10 exciting festivals in Spain that are one-of-a-kind

Las Falles, one of the leading festivals in Spain

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While here are many prestigious carnivals and street parties in the land of the fiesta, a handful of festivals in Spain are truly spectacular and worth popping on your bucket list.  

We tour the country from the Balearics and across the peninsula to visit places that host communal parties unlike any other. From Saint Day festivities to centuries-old pageantry, we pick out a contrasting mix of the best and most peculiar festivals in Spain that reveal a little of the country’s effervescent culture.

La Batalla del Vino - the Battle of the Wine - is one of the wettest and wildest festivals in Spain.
BigSus, via Wikimedia Commons

La Batalla del Vino

Haro, La Rioja – 29 June

We start our fun-filled voyage around the festivals of Spain in Haro, home to the wettest and wildest Spanish fiesta.

Haro is in the heart of La Rioja wine country and La Batalla del Vino celebrates that heritage in a unique way: by dousing everybody with the local product and having a good time.

The ‘Battle of Wine’ has become a world-famous festival and a designated Fiesta de Interés Turístico Nacional.

The main event occurs in fields six kilometres outside Haro at a hermitage raised in honour of Saint ​​Riscos de Bilibio, which is probably a relief for municipal cleaners. Riscos de Bilibio is near where the Ebro River enters La Rioja and has been a pilgrimage destination for centuries.

The day begins with revellers donning white clothing before converging in Riscos de Bilibio. At the sound of a whistle, the mayhem begins with a volley of wine from water pistols, sprayers, and buckets, and other liquid-carrying vessel.

Backed by brass bands, purple-tinged revellers then proceed to the hermitage. At that point, it gets even messier as a firework signals the next stage of the wine battle. By the time the red mist has cleared, an estimated 30,000 – 40,000 litres will have drenched participants.

The chaos ends with a procession into Haro and presumably a glass of wine that isn’t poured over the person next to you.

Although the festival is known for its rioja-fuelled merriment, the event has its roots in a more traditional feast day for Saint ​​Riscos de Bilibio. With wine freely flowing, at some point, the serious event descended from the occasional spillage to throwing vino around with careless abandon. A tradition was born, eventually earning the evocative name La Batalla del Vino.

Today, it is one of the best-known festivals in Spain, the legacy of San Riscos de Bilibio having long been superseded by the unbridled joy of being soaked head-to-toe in wine.  

La Tomatina is even bigger and messier than the Battle of Wine, with tomatoes replacing wine as the mucky projectile of choice. You can read about La Tomatina in one of our previous posts, which explores what is probably the most famous of all festivals in Spain.

Magnificent Papier-mâché heads found at many Spanish

Las Fallas De Valencia (Festival Of Fire)

Valencia – 15-19 March

One of Valencia’s biggest parties takes place in the tomato-loving town of Buñol. The Falles is one of the most important festivals in Spain and is registered by UNESCO as contributing to the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

The event centres on parades of towering Papier-mâché falla (puppets) made by neighbourhood groups. With a friendly rivalry firing imaginations, the eye-catching creations are elaborate artworks. All the more remarkable because they are filled with firecrackers and casually set alight on the final day of festivities.

The main event lasts five days and incorporates processions, music events, and numerous street parties. It is the culmination of 19 days of celebrations called the Mascletà, which sees firecrackers and fireworks set off every day from the start of March.

Las Fallas probably originated in the middle-ages, making it one of the oldest festivals in Spain. It later became associated with Saint Joseph, whose feast day is 19th March.

Today, religious handiworks appear alongside satirical designs making wry observations about the world today. Every year, the most impressive falla is selected and reserved for the final bonfire, which signals the festival’s end.

The historically and culturally symbolic event is one of the principal festivals in Spain. Around 200,000 Valencians, around one-quarter of the city’s population, join approximately 750 casal faller community groups preparing the event. An entire Valencian neighbourhood is taken over during the festival, the Ciutat Fallera (Falles City).  After paella Valenciana, Las Fallas might be Valencia’s best-known creation.

If you can’t make the fiesta, check out The Fallas Museum instead. There you can see some ninots (Valencian for puppets) that escaped the bonfires, and get a sense of why this carnival contributes to humanity’s intangible heritage.

Bonfires are central to many Spanish festivals

Festes de Sant Sebastian

Palma, Mallorca – 19-20 January

We head to the Balearic Islands for our next compelling entry on this list of leading festivals in Spain. The Festes de Sant Sebastian is held every January to honour Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of Palma.

The fiery fiesta kicks off the evening before the feast day of Saint Sebastian, with a bonfire and music attended by el Drac de na Coca, a crocodile-like dragon of Mallorcan legend.

Among the more intimate festivals in Spain, the party spills over to the patron saint’s feast day, with live music and community events electrifying the streets of Palma. The ideal antidote to the January blues.

San Juan bonfires light up many Spanish festivals

Fiestas y hogueras de San Juan – The Arizkun Carnival

Arizkun, Navarra – 1-3 February

Bonfires light up most festivals in Spain. But they take on terrifying significance during the Arizkun Carnival in the Basque community of Navarra.

The Fiestas y hogueras de San Juan translates as the ‘Festivals and bonfires of Saint John’. It is better known as ‘Jumping the Bonfire’, with thousands of participants vaulting over 20 (yes, 20) bonfires.

Even crazier, people will wear costumes to leap over flames while loved ones look away. Meanwhile, spectators dressed in sheepskin coats and wearing peculiar hats egg you on by waving brushes, banging drums, and blowing whistles. It is undoubtedly one of the most vivid festivals in Spain, and not for the fainthearted.

The tiny village of Arizkun is near Pamplona, scene of the world-famous bull-running festival. Clearly, there is an appetite for danger in a region that hosts some of the most exhilarating and downright dangerous festivals in Spain.

The origins of Jumping the Bonfire can be traced back to pagan times. It is believed that jumping through fire was a way to cleanse the soul of harmful spirits and promote fertility. Assuming you successfully made the jump, of course.

Today, the event is one of many festivals in Spain held in honour of Saint John. Yet it is a fiesta unlike any other.

If you want to learn more Spanish so you can party like a local and avoid inadvertently agreeing to leap bonfires, we can help. Start your path to Spanish fluency with our intuitive courses tailored for every learning speed.

Traditions in Madrid are showcased at one of the biggest Spanish festivals

Fiesta de San Isidro

Madrid – Mid-May

The capital is the setting for one of the longest and most layered festivals in Spain. It is an annual highlight in the cultural calendar for Madrileños that unfolds across the city for 9 days in May.

The event is held in honour of San Isidro, the patron saint of Madrid, whose feast day is on 15th May. Like many Spanish festivals, religion now takes a back seat to events celebrating local heritage. Community events, street parties, and live music fill the busy program of cultural activities.

Public squares near the central Plaza Mayor are the focus for late-night parties. Chiringuitos (small bars) pop up, serving bucket-sized cups of cocktails and beer misleadingly called “minis”.

Cabezudos, oversized papier-mâché heads satirising famous personalities, are paraded through the town during the main procession. It’s a common theme at many of the biggest festivals in Spain. But there are some unique Madrilenian touches.

Traditional choti dancing — organised and spontaneous — adds to the carnival atmosphere. The biggest dance takes place in the immense Plaza Mayor, with participants dressed in the garb of their forbearers.

Food and fireworks complete the mood. Moreish barquillos — sugary wafers filled with cream or topped with chocolate — boost energy levels.  

The annual event also heralds the start of the bullfighting season. But that is just one small part of a fiesta that overruns the city centre and attracts attendees from across Spain.

Sitges Carnival, one the most dazzling Spanish festivals

Sitges Carnaval

Sitges, Barcelona – Mid-February leading up to Lent

Carnival season is celebrated globally on Mardi Gras. Sitges embraces the tradition with a week-long party marked by two dazzling parades and a host of smaller events.

The carnival unfolds in the bohemian beachside town of Sitges, the LGBT+ capital of Spain, 35 km outside Barcelona. Running for more than a century, Sitges Carnestoltes (carnival) is not only one of the most vibrant festivals in Spain but one of the world’s great carnivals.

Events kick off on Dijous Gras (Fat Thursday). The following Sunday, the Rua de la Disbauxa (the Debauchery Parade) hosts around 40 floats and 2,000+ participants.

One parade is not enough for the party-loving town of Sitges, with a second parade on Fat Tuesday ominously titled the Rua de l’Extermini, or Extermination Parade.

Glitzy and energetic parades are merely the highlights of a week of partying that marks the Sitges Carnival out as the glitziest of all festivals in Spain.

Discover how the French celebrate Mardi Gras with our article about the French carnival tradition.  

Alicante hosts on the most fiery festivals in Spain

Bonfires of San Juan

Alicante – 23-24 June

Las Hogueras de San Juan, the Bonfires of Saint John, is a worldwide event to mark St John’s eve. Alicante goes all in for the festivities, making it their leading annual event and one of the top festivals in Spain.

Add a literally combustible mix of massive Papier-mâché heads, fireworks, and bonfires to several days of music-powered street parties, and you get a sense of what las Hogueras de San Juan de Alicante is all about.

Tents are erected throughout the centre of Alicante to host late-dancing and dish out regional specialities like local figsand coca amb tonyina, a tuna-filled empanada.

The chief event sees bonfires across the area as the heads are set ablaze. A year of craftmanship consumed by fire, simply for the spectacle.

Many Papier-mâché and wood heads satirise famous figures, with politicians and anyone with global infamy in the firing line. But the show’s star is the Bellea del Foc (Catalan for Beauty of the Fire), who will ultimately be placed atop the final, immense bonfire.

As we’ve seen throughout this guide, bonfires are an essential feature of many festivals in Spain. Alicante exemplifies this by setting enough bonfires to turn the sky orange. At least you’re not expected to jump over them at this festival…

The Medieval Fair in Ibiza is one of the most evocative 
Spanish festivals

Ibiza Medieval Fair

Ibiza, Balearic Islands – 2nd week in May

We head back to the Balearics for one of the most unique festivals in Spain.

Ibiza might be known as an island for hedonists, but it is also an island brimming with history. The Ibiza Medieval Fair brings that legacy to life by faithfully transforming the atmospheric streets of the old fortified upper town, Dalt Vila, into a neighbourhood from the middle-ages.

Bazaars bubble with activity, craftspeople display their wares, knights in armour mill about, and jesters regale audiences with juggling and firebreathing. Suspend your scepticism and you will be transported back to an age when Ibiza was an autonomous island at the centre of European trade.

The evocative streets of Dalt Vila are the ideal setting for a life-like medieval fair. In the shadow of the arresting Ibiza Castle, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to a 13th-century cathedral and timeworn streets oozing character.

Unlike most other festivals in Spain, there are no fireworks or parades of oversized satirical heads. There are not even any bonfires. But there is plenty of heart at an event that shines a light on Ibiza’s extraordinary past.

FIB in Benicàssim , one of the biggest music festivals in Spain

Festival Internacional de Benicàssim

Benicàssim, Valencia – 2nd Thursday in July

Spain has a busy music calendar filled with world-class festivals like Mad Cool and Primavera Sound. One of the most esteemed is the Benicàssim festival, which attracts international acts not heard at other music festivals in Spain.

FIB hosts three stages and 150,000+ festivalgoers over a 4-day event. Since starting in 1995, the festival has evolved into one of the top music events in Europe, welcoming a diverse medley of rock, pop, and electronica stars.

Renowned for keeping the tunes pumping through the night, FIB’s roll call of global superstars is long yet incredibly varied. It’s a musical gathering where you can hear David Guetta, Ed Sheeran, Bob Dylan, and up-and-coming acts play on the same weekend.

When people picture festivals in Spain, we tend to thing of Saint Days and colourful parades. But you shouldn’t overlook Spain’s incredibly layered music scene, especially with events like the hallowed Benicàssim Festival.


Mataelpino, Madrid – 3rd week in August

Most lists of the biggest festivals in Spain include the Festival of San Fermín and the infamous Running of the Bulls. But we’re ending ours with a modern and bizarre alternative, the already-legendary Boloencierro in Mataelpino, a small town near Madrid.

Instead of angry bulls intent on goring unfortunate runners, the town releases a giant ball that chases participants through the town.  

Although made of polystyrene, the ball still weighs 150 kg and measures 3 metres in diameter. It’ll knock the wind out of you, but you’ll get back up with your internal organs intact.

The first Boloencierro took place in 2011 and immortalises the bull running tradition. The name merges two Spanish words: bolo (ball) and encierro (to enclose or corral, but also the name for a bull run).

The concept was a solution to the unsustainable expense of the bull runs which had traditionally taken place in Mataelpino. It was a stroke of genius that instantly went viral, attracting adrenaline-loving runners from around the world.

The ‘running of the ball’ might be what put Mataelpino on the map. But it’s not the only event. As seen in this published program, you can expect a week of activities similar to other traditional festivals in Spain.

But it’s the headline event that elevates the Mataelpino above many other Spanish festivals, so we’ll leave you with a link to a video so you can see it for yourself.

Disfrutar y gracias por leer.

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