Bachhus Falla Valencia

Las Fallas – Lively Streets and Good Eats

The lights, the noise, the impressive statues, the FIRE…Las Fallas proves that Valencians know how to throw one hell of a party. If you´re planning to be in Valencia to take part in this massive fiesta, then you’re already ahead of the game. But, where do you go? What are the major highlights? Here´s an inside look at how to make the most out of Las Fallas by checking out different neighborhoods around the city.

Falla Statue Canovas

Falla Statue in Canovas

Before you step into the madness you may ask, why do they bust their butts all year long to create these beautiful statues, just to burn them to ashes on March 19th? If you ask a Valencian, they´ll answer, “So we can build new ones next year!” But, another theory lies within the history of the artisan culture in Valencia. To celebrate their patron, Saint Joseph, it is said that the guild of carpenters would clean out their workshops of old scraps and rubbish each spring and burn them in large bonfires to make space and honor their patron saint in a metaphorical rebirth. Over the years the scrap materials used to create little figurines morphed into satirical portrayals of politicians, current events, pop culture, and absolute absurdity that you will see to this day on a much grander scale. Flash-forward to 2016…Were those boobs I just saw? Yes, yes they were.

Las Fallas takes place every year from March 15—19 but that doesn’t stop the Valencians from making smoke all month long leading up to the main event. The Mascletá is held every day at 2:00 PM in the city hall square, La Plaza de Ayuntamiento.  This spectacular fireworks display may leave you scratching your head and wondering why it´s in the middle of the sunny Spanish day. The intrigue isn’t in the color folks, it’s in the BOOM! These strung-up, seemingly discreet, firecrackers aim to stimulate the body through strong rhythmic sounds gradually ascending to create a dramatic finale that will leave your heart pounding and your ears ringing.

Expect to see substantial crowds, especially up to an hour before and directly after the famous Mascletá. Keep your valuables at home and be aware of your belongings at all times. Professional thieves roam around crowds and on public transport to take advantage of unsuspecting people with loose pockets and easy to snag bags.

Falla Statue

Falla Statue

Don´t forget that if you plan to sit down for lunch it´s best to make a reservation as restaurants tend to fly at maximum capacity during Fallas and wait times will be long.

Leading away from la plaza de Ayuntamiento on Calle de Correos you´ll find modernist QuiQue DaCosta’s gastrobar Vuelve Carolina. If sitting down for lunch isn´t your speed and you prefer to grab something on the go, there will be plenty of food stands and establishments that setup grab and go windows just outside their cafés for patrons to grab a bocadillo and beer and continue roaming through the city. Fun fact, the law for open containers, aka drinking alcohol in public, is completely overlooked during the festivities. You´ll find everyone young and old carrying around boozy bebidas. ¡No pasa nada!

Mojito stand Fallas

Mojito stand during Fallas in Valencia

Moving north from Ayuntamiento you´ll find Plaza de la Reina. Tucked in the corner of this plaza is Santa Catalina, one of Valencia´s oldest horchaterias famous for their sweet, milky beverage made from the chufa plant. If you´re not in the mood for something sweet, check out El Rall for typical Spanish cuisine, or enjoy a drink and tapa on the large terrace of gastrobar Pico Fino and you´ll catch a glimpse of the parading falleros in the afternoon and evenings of March 17th and 18th.

The honor of parading in the Ofrenda, or offering of flowers to the patroness saint of Valencia, in Plaza de la Virgen is an emotional one for many falleros.  Stop for a bit to enjoy the lively music of each Fallas´ band and admire the beautiful silk gowns of the falleras, but don´t be surprised if you see a few tears as they catch the first glimpse of the giant wooden framed virgin in the square behind the cathedral. Her gown is intricately comprised solely of flowers so it´s best to go when it´s nearly finished for the full effect.

Paella during Fallas

Making paella in the street during Fallas

If you want to explore more fallas in the old town “casco antiguo,” we recommend checking out El Pilar in the cramped plaza of the same name, El Mercado Central, next to the central market and hotspot for Food Trucks Valencia, and Na Jordana along the north bend of the riverbed. Wandering through Barrio del Carmen is never a bad idea because you´re sure to stumble upon cool bars and a lively street atmosphere.

Just south of Plaza de Ayuntamiento, you´ll find the North Train Station. (I know, makes sense doesn’t it?) A few streets to the west of the train station you´ll bump into an open air market to pick up some fallas mementos like the typical blue plaid scarf worn by falleros, as well as a notable falla called Convento Jerusalem. If you really want to be like the cool kids, pick up some fire crackers known as petardos from a shop on the way. They have intensities from “pop” to heart pounding “bang” and Valencian kids love to throw them near unsuspecting victims for a surprising jolt.

Grill Master near Station North

Grilling meat near the North Train Station

Heading further south across the Gran Via you´ll find the barrio de Ruzafa. We recommend checking out this area at night so you don’t miss the illuminated streets of Cuba, Sueca, Literato Azorín and Puerto Rico. The light displays are seriously spectacular, leaving passersby wondering how neighbors sleep with all the light and commotion. Don’t worry, they don’t!  Many high-tail it out of town and rent out their apartments to visitors and tourists to avoid the all hours, rambunctious party. The fallas in this area are known to host verbenas or open block parties with lively music and discounted drinks to raise money for their falla the following year. If you´re in the area for dinner, duck into El Almacén for funky, hip tapas or Osteria Vino e Cucina for a glass of vino and authentic Italian comfort food. After dinner, don´t miss a chance to try the infamous buñuelo made with real pumpkin. These fried dough balls covered in sugar are the favorite of many Valencians. Don’t trust pop up food stands? El Contraste Buñoleria in Ruzafa has been making mouthwatering, fresh buñuelos daily since the late 19th century.

Light display Fallas

Light display during Fallas in Ruzafa

To the southeast of the city center is the posh, upscale neighborhood around El Mercado de Colon. The Mercado boasts an open air space filled with cafes and restaurants to chill out and rest your feet from walking all day. If you´re in the mood for something different, stop into Ma Khin café for Mediterranean-Asian fusion, on the lower level of the market.

Continuing across Gran via Marqués del Turia, next to the riverbed park, you´ll find the neighborhood commonly known as Canovas. This neighborhood is teeming with restaurants and nightlife to please even the choosiest foodies. For chic, Valencian cuisine check out Saiti. Mood Food serves up fusion-y tapas with options that speak to the veggie friendly soul and the rustic Bar Ché offers authentic, simple Basque style tapas. Walking towards Ruzafa, La Llorona cooks up authentic Mexican with a kick and their margaritas can´t be beat. If you´re looking for something more Iberian, we recommend Dos Estaciones for the stellar service and modern Spanish cuisine. If you´re having dinner in the area, make sure you walk over to the riverbed for the fireworks display each night on paseo de la Alameda starting on March 15 at midnight.

Fallas statue near Ayuntamiento

Fallas statue near Ayuntamiento

To round out our fallas recommendations, no trip to Valencia is complete without a stroll along the Mediterranean. Head out to the beach area of Malvarrosa and bask in the Spanish sun with some cold sangria and a savory paella at Casa Carmela. For authentic Spanish tapas and an unbelievable selection of vino, wet your palate at Casa Montaña.

Whether you came into town for the day, or you live in Valencia year round, Las Fallas is hard to avoid this time of year, and why would you want to? Watching the city aflame (on purpose) for the “Cremá”, or burning of the fallas, on March 19th is pretty incredible. Enjoy the party kids, come March 20th it’s like it never even happened.

For a map of Fallas, click here.

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Fantastic read Marissa! We’ll be taking on your top tips!

  2. Oh man! This makes me want to go to Fallas so badly! I would totally want to eat at all the pop up shops 😀

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