Top 10 Traditional Festivals in Spain

  • 01 of 10

    Semana Santa

    Semana Santa procession in Granada, Spain
    Michal Osmenda @michalo flickr.com Creative Commons License

    Semana Santa is the Spanish name for Easter. Members of local parishes carry ornately decorated floats depicting the Passion of Christ into the city cathedral.

    When?

    Semana Santa is the week leading up to Easter Sunday.

    Further details: Semana Santa Dates

    Where?

    Though Seville and Malaga are the most famous cities for Semana Santa, the Castilla-Leon cities of Valladolid and Leon are also important.

    Further reading:

    Semana Santa Essentials

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  • 02 of 10

    San Fermin (Pamplona Bull Run)

    Spain, Pamplona, Encierro, 'Running of the bulls', elevated view
    Andrea Pistolesi/Getty Images

    The Pamplona Bull Run is a week-long bull running and bullfighting festival. Every morning at 8 AM, the city's brave and the world's foolhardy run ahead of a group of angry bulls. The rest of us look on in amazement.

    When?

    The San Fermin Festival, where the Pamplona Bull Run takes place, runs for one week in early July.

    Read more about Pamplona Bull Run Dates

    Where?

    The city of Pamplona, capital of the Navarra region, near the Basque Country (north Spain).

    Pamplona Bull Run Essentials

    Read More About San Fermin (Pamplona Bull Run)

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  • 03 of 10

    Tomatina Tomato Fight

    Tomatina, Tomatoe Festival, Bunol, Province Valencia, Spain
    Juergen Richter / LOOK-foto/Getty Images

    The Tomatina Tomato Fight is probably the world's biggest food fight. Thousands of people gather in the streets of the tiny town of Buñol to fling tomatoes at each other. The origins of the festival are unknown and, to most people who like throwing food at each other, largely unimportant.

    See also:

    When?

    The Tomatina Tomato Fight takes place on the fourth Wednesday in August.

    Where?

    The battle happens in the small town of Buñol, an hour outside Valencia. See how to get from Valencia to Buñol. See also:

    Tomatina Tomato Fight Essentials

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  • 04 of 10

    Las Fallas

    Las Fallas, people near one of the main Fallas
    Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images

    Imagine a bonfire from Guy Fawkes Night or a Homecoming and multiply it by a factor of one hundred: that is Las Fallas.

    Each neighborhood traditionally gets together to build giant puppets which are then later set fire to. There is usually a satirical nature to these puppets, though not always.

    The burning of these puppets is of course accompanied by plenty of street parties throughout the city.

    Not all the puppets get burned. There is a public vote to decide on the very best puppets for this year. These are to the Museo Fallero, Valencia's Fallas museum.

    When?

    Las Fallas is a five-day event leading up to Saint Joseph's Day (19 March).

    Where?

    Las Fallas takes place in Valencia, on the Costa Blanca.

    Hotels at Las Fallas

    The problem of choosing a hotel for Las Fallas is that you want to stay somewhere central, but you will probably want a bit of peace and quiet so you can get some sleep. When I was at Las Fallas, I stayed at the Astoria Palace - very close to all the action but I didn't hear a thing (apart from the big firework display, which is unavoidable. Just be sure to ask for an internal room rather than one that faces the street).

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  • 05 of 10

    Feria de Sevilla

    Feria de Abril (April Fair) girls dancing sevillana beneath lanterns.
    David C Tomlinson/Getty Images

    After all the piety of Easter (even if this piety is done in Seville's usual extravagant style), the Feria de Sevilla is that holiday everyone needs to get over the previous one!

    The Feria de Sevilla is a microcosm of everything Andalusia is famous for flamenco, bullfighting, horses, and sherry. Local well-to-do families spend a lot of money on renting marquees (casetas in Spanish) for their friends and families to enjoy their party.

    The marquees vary greatly; some are open to the public, many are not. Political groups (especially left-wing parties) sell and give away propaganda, while other marquees are famous for other more alcohol-based reasons!

    The Feria de Sevilla has something for everyone - rides and animals for the children, music, dancing and copious amounts for the adults and bullfighting for those interested in this particular aspect of Spanish culture. The partying goes on virtually 24 hours a day, with horse parades and traditional music during the day and hedonistic partying at night.

    When?

    Normally two weeks after Semana Santa. It runs from midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning and finishes on the following Sunday night/Monday morning.

    Where?

    The clue is in the name!

    Read More About Feria de Sevilla

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  • 06 of 10

    Carnival

    Election of the Carnival Queen, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, Europe
    Juergen Richter / LOOK-foto/Getty Images

    The Carnival in Spain varies in nature across the country but in Tenerife and (to a lesser extent in Cadiz) is second only to Rio de Janeiro in terms of extravagance.

    When Is Carnival in Spain?

    The Spanish Carnaval (or Carnival in English) takes place at traditional carnival time - the few days before the start of Lent, culminating in Shrove Tuesday.

    Where Are the Best Places to See the Carnival?

    Carnival is particularly famous in Tenerife and Cadiz, though it also has a strong tradition in the gay district of Chueca in Madrid and in Sitges, near Barcelona. Ciudad Rodrigo, near Salamanca, also has a popular carnival, though it is quite unlike that seen in other cities.

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  • 07 of 10

    Christmas & New Year

    Image: Damian Corrigan

    Christmas in Spain is what you'd expect of a Catholic country. It is a family event, with much eating and drinking, visiting relatives and going to mass.

    When?

    Erm...

    Where?

    Everywhere!

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  • 08 of 10

    Cristianos y Moros

    Image: C Llorca

    The Cristianos y Moros celebration (Moors & Christians in English) is a slightly tongue-in-cheek commemoration of the Moorish control of Spain and a celebration of the subsequent return to Christian rule.

    Participants condense 700 years of Moorish rule into an evening's worth of mock battles, centered around a papier-mache castle, erected either in the main square or on the beach. In the first battle, the Moors take control of the city (boo! hiss!); in the second, the Christians take the city back (hurrah!).

    When?

    Each of the many towns that celebrate ornately y Moros do so at various times of the year. Check online to see when and where you can celebrate.

    Where?

    Many Web sites are very vague about where you can see a Moros y Cristianos festival, often simply stating "Alicante". Other sites list a single town as being the focal point of the festivities when in actual fact there are many towns where the event is celebrated.

    The Moros y Cristianos event is most popular in the Alicante region, but it is popular throughout much of the south of Spain (there is a number of events in Granada). See the above link for an extensive list of where Cristianos y Moros is celebrated in Spain.

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  • 09 of 10

    Semana Grande, Bilbao

    Image: Guido Camarda

    Semana Grande (Spanish for 'Big Week', Aste Nagusia in Basque) is another 'general' festival, much like the Feria de Sevilla but a little less traditional. A big attraction of Semana Grande is the large number of concerts, from rock to pop and classical to jazz.

    Each night there is an important international firework competition, while you should also catch the now-famous strongman competition. Another iconic sight at the event is the giant puppets (see above).

    There is also an Ugly Competition.

    As with any major Spanish festival, there will also be a good share of food and a bit of bullfighting too.

    When?

    Third Week of August

    Where?

    Basque Country, in particular, Bilbao.

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  • 10 of 10

    Tamborrada, San Sebastian

    Image: Koro Castellano

    A mass participation drum festival. Hugh parades take to the streets bashing drums throughout the night and for most of the following day.

    There are two sides to this festival - the organized processions and the free-for-all drum bashing that anyone can be a part of.

    Without a doubt the noisiest festival in Spain. 

    When?

    24 hours from the evening of January 19 (though strictly speaking the partying starts at midnight).

    Where?

    San Sebastian in the Basque Country.

    See more about the Best of Spain, including Spain's best things to do, food to eat, cities to see and regions to visit.​