Spain has a collection of unique festivals, ranging from sombre religious rituals to outrageous food fights. Every year, visitors from all over the world gather at prominent cities to marvel at spectacular processions, fireworks displays, music and dance performances, as well as quirky costumes and decorations.

    Giving you plenty of opportunities to let your hair down and party until you drop, check out these festivals you shouldn’t skip in Spain. These fiestas often take place during the peak months of spring and summer, so be sure to plan well in advance.


    Carnival in Tenerife

    February: Vote for the Carnival Queen at this flamboyant festival

    Carnival is Spain’s largest festivity, boasting loud music, flamboyant costumes, and street parades and parties. This vibrant event takes place in February and March as a prelude to Lent, with locals going all out with partying before a period of abstinence and self-reflection. Santa Cruz de Tenerife is one of the best places to celebrate Carnival. The entire month of February is dedicated to beauty pageants, concerts and best-dressed contests. A unique ritual that takes place at Carnival is Entierro de la Sardina (Sardine’s Burial), which involves a sardine effigy being carried through the streets by ‘mourners’. It is then set on fire to announce the end of the festival. The whole parody is meant to symbolise death and renewal in a light-hearted way. 

    Date: Feb

    Location: Tenerife


    Fallas Festival in Valencia

    March: Check out colourful effigies and street parades during this spring festival

    Fallas Festival is an extravagant celebration in Valencia. The event lasts for a week, with vibrant street parades, paella contests, beauty pageants, marching bands, and costume shows starting from 8am. Every day at 2pm, crowds gather at Plaza del Ayuntamiento to watch mascletà, a massive fireworks display signalling the start of the celebration. There are also gigantic effigies set up throughout Valencia, all of which are burned on the final day of Fallas Festival. 

    Date: Mid-March from 8am to midnight

    Location: Plaza del Ayuntamiento, Valencia


    Semanta Santa in Seville

    March: See massive figures of Christ at this religious festival

    Semanta Santa is a sombre event in Spain that’s usually held for about a week in mid-April. Also known as the Holy Week, hermandades (brotherhoods) of prominent churches put on hooded costumes and parade the streets while carrying statues of various patron saints. Some processions feature statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary. Seville is known for hosting the largest Semanta Santa festival, where you can see between 7 and 9 processions every day.

    Date: Every year, between mid-March and April

    Location: Seville


    Festival de los Patios in Cordoba

    May: Visit over 50 decorated patios at this spring festival

    Festival de los Patios (Cordoba Patios Festival) attracts nature lovers every spring with its beautiful floral gardens and Andalusian courtyards. It’s held at the start of May, when private-owned patios are open for exploring over the course of 12 days. You can take plenty of beautiful photos of the traditional courtyards decorated with various sculptures and flowers. To see the best patios, you should visit the Viana Palace, a 14th century museum. Throughout the festival, you can enjoy jota (traditional music with guitar, castanets, and tambourines) music and flamenco performances, as well as delicious tapas and wines.

    Date: early May

    Location: Cordoba


    La Batalla del Vino in Haro

    June: Get soaked from head to toe in Spanish wine

    La Batalla del Vino (The Wine Battle) offers those visiting the town of Haro a good excuse to indulge and bathe in Spanish wines for the entire day. Every year between 27th and 30th June, this one-day event is officiated in the main square of Plaza de la Pa. In the early morning, it’s packed with thousands of people dressed in white clothes with a red handkerchief tied around their necks. The festivity involves splashing litres of red wine at everyone in sight using your weapon of choice, usually buckets and water-sprays. La Batalla del Vino ends with a massive food fair, where you can unwind with delicious food and wines.

    Date: Every year, between 27th and 29th June

    Location: Haro, La Rioja Province, Spain

    photo by BigSus (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Pride Week in Madrid

    June: Check out flamboyant drag shows at this LGBT-friendly event

    Pride Week is held in many countries, but many claim Madrid as one of the best places in Spain to celebrate this event. Typically held in June or July, the city becomes alive with an array of fun-filled activities, concerts, processions, and loud music all week long. Expect thousands of people dressed up in quirky costumes and waving rainbow-coloured flags at spectators. Make sure to celebrate Pride Week in Chueca, a vibrant neighbourhood that’s the epicentre of Madrid’s LGBT community.

    Date: Every year between June and July

    Location: Madrid


    La Tomatina in Buñol

    August: Throw tomatoes at everyone in sight

    Imagine a scene where 20,000 people throw truckloads of tomatoes at each other and you’ll get the feeling of what La Tomatina is all about. Buñol’s Tomato Battle is actually the final event of a week-long celebration, which is held in honour of patron saints Luis Bertran and the Mare de Deu dels Desemparats. The hour-long tomato fight takes place at Plaza del Pueblo on the last Wednesday of August. Trucks of fresh tomatoes are brought to the square and La Tomatina kicks off after the firing of water cannons. There’s also a contest that involves climbing to the top of as greased pole to get to a smoked ham leg at the top. If you want to participate in this fun battle, book well in advance as tickets are limited to 20,000 people. 

    Date: Last Wednesday of August

    Location: Buñol

    photo by Graham McLellan (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Fiesta Mayor de Gracia in Barcelona

    August: Watch street acrobats and fireworks displays in August

    Fiesta Mayor de Gracia transforms the streets of Garcia into gigantic art displays. From 12th to 21st August, hundreds of handmade paper lanterns in various shapes and colours cover the narrow pathways within the neighbourhood. During the day, there are family-friendly activities, food fairs, and games to enjoy. The best time to see these displays is in the evening, when a variety of acrobats, music, fireworks, and parades are held throughout Garcia. 

    Date: 15th - 21st August

    Location: Barcelona

    photo by Gerardo nuñez (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Boloencierro in Madrid

    August: Outrun a gigantic ball at this thrilling event

    • Unusual
    • Group

    Boloencierro, a safer alternative to the Encierro (Bull Run), involves hundreds of participants outrunning a gigantic ball that weighs over 150 kg. The ball is actually made with polystyrene, but do keep your wits about you as falls are common occurrences during the event. Alternatively, you can watch the entire spectacle from various vantage points in the village. It’s celebrated every August in Mataelpino, a mountain village 50 km northwest of Madrid. 

    Date: August

    Location: Mataelpino, Spain


    Festes de la Merce in Barcelona

    September: Cheer for your favourite team during the human tower contest

    Festes de la Merce is one of the largest festivals in Barcelona. One of its most thrilling activities is the correfoc, which involves firecrackers being set off among the crowds and giant effigies of demons and dragons. This event takes place during the final week of September, with thousands of spectators gathering at Plaça de Sant Jaume to celebrate the city’s patron saint. Throughout the day, expect hundreds of street performances, quirky characters, beautiful costumes, and human tower competitions. 

    Date: September 

    Location: Plaça de Sant Jaume, Barcelona

    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveller

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