Spain is a serious contender for THE festival capital of the world, thanks to some of the loudest, messiest and most colourful parades, fiestas and events on earth!
Each of Spain’s 18 municipalities celebrates its own local holidays, with a lively spectacle guaranteed, whatever the month! This is our guide to some of the best festivals on earth!
Corpus Christi – 29 May 2014
Since the 14th century, Toledo has marked Corpus Christi, the deep-rooted religious festival where a vision of Christ appeared to local nun Juliana of Liege.
Fiestas de Haro – 29 June 2014
Wine and culture meet in a heady combination, to produce the annual Haro Festival in the town of the same name in the La Rioja region, which is of course famous for its wine production. The 29th of June is the day of San Pedro and the most important within the summer-long event. Don’t miss the famous drinking contests and the Batalla de Vino, aka Battle of Wine where copious amounts of local wines are poured on each other!
Fiesta de San Fermin – 6-14 July 2014
The riotous San Fermin festival is best known for the world-famous Running of the Bulls spectacle. This cultural phenomenon (as much an institution as a festival) takes place each summer in Pamplona, capital of Spain’s Navarre region. Labelled as the most dangerous running race in the world, this event is not for the faint hearted – bulls rampage through Pamplona’s streets and often results in a bull versus human stand-off.
Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme – 29 July 2014
The scary-named Festival of Near-Death Experiences is celebrated in Las Nieves in Spain’s Galicia region each July, where your attendance could, quite literally, change your life!
Romeria Vikinga – 3 August 2014
Pontevedra in Galicia puts on a superb simulation of the Torres de Oeste Viking invasion. Afterwards, participants imbibe red wine fresh from the Ulla River and consume seafood, followed by folk dancing.
La Tomatina – 27 August 2014
And now onto the winner of the messiest annual festival – La Tomatina! Each August Buñol’s streets erupt into a free-for-all tomato fight, splattering 30,000 revellers in some 130,000 kilos of the red fruit. Tomatina has become the must-experience festival on the annual calendar, attracting travellers from all corners of the globe.
Les Festes de la Merce – 20-24 September 2014
Barcelona hosts the La Mercè fiesta each September which honours the Catalonian city’s patron saint. Around 30 fiestas actually make up la Mercè, spread across the various neighbourhoods. All share the same traditional practices however, from locals dressed as human castles, sultans, fishermen and princesses. Also omnipresent are the ubiquitous correfocs, aka fire runs, which is a lively display; young men dressed as devils dance along the streets, sporting fire-breathing tridents.
Concurs de Castells – 4-5 October 2014
The Roman port city of Tarragona hosts the Concurs de Castells, which is dubbed as the ‘greatest human tower show in the world’. Thirty two teams are watched by thousands of spectators as they set out to build the tallest human tower. It’s an important date on the Catalan culture calendar and is even marked as a UESCO Intangible Heritage of Humanity event.
Madrid Jazz Festival November – December 2014 TBC
As the weather cools, November’s events focus on film and music festivals, namely jazz festivals, with several cities hosting their own individual events. Cue Madrid, which hosts the most prominent of the country’s jazz festivals, lasting a month during November and December.
Els Grans del Gospel – December 2014 TBC
As residents of Spain look forward to the approach of Christmas, the local festivals and events step up a notch, and Barcelona hosts its annual Els Grans del Gospel, aka Gospel Festival, in December. Renowned artists and groups from across the world perform at the two week event.
Tamborrada de San Sebastian – 1 January 2015
First up on the annual festival calendar is the extremely loud San Sebastian Drum Festival held in the coastal city of San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque Country. Drummers parade the street in time with the constant thump of the near-deafening drums on New Year’s night.
La Endiablada – 2-3 February 2015
The residents of Cuenca city come out to celebrate La Endiablada, aka The Disguised Devils. Young local men of the Castilla y La Mancha region don devil disguises in a traditional ceremony which dates back to the prehistoric period. Brightly coloured trousers and jackets are the order of the day as the event culminates in the symbolic washing of the San Blas statue.
Fallas de Valencia – 19 March 2015
Travellers have really cottoned on to this pyro-themed festival where around 400 carefully crafted cardboard sculptures, aka ‘fallas’ are set alight, to the delight (and slight trepidation) of the large crowds that gather. Undoubtedly the ‘Nit del Foc’, aka Night of the Fire segment is the most impressive part to this festival which dates back to the Middle Ages.
Fiesta de Moros y Cristianos – 2-5 May 2015
The Valencian city of Alicante unites each April to celebrate the annual Moors and Christians festival which is steeped in history, legend and performance. Proceedings kick off in Cuenca in January with the feast of the Holy Christ and culminate in December with the Moorish King festivities in Agost. During the year there are more than 150 separate Moors and Christians events observed all across Spain. The biggest and boldest are to be found in Alicante who has celebrated with aplomb since the 13th century. This event is officially marked as a Festival of International Tourist Interest.
Feria de Abril – 5-10 May 2015
With April come the spectacular Seville fair, where a seemingly never-ending cavalcade of parade participants takes to the streets. By night, the flamenco singers and energetic dancers dominate the atmosphere, where colourful tents bedecked in paper lanterns line the landscape.
Festival de los Patios Cordobeses – 5-18 May 2015
The English name of this Cordoba based fiesta is not quite so romantic – The Cordoba Patio Festival – dates back centuries. The Andalucian region marks the pilgrimage of the Virgin of the Linares Sanctuary, with a faithful reconstruction replete with jostling horsemen and lavishly decorated coaches.