May is an exciting month to visit Spain as it marks the arrival of spring and the start of a vibrant festival season. Some of the most popular festivals in Spain in May include the Jerez Horse Fair and the Córdoba Patios Festival which are two of the highlights of Andalucía’s springtime festivals. Madrid honours San Isidro, the city’s patron saint this month and hosts the Madrid Tennis Open. Top of the music festivals this month is the WOMAD Festival in Cáceres whilst the unlikeliest event is the surprisingly popular Snail Festival in Catalonia.
What’s on in Spain in May?
Feria del Caballo
Where? Jerez de la Frontera (Andalucía)
Dating back to 1284 when it started as a livestock market, the Jerez Horse Fair is a celebration of the city’s equestrian traditions. The event takes place in 2nd week of May (always before La Romería de El Rocío) at the Parque González Hontoria in Jerez de la Frontera. As well as horse shows, livestock exhibitions and auctions there are more than 200 public ‘casetas’ which are the focus of the event’s social activities. Inside these marquees, visitors can enjoy live music, watch flamenco dancing and sample local tapas and the famous fino sherries.
La Romería de El Rocío
Where? El Rocío – Almonte – Huelva (Andalucía)
This pilgrimage to the village of El Rocío, near Almonte in Huelva, is held fifty days after Easter attracting hundreds of thousands of people from all over Spain and abroad. The pilgrims, dressed in traditional flamenco attire, travel on horseback, by horse-drawn carriage or on foot along specified routes through the provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cadiz.
On arrival in El Rocío the pilgrims pitch their tents, light bonfires and await the arrival of the remaining brotherhoods. The highlight of the Saturday is the procession when all of these brotherhoods appear before the statue of the Virgin of La Blanca Paloma while the church bells are ringing.
The Sunday morning of the pilgrimage begins with a series of religious ceremonies which are followed, later in the day, by the much anticipated ‘salto de la verja’. This is the moment when the people of Almonte climb over the altar railings to retrieve the statue of the Virgin Mary from the shrine. The statue is then carried through the village in a grand procession on the Monday morning. After the procession the brotherhoods begin their journey home, already looking forward to next year’s pilgrimage.
The San Isidro festival takes place in Madrid every year from the 11th to the 15th of May and it’s one of the most important celebrations in the city. The festival honours San Isidro who is the city’s patron saint. The festivities begin with a parade of Giants and big-heads which sets the tone for the rest of the celebrations. The highlight of the event is on 15th when a procession carrying a statue of San Isidro during makes its way through the streets of Madrid to the Pradera de San Isidro.
As well as these traditional activities, there’s also a musical and entertainment programme spread throughout the city. Bullfighting is also a major part of the San Isidro festival with daily bullfights taking place at the Las Ventas bullring. Few tickets go on general sale as this is widely recognised as the most important event on the annual bullfighting calendar.
Fiesta de los Patios de Córdoba
Where? Córdoba (Andalucía)
The Fiesta de los Patios is one of the highlights of Córdoba’s busy festivals calendar. The event takes place in different neighborhoods of Córdoba the city during the second and third week of May. During this period around 50 patios are opened to the public to allow them to admire the traditional Andalucían courtyards and their floral displays. Prestigious prizes are awarded to the best patios.
The origins of the festival can be traced back to the 1920s but it wasn’t until the 1950s that it started to become popular. In 1980 it was declared a Festival of National Tourist Interest and in 2012 it was recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Fiesta de las Cruces (Cruz de Mayo)
Where? Granada, Córdoba and More
The Festival of the May Crosses is a festival which takes place in many towns in Spain although it is Granada and Córdoba where it is best known. The festival sees locals erect large crosses in public squares and decorate them with flowers and other ornaments. Temporary bars are set up in some of the public squares near the crosses to ensure a typical Spanish fiesta is enjoyed.
Where? Toledo, Andalucía, Valencia and More
The Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated in many different ways in towns and villages all over Spain. The date of the festival varies every year depending on when Easter falls. More specifically, it is on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday. One of the most famous celebrations of Corpus Christi takes place in Toledo where a grand procession takes place through the streets which are decorated with carpets of red petals. Other notable places where Corpus Christi is celebrated in Spain include Granada, Seville and Valencia.
La Feria de Córdoba
Where? Córdoba (Andalucía)
The Feria de Córdoba is a lively event which usually takes place during the last week of May. It is held on the El Arenal fairground, near the city’s football stadium. During the week-long event a number of ‘casetas’ are set up by local associations, clubs and families where parties take place. Many of these venues have bars inside them and flamenco dancing is common. Most remain open to the public so visitors can mingle with the locals in this most welcoming of events. Outside the ‘casetas’ there are fairground rides, entertainment for children and plenty temporary stalls where you can order tapas and sample the excellent wines of Montilla-Moriles which are produced nearby.
Fiestas de la Cruz
Where? Los Realejos and Santa Cruz (Tenerife)
The Fiestas de la Cruz takes place on 3rd May in various parts of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. It is one of the oldest festivities of the region which can be traced back to the 15th century. The best place to experience the event is in Los Realejos, in the north of the island, where a spectacular fireworks display is held.
This incredible pyrotechnic show during Las Fiestas de Mayo de Los Realejos attracts thousands of visitors and has been declared a ‘Fiesta de Interés Turístico Nacional’ (Festival of National Tourist Interest). The island’s capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, also celebrates the event with each neighborhood decorating their own crosses with flowers and fruits which they then display around the city.
Caballos del Vino
Where? Caravaca de la Cruz (Murcia)
The Caballos del Vino is a festival which takes place in Caravaca de la Cruz (Murcia) from 1st to 3rd May. The highlight of the event is La Carrera de los Caballos del Vino on the afternoon of May 2nd when beautifully dressed horses with their handlers race to the top of the Cuesta del Castillo. These races last throughout the afternoon and are followed by the much awaited awards ceremony.
The festival is part of the Festivities in Honor of the Santísima y Vera Cruz and attracts more than 100,000 visitors from around the world each year. It was declared of International Tourist Interest in 2004 and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2020.
WOMAD Festival (Cáceres)
Where? Cáceres (Extremadura)
The WOMAD Festival (World of Music, Arts and Dance) is a celebration of global culture which takes place in numerous locations around the world. The festival was founded by the musician Peter Gabriel in 1982 with the aim of promoting and celebrating the world’s diverse cultures and their artistic traditions. Over the years, WOMAD has become a global, cultural event which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to its festivals.
The WOMAD Festival was first held in Spain in the historic city of Cáceres in Extremadura in 1992. This UNESCO World Heritage Site which is known for its medieval architecture and rich cultural heritage proved to be the perfect backdrop for the celebration of global culture that WOMAD represents. Since then it has become an annual event which is the highlight of the city’s festival calendar.
Where? Lleida (Catalonia)
The Lleida Snail Festival is a three-day event which takes place on the banks of the Riu Segre and in the Camps Elisis Park in Lleida. Back in 1980, when the festival first took place, there were just 300 attendees but it has grown into an international event which attracts around 200,000 visitors. Approximately 12 tons of snails are consumed at the event which also includes a variety of cultural activities such as the human towers created by the Castellers de Lleida.
Sporting Events in Spain in May
Madrid Tennis Open
The Mutua Madrid Tennis Open was first held in 2002 as a men’s event but in 2009 it was merged with the women’s event to become a joint tournament. The Madrid Open is one of the most important clay court tournaments which takes place annually in April and May shortly before the French Open.
Originally it took place on indoor hard courts but switched to clay courts in the newly-built Caja Mágica for the 2009 tournament. This state-of-the-art facility has three main courts, a retractable roof and a capacity of over 12,000 spectators. The event attracts many of the world’s top players including Rafael Nadal who has won it five times in his career. Carlos Alcaraz, the new star of Spanish men’s tennis, won the events in 2022.
Useful Links to May Festivals in Spain
|Jerez Horse Fair||Jerez de la Frontera||Andalucía||https://www.jerez.es/especiales/feria-del-caballo|
|La Romería de El Rocío||El Rocío||Andalucía||https://www.andalucia.org/en/el-rocio|
|San Isidro Festival||Madrid||Madrid||https://www.sanisidromadrid.com/|
|Fiesta de los Patios de Córdoba||Córdoba||Andalucía||https://www.amigosdelospatioscordobeses.es/|
|La Feria de Córdoba||Córdoba||Andalucía||https://www.turismodecordoba.org/8ingles-the-fair-of-cordoba|
|Fiestas de la Cruz||Tenerife||Canary Islands||https://losrealejos.es/servicios-municipales/fiestas/destacadas/fiestas-de-la-cruz/|
|Caballos del Vino||Caravaca de la Cruz||Murcia||https://caballosdelvino.org/|
|Madrid Tennis Open||Madrid||Madrid||https://mutuamadridopen.com/en/|
Frequently Asked Questions:
What’s The Weather Like in Spain in May?
The weather in Spain during the month of May “should” be something like what is described below. I say “should” because it’s the last week of April as I write and it’s 36°C in Córdoba which is absolutely crazy for this time of year. Now you can’t say I didn’t warn you!
Mediterranean: Along the Mediterranean coast (eg. Barcelona, Valencia, Málaga) temperatures tend to be warm and pleasant, averaging around 20-25°C during the day. The skies are usually clear with plenty of sunshine and low chances of rain. As we move further into the month temperatures may start to rise, reaching around the 30°C down on the Costa del Sol in Southern Spain.
Atlantic: Along the Atlantic coast (eg. Bilbao, Santander, A Coruña) the month of May is usually characterized by cooler temperatures and higher chances of rain. Average temperatures tend to be around 15-20°C during the day with cloudy skies and occasional showers. However, as the month progresses the chances of sunshine increase and temperatures may climb as high as 25°C in some areas.
Interior: Inland cities of Spain (eg. Madrid, Zaragoza, Seville) can get very hot and dry in May with daytime temperatures often reaching 25-30°C and even higher. The skies are typically clear and rainfall is scarce.