A calendar of Spanish fiestas
A calendar of some of the most famous and popular fiestas (festivals) to occur in Spain throughout the year.
The Three Kings
The Three Kings come to Spain (evening and night of January the 5th). In every single town and city of Spain, adults and children celebrate the long expected arrival of the Three Kings from Orient. The streets are taken over by parades of all sorts and the little ones receive sweets and little gifts.
San Sebastian in the Basque country is the place to be in January. In 1812 Lord Wellington freed the city from the French and the locals still celebrate the event.
Catch the Seville Tapas Fair for a savoury taste of the best Spanish tapas – Seville is known as the tapas capital of the world.
Do not miss the Carnavals held in Cadiz, Tenerife, Barcelona and Sitges – huge celebrations involving all-night music and dance, and of course fancy dress costumes. Come as you are!
The Jerez Flamenco Festival brings Spain’s top flamenco singers and dancers. Once in Jerez, check out the Horse Shows – the best Spanish horses are found in the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre. Also, stop by some of the Wineries in Jerez – they offer guided tours and samples.
The Fallas fiesta in Valencia is a must see that will not leave you indifferent. Huge and noisy street parties with amazing fireworks that end in a massive burning of paper-mâché effigies – called Fallas.
This is definitely the big month for Spanish fiestas. You can start with Holy Week (Semana Santa) which is important all over Spain but should not be missed in Seville, Cordoba, Granada and Malaga. Very passionate teams of parish members (Cofradías) carry for hours huge wooden floats representing passages from the Bible. Great opportunity for photography aficionados.
In Alcoy, Alicante you’ll have a chance to go back in time and watch how Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) fight again for the kingdoms of Spain. Great family fun.
Two weeks after Semana Santa (Easter) you should be back in Seville for Spain’s biggest annual party – Seville’s April Fair. There you will be able to savour how Andalusians party at their best – one whole week of singing, dancing, eating, and of course wine tasting.
On a completely different note, you could also join the Romería de Andújar, (in Andújar, Jaen) and be part of an actual mass pilgrimage to a shrine of the Virgin – a very religious and ancient tradition in Andalucia.
Cruces de Mayo (May Crosses) in Granada and Cordoba where large crosses are hung to decorate parishes and the locals party in the streets. Cordoba continues the celebration spirit with the Fiesta de los Patios, a neighbourly contest to select the city’s most beautiful flower covered patio.
And you should not quite leave Cordoba yet, because there is more to celebrate! The Feria de Cordoba (Cordoba Fair), a big Spanish fiesta that rivals Seville’s April Fair in size.
The famous Feria del Caballo, Jerez’s Horse Fair is also held in this month in Jerez.
Now it is time to go up north, to Madrid, the capital of Spain, where you will be able to enjoy the largest bullfight festival, San Isidro. Besides bullfighting, Madrileños celebrate plenty of other cultural events commemorating the Patron Saint of the capital.
If you are curious about religious pilgrimages, and are up to one of the largest in Spain (1 million people), then you should not miss the Romería del Rocio. Pilgrims travel on foot or by horse and carriage to the shrine of the Virgin at the village of El Rocio in Huelva.
Another religious celebration is Corpus Christi which is celebrated to varying degrees all over the country, especially in Toledo and Seville. Not really an occasion designed for party goers but nonetheless interesting as a very Spanish cultural activity.
This is the time to commemorate the Summer Solstice, celebrated in different ways and fashions all over the world. Hogueras de San Juan, midsummer bonfires and fireworks celebrate the longest day (daylight hours) of the year and are held in the South and especially Alicante.
Go to Granada to attend the exquisite International Festival of Music and Dance. Around the Alhambra Palace and all over the city the streets are filled with the sound of Spanish guitars, the click of castanets, the whirl of flamenco dancing and much, much more.
In July Cordoba is back on stage for the Festival de Cordoba, an International guitar festival that takes place in the gardens of the Alcazar. A must see for any guitar and flamenco aficionado.
The annual San Sebastian Jazz Festival is all about jazz. For more than 40 years the Basque city of San Sebastian has been offering the best performances available in the Jazz scene, opening trends and discovering new talents. Do not miss it!
Who would want to miss the famous running of the bulls in Pamplona?
Book your hotel in advance for San Fermin, which always begins on the 7th and lasts for a week.
On a totally different note, you could also go to the south coast for Día de la Virgen de Carmen, July 16th, in which groups of fishermen carry a statue of the Virgin of Carmen on their boats, usually accompanied with impressive fireworks. Almuñecar, on the Granada coast, is a great place for Día de la Virgen de Carmen.
On the 25th it’s the Día de Santiago (Saint James). While not everyone has the time and energy to walk the whole way, the Road to Santiago is a fantastic tourist venue for hikers and walkers. The Road crosses some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes and ends at Santiago de Compostela (Galicia) where the Saint’s tomb lies in the Cathedral.
What would you think if you could whack people with ripe tomatoes and they enjoy it? La Tomatina is no doubt one of Spain’s maddest festivals. Since 1944, each year on the last Wednesday of August in the little town of Buñol, Valencia, between 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 pm, people flock for the tomato war called the Tomatina. This is really the world’s biggest tomato fight!
If you happen to like sparkling wines and Cava (the Spanish variety for Champagne), then you should join the Catalunya’s Cava week. An entire festival dedicated to the fine Catalan version of champagne. A real community festival in Catalunya.
September is definitely the month of wine and harvesting. Among the various Autumn festivals, there is the Jerez de la Frontera´s Fiestas de Otoño. Three weeks dedicated to sherry tasting, horses and flamenco.
Also the Fiesta de San Mateo in Logroño (which is the heart of La Rioja, Spanish wine country) they celebrate the grape harvest with a big festival. Traditional Spanish party style at its best.
Barcelona celebrates its biggest fiesta, the Festes de la Merce, a huge festival with folkloric parades, fireworks, dragons and giants. This would be a great opportunity to discover one of the most fascinating cities in Spain.
Things quiet down a bit after such a hectic summer. October’s biggest day is Día de la Hispanidad, a nationwide fiesta (you’ll find no shops open) commemorating Columbus’s landing in America. The celebration is especially big in Zaragoza where they also celebrate the finding of their Virgin, La Virgen del Pilar.
Christmas has come to Spain. This is a big family fiesta involving loads of food (especially sweets) and a stretched out celebration that will take you all the way to January 6th (Three King’s day). Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) on the 24th tends to be a very quiet night in which all families have dinner together. Noche Vieja (New Year’s Eve) fills the Spanish geography with all sorts of parties around the midnight countdown. Of course, do not forget your twelve grapes to be eaten (if not swallowed) just on time before the New Year.
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