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 papier-mâché 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 19th-century mansions have been converted into Hospes Palau de la Mar (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 in the buzzing neighborhood of Ruzafa.
What Else? Be sure to visit the City of Arts and Sciences, an eye-popping ensemble of futuristic museums and cultural venues—it served as the utopian backdrop to the 2015 Disney film Tomorrowland— designed by Valencia-born architect Santiago Calatrava and the late Félix Candela.
This article originally appeared in the February/March 2017 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Playing with Fire”).