I’d only been in Valencia for a couple of weeks when I heard the rumours about Las Fallas, an annual festival in Valencia known to be one of the craziest Spanish festivals there is.
‘You won’t sleep for 2 weeks,’ An English guy told me.
‘You either take enough drugs to stay awake, or you drink so much that you pass out – it’s the only way,’ another said.
‘If you have to work, leave the city,’ they told me. ‘It is impossible to work during Fallas.’
I was sceptical.
Surely this was all hyperbole, an exaggeration designed to scare the newbies for the amusement of everyone else?
Turns out I didn’t have to wait long to find out.
In the first week of September 2021, Fallas Valencia commenced*, albeit with night curfews in place, a reduced programme of events, and mandatory mask-wearing in situations where social distancing could not be maintained.
Despite the restrictions, Fallas 2021 still managed to be an all-consuming, unforgettable event, and with some restrictions still likely to be in place next year (the Spanish government has recently announced that mask-wearing in crowded spaces and indoors will continue until ‘at least’ spring of 2022), I decided to put together a guide to Fallas Valencia so that you’ll know what to expect, what to do, and what not to do in order to get the most out of your Fallas 2022 experience.
So, make yourself a coffee (or pour yourself a wine!) and get comfy, because it’s gonna be a long one.
Fallas Valencia: The Ultimate Survival Guide
What is Las Fallas Festival?
Las Fallas Festival is the biggest festival in Valencia and a real cultural experience (it has actually been listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity) and it is completely FREE to attend.
Las Fallas is essentially a never-ending street party, and while it officially lasts for 5 days, in practice it goes on for an entire month. No matter where you go in the city, you will find children throwing firecrackers, whole communities sitting out on the streets enjoying paella, women in traditional dress and, most importantly of all, huge papier-mâché sculptures, called Fallas.
It all started in the Middle Ages, when carpenters and artisans would get rid of pieces of wood that they had accumulated during the winter. In order to get rid of all the excess wood and welcome in the spring, they would burn it all, also honouring Saint José, the patron saint of carpentry.
Over time, people began to use clothes and other materials to make these pieces of wood resemble human figures, and these sculptures became more and more complex as the years went by, eventually evolving into the works of art that we see today.
These days, every neighbourhood in Valencia spends the entire year building its own Falla (we will go over all the terms later!), and they are displayed all around the city, before being burned on the last day of the festival.
Only 2 Fallas each year manage to avoid the burning, with the public voting to decide which will be spared.
Las Fallas Vocabulary
In order not to spend this whole article completely befuddled, you’ll need to learn a couple of words associated with Fallas Festival.
Here are the most important terms to know:
Falla: A neighbourhood community in Valencia that builds their sculpture together
Falla: A large sculpture made from many smaller sculptures. Many times, these are satirical, and you might see some characters you recognise – of course, there was more than one Donald Trump at this year’s Fallas Festival.
Ninot: One of the smaller figurines that make up the larger Falla
Falla Infantil: A miniature Falla made for children. This will usually be displayed just in front of the main Falla.
Fallero/a: A member of a Falla community. One woman and one girl will be crowned Queen of each community, and these people are called the Fallera Mayor and the Fallera Mayor Infantil. Every year, one of the Fallera Mayores will be crowned Queen of the entire Fallas Festival.
Casal Fallero: This is the ‘house’ of each Falla community for the week of Las Fallas. Often, this takes the form of a long tent in the street, and the community will meet there for all of their meals, drinks and general socialising during the festivities.
Oh, and a double L in Spain is pronounced like a Y – so FALLA is pronounced FAYA.
Whoosh. Okay, that’s it for the Spanish lesson.
Las Fallas Events
Every year, there is a programme of Fallas events. Timings and places vary, but for the most part, here is what you can expect.
Exposicion del Ninots
A couple of months before the celebrations begin, you can go to see all 700 ninots (the mini sculptures that make up the larger ones) in the Exposicion del Ninots. You have the opportunity to vote for your favourite and hope that it gets saved from the burning on the last night!
La Planta is when the artists begin to mount the sculptures that they have created. This occurs on the first day of the festival.
La Desperta is the wake up call of the city. Every morning, at 8:00am, every Falla community marches their band through the streets, playing music (expect lots of brass instruments!) and throwing firecrackers at people’s doors to wake them up.
This is insanity, especially because usually, people will have been partying until 6am the night before!
Note: La Desperta didn’t happen at Fallas 2021.
This is a huge, 2 day parade where the falleros and falleras from the different Falla communities march through the city, each person holding a bouquet of flowers to place on the statue of Virgen de los Desamparados, patron saint of Valencia, at Plaza de la Virgen (the main square in the old town).
This structure begins as a wooden shell, and as each bouquet of flowers is placed upon it, a skirt starts to form, until finally, the entire thing is covered with thousands of colourful flowers, which is incredible to see.
The parade itself is also fun to watch, as the falleros will be playing their trumpets and singing, while the falleras, in their stunning traditional dress, will dance along to the music that their band is playing.
The whole parade lasts for literally 2 days, so you don’t have to worry about turning up early for this one – just go and have a look whenever you get a chance!
As a word of warning – don’t even attempt to get anywhere in the city during these two days. My friends and I tried to go to a bar 5 minutes away from where we live and just COULD NOT cross the parade without taking a 40 minute detour around the whole thing – nightmare!
La Mascleta is a pyrotechnical display that is less about fireworks and flashing lights and more about NOISE. The smell of gunpowder, the sound of firecrackers and billowing smoke characterise this crazy spectacle, which happens every day at 2pm during Fallas.
I am not exaggerating when I say that la mascleta mimics a warzone, and they are not for the fainthearted!
The mascletas are usually held on Plaza del Ayuntamiento every day but for Fallas 2021 they were held at a different neighbourhood in the city each day, to cut down on crowds.
Fireworks and the Nit del Foc
Fireworks light up the skies at night in different areas of the city during Fallas Festival, culminating with an epic display that continues until the early hours of the morning on the Nit del Foc.
During Fallas 2021, there were fewer displays – usually they occur every night.
La Crema is what everybody has been waiting for, the creme de la creme of Fallas Valencia.
La Crema takes place on the final night, and it is when all of the Fallas get burnt to the ground. Brass bands play melancholy songs as a fallera lights the fire and months’ and months’ of hard work is incinerated in minutes.
Fire fighters from all over the country travel to Valencia for this night, so that they can keep the city safe, and each Falla has a fire engine parked up nearby to put out the flames when they become too much.
Is Fallas Valencia with restrictions worth it?
At the time of writing (October 2021), it’s looking pretty likely that Fallas 2022 will still have mandatory mask-wearing in crowded spaces, but without the curfews and reduced schedules that we saw with this year’s Fallas Festival.
Honestly, I barely noticed the restrictions. Mask use is pretty much the norm in Spain at this point, and it was only mandatory in very crowded spaces, such as the burning of the Falla sculptures on the last day. As for the curfews, the events just started earlier in the evening (meaning the drinking started earlier too), and while it definitely wasn’t as crazy as it usually is, it wasn’t detrimental to the overall experience.
As of right now, we no longer have a curfew in Spain, and so I would imagine that the majority of Fallas 2022 will go on as normal, but I will keep this section updated so be sure to check back regularly if you are planning on attending!
Do’s and don’ts of Fallas Valencia
For my friends and I, Fallas 2021 was our first Fallas Festival, and so we kinda learnt everything by trial and error.
As with any festival, there are certain things that you should (and shouldn’t!) do in order to maximise your experience, and so I’ve put together a list of Fallas do’s and don’ts, based on my own experience, to ensure you get everything you possibly can out of Fallas Festival!
Do – Eat more churros and bunuelos than you can physically handle
Everybody knows how delicious churros are, but have you heard of buñuelos?
Buñuelos are the signature snack of Fallas Festival, and while they aren’t great for your waistband (oh sod it, who cares anyway?!), they ARE great for your tastebuds.
A buñuelo is like a little golden doughnut made from pumpkin, deep fried, piping hot and sprinkled with sugar. Much like churros, you can eat buñuelos on their own or dip them into a paper cup of steaming chocolate, and they are an absolute must if you’re in Valencia for Fallas.
You can get both churros and buñuelos from the many street food stands that pop up all around the city, and if you’re spoilt for choice, don’t worry – you can always come back the next day for more!
Don’t – Be afraid to go alone
While Fallas is a community event, you won’t have a problem meeting people to enjoy the experience with. The Spanish are a friendly bunch, and if you manage to partake in the celebrations without coming away with a few new friends, I’d be very surprised!
Do – Explore the city
While it can be temping not to leave the very centre, the Fallas sculptures are all around the city, and you’ll be missing out if you don’t walk around and have a look for some of them! The daytime is the best time to take a stroll around, finding the best sculptures, taking pictures and soaking up the ambience.
The trendy neighbourhood of Ruzafa has a tonne of huge Fallas, and Chinatown (beside the train station) is also great.
Don’t – go to the mascleta if loud bangs make you nervous
I wasn’t kidding when I said that a mascleta is like a warzone. If you’re an adrenaline junkie then dive right in, but if you get even the slightest bit of anxiety about crowds, loud noises, firecrackers being thrown at you etc. then give the mascletas a miss.
Here is a video of a mascleta. Watch until the end to see it in full swing!
Trust me – you’ll be able to hear them just as well from your hotel!
Do – Bring comfortable shoes
You will likely end up doing a tonne of walking during Fallas. I clocked up between 15-20,000 steps every day during the celebrations, and I was a lot lazier than most!
Don’t – Turn up to restaurants without a reservation
Fallas is the busiest time of year in Valencia, and most restaurants are booked out days, if not weeks in advance. If you want any chance of getting a seat, plan accordingly.
With that said, I wouldn’t recommend eating at restaurants during Fallas. The prices are hitched up, the menus are slashed to only offer a small selection of dishes, and you will be rushed out within the hour.
I recommend taking advantage of the cheap street food stands dotted around the city instead.
Pro-tip: if it’s lunch you’re after, we found that a lot of restaurants in Chinatown were open and absolutely deserted. If street food isn’t your thing, I’d head to Chinatown for the best chances of getting a table somewhere.
Do – Give children a wide berth
I mean, you should probably be giving children who you don’t know a wide berth anyway, but you should especially take heed of this during Fallas.
Children as young as 3 will be given fireworks and firecrackers by their amused parents, who stand and watch idly as their little terrors wreak havoc with them.
Trust me, you’ll want to stay well clear of Spanish children during Fallas Festival.
Don’t – Make plans during La Ofrenda
Seriously. During the time that this parade is going on, you will be unable to get from one part of the city to another, and I’m not talking about getting to a different side of the city – I couldn’t walk more than 3 streets away from my house without being blocked.
With that said, another DO would be to make sure you see at least some of the parade. It’s a really special cultural experience, and you can turn up at any time, at any spot and get a feel for what’s happening.
Do – Choose your accommodation wisely
During Fallas, it is impossible to drive in the city (even taxis) and buses also don’t run in the centre. I recommend choosing accommodation in either La Ciutat Vella (the old town) or Ruzafa.
Don’t – Plan to get any work done
If it isn’t the crushing hangover or the deafening mascletas, it will be the sheer tiredness of it all. If you think you can attend Fallas Valencia and just work remotely, you’re wrong. Take the time off and embrace the insanity.
Do – Drink cocktails from the pop-up bars
I always assume that stuff like this is more expensive than regular drinks prices, but in Valencia, it’s cheaper! A (small) can of Amstel cost me 1 EUR, shots of all kind were 1 EUR and cocktails were 5 EUR – bargains!
Don’t – Neglect to plan La Crema
When I attended Fallas, my friends had these wild ideas about watching every big Fallas burn to the ground, running from sculpture to sculpture like some weird kind of superhero.
That isn’t how it works.
The crowds at each Falla are insane, and once you’re there, you’re not going anywhere (think Times Square on NYE, but not quite as bad).
To avoid missing out on everything in your quest to see more than is practical, you should do the following:
– Plan which Falla you want to see beforehand. The ones on the outskirts attract the least crowds so you will get a better view.
– Arrive early. As in, a couple of hours early.
– Bring some booze so that you don’t have to lose your place going in hunt of alcohol.
Do – Bring earplugs
This is pretty self-explanatory.
Don’t – Wear white for La Crema
Myself and my boyfriend both made this mistake and now our clothes are ruined.
Not only does it absolutely rain ash but the fire fighters are spraying water everywhere, even directly into the crowds (to shouts of ‘AGUA, AGUA, AGUA!’), which just kinda cements the ash into whatever you’re wearing.
Oh, and don’t bother straightening your hair either.
Do – Go to the Fallas museum
The Fallas museum (Museo Fallero) is open all year round, and it’s great to go before the festivities begin and learn a bit about the festival, as well as see the ninots that have been saved from previous burnings (remember, 2 Fallas are spared each year).
The Museo Fallero is 2 EUR to enter and is open from Monday-Friday between 10:am and 7:00pm and Sundays between 10:00am and 2:00pm, with final admissions at 1:15pm.
Fallas Valencia | Final Thoughts
So, that just about wraps up my monster guide to Las Fallas Valencia.
Fallas Festival is unlike anything I’ve ever been to, and despite restrictions and curfews meaning that I experienced somewhat of a ‘watered-down’ version of the event, I am still so happy that I was lucky enough to be here in Valencia and experience it.
Fallas Festival is something that everyone should do at least once, and if you have any questions whatsoever then please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask me in the comments below!
*Fallas Valencia usually takes place in March.
If you liked this article and would like to support my work, please click the button above to donate a couple of bucks and buy me a coffee. The ad revenue that I receive on this website is minimal, so support from my readers enables me to keep creating content that you (hopefully!) love to read.
Disclaimer: Travelling Jezebel uses affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase on a recommended site then I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.