Madrid might not come immediately to mind when you think of world-famous festivals, but the city is home to some brilliant and underrated fiestas, music festivals and city-wide celebrations. Discover Madrid’s most underrated festivals that you should check out on your next visit.
This newcomer to Spain’s festival scene already has a lot of buzz around it, despite 2017 being only its second year. The rock and alternative festival has already attracted some big names, from musical legends such as The Who and Neil Young to rock favourites Biffy Clyro, Foo Fighters and Kings of Leon. Five stages are set up inside and around the Caja Mágica (‘The Magic Box’), one of Madrid’s top venues for music and sport. Ticket options include a three-day ticket and individual day passes.
It’s worth taking the metro ride to the north of Madrid for Mulafest, a three-day alternative, electronic music festival and celebration of urban culture held at the end of June in the city’s gigantic trade-fair centre, IFEMA. While Mulafest does showcase some of the best DJs and electronic musicians in the world, that is the tip of the iceberg. The festival also hosts a tattoo convention, live theatre, motorbike shows, an urban beach and a huge variety of food trucks.
Madrid International Jazz Festival
Jazz musicians from around the world descend on Madrid in November for Jazz Madrid, the city’s international jazz festival. Concerts are held in venues around the city, but the main action is centred around the Conde Duque Centre. As well as concerts by homegrown and international talent, the festival includes jazz-related activities including workshops, talks, films and exhibitions.
Veranos de la Villa
In Madrid’s sweltering summer, the city hosts Veranos de la Villa, a series of concerts, theatre performances, art and children’s activities that take place across different locations around the city. The festival starts at the end of June and finishes at the beginning of September, and is a fascinating pick-and-mix of eclectic performances, from opera in the park to fireworks, pop concerts and art exhibitions.
☝🏻Él es Abraham Hernández, el campeón del mundo de #Slackline. Lo que hace encima de la cinta es ALUCINANTE. 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻Aquí, en la Plaza Pablo Ruiz Picasso, en #Tetuán, se comenta que es medio pájaro medio humano. ☝🏻Y con sesión de @tony_karate, que se ha marcado unos temazos. #VeranosdelaVilla #festival #openair #street #city #sport #deporte #fest #pájaro #bird #jumping #jump #Madrid
Forget Christmas: for Spaniards, the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, is the true Christmastime celebration. Spanish children traditionally receive their presents on January 6, and they are brought by Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, not Santa Claus (although these days, most lucky children get presents on both January 6 and December 25). Madrid hosts an epic three kings parade on the evening of January 5, which spans the city and includes floats carrying the famous kings, who throw out sweets to the children in the crowd.
While southern Spanish cities such as Seville might be the most renowned when it comes to Easter celebrations, Madrid puts on an excellent show, with dozens of brotherhoods from churches around the city parading through the streets in traditional hooded cloaks (despite the similarity, they have no connection to the Ku Klux Klan and came well before their unfortunate American doppelgängers). The parades, with their heady scent of incense, loud trumpets and crashing drums, are a feast for the senses. Enjoy a feast of a different sort with some Easter specialties such as torrijas, a French toast-style bread soaked in milk and fried in sugar and cinnamon.
Dos de Mayo
Be aware that if you are visiting Madrid at the beginning of May, then both May 1 and 2 are public holidays, which might mean some shops and businesses are closed. On May 2, Madrileños commemorate the time when the people of the city stood up to French troops, starting a six-year war for independence. Locals celebrate in Malasaña, long the city’s centre of rebellion; it was also the epicentre of La Movida Madrileña, the countercultural movement that sprang up as a reaction to the death of Dictator Francisco Franco and Spain’s return to democracy.
Fiesta of San Antonio de la Florida
On June 13 each year, unmarried Madrid women go to the chapel of San Antonio de la Florida to find out if they are likely to be married soon. At the chapel, which has original frescoes by Francisco de Goya, young women traditionally put 13 pins into the baptismal font, then place their hand inside and see if any needles stick to it. The number of needles that stick will be the number of suitors the woman will have in the coming year.
In August, Madrid’s central neighbourhoods celebrate three major verbenas, open-air celebrations that feature singing, dancing, locals wearing traditional dress and lots of food and drink. Local bars and restaurants bring tables and chairs out onto the streets, offer special menus and decorate the streets with festive bunting. San Lorenzo and San Cayetano are celebrated at the beginning of August, then the festivities reach a peak with La Paloma, dedicated to the Virgin of La Paloma.
Said to be the world’s biggest LGBT pride celebration after San Francisco, Madrid is filled with a party atmosphere at the end of June, when people from around the world flock to the Spanish capital to watch its pride parade. The festivities include concerts, parties and the infamous stiletto race, when men race through the streets in sky-high heels.