20 February 2020

The best festivals and cultural events in Spain

If you’ve been in Barcelona long enough, then you’ve surely had enough time to attend some of the city’s best festivals. Perhaps you’re looking to expand your horizons and take in some culture from other parts of the country. Have a look at some of the biggest festivals and cultural events around Spain.

Marijaia, the symbol of Great Week in Bilbao
Marijaia, the symbol of Great Week in Bilbao, photo via wegow.com

Las Fallas in Valencia

Las Fallas is, without a doubt, one of the most unique and craziest parties in Spain. For 5 days, up to 3 million party-goers arrive in the city to enjoy the fallas which translates to “the fires” in Valencian. At the end of the party, the ninots which are the huge figures made of cardboard, wood and papier mâché are burned in a huge spectacle.

Las Fallas in Valencia, photo via @jimmycdp ⠀

La Tomatina in Buñol

On the last Wednesday of August, the town of Buñol in the Valencian community turns into a full-on tomato fight. There are many tales about how this festival all started, but the most accepted one is that it all started in 1945 in the plaza where people came to watch the Gigantes y Cabezudos. Some young people wanting to participate were rejected and as revenge, grabbed some tomatoes from a stall and began throwing them. This same fight was repeated the next year and the year after that, always ending in police stepping in to stop the fight. Now, people come from all over to participate in this very messy festival.

Girl sitting in doorway with tomato juice everywhere
In the aftermath of La Tomatina, photo via @rizigoesplaces

San Fermín or Sanfermines in Pamplona

More commonly known to some as the “Running of the Bulls”, Samfermines is a week-long festival starting on the 6th of July at exactly noon. During the festival, the town of Pamplona grows from just 280,000 inhabitants to about 1 million. The biggest party begins on the first day when everyone takes to the streets, drinking wine and merrymaking. It’s the custom to wear all white with a red sashed belt and neckerchief, so if you wear anything else, you’ll stand out. The festival dates back to the 12th century but was no doubt made famous by writer Ernest Hemingway.

Bulls running through the streets of Pamplona
Bulls running through the streets of Pamplona, photo: Pablo Blazquez

Feria de Abril in Sevilla

The April Fair is in Sevilla is truly a special time to visit the gorgeous city. People prepare for weeks ahead of time to put together their finest outfits and spend practically the entire week staying up late and returning the next evening to continue the fiesta. The fairgrounds are filled with casetas which are big tents where the parties take place and you’ll see women dressed up in traditional flamenco dresses. Feria de Abril is celebrated the third week after Semana Santa so it doesn’t necessarily always take place in April.

Outside the entrance to the fairgrounds at the Feria de Abril in Sevilla
Outside the entrance to the fairgrounds at the Feria de Abril in Sevilla, photo via @marta__sierra

Aste Nagusia in Biblao

Aste Nagusia which translates as “Great Week” in Basque is celebrated over a 10-day period in mid-August beginning on the first Saturday after the 15th. It celebrates the Assumption of our Lady. Though Aste Nagusia hasn’t been celebrated for hundreds of years (it started in 1978), it’s always a big and lively celebration as it coincides with the circus coming to the city as well as bullfights and traditional dance performances. The festival begins with the chupinazo (the first bang) from the Teatro Arriaga, which is shot off by the chupinera. The official mascot and symbol of the festival is Marijaia, who is represented by a plump woman with her arms raised in celebration.

A plump figurine with her arms wide open in celebration
Marijaia, the symbol of Great Week in Bilbao, photo via wegow.com

Carnaval in Santa Cruz de Tenerife

After Río de Janeiro, the Carnaval de Tenerife is considered to be the best in the world. With impressive costumes, live bands and parades, you’ll feel the Latin rhythm of drums livening up the streets. The party starts 3 weeks after Semana Santa. Every year, a different theme is chosen and someone is crowned queen of the carnival. The highlight is the final parade with bands, dancers and the queen to show off the hard work they’ve put into their costumes throughout the year. If you can’t make it to Tenerife, you can still partake in the festivities all around Spain. Check out our article to learn more about Carnival and its history.

Carnaval parade in Santa Cruz
Carnaval parade in Santa Cruz, photo via webtenerife.co.uk

Cherry Blossom Festival in Cáceres

In the province of Extremadura, tourists from all over come to the Jerta Valley to witness the arrival of spring in the blossoming of the valley’s many cherry trees. At this time the landscape transforms into a picture-perfect postcard of trees covered in white. The festival has been celebrated for more than 70 years and is complimented with gastronomic, sporting and other touristic activities for a party to remember.

Blooming cherry blossoms in the Jerta valley
Blooming cherry blossoms in the Jerta Valley

El Descenso del Sella in Asturias

For the sports lovers out there, this festival is one of the biggest kayaking races in the world. Over a thousand athletes from all over the world unite in Sella every year on the first Saturday in August. While the participants paddle down the Sella River towards the finish line in Ribadesella, the spectators cheer them on along the bankside. Sport, folklore, live music, tents and a lot of partying await you at this huge festival.

Kayakers from all over come to paddle down the Sella River
Kayakers from all over come to paddle down the Sella River, photo via descenscodelsella2018