Las Fallas: One of the Best Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

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There are many amazing Spanish festivals, but one of the most incredible festivals in Spain is relatively unknown to the outside world. It’s Las Fallas in Valencia and we think it’s the best festival in Spain. After you see these pictures, perhaps you’ll think so too.

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banner cover Las Fallas - Best Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain

Las Fallas: The Best Festival in Spain

In mid-March 2016, we experienced our first Las Fallas in Valencia, Spain. It is easily one of the best festivals in Spain, but for some reason doesn’t get the same attention as other Spanish festivals.

Haven’t heard of the Las Fallas festival in Spain? You’re not alone. I hadn’t either until we started looking into making Valencia our home. It’s funny: lots of people know about other Spanish festivals like the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Many others know about Tomatina, as well. This city-wide tomato-throwing Spanish festival happens every summer in Buñol, a small town just outside of Valencia. That 24-hour food fight gets more overseas press than the week-long spectacle of Las Fallas. Yet after seeing Las Fallas for myself,  I can’t comprehend why.

Here are some pictures and short descriptions to of just some of what happens at Las Fallas: the best festival in Spain.

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Las Fallas: The Most Elaborate Spanish Festival

 Dionyseus. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

Ask most travelers about Las Fallas, and you might get a blank stare. Wondering what Spanish festival I’m rambling on about? Look at the images here. Las Fallas is all about beauty, art, and combustibles. That’s right: Las Fallas isn’t just the most beautiful Spanish festival, it’s also the loudest. More on that later.

You will see hundreds of ornate statues in the streets around Valencia during Las Fallas. Local artisans worked on them over the entire year. Some are the size of dolls, while others are life-size human figures. The biggest reach five or six stories tall. After they are completed, their creators take them apart, haul them into the city, and then reassemble them in major intersections around town.

After about a week on display, they are burned to the ground. All but one, actually. Locals vote on one of the smaller ones to be spared from the flames. This lucky statue moves to the local Las Fallas museum.

Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE
Romans. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE
mad scientist. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

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What to do during Las Fallas in Valencia with kids

Las Fallas originates back in the Middle Ages, partly as a way to burn up items the community no longer needed. Over time, the scrap wood was arranged into statues that became a way to satirize local politicians and cultural trends. I could write about all of the history and context of this Spanish festival — and I’m sure I will in the future. However, this post is really just to show you the spectacle of it all. There are many things happening around the town during the Las Fallas.

Mascletàs: Spanish festivals don’t get louder

mascleta Las Fallas - Best Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain

On the days leading up to the big burning, there are huge firework displays known as mascletà. These take place at 2:00 pm in front of city hall every afternoon leading up to the final night.

This is where the best festival in Spain also becomes the loudest. That white thing in my hand in the image above? That’s a firecracker. Each one of these could blow a mailbox to bits. Now, look at how many there are hanging in front of me. This is just one of many small displays in our neighborhood.

The point of these fireworks are not to dazzle with color — it’s daytime, after all. No, the goal here is volume, and it is LOUD. We stood six blocks away and it was almost unbearable. It’s so loud that pregnant women are not allowed near it.

The sounds hit you in the rib cage. I’m surprised windows don’t shatter. We didn’t see anything but smoke, but we sure felt it, and so did those around us. If you attend this, bring earplugs or headphones for the kids. Locals don’t wear them but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

mascleta crowd. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

Nit Del Foc: Light up the sky

The explosions don’t stop there. Every night during Las Fallas there is a firework display, called Nit Del Foc (Night of Fire). These fireworks are the bright and colorful kind, and they light up the night sky.

The actual Las Fallas fireworks are lit at Paseo de la Alameda, near the Puente del Flores (flower bridge), but you can see them from a kilometer in each direction. Many people just stand in Turia park or the many bridges over it.

Late nights, bright lights: The best festival in Spain

For the first two days of Las Fallas, the fireworks usually started around midnight, which is when many locals have just finished eating dinner and are just hanging out. For the third day, the Las Fallas fireworks are a little later, like 1:00 am. On the last day, it might not start until 1:30 am! We would have never considered keeping the kids up this late anywhere else. But then again, this is a Spanish festival, and this is Spain.

There are families everywhere at 1 am — even with babies and little kids. If you come to the Las Fallas festival, remember that you’re witnessing one of the best festivals in Spain. Let the kids live the Spanish life for a bit, and let the little ones stay up late. They’ll be so many fireworks going off, you might not be able to sleep anyway.

Speaking of little ones, expect to see kids of all ages lighting their own firecrackers during Las Fallas. You’ll see kids running around with their own box of firecrackers. They throw them here and there, lighting the fuses with what looks like a piece of smoldering rope.

It can be startling, especially for tourist and people like us who aren’t used to sudden explosions near our feet. There are pop, bangs, and booms at all hours of the day and night. All week. It sounds like a war zone — well, what I imagine a war zone to sound like, anyway.

Tunnel Vision: Las Fallas

 Russafa light tunnel. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

Russafa lights. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

Some districts of town are decorated as ornately as the statues, as well. Several streets are decorated top to bottom with colorful lights in different shapes and designs. In the Russafa neighborhood especially, these glittering walls transform an average-looking street into a beautiful tunnel of light.

Las Fallas Festival Food

sausages. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

Food vendors are everywhere and set up on the streets selling things like sandwiches, sausages ice cream and olives (not mixed together of course). We’ve seen vendors like these at a number of local festivals, but there are even more at Las Fallas. The prices go up during this, so if you want to save some cash, then eat before you head out to those areas. It’s easy to get hungry passing by these stalls.

Churros and Buñuelos: Las Fallas Festival in Spain

Churros. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

The main items for sale on the street are churros and buñuelos: deep fried doughnut-like pastries. These are often dipped into a hot chocolate mixture so thick that a plastic spoon would stand straight up in it. Both of the kids are huge fans.

The stands start showing up on street corners at the beginning of Las Fallas. Some are just a small truck or a covered stall attached to an existing cafe. Others are huge and elaborate stands with glass cases full of different flavors, colors and accompanying drinks like horchata. When Las Fallas is over, theses stands disappear overnight.

Essential Las Fallas Food: Paella

Paella in the street. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

paella gofres Las Fallas - Best Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain

You can’t talk about Spanish festivals without mentioning paella, the Spanish rice dish that originated here in Valencia. Local communities will be cooking paella on the street everywhere. Some streets are even shut down while its residents set up bonfires on the pavement and cook their dinner in the street.

Candy!

If you want something sweeter, there is plenty of candy available, as well.

Candy. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

cotton candy - Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

Valencian Beauty: The Falleras of Las Fallas

Another aspect of Las Fallas is the Falleras: local girls who compete to become the Queen and Princess of each year’s festival.

falleras. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE
 Falleras. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

Both the falleras and hundreds of other locals dress in exquisite Spanish traditional clothing, with the women’s hair in beautiful braids and buns. Even the combs used to keep their hair in place are incredible.

Gold comb. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE
Falleras back. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

La Cremà: The Pinnacle of the Best Festival in Spain

On the final night, firemen burn the statues while the crowd watches. The flames consume them, reducing them to ash and embers in what seems like minutes. After that, only embers remain. This is where this goes from just another of the Spanish festivals into the best of the festivals in Spain. Here’s one of the major Fallas installations before the flames.

Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

And here it is burning:

Crema.Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

By sunrise the next morning, the streets are cleaned, the buses start running and the town looks as if Las Fallas never happened. When we were was heading back home after watching one of the Crema, we saw city workers already cleaning up the ashes. I also spotted one corner where there were several churro stands and large statues just a few hours before. It was completely cleaned. Was there really a Spanish festival happening here hours ago?

I’ve only explained a fraction of the spectacle that is this amazing Spanish festival. And I’ve barely scratched the surface of what Las Fallas is really about. But I hope that these pictures help you see it in a way that words simply can’t.

fallera girl. Las Fallas: The Best of the Spanish Festivals — Festivals in Spain on FIRE

Have you been to Las Fallas? Do any Spanish Festivals compare?

Have you been to any festivals in Spain? What do you think are the most well-known Spanish festivals? If you have gone, which Spanish festivals did you like best? What did I leave out? Have you been to other festivals in Spain that are such a spectacle? What other festivals in Spain come close?

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Comments

  1. I’ve seen the post has been recently updated. Are you back in Spain?

  2. Sounds intense Jason. Literally! So much noise and funky type of parade to boot. Definitely worth a visit as I love off the beaten path spots.

    Ryan

  3. Too much beautiful and detailed work burned! I would love to see it.

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