From tomato throwing to boisterous bullfighting alongside mighty music festivals, the Spanish sure know how to throw a fiesta. The Mediterranean haven is rich with eclectic festivals, celebrating anything from religious events to Spanish food and wine specialties to classic traditions like bullfighting. With many dating back thousands of years, we have selected 10 of the best and most bizarre festivals in Spain. Click on the interactive map below to find out the festival dates and locations!
1. La Tomatina, Buñol
One of Spain’s most weird and wonderful festivals takes place in the small town of Buñol, hosting 30,000 visitors in late August annually. La Tomatina invites participants to collect overripe tomatoes and throw them at each other in a ridiculous but entertaining ceremony. The games begin around 11am when a ham is placed on top of a large, greased pole and people race to climb to the top and bring it down. With the victory, the tomato throwing officially begins. It’s not a competition but rather a fun opportunity for everyone to let their hair down with music, parades, dancing, and fireworks alongside the tomato fight.
2. San Isidro, Madrid
San Isidro is the patron saint of Madrid and this celebration marks the start of bullfighting season where the best in the industry travel to mark the occasion. Part of the charm of this festival lies in the traditional dress everyone wears to the plaza for open air concerts with classic Spanish dancing. Showcasing the best of the cities energy, this festival embodies a mix of traditional culture and modernity. Don’t miss the Gigantes y Cabezudos’ parade, and unforgettable evenings of Zarzuela and comic opera, a true highlight of the festival.
3. Haro Wine Festival, Rioja
In the heart of Spain’s Rioja producing area, Haro Wine Festival attracts thousands of visitors every summer but it’s not quite what you expect. Fondly known as the Batalla de Vino (wine battle), the festivities involve participants finding containers and carrying as much wine as physically possible, ready to throw at fellow festival goers in combat. Led by the town’s mayor on horseback, the procession winds through the town to the Cliffs of Bilibio. The battle supposedly evolves from a dispute between two towns in the tenth century and now attracts people from all over the world, traditionally dressed in white.
4. Jerez Horse Fair
Nestled in the south-west corner of Andalucia, the Jerez de la Frontera (the festival of the horse) dates back to 1264. These days, it attracts more than a million visitors ready to get involved with horse competitions or join the general merriment of flamenco dancing and sherry drinking. The daytime festivities see the streets filled with colorful parades of horses and men dressed in regal attire complete with top hats, while the women wear traditional flamenco outfits. This festival really has it all; from horse activities to bullfighting to late night music and dancing, it epitomizes the best in Spanish culture.
5. Madrid Pride Week
In the midst of summer, Madrid Pride Week is a huge event in Spanish calendars with everyone celebrating the LGBT community in all its glory. The famous gay neighborhood Chueca explodes during Pride, packed with plenty of free open air concerts, 7 different stages and various art and culture celebrations. Rich with diversity, exhibited in the World Pride Parade, this event is a don’t miss for people from all over the globe. It brings out the best in Spanish culture and oozes energy and high spirits. It’s a must for those looking for a siesta, Spanish style.
6. San Fermin Running of the Bulls
The center of old quartier, Navarra, is home to the San Fermin festival in July. Famous for its procession of leading bulls through the town center, this festival is one of Spain’s more unusual events. It originated from honoring the patron saint San Fermin but nowadays it’s a huge smorgasbord of different fiestas, bull fights and markets. The highlight is the Encierro, a spectacle of bulls charging behind runners for 800 meters between the Calle Santo Domingo and the bull ring. Two rockets are launched and the run begins. Lasting just a few minutes, it is something quite spectacular and is followed by plenty of drinking and eating.
7. Cava Week
Producing 85% of all the cava in Catalunya, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia celebrates its harvest with a Cava Week Festival in fall. Rich with culinary feasts, folk music and plenty to drink, this occasion embodies the spirit of Spain. The festivities begin with the crowning of an annual Cava Queen and are followed by Catalan folk music concerts and dancing. The famous Barcelona train ride involves 1000 people boarding a train from the city dressed in traditional costume and preparing for the festival. Following their arrival, festival goers congregate at the town hall and cava houses where tours of the cellars are given. Anyone with a taste for bubbles should head to Catalunya.
8. Sonar Music Festival
Crowned as one of the best festivals in Europe, attracting world renowned DJs, Sonar is one of Spain’s most loved annual events. It displays the best in electronic, hiphop, indie and jazz and attracts 40,000 people every year. The convenience of being located in the city means that festival goers can ditch the tent and find accommodation in Barcelona. The daytime festivities commence at the Fira Montjuic in Placa d’Espanya while the nighttime celebrations take place in the Fira Gran Via (in the outskirts of the city). With Barcelona’s usual eateries and beachside frolics, this festival is a winner. Keep an eye out for the off-Sonar parties too!
9. Holy Week, Seville
Otherwise known as Semana Santa de Sevilla, Seville’s Holy Week is one of it’s largest festivals. Building up to Easter weekend, the festivities kick off with the Procession of Pasos, with sculptured wooden floats and pageantry celebrated in the various forms of dress up. The procession involves nearly 70 cofradias (church brotherhoods) holding Mary and Jesus statues on decorated floats. There are also 3000 Nazarenos (robed, hooded figures carrying crosses). The highlight is the Madruga Procession, beginning just after midnight and finishing in the early hours of the morning – it’s atmospheric and spiritual. Try a torrijas, the traditional dish of the festival which is a french toast type thing with honey, eggs and white wine.
10. Baby Jumping Festival, Castillo de Murcia
And last but certainly not least, the baby jumping festival (El Colacho) is the most unusual of Spain’s traditions. Taking place on the first Sunday after Corpus Christi and dating back to the early 1600s, anyone with a newborn baby can place their child on neat rows of cushions in the middle of a public street. This is followed by men dressed in yellow and red costumes and masks (mirroring devils) jumping over the rows of babies in the style of hurdlers. This is meant to cleanse the children of evil doings.