Top 10 festivals in Spain
Spain’s festivals range from the religious to the outrageously fun. Here are 10 of the best Spanish festivals to mark on your calendar.
If you want to immerse yourself in Spanish culture, there's no better time to rejoice your new Spanish lifestyle than when heading to a traditional or historical Spanish festival. Mark your calendars with some of Spain's most spectacular festivals held throughout the entire year.
1. Jumping the bonfire carnival, Arizkun, Navarra
If you’re fit and feel up to it, brave the jump over one of the 20 bonfires that are part of the Arizkun Carnival. It’s a tradition dating back to pagan times and said to encourage fertility and ward off evil spirits. While the locals dress up in masks, sheepskin coats and large hats, you don’t have to.
2. Sitges Carnival, Catalonia
The Sitges carnival is the event where everything goes, in what you’d expect from one of the gay capitals of Europe. Taking place in the run up to Lent, it starts on ‘Fatty Thursday’ with the arrival of the King of the Carnival, continues with the Debauchery Parade of around 40 floats and 2,000 participants and concludes with the Extermination Parade, where drag queens dressed in black mourn the death of the King.
3. Las Fallas Festival, Valencia
The focus of this festival is the burning of giant ninots (puppets or dolls) made from cardboard, papier maché and plaster often commenting on politicians, celebrities or the past year's events. Sometimes several stories high, they’re put on display around the city. On the day of La Cremá (the burning) they’re filled with fireworks and at midnight all but one is set on fire – and the whole city seems ablaze.
4. Holy Week (Semana Santa), Seville
Semana Santa is the most important festival in Spain, with the biggest and best celebrations being held in Seville, among many other cities, starting in the week before Easter. Expect to see processions of floats carrying jewelled statues of Mary and Jesus, penitents called Nazarines wearing tall, white pointy hoods and noisy brass bands.
5. Feria de Sevilla, Seville
During the Spring Fair the air is heavy with the scent of orange blossoms, pink bougainvillea adorns balconies and Seville throbs with flamenco guitars, dancing and singing. Sevillianos in traditional dress parade on foot, on horseback and in carriages around the streets of a tent town set up in the south of the city. Eat, drink, dance and sing into the early hours alongside them. You can also see travelling tented ferias in other towns around Spain, offering a taste of Seville, rebujitos (wine, lemonade and mint) and flamenco.
6. El Colacho (Baby Jumping) Festival, Castrillo de Murcia, near Burgos
This is one of the more bizare Spanish festivals in which all the babies who have been born in the previous year are laid down on a series of mattresses and the locals, dressed in colourful costumes and masks, queue up to jump over them.
7. Running of the Bulls (Fiesta de San Fermín), Pamplona
Every year hundreds of people take their life in their hands and run through the narrow cobbled streets of Pamplona while being chased by a thundering herd of bulls. Not all of the runners make it: most years there are injuries and some years people have died after being run down or gored. In between there are marching bands, fireworks and lots of eating and drinking, as like in all of the most famous of Spanish festivals.
8. La Tomatina, Buñol, west of Valencia
If you fancy joining in the world’s biggest tomato fight head to the town of Buñol for the famous La Tomatina festival. Bring goggles and a clean set of clothes as you’ll end up covered from head to toe with tomato juice, especially if you decide to dive into the tomato pools that form on the street: the tomatoes are chosen to be as squidgy as possible.
9. Els Enfarinats, Ibi in Alicante
Be prepared to be pelted with flour and eggs if you’re in Ibi, Alicante, on 28 December. That’s when a group of uniformed men called Els Enfarinats (the Flour Men) take over the town for a day and stir up trouble as part of the celebrations for the Day of the Innocents (an equivalent to April Fools' Day).
10. Haro Wine Festival
There’s a theme developing here: at the Haro Wine Festival (or Wine Fight as it's sometimes called), you could be covered with rioja wine as part of the celebrations. Everyone marks the end of the wine harvest by spraying each other with the red wine of the region and downing huge quantities of the stuff.
Read the full list of Spanish festivals.
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