Spain has a rich history and diverse culture, and many centuries-old festivals and traditions are upheld today. From dazzling firecrackers and bonfires at Valencia's Las Fallas festival to open-air street concerts at Fiesta de San Isidro in Madrid, here are some of the most popular festivals and events in Spain. If you time your trip well, you might be lucky to experience some of them for yourself!
1. Las Fallas
Las Fallas is Valencia's biggest festival. It's celebrated every March in honour of San José (Saint Joseph), the patron saint of Valencia, and also to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Valencia is a fairly quiet city compared to Madrid and Barcelona, but not during Las Fallas. Expect a whole week of fun, frivolity and extensive late-night partying featuring a sizzling cacophony of colourful firecrackers, smoky bonfires, roaring rockets and massive effigies.
2. La Tomatina
Every August, the usually sleepy city of Buñol welcomes 20,000 people into its streets for one of the world's biggest food foods with, you guessed it, tomatoes. Truckloads of them! La Tomatina draws in locals, travellers and tourists from far and wide to pelt tomatoes at friends and strangers. Mad, (very) messy and memorable, La Tomatina is undoubtedly one of Spain's most unique festivals.
3. Semana Santa
As a predominantly Catholic country, Easter is a huge deal in Spain. But even if you’re not a believer, the Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a fascinating event to experience. Each region has its own unique traditions, but they all involve lavish processions, incredible outfits and indulgent spreads of food including torrijas (fried sweet bread).
4. Sitges Carnival
The coastal city of Sitges is one of Spain’s most LGBT-friendly destinations. Every February, 250,000 people flock to Sitges to enjoy a week-long extravaganza including parades, drag shows and colourful street parties where you can eat, drink and dance into the night. It’s one of the oldest carnivals in Catalonia, and one of Spain’s most beloved events. Rock up in your most outrageous gear – anything goes at Sitges Carnival!
5. Fiesta de San Isidro
Fiesta de San Isidro is Madrid’s largest festival to honour San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of Madrid who was believed to be a miracle worker in the 12th century. Over the years, the festival has evolved into an all-encompassing celebration of Madrid’s traditions and modern culture, from folk music and dancing to delicious street food. Locals embark on a pilgrimage to the Hermitage of San Isidro, people dance the chotis in traditional costumes, and friends and family gather at open-air street concerts to party long after the sun goes down.
6. Feria de Abril
Fiera de Abril, or the April Fair of Seville, is a week-long fair featuring a dizzying display of everything Andalucía is famous for. It started in 1847 as a livestock fair, and has grown into one of the most anticipated events of the year. Expect lots of sherry, flamenco dancing and horse-drawn carriages carrying people dressed in traditional costumes. There are also lots of casetas, or tents, set up where locals eat, drink and get merry. Many tents are private and require an invite to enter, but there are a few public ones where travellers can join in the fun.
7. Semana Grande
Semana Grande is one of the most significant cultural festivals in the Basque region in northern Spain. Held every August in Bilbao, this nine-day festival celebrates the uniqueness of Basque culture from traditional music and food to giant puppet parades. There's also several friendly competitions including wood chopping, strength and firework contests. The end of the festival is marked by the burning of a giant statue of Marijana, the festival’s mascot.
8. Haro Wine Festival
Every summer the Spanish town of Haro in the heart of La Rioja Province explodes into a wine war. Join thousands of wine lovers as unforgiving residents pump thousands of litres of booze out of water pistols, hoses and other vessels in this grand example of wine warfare – don’t worry, the fruit used didn’t make the cut for bottling. It doesn’t take long until the crowd transforms into a sea of purple. Be warned: no one is spared – this is not a spectator sport!
9. Fiesta De La Merce
Barcelona is one of Spain’s most bustling cities, but every September it takes it up a notch with the annual Fiesta de la Mercè – a massive street party to celebrate the city’s patron saint, Our Lady of Mercy. Parties, street art, music and puppet parades pop up all over the city, but some of the liveliest fiestas take place in Plaça de Catalunya and Plaça Sant Jaume where you can enjoy brilliant free concerts and dazzling firework displays.
10. Pride Madrid
Madrid knows how to throw a fiesta, and Pride is no exception. As well as a jam-packed week of free concerts, high-heel races and street parties in the bustling LGBT neighbourhood of Chueca, the city also hosts one of the biggest Pride parades in the world.
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