Spain’s summertime offerings are plentiful, from beachside music festivals to small-town ferias. You’ll find flamenco and jazz bashes and patron saint fêtes in nearly every corner of Spain. We’ve rounded up 10 of our favorites to help you plan your summer travels.
El Colacho // Castrillo de Murcia, Burgos // Corpus Christi
Spain has loads of strange festivals with ancient origins, but El Colacho has to be one of the strangest. Known as the Baby Jumping Festival outside of Burgos, this party consists of men dressed as devils leaping over mattresses with babies who have been born in the previous 12 months resting on top.
The festival has been celebrated for nearly 400 years around Corpus Christi in late May or early June. The small town sets up the mattresses as if they were hurdles, and men jump over them to rid the babies of their original sin.
No babies were harmed in the writing of this post.
2015 date: Sunday, June 7th
La Noche de San Juan // all over Spain // June 23rd and 24th
On the evening before the feasts of Saint John, enormous beachside bonfires are set alight in La Noche de San Juan, a pagan festival that marks the summer solstice. The bonfires are said to give more power to the sun and burn off bad experiences from the winter, so it’s common to see students burning textbooks to burn as they chug alcoholic drinks.
The festival is particularly popular in coastal cities in southern Spain, Galicia, Asturias, Canarias and Valencia. People try and jump the bonfires as a “birth by fire,” and popular lore says that if you look into a body of water on this evening, your future spouse’s face will be reflected rather than yours.
If fire isn’t your thing, Lanjarón in Granada hosts an enormous water fight on June 24th instead.
2015 date: Tuesday, June 23rd
Batalla del Vino // Haro, La Rioja // June 29th
La Rioja lends its name to Spain’s most famous wine region, and the medieval town of Haro celebrates its international export with an enormous wine fight that begins at 7am. Led by the town’s mayor, revelers walk with their wine to the hermitage of Saint Felicia de Bilibio dressed all in white clothes for Saint Peter’s feast day.
Be prepared for buckets of crianza poured over your head after a short mass. In other words, don’t wear anything nice. There are also drinking competitions and tastings throughout the day.
2015 date: Monday, June 29th
Madrid Pride Week // Madrid // late June
Spain’s capital city swells when revelers celebrate Pride Week. Concerts, races, cultural events and rallies make MADO Europe’s largest Pride Festival.
The celebrations are concentrated around Chueca, Plaza Colón and Calle Pelayo, amongst others. In fact, Madrid’s celebrations have not only brought attention to Spain’s LGBT community, but also social change – the WorldPride Conference will be held in Madrid in 2017.
2015 date: July 1st – 5th
Los San Fermines // Pamplona, Navarra // July 6th
Anyone who took high school Spanish will be familiar with los San Fermines, commonly known as the Running of the Bulls festival held yearly in Pamplona.
The festival officially begins on the 6th but you’ll have to wait until July 7, the saint’s feast day, for the first corridas, which are repeated daily. This slick, uphill race through the city center towards the bullring pits man versus beast: six bulls are released into the street promptly at 8am while hundreds, dressed in white with red scarves, run in front of them to the bullring. There is a bullfight each afternoon, and some of Spain and Southern France’s biggest names take part.
For the faint of heart, there’s no need to tempt fate – spectators far outnumber those brave enough to run. You can also check out the parades of the Cabezas Gigantes, larger-than-life puppets meant to represent famous rulers and world leaders, or watch the nightly fireworks display.
The San Fermines are an extremely popular touristic event, so it’s wise to book your accommodation early or face sleeping in the street or in a nearby town.
2015 date: July 6th – 14th
Las Fiestas de la Virgen Carmen // Málaga // July 16th
Southern Spain is famous for its somber Holy Week processions, but revered saints get their own festival. La Virgen del Carmen is the patron saint of fisherman and thus malagueños, who are some of the most devout.
Each year on her feast date – July 16th – fishing villages will take statues of the saint into the water, be it by boat or on the shoulders of local fishermen, to bless the waters. In towns where fishing is as much a way of life as it is a leading industry, fireworks are set off and dances are held in honor of the patroness.
2015 date: Thursday, July 16th
Festival Internacional de Benacàssim // Benacàssim, Valencia // mid July
Music lovers flock to the Costa Azahar for one of Spain’s best-known music festivals, the Festival Internacional de Benacàssim. This four-day, outdoor concert series is held steps from the beach and on campgrounds.
This year’s line up includes Florence and the Machine, Bastille and Noel Gallagher. Tickets can be purchased for one to four days, giving you access to all stages and artists. Check out the full line up here.
2015 date: July 16th-19th
La Velá de Santa Ana // Sevilla // end of July
While nothing can compare to Seville’s Fair, the Velá de Santa Ana is still worth the while. It is the popular neighborhood Triana’s romería, or pilgrimage, originating in the 18th Century.
To celebrate Saint Anne, the neighborhood sets up small tents along Calle Betis that serve alcohol and fried food. Lights, concerts and swimming and diving contests, called el cucaño, in the Guadalquivir are popular. Flamenco, whose roots are strongest in this traditionally gypsy neighborhood, is also performed.
The festival culminates on the saint’s feast day, July 26th, with mass.
2015 date: July 21st-26th.
Semana Grande // Bilbao // mid August
A relative newbie on the party scene, Bilbao’s music festival which also coincides with the Assumption day on August 15, has only been around since 1978. Dreamt up as a way to unify the city in the aftermath of the fall of Dictator Francisco Franco, the festival has little root in history or tradition, and more to do with what Spain does best: eating, drinking and making merry.
The biggest draw to the Semana Grande, called Aste Nagusia in regional tongue, is the concert series, which has attracted both national and international acts. There are also numerous cultural activities, fireworks and parades.
Perhaps the quirkiest tradition during the Big Week is the master of ceremonies, a fictional woman called Marijaia. Once the party has been kicked off by the txupinazo fireworks, Marijaia calls for locals and spectators to commence the party. Sadly, she meets an untimely death when she’s burned, at week’s end, in front of the Arriaga theatre.
2015 date: August 22nd-30th
Carreras del Caballo // Sanlúcar la Barrameda, Cádiz // month of August
Known primarily for its sherry wine production and its importance in the discovery of the New World, coastal Sanlúcar la Barrameda was the first city to hold organized horse races. Every August, six races are held along the beach at sunset.
As a Fiesta de Interés Turístico, the city welcomes nearly 100,000 tourists to enjoy the beach and the horse races.
2015 date: 12th, 13th, 14th, 26th, 27th, 28th of August
La Tomatina // Buñuel, Valencia // the last Wednesday of August
One of the most widely known festivals in Iberia consists of revelers throwing tomatoes at one another. The sleepy town of Buñol, less than an hour from bustling Valencia, hosts an epic food fight on the last Wednesday of each August, turning the streets into a battlefield, stained bright red with tomato pulp and water.
Originally started as a protest against local government officials, the festival attracts about 20,000 partygoers each year. More than 40,000 overripe tomatoes are transported in from other parts of Spain, and for one hour, trucks laden with the red fruit drive through the Plaza del Pueblo, the main square, unloading them for revelers to throw.
Our tip – bring goggles and clothes that you’re okay parting with. Locals will safely store your bag in their homes for a few euros, and you’ll want a fresh change of clothes for the after party.
In 2013, the local government began charging a 10€ entrance fee for security matters, but it’s a small price to pay for one of Spain’s most famous fiestas.
2015 date: Wednesday, August 26th
La Festa Major de Gràcia // Barcelona // mid August
The barcelonés neighborhood of Gràcia – once its own municipality – has its moment in the sun in mid August during their major festival. The barrio itself is known for being a bit bohemian compared to its cosmopolitan counterpart, and the party echoes this unique district.
Apart from cultural, musical and gastronomic offerings, the central event is the street art competition in which each block of Gràcia chooses a theme and fashions an elaborate canopy. Entries are judged and awarded the prestige of having the best decoration. 2016 marks the Festa Major’s 200th year.
Better yet? It’s free!
2015 date: August 15th – 21st
Have you ever been to any summer festivals in Spain? There are loads more, centerig on religion, music and pagan rituals – we’d love to hear of more!