Spanish festivals

Top Spanish festivals 2018

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Spanish festivals are celebrated year-round. From the popular Spanish festival La Tomatina to Benicassim festival, here is a list of some of the best and bizarre festivals in Spain.

Many festivals in Spain are specific to certain towns and regions, offering a huge variety in local specialties, trades and cultural quirks. You can also check which Spanish festivals coincide with Spanish public and school holidays or read our pick of top 10 Spanish festivals

Mark your calendar with this guide to the best Spanish festivals, from La Tomatina's tomato fight to Benicassim's international music festival to religious Spanish festivals.

The best Spain festivals

5–6 January: Three Kings Day

This day is celebrated throughout Spain with the biggest processions in the major cities, and it is the traditional Spanish festival of annual gift-giving (similar to Christmas). In Spain children are brought presents by the Three Kings, who visit their homes at night. Before this, the kings take part in an elaborate procession where they throw confectionary to children in the streets. Though the official Dia de Los Reyes is 6 January, the gift-giving procession (Cabalgate de Reyes) takes place the night before.

Best festivals in Spain: Reyes Magos

17 January: Day of Saint Anthony

Every year, pet owners dress up their animals and take them to Spanish churches to be blessed by a priest on the Day of Saint Anthony, the patron saint of pets. The Church of San Anton in Madrid in particular attracts long lines of owners and animals – from rabbits to dogs to iguanas – who travel from far each year for a sprinkling of holy water and a treat. Some years blessing may be held on the closest Sunday to St Anthony's Day.

19–20 January: San Sebastian Festival, Majorca and San Sebastian

An explosion of bonfires and dancing to celebrate St. Sebastian, with the famous tamborrada drumming taking place in Spain's northern city of San Sebastian.

19–20 January: Jarramplas, Cáceres

This centuries-old festival involves pelting thousands of hard turnips at a devil-like character in an attempt to drive away evil spirits. It is celebrated each year in the western village of Piornal, home to around 1,500 people, where several young men take turns dressing up in scary costumes of colourful fabric, a mask and green horns – and with body armour underneath. Portraying the Jarramplas, especially on the second day, is such an honour that there's a waiting list of some 20 years, but the job entails being the target of turnip-throwing crowds that line the streets. The festival's exact origin is unknown although various legends exist; one widely accepted theory is that the Jarramplas represents a cattle thief who was once punished by local residents.

January: CutreCon Film Festival, Madrid

Films that are so bad that they're actually good are the cornerstone of this festival. This five-day film festival held in Madrid is dedicated to bad acting, terrible scripts and tragic directing. This festival attracts several thousand visitors and is one of several similar festivals held across Europe.

Website: www.cutrecon.com

1–3 February: 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. Locals dress up in instantly recognizable costumes that look like sheepskin coats, adorned with black pots, wearing maypole-style hats and carrying brushes.

8–14 February: Sitges Carnival, Catalonia

The huge gay event is one of the most flamboyant in Spain, with wild partying launched by Jueves Lardero (Fat Thursday). There’s a massive drag queen show and an enormous feast of local dishes. The two main parades come through the town on the Sunday and Tuesday from 19:30 and the partying continues through the night. The names alone — Extermination and Debauchery Parades — are a clue to the extravagance of the event, so don’t dress down. But be warned: temperatures can drop in the early hours. Extra night buses and trains for the event can get you back into Barcelona if you’re not staying over.

Website: www.sitges.cat/carnaval

22–25 February: International Animation Festival, Lleida, Catalonia

The Animac Mostra Internacional de Cinema d’Animació de Catalunya is a non-competitive film exhibition open to makers of animated films using a variety of techniques.

Website: www.animac.cat

25 February to 19 March: Las Fallas Festival, Valencia

High-tech giant-size sculptures are shaped into traditional figures or even modern cultural icons such as Shrek and President Obama at this unique festival, which was added to the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List in 2016. 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.

Website: www.fallasfromvalencia.com

Best Spanish festivals: Las Fallas Festival

25 March to 1 April: Holy Week (Semana Santa), Seville

Semana Santa is one of the most important festivals 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 of elaborate floats bearing jewelled statues of Mary and Jesus, penitents wearing pointed hoods, and brass bands. They begin on Palm Sunday the week before Easter, followed by those on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The city may be packed with visitors and locals, but the experience is worth it.

Website: www.andalucia.com

15–21 April: Feria de Sevilla, Seville

Spring Fair, the Feria, comes two weeks after Semana Santa. The Feria is a joyful festival with masses of food, drink, music and dancing. To the south west of the city a huge area is given over to the fair, creating a small ‘town’ of casetas (tents or pavilions) for drinking, eating and socializing. Most of the tents are private and invitation only, but there are seven public ones, so you won’t miss out. Sevilliano/as, in traditional flamenco dresses, or tight trousers and boleros, parade around on horseback and in carriages – providing you with some fabulous photo opportunities.

23 April: Sant Jordi (Saint George) Festival, Barcelona

Sant Jordi, or St George, is the patron saint of Catalonia (as well as England and about 10 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.

12–15 May: Fiesta de San Isidro, Madrid

It's Madrid’s largest festival, and the events offer an opportunity to wear the traditional castizo finery and sample tasty delicacies such as 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.

Website: www.sanisidromadrid.com

Late May: Feria de la Manzanilla in Sanlucar de Barrameda

If you like your sherry, this festival should be right up your alley: the locals celebrate their local drink by drinking unhealthy quantities of it, along with plenty of fish and tapas. The week officially begins on the Tuesday night when the lights are turned on, but festivities usually start early the previous weekend. On Sunday, there is a spectacular firework display to end the festival with a bang. This festival in Spain runs from 29 May to 3 June 2018.

Website: www.sanlucar-de-barrameda.com

Top festivals in Spain: Feria de la Manzanilla

Spring/Summer: Moors and Christians Festivals

La Fiesta de Moros y Cristianos is a celebration of the victory over the Moors in the 13th century. The festival itself dates back to the 16th century and includes street parades of costumed soldiers and battle re-enactments. It is held in many cities at various times of the year, with some of the largest street parades taking place in Alicante, Alcoy, and Villajoyosa.

3 June: El Colacho (Baby Jumping) Festival, Castrillo de Murcia, near Burgos

The 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 held all over Spain on the first Sunday after Corpus Christi.

Website: www.burgos.es

20–24 June: Night of San Juan, Valencia region

In this festival, you won't see costumes or religious parades but a pagan celebration of the Summer Equinox. It's the one night of the year that locals can light bonfires on the beach, barbeque and drink, and later everyone jumps over the fires and waves to make a wish. You need to bring your own wood, food and drinks, and celebrations last until sunrise. Valencia and Alicante have the biggest congregations of local partiers, with celebrations in Alicante lasting several days and culminating in huge papier-mâché figures being burnt on the night of 24 June.

27–30 June: Haro Wine Festival

There are celebrations all over Spain to mark the wine harvest, and one of the best is held in Haro in La Rioja region. La Batalla de Vino, or the Wine Fight, starts with a huge street party on the eve of 27 June. The next day, the locals climb up a nearby mountain and drench each other with rioja using sprays, buckets, water pistols, or whatever they can lay their hands on. The battle moves down the mountain and into the town where dancing and general merrymaking continues, all accompanied by the quaffing of lots and lots of vino tinto. Wear old clothes!

Website: www.wine-fight.com

22 June to 8 July: International Festival of Music and Dance, Granada

This Spanish festival is 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.

Website: www.granadafestival.org

Top Spanish festivals: El Colacho Festival

6–14 July: Running of the Bulls (Fiesta de San Fermín), Pamplona

This is probably Spain’s most famous festival and 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 foolhardiest) 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. By night the squares are strung with fairy lights for drinking, eating and dancing, accompanied by fireworks and brass bands.

Website: www.sanfermin.com

25 July: 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, the town's patron saint who is reputed to be buried in the local cathedral. Theatre productions, street shows, concerts and dance events are held, together with religious services, during the Fiesta de Santiago Apóstol en Santiago de Compostela. Those walking the 'Camino de Santiago' can time their pilgrimage to end at this event.

Website: www.santiagoturismo.com

29 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'. Known in Spanish as Romería de Santa Marta de Ribarteme.

Website: www.turgalicia.es

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. Check their website for the 2018 dates.

Website: www.festamajordegracia.cat

18–26 August: Aste Nagusia, Bilbao

The Aste Nagusia, Semana Grande or Big Week, the largest festival in northern Spain, is held at the end of August when a rocket (txupinazo) shoots into the sky and the festival mascot Marijaia makes her appearance on a balcony of the Arriaga Theatre. This nine-day festival celebrates Basque culture with live music and dancing; wood chopping, stone carrying and strongman competitions; parades of giants; food and drink; bullfights; concerts; and nightly fireworks, culminating in the burning of Marijaia.

Best festivals in Spain: Aste Nagusia

30 August: La Tomatina, Buñol, west of Valencia

This is the world-renowned, tomato-flinging festival held on the last Wednesday of August. Thousands of joyful revellers use truckloads of overripe tomatoes as missiles. Only recently has the town started charging an entrance fee, so you'll need a ticket to get in. Bring goggles and a change of clothes.

Website: latomatina.info

7–8 September: 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.

Website: www.algemesi.es

21–29 September: San Sebastián International Film Festival

The premier film festival of Spain takes place in the Basque capital around 21–29 September 2018, usually at several different theatres. Retrospectives are frequently featured, and weeklong screenings are held.

Website: www.sansebastianfestival.com

21–24 September: Fiesta De La Mercè, Barcelona

This celebration honours 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.

Website: www.lameva.barcelona.cat/merce/

12 October: Hispanic Day/Columbus Day, throughout Spain

El Día de la Hispanidad is a national holiday of Spain that is celebrated on 12 October, 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 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 for the crowd to see.

Best Spanish festivals: Hispanic day

27 October to 2 November: 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. The 29th festival will run from 27 October to 2 November 2018.

Website: www.sansebastianhorrorfestival.eus

1 November: 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.

29 November: 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 streets with pots, pans and assorted objects. Celebrants drag cans and other noisy metal objects tied to string and wire through the streets of the town, and everyone drinks into the early hours.

End-November to December: Fira de Santa Llucia for Nadal (Christmas), Barcelona

In mid-December, stallholders set up Fira de Santa Llucia, 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 scenes) that are hugely popular here. The Church of Bethlehem in 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.

Website: en.firadesantallucia.cat

28 December: Día de los Santos Inocentes, throughout Spain

This equivalent of April Fools' Day gives people an excuse to do crazy things.

28 December: Els Enfarinats, Ibi in Alicante

This day-long festival is a mix of carnival and anarchy which dates back around 200 years and is part of the celebrations around the Day of the Innocents. A group of Els Enfarinats (Flour Men) dressed in mock military uniforms 'take control' of the town, make satirical speeches (often against local politicians and businessmen), impose 'laws' and have a huge battle with eggs, flours and firecrackers.

Website: www.ibi.es

Top Spanish festivals: Els Enfarinats

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Photos credits (CC-Licence): JEDIKNIGHT1970 (Reyes Magos), Joe Calhoun (Las Fallas), Edmund Gall (Feria de la Manzanilla), Celestebombin (El Colacho), Bilboko Konpartsak (Aste Nagusia), David Yega, Heart Industry (Hispanic Day), Fotografo Ibi (Els Enfarinats).

 
 


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3 Comments To This Article

  • Chris posted:

    on 25th January 2018, 16:55:25 - Reply

    I always wanted to go to the Running of the Bulls. Is it worth is even if you do not participate in running or anything bulls related?

  • Juan posted:

    on 7th March 2016, 14:01:02 - Reply

    Ok
  • Don posted:

    on 13th August 2015, 08:50:02 - Reply

    I would also like to add the Romans and Carthaginians festival in Murcia! It is amazing and should not be missed!