Valencia and Fallas in a Nutshell

"Yo que soy valenciano nativo pero criado fuera [...] y reenganchado en mi ciudad hace 27 años, siempre se la presento a los demás comparándola con Barcelona. Para mi Barcelona es como una Top-Model: espectacular, deslumbrante. Valencia sin embargo es como tu pareja: no llama tanto la atención pero está llena de belleza doméstica, de rincones entrañables, de sitios para sentirte a gusto."—Perroflauteando in comments made here
Amazing light displays like this
going up early each March in Russafa
I've created this page to be a general reference on VALENCIA and FALLAS (the city's famous March 15th-19th festival). Here I offer you a recap of all my past entries on the two, to orient you a bit on what to do while you're here. I always tell visitors that Valencia on Fallas is an entirely different city. To really get to know her you will have to visit here twice, once in March, and again some other time of the year when you'll find the city much more laid-back and easygoing. As the quote above nicely puts it, Barcelona is the top-model, clearly another category of destination, but Valencia is the woman you fall in love with and marry.

First, Valencia, Spain's third largest city...

-----------------VALENCIA, WHAT TO DO AND WHERE TO DO IT-----------------

The Valencia regional flag flowing from atop La Lonja

I encourage you to review my four-part series on Valencia, to look for non-Fallas things to do here while you visit:

1) & 2) In the first two entries I provide you a walking tour of the City Center and the usual (and a few less usual) sights to see there. (When you walk by the Mercat Central, look up and you'll see the Market's Parrot, subject of many fanciful local tales.) I wrap it up with a pass through Valencia's most famous neighborhood, El Carmen, and leave you "a la luna de Valencia" just outside one of Valencia's two city gates.

A la luna de Valencia, outside the Torres de Quart gate

3) I suspect a lot of visitors to Valencia miss seeing its many hidden gems and off-the-beaten path beauty, because their guidebooks only "take a glance" at the city or focus on the usual suspects and leave out its many distinctive and colorful neighborhoods. (I wouldn't want to name names, Damian.) So if you like to see something more local, you might review my entry on Valencia's neighborhoods, port, and playas. To make your walk through El Carmen even more of a hunt, I recommend you read up on Valencia's vibrant street-art scene on my post here. (And if you spot and photograph any additions, please feel encouraged to email me them for my "Viewer's Choice" graffiti discoveries.)

While not in your tour guidebook, this picturesque fruit shop
in the Benimaclet neighborhood is famous enough
to appear in an Almodóvar movie.

4) The jewel of Valencia is its Turia Riverbed Park and all the many (dare I say "iconic"?) spectacles. This feature of Valencia, and this blog entry, are far and away my all-time favorites. So please read this (and share it with others)!

The view into the Turia Riverbed Park from the Pont del Mar pedestrian bridge.

I've also written up two different kinds of tours you can take of Valencia's architectural landmarks:

• Read my Cityscape of Valencia's architectural and urban history to discover its medieval, modernist, and present-day building history
• The Tower Tour of Valencia: Views from the Torre de Serranos, Torre de Quart, and Miguelete.

For some dining recommendations, you can read this guest post I wrote for The Spain Scoop on 5 great restaurants here. (A close friend and blogger, Chic Soufflé subsequently wrote up this great entry, in Spanish, on a variety of wonderful restaurants in Valencia.) Valencia is also a nice place to fill your shopping bags and empty your wallets. So if you like to shop, review these past posts on good places to boutique shop or typical Valencian things to buy.

• Window shopping in Valencia as described by local taste-expert Chic Soufflé
• Ceramics and Socarrats – this is _the_ Valencian (esp. Manisses and Paterna) specialty gift to buy

Hopefully you will be able to enjoy Valencia for its local foods and culture, but if you happen to be missing home, you can check out this two part entry on "hechar de menos" spots in the city for Anglo-expats: part 1 and part 2.

-----------------DAY TRIPS AND FIESTAS AROUND VALENCIA-----------------

If you come here in a car, then there are a lot of towns within a 2-hour drive from Valencia that are worth a visit. While there are many, many more, I can specifically recommend the following day trip for which I've written entries:

• El Saler & L'Albufera
• Linares de Mora
• La Vila Joiosa (guest post for The Spain Scoop)
• Albarracín
... and many others some of which I will be sure to write about soon, such as... Xátiva, Sagunt, Morella, Chulilla...

Regional festivals:
• Moros y cristianos, Alcoy in April
• La Tomatina, Buñol in August
• Festival de Langostina, Vinarós in August

Linares de Mora

-----------------FALLAS, A RECAP OF POSTS-----------------

Having oriented you a bit on Valencia, let me paint for you a broad picture of the most incredible festival in the world, the incredible Valencia festival that is Fallas, March 15th – 19th.

To start, I recommend you review this list glossary of Fallas terms I wrote for another blog, The Spain Scoop, so that you're not lost with all the local festival vocab. (A while back I also discovered this wonderful webpage on the language and local vocab of Fallas.)

In a second entry for The Spain Scoop, I list a schedule of important dates and events.

February 26th (last Sunday of Feb.): La macro despertà (“the awakening,” a collective hand-fireworks event with all the city’s falleros) at 7:30AM on Calle de la Paz, and La Cridà (which means “the call”, the opening ceremonies with all the falleras mayores, followed by a fireworks show) at Torres de Serranos early evening… These two events formally open the Fallas season.
March 1–19th: Each day at 2PM, in the Plaza de Ayuntamiento, a public mascletà is held, a 'symphony of gunpowder'.
March 15th: La plantà, when each neighborhood mounts its falla, officially inaugurating the public viewing and street festivities.

March 16th & 17th:  La ofrenda, falleros from different neighborhoods, at different times and places throughout the afternoon, parade to the Plaza de la Virgen to place their “offering” to the Virgin Mary.

March 16th, 17th, 18th: Castillos, a.k.a. fireworks shows, at midnight to 1AM, or so. The show on the 18th is the big one, called La nit del foc, the night of fire.

March 19th: La nit de la cremà, the night of the burning, when all the falleros across town burn their falla. (In a later entry I’ll explain the traditional procedure and schedule.)

In a third entry for The Scoop, I list some must see fallas:

        Must see fallas:
1) Nou-Campanar – Out of the way, north of the River Turia, but it usually has the biggest budget of all the fallas in the city
2) Sueca – In the Russafa neighborhood
3) Convento-Jerusalén – In the neighborhood just to the west of the North Train Station
4) Ayuntamiento – At the Plaza del Ayuntamiento
5) Na Jordana – At the edges of El Carmen next to the River Turia park 
6) La Mercé – A few blocks away from Valencia's Mercat Central
7) El Pilar – In the neighborhood to the northwest of the North Train Station, not far from the Mercat Central

        Must see light displays*:
1) Sueca
*These are all right next to each other in the Russafa neighborhood, which is why you should go there at night!

A map of the 2014 Special Section Fallas entries, where to find them.

Was walking home from watching the Day 7 mascletà in 2012
and saw this Fallas-themed advert for Amstel beer...
spoofing Chanel No. 5 ads, it says (transl.):
"There is an aroma that deserves to be elevated to the category
of perfume - No. 5 Masclet, Valencia." Hilarious!
These are by no means exclusive. In 2010, one of my favorite Fallas, the Falla Almirante Cadarso, wasn't among these listed above. So every year you have to be sure to see as many as you can, since you never know which falla will shine the brightest. (For a more narrative account of Fallas, check out entry one and entry two of my recollections of Fallas 2010.) I also suggest some "fallas fuel", typical local foods for you to eat while you're in town and wondering the streets. You might review my post on Valencian rice dishes, and the good and bad paellas, so that you can be a discerning paella gourmand. You'll also be catching the tail end of orange season, so eat as many as you can get, or enjoy agua de Valencia! (For orange Valencianicana, including fallera imagery, check out my guest post, in Spanish, for Chic Soufflé on orange crate label advertisements.) And though it is technically not in season, you can probably find someone selling horchata, Valencia's most famous, local drink.

In the fourth entry for The Scoop, I provided a suggested daily itinerary, along with a special schedule for the final day, March 19th, when all the fallas do their cremà:

        A typical Fallas day itinerary (March 15-18):
• Early morning: Sleep in, if you can. On some days you might hear “la despertà” early in the morning, which is when the casals, in full prank mode, parade around their neighborhood at 8AM or so playing music and throwing “masclets,” hand-fireworks which sound like massive bombs when they go off.
• Around noon: Pick a central neighborhood and go for a stroll to see their fallas in the daytime. (This might be a good time to see the out-of-the-way good fallas, like Campanar or Na Jordana.) You also might get a snack (buñuelos?) so that you can make it to a late lunch.
• 2PM: Be at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento to listen to the daily mascletà
• 2:15-4PM: Lunch
• 4-6PM: Take a siesta, because... why not? You’ll want to be rested to stay out late at night when things really pick up
• 6-8PM (March 17th & 18th): Check out the “ofrenda” processions in or on their way to the Plaza de la Virgen. Listen to the music the bands play, since it’s a classic fallas soundtrack.
• 9PM: Get a sandwich (a “blanc i negre”?) for dinner so that you can be back out on the streets to take in the fallas lit up at night.
• 10-12PM (except “La nit de la cremà): Head over to Russafa to see the most impressive light displays
• 12:30-2AM (depending on the night): Line up somewhere along the River Turia to watch the "castillo" fireworks show
• 2AM onward: Continue strolling through the downtown streets? Things will be pretty active well until 4AM.

For the night of March 19th, la nit de la cremà, review the fourth post at The Scoop or my earlier Fallas teaser post where I discuss the sequence for burning fallas across town. Pick one of your favorite fallas and go there in the evening (10-12:30PM) to watch them burn. To get into the spirit of it all ahead of time, I recommend you listen to "Paquito el Xocolatero", a classic song played during Valencian festivities.

La ofrenda at the Plaza de la Virgen on March 17th and 18th

Falleros and their friends and families will be practically living at the falla,
cooking meals together such as the Valencian staple, paella valenciana

A lot of effort goes into the fallero/fallera outfits, kids too.
So the desfile (parade) to the Virgin is fun to watch

And there are all the exhibits and museums on Fallas, too:
• Museo Fallero [Official museum of the history of this festival]
• Museo del Gremio de Artistas fallero [A museum slash workshop dedicated to the artists who create the fallas]
• La Fundación Cajamurcia: "Falles de València en blanc i negre" (Temporary exhibit: until May 4, 2012) [Photo history of past Fallas]
• El Museo de la Ciudad de Valencia: "El traje de valenciana: Evolución" (Temporary exhibit: until April 30, 2012) [Exposición of past fallera outfits]

Fallas is a total festival with many elements to it. I've lived here many years, been to many Fallas, and am still learning about all the time, work, and heart that goes into making it happen each year. If you're curious about this next level of understanding Valencia's most beloved festival, I direct you to some other things I've written about it... such as this interview with Manolo García, a reputable artist fallero, on the work behind the central art monuments... this entry about Valencia's broader graphic arts culture... or this online article about the three main industries—indumentaria, pirotecnia, and artistas falleros—behind Fallas... Still want more? Don't worry! I'm on it. My hope is to continue collecting new angles on this rich, diverse, and truly fun annual event.

Check back here each year for more!

-----------------VALENCIA, FURTHER RESOURCES-----------------

There are a lot of great online resources for visitors looking to learn about Valencia and its local expat community. Here I'm going to add, for your reference, some other sites about the city that I have discovered over the years and which I think offer a nice orientation to Valencia:

• Hola Valencia Blog – Dormant, but still excellent blog on Valencia
• InVLC Magazine – Bimonthly magazine targeted to expat community in Valencia
• Valencia Connect – Bimonthly magazine targeted to expat community in Valencia
• 24/7 Valencia – Monthly magazine targeted to expat community in Valencia
• DolceCity Valencia [Spanish language] – A great blog on restaurants and shops around the city
• Agenda Urbana [Spanish Language] – Great source for all events and happenings in Valencia
• La Valencia desaparecida [Spanish Language] – A really fun blog project, posting then and now photos of places around town
• Valencia City Guide – Website in the format of a standard city tourism guide (has nice walking itineraries)
• Valencia Travel Guide – Website in the format of a standard city tourism guide (the "Valencia recipes" section impressed me despite a few possible minor discrepancies)
• Vivir Valencia [Spanish Language] – A mix between a city visitor's guide and a source for events and happenings in Valencia
• Love Valencia [Spanish Language] – A mix between a city visitor's guide and a great source for events and happenings in Valencia
• Guía de arquitectura de Valencia [Spanish Language] – Comprehensive list of buildings/sights with descriptions of their architectural features and histories.
• Benimaclet Entra [Spanish Language] – Neighborhood community website which lists the latests events and happenings in Benimaclet

This page is a work in progress. I'll return here from time to time to update it, add more linkbacks to entries on Valencia's many charms, hidden gems, and regional advantages, with the idea that it will serve as a reference linked to from a button on the left column of the blog. So this page is my homage to the city, to its most famous festival, and to its regional splendor. My hope is that, with time, it will help convert its readers to my belief that this is an incredible place, well worth visiting for all tourists who come to Spain!

The most obvious draw for Valencia regional tourism are its many beautiful beaches.

-- Please email or tweet me, or comment below if you have any other recommendations. --
--- Thank you! ---

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