When I first set up Spanish-Fiestas.com I hadn’t really given much thought to the wonderful world of festivals in Spain. At the time I was working at San Pablo CEU University in Madrid and started organising weekends for British football fans who wanted to see a Real Madrid game. Shortly afterwards I met a bloke from Barcelona who had started doing the same kind of thing for FC Barcelona matches so we found ourselves cooperating quite a lot at that time.
I then packed in my ‘proper job’, moved to Andalucia and started working hard on the website. The more I researched the more I became fascinated with festivals around Spain and soon recognised the importance of fiestas in local communities. As soon as one year’s fiestas come to an end preparations begin for the following year. I’m sure such voluntary work which unites young and old is a key factor in explaining the impressive community spirit which prevails throughout Spain.Gerry Kerkhof
Cultural Festivals in Spain
When you think of Spanish fiestas and festivals which ones spring to mind? I’ll bet that the bullrunning in Pamplona is probably top of your list. But what about the other major festivals? Holy week (Semana Santa) in Andalucia is a personal favourite when every parish sends out elaborate floats carried by parishioners. A procession can go on throughout the night returning home early the following morning. Two weeks later Seville celebrates the April Fair which must go down as one of Europe’s biggest parties.
Valencia in March is the ‘Fallas‘ when huge papier-mache figures are burnt in the streets every night after a year has been spent building them. And in Bunyol in August it’s La Tomatina, the world’s biggest tomato fight. These are certainly some of the biggest annual festivals as far as foreign tourists are concerned but what about all the little festivals that take place all over the country?
Every single city, town and village in the country celebrates its own unique fiesta and it’s the smaller, local festivals that can prove just as rewarding to the visitor. In Miraflores de la Sierra in the Guadarrama mountains of Madrid we used to always go to the annual village festival of San Blas in February. The whole village heads out to a local hillside where a shrine to the village’s patron saint stands. Everyone is equipped with chairs, tables, food and wine and huge pots are put on open fires where ‘bacalao con patatas’ (cod and potatoes) is prepared for the whole village. By late afternoon all the villagers have returned to the bars which remain packed throughout the night.
In Tenerife the burial of the sardine (El Entierro de la Sardina) usually takes place on Ash Wednesday which marks the end of the enormous Carnival celebrations when a 30 foot papier-mache fish get taken through the streets of Santa Cruz whilst being mourned by male “widows” in miniskirts and fishnets. If you think that sounds bizarre I don’t know what you’ll make of the annual baby jumping festival in Burgos or the Fiesta of Near Death Experiences in Galicia!
The busiest time for festivals is from Easter through to September when the grape harvest festivals sends many communities wild. Flamenco dancing and bullfighting are very common at many of Spain’s traditional fiestas.
Sporting Events in Spain
Spain is on the world stage when it comes to hosting major events. On a weekly basis the country’s football league, La Liga, is recognised as one of the best in Europe with FC Barcelona and Real Madrid amongst the world’s greatest club sides of all time. The league season begins in late August and usually ends in early June. The biggest demand for match tickets is of course in Barcelona and Madrid but there are also plenty tourists going to games in Valencia, Seville, Malaga and Bilbao. For matches in these cities you can usually pick up tickets on the gate but for the ‘big two’ it’s worth ordering tickets before travelling.
Motorsport is also big on the country’s annual sporting calendar with enormous support locally and internationally for Motorcar and Motorbike Racing. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya at Montmeló is home to the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix and the MotoGP of Catalonia whilst Valencia hosts the Valencia MotoGP. The biggest national event on the motorbike calendar in Spain is the Jerez MotoGP which attracts in the region of 200,000 spectators whilst the AragonGP is the newest on the calendar.
Tennis and golf tournaments are very popular thanks to the success of home grown talent such as Rafa Nadal and Sergio Garcia. La Vuelta a España cycle race is another major event on the annual calendar.
Musical and Artistic Events
As far as popular music events are concerned it is the Sonar Festival in Barcelona and the Benicassim International Festival near Valencia which attract most overseas visitors. The city of Granada hosts its International Festival of Music and Dance in the grounds of the Alhambra Palace whilst San Sebastian in the Basque Country is packed to the seams during its annual jazz and film festivals.
Meanwhile the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona attracts major operatic productions to the city. Both Madrid and Barcelona are frequently on the list of venues selected by major artists when announcing their European concert tour itineraries. These cities also host major international corporate events whilst their museums are home to a multitude of temporary art events over the course of the year.
Food and Wine Festivals
There are plenty food and drink related fiestas throughout the country and some bizarre ones involving donkeys and church roofs, but we won’t go into that right now! Because of the sheer number of festivals the Spanish-Fiestas website will probably never be complete, however, we’re adding more and more all the time. Please take a look at our Spanish Festivals page where you’ll find a description of most of the best known festivals and a calendar of events.