After extensive research, we feel that it’s fair to say that nobody does a fiesta like the Spanish. Throughout each year, the nation’s cities, large and small, take it in turns to hold wild and crazy street festivals. During these events, it is not unusual for a city’s entire downtown area to become one huge party.
Often ostensibly held in honor of religious figures and important dates in the Catholic calendar, these fiestas always become wild celebrations, full of debauched revelry. Let’s just say the locals take full advantage of the Catholic ideas of confession and redemption!
A visit to one of these street parties will give you a wonderful insight into what it means to be Spanish (or Catalan, or Basque). This diverse and mysterious country, which always smolders with passion and intensity, explodes in fluorescent color and unselfconscious joy when party time arrives. Spain really knows how to let her hair down!
There are numerous strange and wonderful festivals that take place each year in Spain. Even its tiny villages have shindigs that are explosive sights to behold. There are just too many cool festivals to mention them all, so here is our list of nine of the best and wildest Spanish street festivals. Take note of the parties that intrigue you the most and stick them in your BUCKiTDREAM planner!
Sitges Carnival, Catalonia is Surely Spain’s Most Flamboyant Fiesta! Feb. 23 – March 1 From the final Thursday in Feb, for 7 days, Sitges puts on one of the world’s biggest and best gay festivals. Almost 300,000 people take to the streets of this small town 35 kilometers southwest of Barcelona, dressed in crazy clothes and ready to party hard.
The celebrations kick off on ‘fatty Thursday’ when people binge on delicious local food in order to get their energy levels up and prepare their stomachs for the next few day’s craziness. On the Sunday and Tuesday, large parades of decorated carriages, floats, and spectacular outfits pass through the streets. Sexuality is fairly ambiguous throughout the week, but particularly on Tuesday, which marks the end of the carnival and has a special drag theme, attracting some of the most glamorous drag queens from around the world.
Partying continues late into the night every night of the week, and anything goes in terms of attire, so leave your beige slacks and polo shirt at home!
Marvel at the High-Tech, Giant-Sized Sculptures at Las Fallas Festival, Valencia, March 15 – 19 The Fallas festival is held each March in Valencia in commemoration of Saint Joseph, and consists of mucho eating, drinking, dancing and going nuts – all for Saint Joseph, of course!
Each neighborhood in the city builds a huge, high-tech sculpture of a traditional figure or modern cultural icons such as Justin Bieber or President Obama. These gargantuan caricatures are displayed all over town until they are finally burned in massive bonfires amid fervent celebrations (*What did Justin Bieber ever do to these guys?*). The final night’s bonfire is a beast, and I guess is what cheeky Guy Fawkes had in mind for the Houses of Parliament.
Welcome Spring At the Feria de Sevilla, Seville, Mid-April ‘The Seville Fair’ takes place in a huge mass of casetas (large tents) called ‘Real de la Feria’ in an area southwest of Seville called Los Remedios. These casetas host some wild parties fuelled by scrummy food and lots of booze.
Dancing and socializing goes on late, late, late (oops it’s morning!), late! This massive, temporary ‘tent town’ hosts parades, processions and parties (it’s like the happiest refugee camp in the world!), with Seville society taking the opportunity to show off their most splendid traditional attire, including traditional flamenco dresses and boleros. There are bullfights each day in Seville’s grand old bullring which attract the most famous superstar matadors in the world.
Join In the Party at Madrid’s Largest Festival, Fiesta de San Isidro, Mid-May The capital city’s biggest festival is an explosion of flamenco music and dance, pulsating Latin rhythms, delicious local food, and wine, and traditional castizo (meaning ‘pure’) clothing. Concerts, events, and parties are held all over the city.
The festival kicks off with the customary procession of gigantes y cabezudos, or ‘Giants and Big-Heads’, through the city (perfect for scaring naughty kids!), and over the next few days, Madrid’s public spaces are thronged with locals and tourists having the time of their lives!
Get Hot and Bothered At the Night Of San Juan, Valenciana region, June 20–24 This festival is a celebration of the Summer Equinox. Fire is the name of the game here, with spectacular bonfires, pyrotechnics, and even lots of random, small firecracker explosions terrifying unsuspecting tourists as they tuck into their paellas.
Valencia and Alicante have the largest celebrations for San Juan. The party in Alicante lasts several days and culminates in huge papier-mâché figures being ceremonially set alight on the night of 24th June. When the bomberos eventually put the fires out, the locals leap over the burning embers for good luck. The celebrations last until sunrise and the nighttime beach parties in Valencia and Alicante are truly epic!
Bring Old Clothes To the World’s Biggest Wine Fight At the Haro Wine Festival, June 28–30 Set in the La Rioja region of northern Spain, Haro holds the biggest wine harvest celebration in the country. La Batalla de Vino, or ‘The Wine Fight’, begins with a huge street party on June 28th.
The next day, everybody climbs up a nearby mountain and soaks each other in a massive vino battle. People use sprays, buckets, water guns and all manner of inventive devices for soaking people with Rioja. After the epic battle, everybody makes friends again in the town center with dancing and eating (not necessarily at the same time), and barrels and barrels of, you’ve guessed it, Rioja!
Take Out Life Insurance and Then Head To the Running Of the Bulls, Pamplona, July 6–14 Spain’s most famous festival, mainly for the sheer danger involved, is surely the Running of the Bulls. Lunatics travel from all around the world to join with local lunatics in donning white shirts (best for showing off your bloody wounds in) and red bandanas, before risking life and limb running from a mad stampede of raging bulls.
In the evenings, people unwind in the local squares with food, wine, and dancing. Fireworks and brass bands entertain the masses when all the bulls are wrapped up in bed for the night, contentedly dreaming of gouging tourists.
Celebrate Basque Culture at Aste Nagusia, Bilbao, Mid-August ‘Big Week’ is the largest festival in northern Spain. It kicks off with a txupinazo (rocket) blasting up into the sky to signify that it’s time to party! As the rocket explodes above the city, the festival’s mascot Marijana (an old, haggard, witch-like woman) appears on the balcony of the iconic Arriaga Theatre in front of a huge crowd of red, green and white flag waving Basques, and Big Week has well and truly begun.
This nine-day festival celebrates Basque culture, music, and dance, as well as its famously unique and delicious cuisine. The festival culminates with the burning of poor old Marijana (who, miraculously, always seems to come back to life by next year).
Practice Your Tomato Throwing at La Tomatina, Buñol, August 29–31 For those of you whose main hobby in life is throwing overripe tomatoes at people – this one’s for you! This world-famous tomato-flinging festival happens each year in Buñol on the last Wednesday of August. Thousands of tomato throwers throw tomatoes while the people who have had tomatoes thrown at them throw tomatoes back at the throwers who had been throwing at them in the first place…get it? It’s a bit like chess.
So, that was our list of the 9 Wildest Spanish Street Festivals. Hopefully, you get to visit a few, and as you are squirting people with wine from your Super Soaker 500, or writing up your final will before the Running of the Bulls, why not share your Spanish fiesta experiences on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram?