Of the many festivals in Spain in July, it’s the running of the bulls in Pamplona which is most famous worldwide. During the course of a week tourists from all over the world descend on this provincial Navarran town of 200,000 people to celebrate this huge Spanish fiesta. But there’s more to Spain this month than San Fermín. The city of Santiago de Compostela welcomes thousands of pilgrims to celebrates El Día de Santiago whilst coastal communities honour the patron saint of fisherman at the Virgen del Carmen Festival.
The Benicàssim Festival is the headline events for music festivals this month although atendees of the Córdoba Guitar Festival might have something to say about that. The prize for the maddest of festivals in Spain in July goes to the Fiesta of Near Death Experiences in Galicia in which participants are carried through the streets in a coffin. There’s never a dull moment in Spain.
What’s On in Spain in July?
San Fermín Running of the Bulls
Where? Pamplona (Navarra)
The San Fermín Running of the Bulls Festival in Pamplona is probably the most famous Spanish festival globally. The week-long event which takes place from July 6th to 14th attracts around 1.5 million visitors to the city every year. The origins of the event date back to the 14th century when bulls were transported from the countryside to the bullring. During this journey young men would run alongside the bulls to show off their bravery. Over time this tradition evolved into the Running of the Bulls where participants run through the streets of Pamplona alongside six bulls which weigh as much as 700kg each.
San Fermin became popular on the world stage thanks partly to its appearance in literature and film. The descriptions of the event by Ernest Hemingway in his books “The Sun Also Rises” and “Death in the Afternoon” attracted a global audience and piqued interest in the Pamplona bull run as an exciting and daring spectacle. The festival also featured in popular films such as “City Slickers” in which the main character, played by Billy Crystal, is gored by a bull during a visit to Pamplona. Such depictions have made the Pamplona bull run a ‘bucket-list’ favourite for many young people from around the world.
Despite the excitement and thrill of the Running of the Bulls it’s important to note that this is a dangerous event. Every year there are numerous casualties as runners get trampled by the bulls or fall and get caught in the chaos. There have been 16 deaths at the Pamplona Bull Run since records began in 1910.
Whilst the Running of the Bulls at 8am every morning is the main attraction of the festival, there are other events throughout the week including live music performances, traditional dances and fireworks displays.
El Día de Santiago Apostol
Where? Santiago de Compostela
This annual event commemorates the life and death of Saint James whose remains are believed to have been transported to Galicia in the 9th century and were discovered by a local hermit. The discovery led to the establishment of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and the pilgrimage route known as the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James).
The Feast of Saint James (Día de Santiago) has grown in popularity over the years with thousands of pilgrims from around the world making their way to Santiago de Compostela for the celebrations. The festival typically features a range of events including processions, live music and traditional Galician dance performances. One of the most notable traditions of the festival is the Botafumeiro, a giant censer, which is swung through the cathedral during the celebratory mass.
The Feast of Saint James is particularly significant during Xacobeo years which occur whenever July 25th falls on a Sunday. During these years there are even more pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago than usual. The next Xacobeo years are in 2027, 2032 and 2038.
Fiesta of Near Death Experiences
Where? Santa Marta de Ribarteme (Galicia)
This is another one of those festivals that has to be filed in the ‘bizarre’ category. The event takes place on July 29th as part of the ‘Romería de Santa Marta de Ribarteme’ in Galicia. The festival involves participants, dressed in white robes, who carry a coffin through the streets with someone inside who has survived a near-death experience. The origins of the festival are not entirely clear but it’s believed to have pagan roots which were later absorbed into Christian tradition. Despite its macabre theme the Fiesta of Near Death Experiences has grown in popularity over the years, attracting visitors from all over Spain and beyond.
Virgen del Carmen Festival
Where? Many Coastal Towns
The Virgen del Carmen Festival is celebrated on July 16th in many towns across Spain. However, the event is celebrated most fervently in towns along the coast where she is revered as the patron of sailors and fishermen. The festival often begins with a procession in which a statue of the Virgen del Carmen is carried on the shoulders of fishermen. The statue is then taken out to sea on a fishing boat before returning to shore with impressive fireworks displays which marks the end of the celebration.
Rapa Das Bestas
Where? Sabucedo (Galicia)
This traditional but somewhat controversial event takes place over the first weekend in July in Galicia. It is known as the ‘Shaving of the Beasts’ in English and involves the rounding up of wild horses which are led to an enclosure enclosures called a ‘curro’ where their manes and tails are cut. Whilst the most well-known event takes place in the small town of Sabucedo there are similar events in other towns such as Valga.
Whilst this tradition can be traced back for more than 400 years, the origins of the Rapa Das Bestas Festival are unclear. The most plausible explanation is that it dates back to the 18th century when farmers would gather wild horses for branding and shearing. Over time this annual event became a popular local fiesta which would eventually become recognised as a Festival of National Tourist Interest (1963) and as a Festival of International Tourist Interest (2007).
At first sight the event may appear cruel as the horses are physically wrestled to the ground and tied down by experienced villagers. In reality, this is a rural tradition which is actually about caring for the horses. As well as trimming their manes and tails, the villagers treat any wounds they may have and deworm them. The animals are then released back into their natural habitat in the surrounding hills.
Festival Medieval de Hita
Where? Hita – Guadalajara, (Castilla La Mancha)
The Hita Medieval Festival is an annual celebration of medieval history which takes place during the first weekend of July in the small town of Hita (Guadalajara). The festival was first held in 1961 with theatrical performances of some classics of medieval Spanish literature. Nowadays the event has grown beyond theatre as the town is transformed into a medieval marketplace where thousands of visitors browse the many stalls selling local handicrafts. All kinds of medieval themed activities also take place during the festival such as jousting competitions, archery, falconry and traditional dancing.
Since 1980 the event has been officially recognised as a Fiestas of National Tourist Interest (Fiesta de Interés Turístico Nacional) and in 2021 its cultural heritage was recognised when it was officially listed as a ‘Bien de Interés Cultural’.
Festival de la Sidra – Cider Festival
Where? Nava (Asturias)
Another event which is listed as being a Fiesta of National Tourist Interest is the Nava Cider Festival which is a celebration of the Asturian tradition of cider making. The event is held every year over the 2nd weekend of July in the small town of Nava in Asturias.
What began as a local event in 1969 has grown into one of the most important festivals in Asturias which attracts thousands of visitors every summer. Many of the attendees are young people from all over Asturias who arrive on specially laid-on trains known as “sidrotrenes”.
The highlights of the event for first time visitors to the region is the cider tasting and the traditional way of pouring it from a great height (‘el escanciado’). This is quite a theatrical performance by the waiters which aerates the cider and gives it its distinctive flavour.
Naval Battle of Vallecas (Madrid)
The Batalla Naval de Vallecas takes place in Madrid’s Puente de Vallecas district where participants soak one another with water. The festival started in 1981 when young people cooled off from the heat by soaking themselves with hydrants and it has since grown into an institutionalized event. The festival has a countercultural vibe reflecting the rebellious spirit of the neighbourhood and each year a slogan is chosen to address a social demand. The festival is a significant part of the neighborhood’s identity and it combines fun and social activism in a festive atmosphere.
Moros y Cristianos in Villajoyosa
Where? Villajoyosa (Valencia)
The Moors and Christians Festival of Villajoyosa lasts for eight days during the second half of July. This festival re-enacts a battle that took place in 1538 when Santa Marta allegedly caused a flood which swept away Barbary pirates who were attacking the town. The main day of the festivities is the 28th when the townspeople rise early to watch as the Christians defend the coast against the Moors. The battle ends with the Moors being symbolically driven back into the sea. Other events during the week include cooking competitions, firework displays and concerts.
Music Festivals in Spain in July
Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (FIB)
Where? Benicàssim (Valencia)
The Benicàssim Festival is one of the most popular and highly anticipated music festivals of the summer in Spain. It takes place in mid-July in the small coastal town of Benicàssim which is located in the province of Castellón (Valencia). From its humble beginnings back in 1995 the four day event now attracts more than 150,000 music lovers from all over the world. The festival features a diverse lineup of both established and up-and-coming musicians from a variety of genres including indie, rock, electronic and pop. Past headliners have included major acts such as Oasis, Arctic Monkeys and The Killers.
Festival de la Guitarra de Córdoba
Where? Córdoba (Andalucía)
The Córdoba Guitar Festival is a two week celebration of guitar music which attracts music enthusiasts from around the globe. The event hosts a variety of concerts dedicated to all types of guitar music and has welcomed some world famous guitarists to its stages since its inauguration in 1981. These performers have included international celebrities such as Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler and Joe Bonamassa together with legendary Spanish artists including Paco de Lucía and Tomatito.
Whilst some performances take place in El Gran Teatro and El Teatro Góngora others are staged in iconic locations such as the ‘Patio de los Naranjos’ and the ‘Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos’. These charming venues with their rich history and architectural beauty add an extra special atmosphere to the concerts.
Useful Links to July Festivals in Spain
|El Día de Santiago Apostol||Santiago de Compostela||Galicia||https://catedraldesantiago.es/en/|
|Rapa das Bestas||Sabucedo||Galicia||https://rapadasbestas.gal/|
|Festival Medieval de Hita||Hita – Guadalajara||Castilla La Mancha||https://www.hita.es/|
|Moros y Cristianos||Villajoyosa||Valencia||http://www.associaciosantamarta.org/|
Frequently Asked Questions:
What’s The Weather Like in Spain in July?
The month of July in Spain brings warm and sunny weather to most parts of the country making it an ideal time to attend the festivals and cultural events which take place at this time of year.
Mediterranean: Along the Mediterranean coast of Spain (eg. Barcelona, Valencia and Málaga) July is characterized by hot temperatures with average highs ranging from 25-30°C and even higher in some areas of the central and southern coast. The skies are usually clear with plenty sunshine and the chances of rain are low.
Atlantic: Along the Atlantic coast (eg. Bilbao, Santander and A Coruña) July tends to be milder compared to the Mediterranean coast. Average daytime temperatures range from 20-25°C, with occasional rain showers and cloudy skies. However, as the month progresses, the chances of sunshine increase and temperatures may climb higher which provides perfect conditions for visiting the region.
Interior: Some inland cities of Spain (eg. Madrid, Zaragoza and Seville) can experience scorching temperatures in July with average highs reaching 30°C and above. The weather is hot and dry with clear skies and minimal chances of rain.