From the pyrotechnics of Las Fallas in sunny Valencia to the crazy ‘Tomatina’ tomato-throwing festival in the tiny town of Buñol, here are the best festivals and cultural celebrations in Spain for every month of the year.
Festivals in Spain in January
Three Kings Day / Día de los Reyes Magos, All Over Spain, 6th January
This remains the key Christmas gift-giving day in Spain, although many families now also share out presents on 25 December – partly influenced by global media coverage and trends but also by pressure from young children keen to have access to their gifts earlier during the school holidays. The main celebration is the previous evening (5th), when towns and cities welcome “Los Reyes” in colourful parades, and children (and parents) flurry to gather up sweets thrown from the floats.
Festivals in Spain in February
Almond Festival, La Palma, Canary Islands
La Palma in the Canary Islands is covered in almond tree blossoms between January and February, prompting the locals to gather in market squares and enjoy a range of activities embracing the nut, including cascade and crushing competitions (the nuts, not the locals) and live music.
Festivals in Spain in March
Las Fallas, Valencia
Considered one of Spain’s must-see festivals, Las Fallas is a traditional five-day party that celebrates San José (19 March). Each neighbourhood creates their own elaborate paper-mâche dolls (more like giant status) colourful, which are paraded around the streets and, finally, set alight in a blaze of glory. Fireworks ensue, as do the earth-shaking “mascletas” – a thrillingly terrifying experience that’s not for the faint of heart.
Festivals in Spain in April
Feria de Abril, Sevilla, Andalusia
Andalucía’s most famous annual fair (although Málaga would disagree), this week-long extravaganza is highlighted by carriage-led parades, street revelry during the day, and evenings spent partying in casetas (marquee-style buildings erected along the Guadalquivir River and in the fairgrounds), often until early the next morning. Then, after chocolate and churros and a brief sleep, it all begins again.
Festivals in Spain in May
World People’s Fair / Feria de Los Pueblos, Fuengirola, Costa del Sol
First held in 1994 as a fairly modest event, this annual “International Cultural Diversity Day” (which sometimes begins in late April) now brings together over 30 different countries for five days showcasing their cuisine, music and dance, folklore and typical wares. Visitors can move from one country’s caseta (restaurant-hut) to another, or gather in the avenues outside immersed in colourful mini-parades.
Festivals in Spain in June
Haro Wine Fight Festival / La Batalla del Vino de Haro (AKA ‘Battle of Wine’), Rioja Wine Region, 29th June
If you would rather drink wine than waste it so frivolously, perhaps best to stay indoors in a local bar. If, however, you have no such qualms – and it is only once a year – this Battle of Wine in the famous wine-producing region of Rioja (specifically Haro) is full of exuberant fun and messy chaos. Dating to the sixth century, the festival coincides every year with celebrations for Día de San Pedro.
Festivals in Spain in July
FIB / Benicàssim International Festival, Near Valencia
One of the world’s most popular music festivals, drawing visitors from around Europe and further afield, the FIB is held in the Benicàssim seaside resort on Costa del Azahar (Valencia). Festival-goers purchasing multi-day passes are able to camp for over a week, and enjoy performances by top pop, rock and electronica groups and artists, plus short films, fashion shows and art exhibitions.
Festivals in Spain in August
La Tomatina, Buñol, Near Valencia, 26th August
First of all, if attending this event, don’t wear your best designer jeans and sneakers. La Tomatina’s origins date to 1945, when a group of young boys triggered off a fight which just happened to be near a vegetable market stall. People started pelting each other with tomatoes before being stopped by the police, and today the custom continues in Buñol – in a more legal scenario endorsed by local authorities as a “Holiday of International Touristic Interest”.
Festivals in Spain in September
La Mercè, Barcelona
With its blazing firework displays, death-defying ‘human towers’, parading giants and explosive ‘correfoc’ fire runs, La Mercè is unquestionably the most important cultural celebration in Barcelona. Held over the third or fourth week of September, the festival honours the Virgin of La Mercè, Barcelona’s patron saint.
San Sebastian International Film Festival, Basque Country
In 2019, Penelope Cruz received the main honour in recognition of a career that has included an Academy Award (2008 best supporting actress for Vicky Cristina Barcelona). The Spanish star was just the latest of a distinguished group of Hollywood celebrities who have attended the San Sebastian Film Festival which, since its launch in 1953, has also hosted major events including the international premiere of Vertigo, by Alfred Hitchcock (who attended in person) and the European premiere of Star Wars.
Festivals in Spain in October
Dia de la Hispanidad / Day of Spain (12th October), All Over Spain
A more solemn celebration than others featured here, Spain’s National Day commemorates the anniversary of seafaring explorer Christopher Columbus’s first arrival in the Americas (1492). The main highlight is a military parade (usually in Madrid) presided over by Spain’s constitutional head of state (currently King Felipe VI).
Festivals in Spain in November
Málaga Jazz Festival
This annual festival brings together legendary jazz maestros from around the world, together with leading national artists and bands, with the main stage being the Cervantes Theatre – Málaga’s showpiece cultural venue.
Festivals in Spain in December
Día de los Santos Inocentes (28th), All Over Spain
Beware if you’re in the company of mischievous Spanish friends on the Day of the Holy Innocents, keen to show you a particularly bizarre newspaper report. The date actually has serious connotations, marking the “Massacre of the Innocents” ordered by King Herod, but in Spain and Hispanic America the media have a tradition (similar to April Fool’s Day) of publishing or broadcasting joke or exaggerated news stories.
Make it Happen
Get there: I recommend using Omio to find the fastest and cheapest flights, trains and buses – perfect for getting to and around Spain.