Spain’s colorful, lively and passionate culture draws millions of visitors every year, all of whom are eager to experience this fun and vibrant country for themselves. Without a doubt, there’s no better time to experience local culture at its best than during one of the myriad traditional festivals in Spain throughout the year.
Each festival has a completely unique vibe, with unforgettable traditions and customs that make it unlike any other celebration in the world. No matter how small or big the city or town where a festival or event takes place is, Spaniards celebrate them all to the fullest! Be sure to try and experience one of these unforgettable traditional festivals in Spain on your next trip.
The Holy Week (Semana Santa)
The Holy Week, which takes places during Easter, is an entire week filled with processions and other religious celebrations. Even if you are not a religious person in any way, it’s an event we recommend to attend to once at least, many Spaniards are not religious or do not have a big knowledge about religion and attend the most impressive festivities are always expected during the Semana Santa in Seville and the Holy Week in Malaga.
The brotherhoods of the most important churches spend months in advance practicing their processions, resulting in a solemn and awe-inspiring experience. Dozens of men and women march through the streets, carrying the statue of their church’s patron saint, flanked by hundreds of candles. This event, though it may sound strange, is one of the top events for so many people in Spain: entire families bring chairs and snacks, and they settle on the sidewalk to witness the impressive processions (even if many of those people are not religious at all).
Before the somber solemnity of Lent and Holy Week (one month or one month a half, it depends), most cities throughout Spain erupt into vibrant, happening celebrations. No matter where you find yourself in the country, you’ll be able to find a Carnival celebration nearby. While each city’s celebration retains its own distinct vibe, in general, expect extravagant costumes, exciting parades, and plenty of music and alcohol.
Keep in mind, however, that not all Carnival celebrations are created equal. Sure, you’ll have a good time no matter where you end up, but a few select destinations really go above and beyond. Island paradise Tenerife is home to Spain’s most famous Carnival, with easygoing Cádiz and gay-friendly Sitges not far behind.
Due to the changing date of Easter, Carnival’s date varies by year as well. In 2019, celebrations will take place on March 3rd. This is when the biggest celebration will take place, but in reality, people begin to celebrate Carnival some weeks before.
Las Fallas de Valencia
No list of Spanish festivals can ever be complete without mentioning the Fallas in it! Literally, a party that takes place for five days in the city of Valencia, this festival brings gigantic colorful characters out on the streets. Most of these statues or figures are mostly a result of satire or pop-culture events that have happened throughout the year.
Apart from witnessing the Fallas on your way, the major highlights of one of the most popular festivals in Spain 2019 are the spectacular shows and fireworks that take place during the day, and the light show on the last night. During the last night, the statues are burnt during this light show.
Feria de Málaga (August fair in Malaga)
The best Spanish festival in August, the August Fair of Malaga is a week full of ultimate fun activities and events in the heart of the Costa del Sol. You can attend this fiesta both at day or night and have a summer holiday in Europe like never before. Needless to say, if you visit this fair, you will surely have the time of your life. Immerse yourself in the rich culture and heritage of Spain. We promise you’ll have the time of your life.
Feria de Abril (April Fair of Seville)
Amongst all the fascinating Spanish festivals, the April Fair of Seville is one event that would definitely make you fall in love with the country’s culture. This week-long fair begins with the traditional lighting of the entrance to the fairgrounds at midnight and ends with entertainment, colors, and best of Andalusian art like flamenco. All you have to do to make the most of one of the hottest festivals in Spain 2019 is dress up like the locals, head out to the fair, and enjoy every moment like never before.
Festival de los Patios in Cordoba
May is the month of Cordoba and the Cordoba Patios Festival is the cherry on the cake for all those who choose to spend a few days in this city. The festival takes place every year at the beginning of May. During this time the owners of the most beautiful patios that are normally closed, open up their courtyards for the public to visit.
The festival brings joy, music and a huge amount of tourists to Cordoba, who want to participate in this amazing colourful fair. It’s not just plant-lovers that will enjoy their time in this city, Cordoba is known for its great food, very interesting history and numerous places where you can feel the traditional Andalusian atmosphere.
Not everyone can say they’ve taken part in the world’s biggest food fight. Except for the thousands of people who take to the streets of the tiny town of Buñol, near Valencia, to do so every year. The food of choice at La Tomatina is, unsurprisingly, tomatoes. Messy? Yes. Unforgettably fun? Also yes.
Sources vary when it comes to the origins of the Tomatina, but the festival’s official website claims it all started in 1945 when a disruption during a parade resulted in spectators and participants throwing tomatoes from a nearby fruit stand at each other. The tradition caught on, and now every year on the fourth Wednesday in August, Buñol transforms from a sleepy village into party central.
Going to Bilbao is always a good idea. The city is thriving, constantly changing and becoming for appealing for those who’d like to get to know the less sunny side of Spain.
In the middle of August, Bilbao gets ready for its most important event of the year, the Aste Nagusis or Semana Grande. This festival lasts for 9 days, with concerts, fairs, theatre performances and plenty of other entertainment taking place all over the city. One of the highlights is the fireworks competitions that illuminate the sky every night.
The last day of the festival, there won’t be any fireworks. The closing ceremony takes centre stage instead when la Marijaia (the mascot of the Semana Grande) floats downriver on a boat and is set on fire, only to return when the next edition takes place.
Saint John’s Eve
There is one night in Spain that is very special to many people: the night of June 23rd, Saint John’s Eve. It marks the start of summer, and it’s celebrated at the beach with bonfires and fireworks. And although it is celebrated in many different coastal places all over Spain, it is in the Valencia region where this event is celebrated with the most enthusiasm.
In Spain, people usually call it “La Hoguera de San Juan“ – Hoguera in English is bonfire and San Juan is Saint John.
It’s a magical night filled with old customs and superstition. Many people will jump over the fires and in the waves at midnight, believing it will bring them good luck. In some parts of Spain, like Galicia, food is also an important element, especially sardines cooked in the ashes of the bonfires. In other places like Barcelona and Valencia, everyone will be looking for a vantage point to have a good view of the spectacular fireworks shows at midnight.
Before anything, it is important to notice that many people in Spain are against this festival and any type of event where animals are involved (mostly because of the bull part). But despite that hundreds of thousands of people attend and have such a great time, because San Fermín goes much more beyond than running ahead of bulls! especially foreigners, in this festival you can see people from all over the world.
Held for a week every year at the starting of the month of July, the San Fermin or the Pamplona Bull Run is amongst the most popular festivals in Spain in July. This popular bullfighting festival in Spain begins at 8 in the morning every day and welcomes the most brave-hearted and adventurous people to run ahead of a group of angry bulls. Even if you aren’t so daring at heart, make sure you at least visit the city to witness this mind-boggling scene that will leave you amazed! Add bullfighting festival in Spain to your list.