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Spain celebrates so many festivals, you could probably go to one somewhere in the country every day of the year. While some are religious celebrations, others honor local produce or a cultural tradition, and some are quite simply plain mad. From the Basque Country up north to wine country down south, and from parades and bullfighting to tomato fights and flamenco dancing, here’s our roundup of some of the best festivals in Spain to attend in 2017.
February 28, 2017
Carnaval is celebrated during the time leading up to Lent and is popular all across Spain and South America, especially in Brazil, while in North America it’s known as Mardi Gras. Carnaval usually involves street parades filled with flamboyant and colorful costumes. While some cities in Spain go all out with parades and processions, in others it’s a quieter and simpler affair. Some of the best places to celebrate carnaval are the towns of Sitges in Catalunya, Tenerife in the Canary Islands, and Cadiz in Andalusia.
March 15-19, 2017
Now added by UNESCO to its Intangible Cultural Heritage List, Las Fallas is Valencia’s most important festival and one of Spain’s best. It incorporates many different elements, but the highlight are the fallas. During the year, groups of people (falleros) around the city, create giant, elaborate papier-mâché sculptures called fallas. In the period leading up to the festival, they are displayed all over town and on the last night they are all burned. The festival also features many firework displays, daily explosions outside the town hall (la mascletá) and parades of Valencians in their traditional costumes.
April 9-16, 2017
Holy Week, or Easter Week, is an important event throughout the country, but few places seem to take it as seriously as Granada, where throughout the week religious processions occur at almost any time of day or night. Participants wear distinctive, colorful robes and pointed hats, and carry large and elaborate religious sculptures through the city streets. Some are candlelit processions, with mourners dressed in black, while others are accompanied by live brass bands. One of the most fascinating processions takes place on Holy Thursday after dark, and is held in complete silence, save for the odd bang of the drum and the clink of chains from the ankles of those dressed as prisoners.
April 30 – May 7, 2017
Seville’s Feria de Abril is one of the most important events on the city’s calendar and celebrates all things typically associated with Andalusia: flamenco, horses and bullfighting. During the April Fair (often actually held in May), the city turns into a spectacle of bullfights, horse-drawn carriages, and locals dressed in colorful flamenco attire. Casetas, or marquees, are set up throughout the city where the locals feast and dance. Many of the casetas are private, however there are many public ones that tourists can access too.
May 2-14, 2017
The Patios de Córdoba festival is one of the country’s most charming. Held each May when flowers are in full bloom, residents of the city decorate their inner courtyards (or patios) with intricate floral displays. There are festival maps guiding visitors around different routes, as well as prizes for the best patios. During this time, the city also organizes lots of outdoor feasts, with live music and dancing.
May 13-20, 2017
Jerez’s Feria del Caballo is similar to Seville’s Feria de Abril, where flamenco dresses and bullfights are the order of the day, however at this celebration horses take center stage. The famous horses of Jerez perform their ‘dances’ during the event, which also doubles as a type of agricultural fair. Like in Seville, casetas (marquees) are set up, where feasting and flamenco dancing take place, however, unlike Seville, most of them here are open to the public.
June 29, 2017
Taking place in the small town of Haro in the famous wine region of La Rioja, Batalla de Vino literally means ‘battle of wine’ and is, essentially, a giant wine fight, held to celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Peter. On the evening of June 29, participants dress in white with a red bandana around their necks, and head up the mountain just outside of town. Once on the mountain, the fight begins, with hundreds of people all squirting, spraying and splashing each other with red wine. After the fight, the event moves down the mountain back to town, where there is music and traditional dancing.
August 19-27, 2017
A nine-day event held every year at the end of August, Semana Grande – meaning ‘big week’ and locally known as Aste Nagusia – is a celebration of Basque culture. There are parades of giants, nightly firework competitions, concerts and bullfights. The festival also incorporates Basque rural sports, such as harri jasotzea (stone lifting) and aizkolaritza (wood chopping). The mascot of the festival (pictured below) is the colourful Marijaia puppet who is finally burned on the last night of the event.
August 30, 2017
The world’s biggest tomato fight occurs each year in the small town of Buñol, in the province of Valencia. La Tomatina is attended by travelers from around the world who come to join in on the messy revelry, and each year it attracts around 45,000 participants. During the event, 125 tons of tomatoes are thrown and the town streets turn into rivers of red.
Around September 24, 2017 (exact dates TBC)
After most of Barcelona’s barrios have had their own small festivals during the summer, the city comes together in September for one more giant festival, La Mercè, dedicated to Mare de Déu de la Mercè, one of Barcelona’s two patron saints. There are so many events happening across the city during this time, it would be impossible to describe, let alone attend them all. Some of the highlights occur at the city’s Parc de la Ciutadella, which turns into a wonderland of dancing, light installations and theatrical performances, including an eco-friendly funfair for kids. There are also parades of giants down Las Ramblas and the all-important Correfoc, or fire run, where locals dress like devils and large dragon sculptures spray fire through the city streets.