills and sea-food mixes, traditional paella, pic-n-mix tapas, and an assortment of meat stacks. Lining the streets there are countless desert wagons and portable bars offering a range of sweet treats and unlimited amounts of alcohol.
You can access Valencia from other countries by European air carriers, hire cars, Euro railway, bus shuttles, and by ferry boat. Taking the metro from Valencia Airport is the easiest way to get into the city. The airport bus also runs regularly, taking passengers into the local area.
There are many hotels, B&Bs, Airbnb’s, hostels, resorts, and self-catered apartments for rent throughout Valencia. Around the time of the festival, accommodation prices significantly increase and vacancies fill up very fast. Arrange your accommodation as soon as possible.
The Old Town area of El Carmen has a unique eco-friendly apartment, dating from the 1800’s. Everything has been restored using organic products and the bathroom is made with natural materials. The bed on offer contains of anti-allergic natural latex of course! There is a beautiful tall timber terrace door out to a balcony that has a view of the old city, it’ll take you right back in time.
Head to the map here for options around town.
Naturally, the fallas celebrations cause a lot of travel disruptions in the city, but the atmosphere is incredible. More details on the primary parade streets and any public transport disruptions will be announced closer to the time of the event. The local buses, taxis as well as train services work well to get around the city, although its best to take in the festival routes by foot.
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Rad Season is providing you with hotels and Airbnbs at the lowest prices available online. Book your stay for Las Fallas 2020 using the map below!