Rising mercury should not deter your plans to visit Spain in August. Yes, it's hot, but in addition to plenty of sunshine, locals will be in the mood to party. Some of the country's biggest festivals take place during August, and the entire country takes off work to celebrate Assumption Day on August 15, an important Catholic holiday.
Europeans tend to vacation en masse in August, which could be a pro or a con, depending on your travel style and desired destination. Spain's beaches can become uncomfortably crowded, but the inland cities and smaller towns empty out, especially on weekends, leaving you with plenty of room to explore and a better choice of accommodations.
If you're ready to party in one of Spain's most happening summer hotspots, make your way to Valencia.
Tomatina, Spain's famous food fight festival, takes place on the last Wednesday of August in Buñol. The town, located on the western outskirts of Valencia, sits just 19 miles from the Mediterranean, making a cool dip easily accessible when you feel ready to rinse off the tomato pulp. In 2013 officials started requiring tickets, limiting the number of attendees to 20,000, so plan ahead if you want to put this on your travel itinerary.
2019 date: Wednesday, August 28
Near the end of the month, revelers gather for the Fiesta de Vendimia in Requena, another town in the region of Valencia, to celebrate the region's grape harvest and winemaking tradition. People parade through the streets asking the townspeople for water to help the next year's harvest; residents oblige by soaking everyone who passes.
2019 date: August 21–September 1
Last but not least, in the region's northernmost province of Castellón, Benicassim hosts the week-long Rototom SunSplash Reggae Festival, Europe's largest gathering of reggae music performers and fans. Book a guest room or reserved camping spot early as they sell out well in advance of the festival; all tickets holders can look for a place to pitch a tent in the free access zones, though.
2019 dates: August 16–22
Stay in Valencia proper—it's Spain's third largest city, so there's plenty to do in town—and day-trip to multiple festival locations, or venture into the mountainous countryside in the western part of the province. If you plan to go, book your hotels early. Many Europeans take their vacations in August, making it one of the busier travel months on the continent.
Málaga presents one giant reason to visit in August: the Feria de Malaga, one of Andalusia's biggest parties (the other contender being Seville's Feria de Abril). This exuberant street fair celebrates the end of the siege of 1487, when the Spanish monarchs recaptured the city from the Muslim empire of Granada. The weeklong festival features flamenco, fireworks, and sherry, all in one incredible beachside location.
2019 dates: August 15–24
The architecture in this southern city still reflects the Moorish influence of its past, though the culture thrums with an unmistakable modern Spanish vibe. Located at the heart of Spain's storied Costa del Sol, Málaga makes a convenient base for exploring this sunny region during the high season.
Semana Grande, or Aste Nagusia in Basque or "Big Week" in English, takes place in the Basque Country's two principal cities, Bilbao and San Sebastián. Visiting either location during the festivities, which follow the August 15 celebration of Assumption Day, makes a trip to Spain in August a worthwhile endeavor. Expect to see such diverse sights as a nightly fireworks competition, a strongman contest, bullfighting, demonstrations of traditional Basque sports, and giant puppet dances.
2019 dates: August 17–25
Residents of nearby Vitoria-Gasteiz celebrate the Fiesta de la Virgen Blanca in the early part of the month with fireworks, cooking contests, sports competitions, and free concerts. With its well-preserved medieval city center and fortified wall, Vitoria presents an appealing destination not quite yet discovered by the hordes.
2019 date: August 4–9
Barcelona and the wider region of Catalonia put on a collection of festivals in August. Two of the city's neighborhoods, or barrios, hold their annual fiestas. First up is the Festa Major de Gracia (August 15–21, 2019) in the picturesque Gracia neighborhood, followed by the Festa Major de Sants (August 17–26, 2019) in off-the-beaten-path Sants.
Madrid swelters in August and many of the city's residents head to the beach with their families, leaving the country's capital uncharacteristically quiet. Though plenty of places remain open for business, some of the smaller hotels and restaurants do close for the month.
Despite the exodus, three of the city's districts hold consecutive festivals beginning with San Cayetano in the Rastro/Embajadores neighborhood (August 6–8, 2019), followed by San Lorenzo in Lavapiés (August 9–11, 2019) and then perhaps the best known of the three, La Paloma in La Latina (August 14–17, 2019). Residents and tourists spill into the streets, where music, dancing, and drinks contribute to the lively atmosphere.
The Vuelta a España, or La Vuelta for short, is Spain's answer to the Tour de France and one of the biggest events on the international cycling calendar. Most of the August stages take place in Galicia before the event moves to Andalusia and then on to the northeast and Madrid.
2019 dates: August 24–September 15
Make a detour to join thousands of other people at the Catoira Viking Festival. Every year since 1960, residents of this small village have dressed up as Vikings and reenacted the invasion that occurred 1,000 years ago. After the battle ends, they all sit down to enjoy a communal picnic of local delicacies.
2019 date: Sunday, August 4
Not everyone relishes the idea of eating octopus, but you can join the ranks of Spaniards who lust after the stuff. To celebrate Galicia's excellent octopus, check out the Octopus Festival O Carballiño.
2019 date: Sunday, August 11