10 sizzling Spanish festivals for summer 2016
It’s Britain’s number one holiday destination. But there’s more to Spain than sun, sand and sangria. For a more authentic experience, ditch the pink-skinned tourists by the queue for the pedalos and join one of Spain’s many summer fiestas – where the local revellers will teach you a thing or two about throwing a street festival. Vamos!
1. Feria de Malaga | Malaga
15th – 22nd August 2016
Some like it hot. And if you’re one of them, Malaga is the place to be this August. Expect fireworks, flamenco and plenty of fino in this week-long street party – held every summer to celebrate the re-conquest of the city by Isabella and Ferdinand in 1487. The city is transformed with colourful decorations – with shows, singing, dancing and celebrating taking place on a 24 hour basis.
2. Semana Grande | Bilbao
22nd – 30th August 2016
Another city, another week-long festival. Albeit one that will be somewhat less sweltering. Semana Grande translates as ‘big week’ and it doesn’t disappoint. The largest summer festival in northern Spain promises live music, dancing, strongman competitions, wood-chopping, bull fights and incredible food and drink as well as epic firework displays every night. A fabulous way to get a unique insight into Basque culture.
3. Fiesta del Agua y del Jamón | Granada
23rd June 2016
Yep, that’s the festival of water and ham. Sounds a bit weird to us Brits, hey? But forget the wet, tasteless, reformed slices you’ll find in your meal deal sandwich. Because if there’s one thing the Spanish know, it’s cured meat. Expect a taste sensation. Oh and the water? That’s not for washing down your porcine parcels. It’s for one humungous, all-night water fight. Obviously.
4. International Festival of Music and Dance | Granada
17th June – 8th July 2016
Nothing is as viscerally redolent of Spanish culture than the vibrant energy of a Spanish guitar, clicking castanets and fiery flamenco dancers. Join a four-week celebration of traditional classical and flamenco music with an expansive roster of live events across Granada.
5. Corpus Christi | Toledo
20th – 31st May 2016
Corpus Christi is a festival that takes place across Spain. But nowhere are the celebrations as overwhelming as they are in Toledo. The city’s historic streets are decorated with awnings, wreaths and lanterns. Pennants and exquisite tapestries dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries hang from balconies. The ground is strewn with aromatic herbs, the scent filling the air. The highlight is the procession, a uniquely solemn affair with a Monstrance decorated with gold and silver that dates back to 1515.
6. Jerez Horse Fair
30th April – 7th May 2016
Horse lover? Then you won’t want to miss the Jerez Horse Fair. This is a week-long paean to all things equine, where tens of thousands of spectators gather to watch the finest horses in the region perform cowboy and classical dressage, riding competitions, polo and displays of carriage driving. You can also expect fabulous food and drink (this is a Spanish fiesta, after all), flamenco displays, bull fighting and a fun fair.
7. La Tomatina | Buñol
31st August 2016
They’re in your pasta. They’re in your sandwich. Now they’re in your hair too. Yes, it’s the world-famous Tomatina festival, where tens of thousands of revellers descend on the small town of Buñol (just outside Valencia) to hurl squashed tomatoes at each other. Messy.
8. La Batalla del Vino | Haro
28th – 30th June 2016
If hurling tomatoes feels a little unsophisticated, try hurling Rioja instead. Every year the small town of Haro hosts La Batalla del Vino (translation: the wine fight). At 9am the locals walk 6km to a mountain-top chapel for mass. The moment mass ends, an almighty fight breaks out as revellers use buckets, water pistols and whatever they can lay their hands on to soak each other with Spain’s most famous wine. The battle moves down the mountain and into the town of Haro, after which everyone raises a glass to the year’s harvest. Half of which is all over their clothes. Haro is off the tourist trail, so expect an authentic affair with the locals if you are willing to make the journey.
9. El Colacho | Castrillo de Murcia
June: Date TBD
El Colacho sounds like something from a particularly odd dream. Rest assured it’s completely real – and has been an annual tradition since the 17th century. The locals lay newborn babies down on mattresses in the middle of the road. Then grown men dressed as the devil take it in turns to run and jump over the baby-filled mattresses for an aerial baptism that is designed to rid the littl’uns of original sin. And you thought chucking tomatoes was weird.
10. Feria de la Manzanilla | Sanlucar de Barrameda
24th – 29th May 2016
Enjoy a crisp sherry during a long summer evening? Then set your coordinates for Sanlucar de Barrameda at the end of May and doeth as the locals do: raise a glass (or several) to their famous beverage. Expect a carnival atmosphere, a huge selection of delicious seafood and tapas and a spectacular fireworks display to round off the celebration. Cheers!