Va­len­cia’s fiery Las Fal­las.

DestinAsian - - DEPARTMENTS - —James Louie

Nowhere else in Spain wel­comes the ar­rival of spring quite like the Mediter­ranean port of Va­len­cia, where the five days lead­ing up to March 19 merge into one city-wide street party known as Las Fal­las. What be­gan in me­dieval times as a se­ries of bon­fires mark­ing the Feast of St. Joseph—the pa­tron saint of car­pen­ters—has evolved into a far more elab­o­rate af­fair, with cos­tume pa­rades, food and drinks ven­dors, and hun­dreds of tow­er­ing, com­i­cal pa­pier­mâché ef­fi­gies ( fal­las) that are set alight on the fes­ti­val’s cli­mac­tic night. And they’re not the only things to burn: young and old alike toss fire­crack­ers in the streets, while crowds throng the plaza out­side City Hall to watch the mas­cletà, an ear-split­ting bar­rage of py­rotech­nics held ev­ery after­noon. Last Novem­ber, Las Fal­las was granted “in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage” sta­tus by UNESCO, giv­ing Va­len­cians yet an­other rea­son to cel­e­brate. Where to Stay A short stroll from the city’s his­toric cen­ter, two ad­join­ing 19th­cen­tury man­sions have been con­verted into Hospes Palau de la Mar ( hospes.com; dou­bles from US$135), with 66 rooms done up in a in a clean, con­tem­po­rary style. Don’t Miss Va­len­cia is the birth­place of paella, one of Spain’s most fa­mous dishes. For a taste of the clas­sic recipe, which fea­tures chicken, rab­bit, snails, and flat beans, head to Casa Roberto ( casaroberto.es) in the buzzing neigh­bor­hood of Ruzafa. What Else? Be sure to visit the City of Arts and Sci­ences ( cac.es), an eye-pop­ping en­sem­ble of fu­tur­is­tic mu­se­ums and cul­tural venues—it served as the utopian back­drop to the 2015 Dis­ney film To­mor­row­land— de­signed by Va­len­cia­born ar­chi­tect San­ti­ago Cala­trava and the late Félix Can­dela.

A falla goes up in flames around mid­night on March 19, at the close of Va­len­cia’s big­gest an­nual fes­ti­val.

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