Nobody does a festival quite like the Spanish, and as they pop up all year round, there’s a good chance you’ll get swept up in the celebrations while you’re here. Spanish festivals take place in villages, towns and cities across the country, and while some have historical or religious origins, others are all about just having fun. Here’s our list of Spanish festivals you shouldn’t miss:
1) La Tomatina
La Tomatina (the tomato festival) is the messiest Spanish festival of the lot. It’s held every year in late August, in the usually quiet town of Bunol. Things get decidedly noisy once a year, when up to 300,000 people gather in the streets to throw tomatoes at each other for no apparent reason other than that it seems like a really fun thing to do.
Dating back to 1945, La Tomatina is said to have originated as a protest against Franco’s regime, when running battles took place in the streets of Bunol and people threw whatever they could get their hands on (which just happened to be tomatoes in most cases). Today, it’s a wild spectacle with plenty of laughs thrown in, so grab an old t-shirt and join in the fun. Don’t forget to pack your goggles, as tomato juice in the eye can sting a bit…
2) Las Fallas
Valencia’s Las Fallas takes place each March. It’s a riot of colour and sound with fireworks in every street, alley, and open space across the city. In the main districts, huge cartoon effigies are set alight, and the crowds gather after the sun goes down to witness the ritual burning. With fire engines on standby (just in case), the whole place has a feel of controlled chaos which you just wouldn’t get back home on our rather tame bonfire night. Make sure you head there early in the festival to see the elaborate figurines in all their glory before the bonfires do their job and burn them to ashes.
The Festival Internacional de Benicassim is a four-day music festival on the east coast of Spain between Barcelona and Valencia. It brings in music lovers from all over the world, and it’s a particularly big hit with Brits. They love the unspoiltbeaches, crystal-clear water and star-studded line-ups, that over the years have included the likes of Radiohead, The Killers, Bob Dylan, and Oasis.
If you’re going to be in Spain just before Lent, you’re in for a treat. Carnival is celebrated all over Europe, and Spain plays host to some of the biggest open-air festivals on the continent. Every town puts its own spin on Carnival. All over the country, the streets are alive with music, masks, costumes, food and drink all night long, so you can expect a brilliant atmosphere and very little sleep. Tenerife, Cadiz, and Sitges are among the best places to go.
5) La Féria de Sevilla
La Féria (the April Fair) in Seville is one of the city’s most spectacular festivals. This week-long extravaganza kicks off on Monday evening with the illumination of the fairgrounds, and it continues with seven days of dancing, singing and delicious food and wine. You’ll see lots of locals wearing traditional Andalusian Sevillanas dresses (they’re like Flamenco dresses).
6) The Feria del Caballo Espanol
This traditional Spanish festival takes place every year in Jerez, a city famous for flamenco, fino and horses. The Feria attracts over one million visitors who flock to the region to enjoy the music, dancing, food and fun, as well as the spectacular and colourful horse parade which kicks everything off. Even if you’re not an equestrian fan, there are still plenty of opportunities to join the celebrations, which take place in various locations all over the city and usually last until dawn.