Here’s a guide to the best and most important festivals and celebrations in Madrid. You might have heard of San Isidro and Dos de Mayo, but what’s so special about those celebrations, and which other ones are important in Madrid? That’s the kind of stuff we are looking into here.
Madrid is already an entertaining city. No matter what time of the year you visit, there will always be something fun to do.
But some days really stand out. These are the big celebrations and festivals in Madrid that have cultural significance. Often, locals as well as visitors celebrate the festive days. Due to the uniqueness of them, people from all over Spain come to Madrid to join the celebrations, as well as many foreigners.
Let’s look at the most important traditions, festivals and celebrations that you will annually find in Spain’s capital.
Epiphany – January 6th
The day of the three kings. A major day in Madrid, and in all of Spain, almost at the same level as Christmas.
In Madrid, the locals eat a special cake, and children get gifts. There is a parade in the city on January 6th, dedicated to the three kings visiting the young Jesus. An absolutely great day.
Dos de Mayo – May 2nd
Also known as “Day of Madrid”. It’s a holiday in the region, so if you’re going in the beginning of May, you should know that both the 1st and 2nd of May are official holidays.
It’s a holiday due to the uprising on May 2nd, 1808 by the people of Madrid, and this is being remembered. It’s common to commemorate the day on Plaza del Dos de Mayo in the Malasaña neighborhood. Malasaña has its name from a local teenage girl that was killed fighting during these battles. The troops in Madrid were the only Spanish troops to revolt at the time, which started the War of Independence, where Napoleonic France was eventually defeated.
San Isidro – May 15th
The official day of San Isidro is May 15th, but celebrations start already a week earlier. It is generally considered to be the most important celebration in the city, and it is completely unique for Madrid.
San Isidro is the city’s patron saint and is celebrated by music, parades, activities and bullfights. Madrid’s bullring is then home of the largest bullfighting event of the year during this time of the year. The locals dress in costumes for San Isidro and the days around it. You can learn a lot about Madrid’s culture by visiting during San Isidro!
La Semana del Orgullo – late June/early July
Also known as Madrid’s pride week. It’s one of the largest gay festivals in the world. It started in the 1980s, but now around two million people take part every year, making it one of the events in Spain that has the most participants.
La Semana del Orgullo is in the end of June and in the early part of July. Most of it takes place in the neighborhood of Chueca, although it may also stretch to other places. Some participants are locals, but most come from far away, as Madrid attracts a lot of visitors during this time. Especially from other parts of Spain, but also from other countries. It’s not unusual to see +2 million people on the streets on the main day of the Orgullo.
San Cayetano – August 2-8
There are three major events in Madrid in August, and usually they are mentioned together as August fiestas or Verbanas. While most Madrileños leave the city and go to coastal areas, some decide to stay, and they are the ones that take place in these events. All the August fiestas are celebrated in the open, and you can expect it to be hot!
The first of them is San Cayetano. It takes place from August 2nd to August 8th, mostly in Rastro and Embajadores. You will see people dancing, wearing traditional clothes, and celebrating the community. Plenty of good food as well.
San Lorenzo – August 9-11
San Lorenzo follows up on San Cayetano. However, this one mostly takes place in Lavapiés, the multicultural and ethnically mixed neighborhood of Madrid. Most celebrations are in the evening, but it will still be hot. Drinks and tapas are common, and most bars will be open. There are also activities for children and many families participate, so it’s not just a time for drinking. It’s a nice celebration for everybody.
La Paloma – August 12-15
You may say that San Cayetano and San Lorenzo are both leading up to La Paloma – the biggest of the August festivals. It is held in honor of Virgen de la Paloma and mostly takes place in La Latina, one of the oldest and most unique neighborhoods in Madrid.
Street dancing is very common and the party is all over the neighborhood. You will almost certainly eat tapas and have a few drinks if you participate. The tapas bars in La Latina are arguably some of the best in the city, and they provide great service doing this celebration. Most locals that stay in Madrid really enjoy La Paloma. Great time to come for a summer holiday, as long as you can stand the heat! It is certainly one of the best festivals in Madrid.
Festival de Otoño – October
The Autumn Festival in Madrid that lasts for the whole month of October. It starts already in the first week, and you will experience a lot of culture doing this month. Many of Spain’s best musical and theatrical events take place here. Very entertaining, and very prestigious as well.
Almudena – November 9th
San Isidro is the male patron saint of Madrid, and the Virgin of Almudena is the female saint of Madrid. On November 9th, she is celebrated, and it is an official holiday. However, occasionally it has been changed to November 10th.
For most people, this is simply a nice day off from work, but some people go to the Almudena Cathedral and attend the mass. No matter how you choose to spend the day, it is a very old tradition that goes back as long as Madrid has existed.
Nochevieja – December 31st
New Year’s Eve at Puerta del Sol – while New Year’s Eve is celebrated everywhere, the celebrations that take place at Puerta del Sol are particularly famous. This is the place that gets shown on Spanish TV at midnight, and this is arguably the most iconic place in the country on New Year’s Eve.
When the bell sounds, the people eat 12 grapes, which is supposed to bring good luck. Everybody does it. But you need to show up early if you want to be part of the Sol celebrations. Come in the afternoon and wait for the rest of the day. Entry will be closed later in the evening, because of limitations of how many people that can join.