Spain is well known for its fantastic festivals that occur throughout the year, usually bringing thousands of locals together to celebrate these specific days. Spain is an incredibly interesting country with many subtle nuances. The country’s culture has been uniquely shaped by its long history which spans thousands of years.
Festivals are known as fiestas in Spanish and many of these events are highly anticipated by the locals throughout the year.
Many of the festivals are held to commemorate religious figures important to Spanish culture that have passed. Many others are held to celebrate certain important occasions throughout the year.
Check out our favourite Spanish festivals, so that you can join in the revelry!
Famous Festivals in Spain
There are some fantastically well known Spanish celebrations. Locals and foreigners alike flock to join and partake in the fun. The best-known examples are the incredibly messy La Tomatina and the widely known Pamplona Bull Run.
There are many festivals that take place throughout the year and it can be challenging to keep track of them all. So we’ve compiled a list of famous Spanish festivals so that you can plan your holiday to fit in your favourites. Just be sure to bring along a great travel camera.
1. La Tomatina
The La Tomatina festival is well known for being immense amounts of fun as well as incredibly messy. This particular event is held in the small town of Buñol located about 40km west of the gorgeous Spanish city of Valencia. It’s known to attract upwards of 10 000 participants each year!
The festival starts at around 9AM in the early hours of the morning. A large hunk of ham is hoisted up onto a tall pole in the town square and people scramble to get to it.
It’s incredibly rare for anyone to actually reach the ham as the pole itself is always thoroughly greased. After around 2 hours of failed attempts at reaching the ham, at around 11AM, trucks begin to unload tons of ripe tomatoes to the general public. A cannon fires at this time to signal the start of the madness and mayhem.
For an hour, everyone will throw tomatoes at each other, bathing the entire area in a puree. At 12PM a second cannon goes off signalling the end of the festivities as the participants happily head home to wash off.
This one’s not for the squeamish – or vegans perhaps – but it’s a one-of-a-kind party to remember.
- When: 26th August
- Where: Buñol, Valencia Province
2. Feria Del Caballo
Credit : World Festival Directory
This vibrant festival is usually held in the first or second week of May as tradition dictates. The main attraction is the magnificent display of the finest horses found within the region. It’s held within the town of Jerez located in the stunning region of Andalusia.
This unique horse fair brings thousands of onlookers from the nearby cities and is well known for it’s other displays such as live flamenco performances and traditional food stalls. Many participants have praised the festival as a joyous occasion to observe and experience. If you’re in Andalusia around this time, make a plan to get to Jerez.
- When: 9th – 16th May
- Where: Jerez de la Frontera, Andalusia
3. San Fermin (The Bull Run)
Perhaps one of the most famous festivals in Spain, the annual Bull Run is a dangerous display where the adrenaline-fueled local people of Pamplona attempt to outrun enraged bulls in the streets of the city. This festival is very dangerous and there have been many incidents where people are badly hurt in the process of the run.
The bull run happens every year early in July. This spectacle takes place at 8 AM each day for the week of the festival and continues throughout the day. It should be noted that we do not condone bullfighting or the harming of these animals.
- When: 6th – 14th July
- Where: Pamplona, Navarre Province
4. Semana Santa
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Semana Santa is one of the most famous traditional festivals in Spain. This is mainly due to Roman Catholicism being the country’s largest religion. It’s truly a spectacular experience held just before the week of Easter.
Each city has its own unique celebrations during this holy week. In some cities, the celebrations can be quite solemn whereas in others it’s exciting and jubilant.
Most of the cities, however, will have massive floats paraded throughout the city of religious figures such as Jesus and the Virgin Mary. These are flanked by musical troupes playing drums and other instruments.
Regardless of your personal religious affiliation just seeing everyone come together and spend time giving thanks for what they have is a truly humbling experience.
- When: 5th – 12th April
- Where: Most cities throughout Spain
5. Las Fallas De Valencia – The Festival of Fire
This traditional celebration, held in the city of Valencia, is made in commemoration of Saint Joseph. The Spanish term Falles refers both to the festival itself and the large monuments that are burnt during the celebrations.
This celebration is held in the springtime month of March annually.
An interesting fact on this specific celebration is that the burning aspect of it is rooted in ancient Pagan traditions. The celebration is well known for its magnificent fireworks displays and live music. It’s an incredible opportunity to experience local culture and have a totally unique bit of fun.
- When: 15th – 20th March
- Where: Valencia, Valencia Province
6. Festa Major De Gracia
This summer festival is held in Spain’s capital city of Barcelona, mainly in the district of Gracia. Almost all of the neighbourhood comes together on this day to take part in the festivities and attempt to win the title of the most beautiful and uniquely decorated street!
It’s not uncommon for each of the streets in the district to take the competition very seriously and create truly magnificent displays.
The decorations throughout the district are all unique and colourful creating a surreal experience to be had. Many street vendors and performers also set up in the streets during this time to add to the busy atmosphere of the Gracia district.
- When: 15th – 21st August
- Where: Barcelona, Catalonia region
Smaller Traditional Festivals in Spain
There are many well-known festivals in Spain. However, there are also smaller celebrations that can be attended that are equally as spectacular as the rest, just less well-known. We’ll go through some of them and expand on what to expect when attending.
These Spanish celebrations may not be as famous as some of the others, however they still attract massive amounts of local revellers.
7. The Haro Wine Festival
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Just as La Tomatina is messy and chaotic, so too is the Haro Wine Festival known for its beer and wine fights. This festival is held annually on Saint Peter’s day on the 29th of June.
This exuberant display has roots set as far back as the middle ages with the first Batalla Del Vino. Held in the town of Rioja this event has been known to almost double the population of the town with foreigners and other Spaniards. The festival is super fun and well-loved by the people of Spain and foreigners alike.
Tradition requires participants to follow a person on horseback who plays the part of Haro, the mayor of the town, on a 7KM walk to the hermitage of San Felices. After this walk is complete a short mass is convened before absolute carnage breaks loose with participants dousing each other in wine from buckets, bottles and water pistols.
- When: 28th – 30th June
- Where: Haro, La Rioja province
8. La Tamborrada – The Drum Festival
Credit: Beatriz Montabes Aparicio, Vimeo
This festival is located in the city of Donostia-San Sebastian in the mountainous Basque region. The whole city comes together to celebrate their city’s traditions and culture.
La Tamborrada begins at midnight on the 19th of January and continues through to midnight the following day. All the locals gather together at the Plaza de la Constitución to witness the city flag being raised, and everyone sings the city song together. This is then followed by parades and drumming troupes.
The drumming continues for the full 24 hours that the festival is set. The drummers are known to dress up in traditional soldiers uniforms. On the following midnight, everyone gathers at the square to sing the city’s anthem one last time before witnessing the flag being lowered.
- When: 20th January
- Where: San Sebastian, Basque Country
9. Feria De Abril – The April Fair of Seville
Credit: La Voz de Galicia
This is an important Spanish festival as it highlights Spain’s cultures and traditions incredibly well. The festival usually lasts for a week and consists of flamenco and traditional music as well as lots of traditional food.
Many locals and foreigners alike dress up in traditional garb throughout this event and parade through the streets enjoying the music and food. This festival is also known as the Seville Fair and is found within the Andalusian capital of Seville.
- When: 26th April – 2nd May
- Where: Seville, Andalusia
10. Cordoba Patios Festival
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The Cordoba Patios Festival is well known for its unique beauty and features. This event takes first during the first week of May and has been a long-standing festival in the Spanish city of Cordoba.
During this time it’s common for the owners of the most beautiful patios in the city to open them up to onlookers and public viewing. Many have been groomed for years and are absolutely breathtaking.
Ever since the very first Cordoba Patio Festival in 1918, the locals have made sure to take great care of their patios and the plants in preparation for this week.
- When: 4th – 17th May
- Where: Cordoba, Andalusia
11. Feria De Málaga
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Located in the city of Malaga, this Spanish fiesta is full of fun activities to take part in with the locals, family and friends. It should be noted that getting through the city by car during this time can be fairly difficult due to the massive amount of traffic that is experienced on that day. Many partygoers converge on this summer fair from around the country.
Needless to say, it’s very worth it as the celebrations continue on for an entire day with local bands playing music and traditional food stalls being set up!
- When: 15th – 24th August
- Where: Malaga, Costa del Sol
Other Cultural Activities Important to Spain
Cultural activities are held in high esteem in Spain. Spaniards are well known for their love of music and dance. The many music festivals that are held in the island chains and seaside cities during the summer months are a testament to that.
Many of these events in Spain can be day-long festivals, others are smaller one night parties.
12. Benicassim Festival
The Benicassim Festival is widely regarded as the largest music festival in Spain. It’s a 3 to 4 day event held on the eastern coast of Spain between the cities of Barcelona and Valencia. An idyllic location, there’s so much beauty found on this coastline to experience for yourself when taking a break from the loud beats of the main stage.
Join the massive crowds and watch international DJ’s and popular bands and singers perform.
- When: 16-19 July 2020
- Where: Castellón Province
13. The Barcelona Beach Festival
Another massive festival located on the warm beaches of Barcelona, the Barcelona Beach Festival or BBF is also a fantastic party to join. Attracting thousands of festival-goers annually it’s easy to see why this particular party makes the cut.
With past headliners including David Guetta and Armin Van Buuren, this festival attracts large crowds and always guarantees a raucous time. It takes place annually in the month of July.
- When: July 2020
- Where: Barcelona, Catalonia
Final Thoughts on Spanish Festivals
Spain is a country filled to the brim with traditional festivals that bring awe to everyone lucky enough to experience it for themselves. With events happening year-round there’s always something to celebrate in this beautiful country.
If you’ve been on the wall about visiting Spain for any particular festival rest assured that you’re bound to have a fantastic time! With the right preparation beforehand your holiday in Spain can be an unforgettable experience just waiting to be had.