Who knew that a fiesta can be so valuable that it deserves a Unesco World Heritage nomination, but that’s what the Fallas fiesta in Valencia, Spain has achieved. The carnival, held annually from end of February to mid-March, is a massive (even in fiesta-crazy Spain) celebration of spring. Here is what goes on during the festivities.
The highlights of the loud and long-lasting fiesta are fireworks (every day at least once), unofficial street performances by local people, and giant sculptures that swarm the streets in the city center until they are burned.
Every day during the (Spanish) lunch hour a huge amount of firecrackers and fireworks are blown into air in the town hall square. The result is a thick wall of smoke that covers the plaza, but nonetheless, it is a popular event. Fortunately, fireworks are organized in evenings as well.
Moving around in the city center during fiesta nights is full of surprises. At a square, folk dancers may be performing in traditional costumes, or a street band is playing tunes that invite passersby and customers from bars and restaurants to dance on the street.
Giant sculptures swarm the streets in city center on 16th March until they are burned on the 19th. The big-headed puppets represent politicians, artists, celebrities or practically anything.
Giant sculptures waiting to be burned. Photo copyright TVCB, Valencia. Todos los derechos reservados. www.turisvalencia.es.
The hotels are packed during Fallas, so reservations have to be made months before, or alternatively, consider finding a room in the outskirts of the city. In the city center, loud street parties can go on all night which may not please everyone. Driving to the city center when a scheduled event is expected is practically impossible and useless because of lack of parking space. Police is directing traffic away from blocked streets well before the events. Public transportation, cycling or walking are the transport methods that locals favor.
Although the main events are held during March 15th-19th, Fallas starts weeks before that. Full program can be viewed here.
The origins of the Fallas are fires that craftsmen used to burn outside their workshops in Valencia. To feed the fire, the artisans threw in chips of wood along with junk collected from the neighborhood. When rags and a hat were added to the object to be burned, the Ninot figure (giant puppet) was born.