Valencia is a city with a strong sense of tradition and community and that is never more obvious than during the many festivals celebrated in Valencia throughout the year.
From colorful parades to solemn processions and from earth-shattering firework displays to quirky flower battles, Valencian festivals are an experience like no other.
Whether they are held in honor of saints or centuries-old traditions, these festivities are a great opportunity to experience the local culture in its purest form.
I strongly encourage you to book your next trip to Valencia around one of these unique celebrations and see for yourself just how amazing festivals in Valencia really are.
Best festivals in Valencia – major festivals you cannot miss
Las Fallas Festival
When: 1st to the 19th of March
Las Fallas is the wildest and craziest festival celebrated in Valencia. It’s also a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. And the largest street party in Europe.
Every March, over 700 papier-mâché art pieces are displayed on the streets of the city. Then, on the last night of the festival, all but two are burned in epic bonfires that reach 20 meters (65 feet) high.
There is no doubt that Las Fallas crowns the list of fun things to do in Valencia. There are daily firecracker shows, music concerts, paella cooking contests, and fire parades. All on a religious backdrop that includes flower offerings to the Virgin Mary and thousands of locals in elaborate silk clothes.
Truth be told, words could never do this festival justice. You simply have to live it to believe it.
Great Valencia Fair
When: 1st of July to the last Sunday of July (1 – 30 of July, 2023)
The Great Valencia Fair brings a full month of celebrations in the form of outdoor concerts, fireworks displays, medieval markets, paella tastings, and more.
The festival was held for the first time some 150 years ago and offers an extensive list of fun activities and cultural events (most of which are free).
Think pop, rock, jazz, and classical music concerts. Alfresco theater plays. A night when the museums are open until dawn. Flamenco shows. Jota performances (a local traditional dance accompanied by castanets). And zarzuela style-operas.
The grand finale takes place on the last Sunday of July with an elaborate parade of colorful floats and an epic flower battle.
Moors and Christians Festival
When: 9th of October
Crack any Spanish history book and you’ll learn pretty quickly that Moors had a foothold in the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. This led to the Spanish Reconquista, a tug of war between Moors and Christians that ended with the victory of the latter.
Today, the battles between the two cultures come to life once more at the Moors and Christians festivals organized all over Spain at different times of the year.
In Valencia, this festival is celebrated on the 9th of October, the Day of the Valencian Community. This is the date King James I officially freed Valencia from Moorish rule all the way back in 1238 and the city commemorates the event with colorful parades and medieval markets.
The 9th of October, however, is a double holiday in Valencia. Besides the Moors and Christians Festival, Valencia also celebrates Lovers Day (similar to Valentine’s Day). Pastry shops all over the city prepare delicious marzipan fruits that are then gifted to the ladies together with a beautiful scarf.
Maritime Holy Week
When: During the week leading up to Easter Sunday (6 – 9 of April, 2023)
Easter in Valencia is no egg hunt. And there are no giant bunnies, chocolate figurines, or fun gifts either. Instead, Easter in Valencia is all about the religious side of the festival.
The Maritime Holy Week (Semana Santa Marinera) takes place during the week leading up to Easter Sunday in the neighborhood of El Cabanyal, a former fishing village.
There are daily religious processions. People in colorful period costumes. Elaborate floats featuring statues of biblical figures. Brass bands and drummers playing mournful music. And evening masses.
The most unusual sight, however, is the religious brotherhoods – men dressed in colorful silky costumes with pointy cone-shaped hoods called capirote. These hoods are historical costumes and a symbol of penance. They date as far back as the Spanish Inquisition when they were used as a form of punishment.
Cavalcade of the Magi
When: 5th of January
The Cavalcade of the Magi is a truly magical parade that takes place on Epiphany Eve (January 5th), also known as the Twelfth Night of Christmas. If you are in Valencia at Christmas you should not miss this parade.
January 5th is without a doubt the most anticipated day of the year for the Valencian children. The gift-bearing Magi arrive by boat, then parade the streets of Valencia in colorful floats. There are also dancers and music bands and the pages throw candy and toys into the crowd along the route.
After the parade, kids are supposed to go to bed early. But not before leaving some cookies and milk (or something stronger) for the Magi and some water for their camels.
The Three Wise Men will come during the night and leave them the gifts they requested in a letter. However, the kids who were naughty during the year will only find some coal-looking candy. As you can imagine, that is a pretty uncommon.
Smaller Valencia festivals you might be interested in
Chinese New Year
In Valencia, the Chinese New Year is welcome with a day full of events, such as Chinese calligraphy and knot making workshops, dances and traditional songs in the City Hall Square. The day concludes with an hour long parade starting from Calle Pelayo and ending in the City Hall Square. The parade features Chinese lions and dragons, floats, pyrotechnics, colorful costumes, traditional dances and martial art demonstrations. They also throw candy into the public. To catch a good spot, arrive at least 30 minutes in advance.
Originally this was an event of small proportions where university students in Valencia would get together to celebrate the arrival of spring with a good plate of paella and beer. Nowadays, however, the Paella Festival has become one of the biggest university events in Europe. Expect food trucks, live music, karaoke contests and lots of paella, beer and sangria. In 2023, the Paella Festival is celebrated on April 21, 22 and 28 and to a smaller extent on January 27 at Marina Beach Club. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Best festivals near Valencia
Besides the above festivals celebrated in Valencia city, there is a myriad of other noteworthy festivals held in the towns and villages nearby. The following are some of the most popular.
- La Tomatina, the world’s most famous tomato fight, is held in the town of Buñol, 40 km inland from Valencia, on the last Wednesday of August (30th of August, 2023).
- Moros y Cristianos de Alcoy (110km south of Valencia) commemorates the battles between the Moors and Christians during the Reconquista. It is the oldest festival of its kind, celebrated around the feast day of St George (end of April, beginning of May) and entails three days of dazzling parades and medieval battle reenactments.
- Muixeranga de Algemesí, declared an Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO and famous for its human pyramids, is celebrated on the 7th and the 8th of September in the town of Algemesí, 36 km south of Valencia.
- The Bonfires of Alicante (Hogueras de San Juan) is another fun festival celebrated south of Valencia, in the coastal city of Alicante. This festival takes place between the 20th and the 24th of June and celebrates the arrival of summer. It is quite similar to Las Fallas from Valencia, featuring cardboard figures, bonfires, firecrackers, and traditional food, but with an accent on beach activities due to the warmer weather.
I hope these great Valencia festivals have captured your imagination and you are ready to experience them for yourself. But don’t forget that festivals in Valencia are always a busy time and it’s best to book your accommodation in advance.