Exploring Valencia during the Fallas Festival

While we were planning our trip to Spain, we decided to visit Valencia after our stays in Madrid and Alarcon. While looking up hotels, we were oddly surprised by how expensive the rooms were for a random night in March. Upon further investigation we discovered that the dates we had chosen fell during the Fallas Festival. Upon even further investigation of what the Fallas Festival was, we decided to extend our stay by a day to see it through to its conclusion. What is the Fallas Festival you may be wondering?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. After leaving our luxurious castle room in Alarcon after two very relaxing days (we were worn out after all the walking we did in Madrid) we jumped in the car and drove about 2 hours to Valencia. The drive wasn’t very exciting, we had a picnic lunch at a service station about halfway and arrived in to the hotel mid-afternoon. We parked our car underground across from the hotel (where it would stay the entire time) and checked into our room. This hotel stay was at SH Valencia Palace and we booked it using Chase points. After staying at a REAL castle, I was very disappointed this wasn’t an actual palace. But it was right across from the dry riverbed that runs through Valencia and close to the old town so it was very convenient! We also had two queen beds in our room which if you’re a married couple you know is actually goals.

After unpacking we headed out into the city and got our first taste of the Fallas Festival in all it’s glory, and it was still daylight! So what is the Fallas Festival? It’s a celebration of the end of winter and a welcoming of spring. It takes place every year from March 1-19 and every district of the city builds a “ninot” which are giant papier mache-esque sculptures that might have started as bonfires thrown together by carpenters but they have evolved into millions of euros worth of artistry.

The finale of the Fallas Festival is the burning of the ninots on the night of March 19th. But throughout the festival people light off firecrackers and fireworks pretty much all day. We did notice that there appeared to be a sort of “ceasefire” between about 2am and 8am which was nice. Every evening the city puts on a fireworks display. And by evening, I mean at 1am. You can tell you’re in Europe when there’s a city-run fireworks display happening at 1am!

The first night we wandered all over the old part of Valencia, had some dinner on the street at a kebab shop and then some drinks at a bar while we waited for the fireworks. Finally it was 1am and we wandered down to a bridge and watched the fireworks which were very impressive! Thankfully we weren’t too far from our hotel to get to bed afterwards.

Staying up until 2am meant a lie-in and then we headed out to explore Valencia properly in daylight. We first headed to the Quart Towers which are an old medieval entrance to the city before finding a random church down a side street where we could pay 2 euro to go up a tower that gave great views of the city. We then tried to go to the town square to see the musculetta which happens at 2pm every day. It’s basically where thousands of firecrackers are set off and is apparently very impressive to see. We couldn’t get anywhere close to the square so we didn’t SEE it but we certainly HEARD it, and for how loud it was from two blocks away I can’t imagine the sound being right up at it. We actually both started wearing earplugs almost the entire time after our initial walk around the city because the firecrackers are so loud in the tight and narrow streets.

That evening my parents arrived from Scotland so after they settled in we headed out to have dinner. Now I don’t know if it was because it was a Saturday or if it was because of the festival but everywhere we went was either closed or closing soon, and Spaniards are famous for eating late so we didn’t think anything strange about heading out for dinner after 9pm. In the end we waited in line at a very busy gas station and bought a baguette, some cheese and some ham and had sandwiches on a bench. Not great, but certainly memorable! From there we again went to watch the 1am fireworks and then went to bed.

The next day we got up and headed out for some breakfast at the market nearby before walking over to the City of Arts & Sciences which is a group of futuristic looking buildings that host a museum, an IMAX theatre and the aquarium. We opted to do the aquarium and it was really good! We typically don’t do aquariums because of their reputations but we researched this one and they are a rehabilitation aquarium so we thought it was okay.

After a couple hours of rest we headed out to see the finale of the Fallas Festival which started with the burning of the “child” ninots which are the smaller of the set. This happens at 8pm and then 2 hours later they burn the large ones. After watching them burn the small one, we headed back to our hotel for drinks until 10pm but around 9:30pm everyone but me decided they didn’t want to go so off I went by myself. And it was definitely worth it.

The burning of the small ninot was cool but the large one was a whole show and when it went up it was really impressive. It also seemed like they were staggering the burning of the ninots as on my walk back to the hotel I saw other ones not lit yet. Once I got back to the hotel we all went to bed since we had an early-ish start the next morning to drive to Barcelona!

If we had the opportunity to go back to Valencia I definitely would, but probably not during the Fallas Festival. It was a cool thing to experience once but it was also loud and busy pretty much all the time so we didn’t get to experience a lot of the city itself. But as a one time thing the Fallas Festival and especially the ninots and the burning of them, was one of the coolest experiences ever.

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