Peanut butter and jelly. Simon and Garfunkel. Spain and fiestas.
Some things were just made for one another.
With festival season in full swing, there’s no better place to be than Spain. Seriously, these people know how to party. From town fairs to food fights to flamenco, summer in Spain is a never-ending fiesta.
In reality, the Spanish party year-round, but the bulk of the festivals happen during the summer. If you’re planning a trip to Spain between May and October, put at least a few of these on your list. If you’re not planning a trip to Spain… what are you waiting for?
April 30-May 6: Seville – Feria de abril*: Many towns in Spain will host week-long fairs of drinking, dancing, eating, and celebrating the best of the city. Expect to see lots of horses, flamenco, bullfighting, and tapas in Seville. I know there are only a couple days left, but if you miss this fair, there are very similar ones in other Andalusian cities. Oh, and one more thing: get cozy with important Sevillanos, as many of the casetas (house-tents) are exclusive.
2-14: Córdoba – Los Patios: Córdoba is probably the most happening place in Spain in May. Los Patios celebrates the magnificent interior courtyards that form the cornerstone of many Cordobese homes. As if the city wasn’t beautiful enough already, locals dress it up with gorgeous floral arrangements. If you’re looking to take some Insta-worthy photos, this is the festival for you. To find out what to do and where to stay in Córdoba, check out this post.
12-16: Madrid – Fiestas de San Isidro: This festival celebrates San Isidro, the patron Saint of Madrid. It’s a time to sing, dance, and stuff your face with donuts and lemonade. Count me in.
13-20: Jerez de La Frontera (Cádiz) – Feria del Caballo: From the town that brought you sherry wine comes the Horse Fair, a weeklong event featuring wine, music, and of course, our equine friends.
13-21: Girona – Temps de Flors: What better way to celebrate spring than with a festival dedicated to flowers? Head up to the north of Spain to enjoy art installations made entirely of flora.
15: Sóller (Mallorca) – Es Firó: Don’t forget about the islands! Soller, Mallorca reenacts the day that the women of the town protected their people from the Moorish invasion of 1561. Girl power ftw.
20-27: Córdoba – La Feria de Córdoba*: While not as massive as Seville’s, Córdoba’s fair is just as fun and much more open to the public.
23-28: Sanlucar de Barrameda (Cádiz) – Feria de Manzanilla: Yet another Andalusian fair, the Feria de Manzanilla celebrates manzanilla wine, a type of sherry produced in Sanlucar, Cádiz.
10-17: Granada – Feria del Corpus*: Similar to Córdoba and Sevilla, Granada’s fair boasts many public and private casetas as well as flamenco dancing and bullfighting.
10-18: Allariz (Galicia) – Festa do Boi*: The town of Allariz sets a bull loose on the streets for nine days.
18: Burgos – El Colacho: Otherwise known as the Baby Jumping festival, “men dressed as the Devil (known as the Colacho) in red and yellow jump suits jump over babies born during the previous twelve months of the year who lie on mattresses in the street. The ‘devils’ hold whips and oversized castanets as they jump over the unaware infants.” Yeah.
23-24: Alicante (Valencia) – Noche de San Juan: This festival actually takes place around the world. The most famous event in Spain occurs in Alicante, where partygoers celebrate the shortest night of the year by lighting bonfires on the beach.
23-July 14: Granada – Festival Internacional de Música y Danza: The International Festival of Music and Dance of Granada features renowned local and international artists in a truly unique setting: the palaces of the Alhambra.
28-30: Haro (La Rioja) – Batalla del Vino: Wine fight. Need I say more?
30-July 2: Lugo (Galicia) – Arde Lucus Roman Revival Festival: Forget frat parties. Grab your toga and head up to Galicia for a real taste of ancient Rome. Participate in banquets, battles, circuses, and more.
5-August 27: Mérida (Extremadura) – Festival Internacional de Teatro Clásico: Mérida is home to a spectacular Roman theatre. Every summer, it hosts a classical theatre festival for visitors to enjoy the epic stories of the ancient world.
6-14: Pamplona – San Fermín*: Possibly the most well-known festival in Spain, San Fermín is where you’ll find the famous running of the bulls.
15-31: Santiago de Compostela – Fiestas del Apóstol Santiago: While July 25 is actually the most important day of the festival, the city of Santiago celebrates before and after. The festival commemorates Saint James, the patron saint of Spain.
24-30: Tudela (Navarra) – Fiestas de Santa Ana*: Tudela honours its patron saint, Saint Anne, with traditional dances, processions, and bullfights.
11-15: Madrid – Fiestas de la Paloma: La Virgen de la Paloma is considered the “popular patron” of Madrid. Firefighters parade around carrying her picture and the people of Madrid dance traditional chotis.
12-19: Málaga – Feria de Málaga*: Very similar to other Andalusian fairs.
15-21: Barcelona – La Festa Major de Gracia: What started as a celebration solely for residents of the Gracia neighbourhood has grown into a massive festival hosting over one million visitors per year.
30: Buñol (Valencia) – La Tomatina: Ever feel the desire to mercilessly hurl tomatoes at people’s heads? Now’s your chance. Invite your enemies.
7-15: Salamanca – Ferias y Fiestas de Salamanca: Salamanca honours the Virgin of the Meadow every 8th of September. During the week of celebrations, you’ll find processions, street food, and musical performances.
7-15: Zaragoza – Fiestas de Pilar: Virgin Mary of the Pillar is Zaragoza’s patron saint. Festivalgoers honour her with an offering of flowers and later fruits. This seems to be one of the more religious festivals with several well-attended Masses throughout the week.
27-November 5: Girona – Fires de Sant Narcís: Girona heats up in the fall with the Saint Narcis Fair. Look out for colossal papier mâché figures at this party.
*I do not encourage attendance to these festivals or specific events held within them due to their inhumane treatment of animals. However, they (sadly) remain an important part of Spanish culture, which is why I have included them here.
When people think of partying in Spain, they think Ibiza and Benidorm, but the country is so much more than that. Spain lives and breathes festivals. Its identity is so deeply rooted in fiestas that sometimes it seems like they play more than they work. I rather like the idea of celebrating any chance we can, though. In North America, we spend so much of our precious time working and not enough time appreciating our culture.
Ask a Spanish person why a particular festival exists and they might say something like, “I don’t know, but it’s a chance to get out and enjoy life.” This is the essence of fiestas in 2017: not honouring saints or seasons or flowers, but taking a moment to celebrate the beauty of living where they do.
Have you been to a festival in Spain? What did you think? If not, which one would you like to attend? Let me know in the comments!
A special thank you goes out to the members of the Auxiliares de Conversación 2016-17 Facebook group for providing me with suggestions of their favourite festivals.