The red and yellow colors of Spain’s flag are not the only thing that’s bright and colorful about the country. Every year, millions of tourists flock into Spain’s various cities, soaking up the passion and culture of the country and participating in popular Spanish festivals.
For many, there is no better time to do this than during one of the myriad traditional festivals held in Spain throughout the year. Whether it be a week-long event dedicated to Easter, or a one-day occasion dedicated to throwing tomatoes at each other, be sure to see one of these unforgettable Spanish festivals on your next trip.
Cristianos y Moros
If you read any Spanish textbook, you will quickly discover that Spain was previously dominated by two clashing cultures throughout much of the last century: The Moors and the Christians. That history is now celebrated across a number of cities in Spain throughout the year, with mock battles taking place at specially built papier-mâché castles. Those events are then followed, of course, by a lot of partying throughout the night.
Alicante is widely known as the most popular city to find these celebrations, with several mock battles taking place across its various beaches.
Yes, there really is an event where Spanish people spend the day throwing tomatoes at each other.
La Tomatina takes place in the tiny town of Buñol, near Valencia, where thousands of people take to the streets and hurl tomatoes at one another. The event occurs each year on the fourth Wednesday of August and, according to the official La Tomatina website, originally started in 1945. This was following a disruption during a parade, where angry locals grabbed tomatoes from a nearby fruit stand, lobbed them at each other and, unknowingly, started a 74-year long tradition.
From tomatoes to animals, the San Fermin festival takes place each July and is famous for its procession of leading bulls through the town centre. Originally started in honour of the patron saint San Fermin, the festival has become an incredibly lively affair, featuring a number of fiestas, bull fights, markets and, of course, lots of drinking and eating.
The main highlight though is ‘Encierro’ where Spanish locals run 800 metres between the Calle Santo Domingo to the bull ring, while a stampede of bulls chase behind them.
The Holy Week Of Spanish Festivals
Holy Week – or Semana Santa as it’s known in Spain – is a stunning festival which takes place in the week leading up to Easter.
Elaborate events take place each day across a number of different cities throughout Spain. The most famous processions are held in Seville and Malaga, but the cities of Valladolid and León are growing in popularity as well. During the events, members of local parishes and religious brotherhoods parade ornate religious-themed floats around the city. Locals dress up in traditional costumes while live bands play sombre music, making for a truly unique Easter experience.
Haro Wine Festival
One of the crazier events on our list, the Batalla del Vino takes place each year in the town of Haro in the Rioja region of Spain. While it may technically still be a festival, many of the locals see it as more of a battle, with the town erupting every June with a variety wine drinking competitions.
The event starts the day fairly calmly, holding mass at 9AM. As soon as that’s out of the way though, carnage ensues, with more wine actually ending up on your clothes, instead of down your throat. It literally ends up everywhere.
Carnival celebrations take place throughout Spain. Wherever you find yourself in the country in the weeks leading up to Easter, you won’t be too far away from a Carnival celebration.
That’s not to say that all Carnival events are equal – they really aren’t. A few select destinations really go above and beyond for their celebrations, including Cádiz and Sitges. However, by far the most popular Carnival destination is the island paradise of Tenerife. Here you will find extravagant costumes, spectacular parades and an abundance of music and alcohol that rivals all other Spanish festivals.
If you think you’ve seen a bonfire, think again.
The Spanish festival known as Las Fallas is a truly unique experience. For four days in the middle of March, the city of Valencia transforms itself into a carnival of huge papier-mâché figurines, performances and fireworks. Not only that, but the festival finishes with a breath-taking display of huge bonfires that burn through the night. It really is a must-see event.
Feria de Sevilla
As you might have guessed, the Feria de Sevilla festival takes place in the city of Sevilla. Otherwise known as the April Fair, the event is dedicated to celebrating all that Andalusia is famous for. Flamenco, horses, sherry – the festival is an extraordinarily colourful extravaganza which is perfectly family friendly during the day, and very much more adult-friendly at night. With free-flowing alcohol and parties raging through the night, the weeklong event is an authentic representation of Spanish culture.