Jan 5 – 6: Three Kings Day, Barcelona
Held throughout Spain with the biggest processions in the major cities, Barcelona is a good place to be for the annual gift-giving festival. In Spain children are brought presents by the Three Kings, who visit their homes at night. Before this the kings take part in a procession where they throw candy to children in the streets. Though the official day is January 6, the gift-giving procession (Cabalgate de Reyes) takes place the night before.
January 19 – 20: San Sebastian Festival, Majorca and San Sebastian
An explosion of bonfires and dancing to celebrate St. Sebastian, with the famous taborrada drumming taking place in San Sebastian.
Feb: The Arizkun Carnival – (Jumping the bonfire), Arizkun, Navarra
Thousands of people queue up in the streets ready to jump over some 20 bonfires, a tradition dating back to pagan times and said to encourage fertility and ward off evil spirits. Local dress up in instantly recognizable costumes that look like a sheepskin coat, adorned with black pots, wearing maypole style hats and carrying brushes.
Feb 6 - 13: Sitges Carnival, Sitges, Catalonia
The huge gay event is one of the most flamboyant in Spain with wild partying launched by Jueves Lardero (“Fatty Thursday”) and an enormous feast of local dishes. The parade comes through the town on the Sunday and Tuesday, which also has a massive drag queen show.
Feb 28 – Mar 3: Animac Mostra Inernacional de Cinema d’Animació de Cataluyna (International animation festival), Lleida, Catalonia
A non-competitive film exhibition open to makers of animated films using a variety of techniques.
Mar 12 – 19: Las Fallas Festival, Valencia
High-tech giant-size paper maché sculptures made into the shape of traditional figures or even modern cultural icons like Shrek and President Obama. The creations are on display all over the city before being burned in one of the many bonfires, which takes place amid much partying. You haven't seen bonfires until you've seen the ones the Valencians light on the last night of Las Fallas.
Mar 22 – 31: Holy Week (Semana Santa), Seville
Semana Santa, of course, probably the most important festival on the Spanish calendar. The Easter festivities are big all over Spain, but the biggest spectacle is in Seville. Semana Santa is mainly a series of processions, beginning with Palm Sunday the week before Easter, followed by those on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
April 16 – 21: Feria de Sevilla, Seville
A joyful festival with food, drink, music and lots of dancing. Spring in Seville has a special atmosphere, garlanded with the sweet scent of orange blossom and jasmine, and a frisson of excited anticipation, as the city's two most important events take place – first Semana Santa and then the Spring Fair, the Feria.
April 23: Saint Jordi Festival, Barcelona
Sant Jordi, or St George, is the patron saint of Catalonia (and England and about ten other countries and regions). But St George's Day in Barcelona is also the city's version of Valentine’s Day when romance sweeps the city. The tradition is for the man to give his lady a rose in return for a book. The streets and balconies are clad in Catalonia's red and yellow flag, the Senyera.
Mid May: Feria de la Manzanilla in Sanlucar de Barrameda
If you like your sherry this should be right up your street, as the locals celebrate their local drink by drinking unhealthy quantities of it (along with consuming plenty of fish and tapas). The week officially begins on the Tuesday night when the lights are turned on, but usually starts early the previous weekend. Then on Sunday there is a spectacular fireworks display to end the festival with a bang.
May 11 – 15: Fiesta de San Isidro, Madrid
Madrid’s largest festival, the events offer an opportunity to wear the traditional castizo finery and sample tasty delicacies like thick steamy broth. Music and dancing is everywhere with flamenco, zarzuelas and Latin rhythms happening at concerts all over the city. The festival is launched with a grand procession of giants and cabezudos, followed by an opening speech in the Plaza Mayor. Over the next few days, entertainment and revelry takes over the city's public spaces.
Early June: El Colacho (Baby Jumping) Festival, Castrillo de Murcia, near Burgos.
The uniquely Spanish festival sees townspeople dress up in colourful costumes and form a queue to leap over a mattress laden with babies born during the previous 12 months. The ceremony rids the babies of evil spirits and guards against illness. This is one of the Corpus Christi festivals that are held all over Spain.
Late June - early July: International Festival of Music and Dance, Granada
A celebration of flamenco and classical music that traces its origins back to the 1880s and combines the vibrant energy of Spanish guitars, castanets and flamenco dancers.
July 6 - 14: Running of the Bulls (Fiesta de San Fermín), Pamplona
Probably Spain’s most famous festival, this is a magnet for thrill-seekers and spectators alike. Hundreds of thousands of Spanish and international visitors don white shirts and red bandanas for some serious partying. The bravest (or most foolhardy) line up to engage in a mad dash ahead of rampaging bulls careering through narrow cobbled streets. Luckily the runners have a newspaper to protect themselves with!
July 25: Feast of St. James, Santiago de Compostela
A public holiday in the Basque Country and Galicia, this religious event commemorates the life and work of Saint James, who is reputed to be buried in the town’s cathedral. Theatre productions, street shows, concerts and dance events are held, together with religious services.
July: Near Death Festival, Neves
Those who have had a brush with death in the past year are carried through the streets in coffins to thank Saint Marta, the 'patron saint of death'.
Early to mid-August: Festa Major de Gràcia, Catalonia
All year long, the residents of Gràcia work on elaborate decorations with themes such as marine life, the solar system, or even local politics, to hang in the streets. By day, long trestle tables are set up for communal lunches and board games; at night, thousands invade the tiny streets for outdoor concerts, dances, and general revelry.
August 28: La Tomatina, Buñol, west of Valencia
This is the world renowned, absolutely crazy, tomato flinging, juice-spraying five-day festival held on the last Wednesday of August. Thousands of joyful revelers use truckloads of overripe tomatoes as missiles. Bring goggles and a change of clothes.
Sep 7 – 8: Fiestas de la Mare de Deu de la Salut in Algemesí, Valencia
The main local festival in Algemesí dates back to the Middle Ages and has been awarded the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage designation. Theatre, dance and music are part of the celebrations and more than 1,400 people take part in the main parade. The festival also features giants representing King James I of Aragon and his wife as part of the "Volta General", which also includes numerous biblical characters.
Sep 20 – 28: San Sebastián International Film Festival, San Sebastián
The premier film festival of Spain takes place in the Basque capital, often at several different theaters. Retrospectives are frequently featured, and weeklong screenings are held.
Sep 24: Fiesta De La Mercé, Barcelona
This celebration honors Our Lady of Mercy (La Mercè), the city's patron saint. Free music concerts, from traditional to contemporary, are held in the plazas (particularly Plaça de Catalunya and Plaça Sant Jaume), and figures from folklore such as the gigants (giants) and cap grosses (fatheads) take to the streets. People come out to perform the sardana (the traditional Catalan dance) and to watch the nail-biting castellers (human towers). Firework displays light up the night, and the hair-raising correfoc, a parade of firework-brandishing "devils" and dragons, is the grand finale.
Oct 12: El Día de la Hispanidad (Hispanic Day or Columbus Day), throughout Spain
A national holiday of Spain that is celebrated on October 12, commemorating the exact date that Christopher Columbus first set foot in the Americas. A special parade is held in la Plaza de Colon, in Madrid, led by the Spanish military and followed by the King and the Royal Family. A wide array of other authorities, from foreign diplomats positioned in Spain to the presidents of the autonomous governments, are invited to attend this parade. The Spanish Armed forces also fly through the air doing aerobatics with red and yellow smoke drawing images in for the crowd to see.
Mid-Oct - early Nov: Annual Horror and Fantasy Film Festival, San Sebastian
A range of horror movies are screened at various venues, particularly at the Teatro Principal, together with outdoor performances and street theatre, comedy events, horror-related exhibitions and many fanzine festivities.
Nov 30: San Andres Festival, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife
In theory the celebrations are about tasting the new year's wine, but it’s usually more about making a lot of noise in the street. Celebrants drag cans and other noisy metal objects tied to string and wire through the streets of the town and then everyone gets drunk.
Nov 1: All Saints' Day, Cadiz
Although All Saint’s Day is celebrated throughout Spain, it is a lot of fun to spend it in Cadiz. There, celebrations are a little different: it is known as 'Tosantos' and the Gaditanos (locals of Cadiz) do wacky things like dress up rabbits and suckling pigs in the market, as well as making dolls out of fruit. The whole region gets involved and the festivities last all week.
Mid-Dec: Nadal (Christmas), Barcelona
In mid-December stallholders set up Fira de Santa Lucia, a huge open-air market held in the streets around the main cathedral. Thousands come to buy handicrafts, Christmas decorations, trees, and the figurines for their pessebres (nativity dioramas) that are hugely popular here. The Betlem Church on La Rambla holds an exhibition of them throughout the month, and a life-size one is constructed outside the city hall in the Plaça Sant Jaume.
Dec 28: Día de los Santos Inocentes, throughout Spain.
This equivalent of April Fools' Day gives people an excuse to do loco things!
Expatica's Getting Started section will provide practical information on how you can open a bank account, exchange your driving licence, improve your Spanish, and more.
Here's a guide to an extensive list of groups and clubs in Madrid for expats, from sports groups to social and family gatherings.
A brief introduction to our Tax section for Spain, from help with inheritance tax to accounting advice.
Here's a short introduction to our Banking section for those living in Spain, from what to ask the experts to opening a Spanish bank account.