» Spanish Fiestas

Spanish Fiestas

Spanish Fiestas

Must-Visit Spanish Festivals

In Traveler magazine’s September issue, Jacqueline Friedrich, author of A Food and Wine Guide to the Loire, picks top tapas bars in Seville. Here, National Geographic photographer David Alan Harvey reveals the best Spanish festivals in Seville and beyond.


Carnaval Cádiz Cádiz’s biggest party, which leads up to the fasting days of Lent, begins with a four-hour parade showcasing traditional costumes and dance. Visitors eat and sing until dawn.

Festival de Jerez Jerez de la Frontera, Andalusía Performers from San Miguel and Santiago dance and sing every night in the city that festival planners call the “world capital of flamenco.” The 2003 lineup will be announced in January.

Carnaval Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands Twelve days of singing, dancing, and fireworks follow the election of the Carnaval Queen. The celebration culminates with a giant street parade on Shrove Tuesday.

Las Fallas de San José Valencia At the start of bullfighting season, Spain’s third-largest city fills with hundreds of bonfires, street parties, open-air concerts, parades, and fairs. But the best part is the fallas, larger-than-life papier-mâché effigies that satirize celebrities and politicians.


San Isidro, Madrid. Madrileños honor their patron saint San Isidro with bullfights at the 25,000-seat Las Ventas, and Spanish dances, operas, and ballets. Other offerings include traditional foods, masquerades, fireworks, and street fairs.

Feria Nacional del Queso

Trujillo, Extremadura Visitors sample dozens of cheeses from Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal, and sip local wines at the Renaisance-style Plaza Mayor.


San Juan Ciutadella, Baleanic Islands Islanders celebrate the longest day of the year (June 21). The main event is Day of the Sheep, when a sheepskin-clad local portraying John the Baptist leads a formal procession on Menorca. Other offerings include bonfires, jaleo music, and flamenco dancing.

Corpus Christi Toledo Thousands crowd Toledo as church leaders march with the Eucharist, celebrating the presence of Jesus in the blessed sacrament. Procession begins at the Catedral de Toledo.

Fiesta de San Fermín Pamplona, Navarra Chronicled in Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, this festival is most commonly known as the Running of the Bulls. Runs start at 8 a.m. and cover a half-mile course. Other offerings include bullfights, jai alai matches, dances, and concerts.

Herri Kilorak

Bilbao, País Vasco Basque men lift heavy stones and climb greased poles, all in an effort to prove their strength. After the games, spectators can visit the La Semana Grande festival for live music, food, parades, and fireworks.

Romería do Bo Xantar

El Naseiro, Galicia There are an estimated 300 culinary events every year in Galicia. This five-day feast, held on the banks of the Landro River, features dancing, singing, and octopus dishes.

Festival Internacional de Musica y Danza de Granada

Granada Now in its 51st year, this music and dance celebration is the oldest in Spain. Shows are held throughout the city, but the must-visit site is the fortress-palace of the Alhambra, where performances are given in the Palacio de Carlos V’s circular Renaissance patio and the Generalife’s fountain-filled gardens.

Festival de Córdoba Córdoba Jazz and flamenco musicians give concerts in the gardens of Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, a palace-fortress built in 1328. Other offerings include fine wine and food, flamenco dancing, mimes, and jugglers in Cordoba’s historic quarter.

Festival del Teatro Clasico Mérida, Badajoz Theater companies from all over the world stage Greek and Roman classics in 2,000-year-old stone theaters. The lineup will be announced in May 2003.

Festival d’estiu de Barcelona Barcelona Barcelona’s biggest cultural event of the summer showcases contemporary Spanish and international theater, dance, and music groups. Featured performers include Lou Reed, the Chicago Cosmopolitan Choir, and the Manhattan Transfer.

La Tomatina

Buñol Since 1945 locals have been flinging ripe tomatoes at each other on the last Wednesday of August. No one knows how the tradition began, but in recent years thousands of tourists have come from Valencia to toss more than a hundred tons of the squishy fruit in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.


September 8 Fiesta del Arroz Sueca, Valencia Paella is celebrated where it was invented with a juried paella-making contest, horse shows, and flamenco performances.

September 8-24 Fiesta del Otoño Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz Locals in Spain’s chief sherry-producing region celebrate the fall crop of grapes with flamenco dancing and singing. Restaurants offer special tapas menus, and church leaders bless the grapes.

September 24 Fiestas de La Merce

Barcelona Citywide fireworks, street fairs, and parades honor the Virgin of la Merce. Dance performances and concerts take place in the historical district during the concurrent Barcelona Acción Musical. (Performers are announced two weeks before the festival.)

October 12 Día de la Hispanidad

Zaragoza This national holiday honors the day in 1492 when native Sevillano Christopher Columbus landed in America. The morning offering of flowers to the Virgin of Pilar in the Basilica del Pilar is followed by performances of Aragonese jota, a traditional courtship dance.

December 1-8 Festival de Música Antigua de Úbeda y Baeza Jaén Renaissance, Baroque, and Gregorian music is performed at 16th- and 17th-century churches, in celebration of the cultural diversity of Renaissance Spain. (Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions are still practiced in the region.)

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