Spain has a rich history and vibrant culture. From dazzling bonfires at Valencia's Las Fallas festival to tomato throwing at La Tomatina, here are some of Spain's most popular festivals. Depending on when you visit, you might be lucky to experience these festivities for yourself.
1. Las Fallas
Las Fallas is Valencia's biggest festival. It's celebrated every March in honour of the city's patron saint, San José. It also marks the beginning of spring. Locals take to the streets with giant paper mache figures representing famous and traditional figures which are then burned in huge bonfires across the city. Expect a whole week of fun, frivolity and late-night parties.
2. La Tomatina
Every August, the usually sleepy city of Buñol welcomes 20,000 people for one of the world's biggest food fights, AKA La Tomatina. Festival goers cram into the street to pelt truckloads of tomatoes at each other. This event gives a whole new meaning to painting the town red.
3. Semana Santa
As a predominantly Catholic country, Easter is a big deal in Spain. Semana Santa (Holy Week) is a week-long religious event that takes place at the end of Lent. Traditions vary across the regions, but they typically involve float processions by the local brotherhoods, marching bands and indulgent feasts. Traditional sweets including torrijas (fried sweet bread) are also eaten during Semana Santa.
4. Sitges Carnival
The coastal city of Sitges is one of Spain’s most LGBTQIA+ friendly destinations. Every February, 250,000 people flock to Sitges to enjoy a week of carnival celebrations similar to what you'd find at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Expect outlandish outfits, brilliant buskers, street parties and extravagant floats.
5. Fiesta de San Isidro
Madrid's Fiesta de San Isidro is held in honour of San Isidro Labrador, the city's patron saint. The festival has also evolved into a celebration of the city's culture, both old and new. Locals embark on a pilgrimage to the Hermitage of San Isidro, people dance the chotis in traditional costumes, and friends and families gather to enjoy picnics and open-air street concerts.
6. Feria de Abril
Feria de Abril (Seville April Fair) started out as a livestock fair in 1847, and has grown into a week-long celebration of Andalucían culture. Expect lots of sherry, feasting, flamenco dancing and horse-drawn carriages carting traditionally dressed locals around the city. The festival ends with a dazzling firework display above Seville.
7. Semana Grande
Held every August, Semana Grande (Big Week) is one of Basque Country‘s most anticipated events. This nine-day festival honours the Virgen de Begoña and is also a celebration of Basque culture, with folk music and dancing, giant puppet parades and children’s workshops. There are also several friendly competitions including wood chopping and stone lifting.
8. Haro Wine Festival
Haro is similar to La Tomatina, except instead of throwing tomatoes, you throw wine! Thousands of people gather in white shirts every year on 29 June to hurl red wine over each other with water pistols, hoses and other vessels. It doesn’t take long until the crowd transforms into a sea of purple. Be warned: this is not a spectator sport!
9. Fiesta De La Merce
Barcelona's Fiesta de la Mercè is held in honour of the city’s patron saint, Our Lady of Mercy. During this five-day event, street parties, art, music and puppet parades pop up all over the city. Plaça de Catalunya and Plaça Sant Jaume have some of the liveliest festivities with free concerts and firework displays.
10. Pride Madrid
Madrid hosts one of Europe's biggest Pride events. As well as an amazing parade, expect a jam-packed week of free concerts, high-heel races and street parties in the colourful neighbourhood of Chueca.
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