Spain is the nation of “Fiesta”. There are Spanish festivals all over the country in every city, town and village. Below we’ve listed some of the most famous ones by month. Specific dates of festivals vary most years but where possible we’ve provided information on the page of the particular fiesta.
The Festividad de San Sebastian is the celebration of Lord Wellington’s capture of the city of San Sebastian from French troops in 1812.
The Seville Tapas Fair is a chance to savour a feast of Spanish snacks in the world capital of tapas. In Cadiz, Tenerife, Barcelona and Sitges it’s Carnaval with huge celebrations involving fancy dress costumes and dance.
The Festival de Jerez is a flamenco festival with some of Spain’s top performers. In Valencia it’s the Fallas de San José where there are huge street parties with incredible fireworks every night and the burning of the fallas (papier-mache effigies of famous people) on the last day.
Some of Spain’s biggest festivals take place during April and May starting with Holy Week (Semana Santa) which is important nationwide but is especially recommended in Seville, Cordoba, Granada and Malaga. The celebration of Holy Week is the highlight of the year in Andalucia with teams of parish members carrying enormous religious floats.
In Alcoy, Alicante it’s the festival of the Moros y Cristianos where you’ll see mock battles between Moors and Christians. Back in Seville, two weeks after Easter it’s Spain’s biggest annual party at the Seville April Fair (La Feria de Abril). It’s also the Romería de Andújar in Andalucia, a mass pilgrimage to a shrine of the Virgin.
In Granada and Cordoba it’s the festival of the Cruces de Mayo where large crosses adorn parishes and the locals party in the streets. Cordoba continues its parties with the Fiesta de los Patios, a competition to find the city’s most beautiful flower covered patio. Then shortly afterwards it’s the Feria de Cordoba, a fiesta of flamenco and all things Spanish that now rivals Seville’s April Fair in size. The famous Feria del Caballo, Jerez’s Horse Fair is also this month.
Up in Madrid it’s the world’s largest bullfight festival plus plenty cultural events and parties as Madrileños celebrate San Isidro, the Patron Saint of the capital. Corpus Christi is celebrated all over Spain but it is Toledo where it is most impressive.
An enormous yet little known festival outside Spain is La Romería del Rocio which is a pilgrimage of upto a million people who travel on foot or by horse and carriage to the shrine of the Virgin at El Rocio in Huelva. Corpus Christi is celebrated to varying degrees all over the country most notably in Toledo and Seville. In Granada it’s the International Festival of Music and Dance whilst the Hogueras de San Juan (midsummer bonfires and fireworks) are celebrated in the south especially Alicante.
From mid-June to the end of August is the Barcelona Summer Festival – El Grec and at the end of the month the annual Sonar Festival which also takes place in Barcelona attracting huge crowds to this premier electronic music and digital arts event. In La Rioja the Haro Wine Festival turns into one enormous red wine battle. In the last days of the month or into July some two million gay people get together for Madrid Pride in what is Spain’s biggest gay festival.
The Festival de Cordoba is an International guitar festival that takes place in the gardens of the Alcazar. In Pamplona it’s San Fermin, the famous running of the bulls which always begins on 7th for a week.
The Benicassim Festival on the coast of Valencia is one of the highlights of the annual rock music calendar whilst San Sebastian attracts some of the top jazz performers to its annual San Sebastian Jazz Festival. Meanwhile the Trujillo International Music Festival in Extremadura attracts some of the world’s greatest classical musicians.
If you’re on the south coast on 16th you’ll come across a range of different celebrations of the Día de la Virgen de Carmen. Most commonly you’ll see a statue of the Virgin carried in from the sea by a flotilla of fishing boats often with some impressive firework displays.
On the 25th it’s the Feast of Saint James when thousands of pilgrims who have walked the Camino de Santiago congregate in Santiago de Compostela where the Saint’s tomb lies in the Cathedral.
This month’s prize for the most eccentric festival goes to the Fiesta of Near Death Experiences in Galicia where participants carry their own coffin!
One of Spain’s maddest festivals is La Tomatina Tomato Festival in Bunyol near Valencia which is the world’s biggest tomato fight. Comparable with the Seville April Fair is Malaga’s Feria de Malaga which is an enormous 10 day party down on the south coast. The Sanlucar Horse Races take place on the beach at Sanlúcar de Barrameda near Jerez de la Frontera attracting huge crowds.
Semana Grande in Bilbao is a celebration of the Basque culture and is northern Spain’s biggest annual festival. Meanwhile in Galicia, Cambados hosts the Albariño wine fair where you can sample some of Galicia’s finest white wines. The Elx Mystery Play in Alicante dates back to the 13th century and is one of Spain’s oldest cultural events.
Jerez de la Frontera celebrates its wine harvest with the Jerez sherry festival which begins on the first Saturday of September every year. Known locally as the Fiestas de Otoño, this is a three week party involving sherry, horses and flamenco.
Also during the first week of September is the Feria Goyesca de Pedro Romero in Ronda where all the townsfolk and the matadors at the weekend bullfight are dressed in typical 18th century costumes.
Up in the north, the Rioja region celebrates its grape harvest during the third week of the month with the Fiestas de San Mateo in the city of Logroño. The wine flows day and night for a full week during what is a great time to visit this wine producing region.
Catalunya celebrates Cava week, a festival dedicated to the fine Catalan version of champagne whilst Barcelona city celebrates the Festes de la Merce, a huge fiesta with processions, fireworks and dance performances.
The Costa del Sol explodes into fiesta mode this month with the Fería de Torremolinos whilst in Sueca, Valencia there is a Fiesta del Arroz which is basically a paella festival. In Logroño, the centre of the Rioja wine region, it’s the Fiesta de San Mateo which is yet another grape harvest festival.
After all the activities of the summer months things tend to calm down this month. The biggest event this month is in Zaragoza when the Pilar Festival celebrates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to St James. The event coincides with Hispanidad, a nationwide fiesta commemorating Columbus’s landing in the Americas.
The month begins with the sombre occasion of All Saints Day (Todos Los Santos) when Spanish people from all over the country return to their birthplaces to remember their deceased relatives. There are various film festivals during the month and an alcohol fuelled Fiesta del Orujo in Cantabria which is a great place to party with the locals. The Fiestas in Benidorm are very popular with local residents and tourists alike.
Christmas in Spain is a family affair with Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) a very quiet night when all families get together for dinner. After midnight on Noche Vieja (New Years Eve) is as raucous in Madrid as in other major European cities.