Spain places great importance on the celebration of Summer and traditional festivities in general, so it should come as no surprise to know that each region has its own original parties held annually to celebrate the most desired season.
If you are thinking of travelling to Spain between the months of June and August, definitely keep in mind the dates we are going to mention below to see if you can squeeze any of these events into your plans. However, beware that to guarantee your presence it is highly recommended that you book everything well in advance! If that is not possible, you can always witness all the action from a little bit further away.
And now it is time you get to know more about these Spanish parties and what they entail!
Welcome to one of the most emblematic nights in the Spanish culture!
Celebrated on June 23rd at night, San Juan is the first summer festivity in Spain and it is celebrated all around the country. Each region has its own unique traditions and customs, but the Spaniards themselves believe that the coastal areas are where you can find the most extravagant parties.
The presence of fire is the one characteristic almost every region has in common, used in bonfires that light up the streets and beaches, with rituals and dances that take place around them, and the burning of old items.
This unique celebration originally started as a religious event to honour the birth of San Juan Bautista, exactly six months before the birth of Christ. But over the years people started to apply the same traditions used in the ancient pagan celebrations to welcome Summer.
In Catalonia, fireworks take on special relevance and throughout the night they indulge in the Coca de San Juan, their traditional cake made with cream and pine nuts. In Galicia, Celtic traditions predominate, which equals a lot of dancing and concerts. They burn witch dolls in order to scare away the bad spirits and purify the soul and their most important bonfire takes place in A Coruña. In this region, water is as important as fire and you should jump seven ocean waves to be properly purified and have good luck!
Málaga shares some similarities with Galicia. It is a night full of music, concerts, and dancing, where large groups of friends and families gather by the sea, while they prepare their bonfires. It is then that the famous Júas, large rag dolls made by hand with recycled materials, are burned. It is believed that its name comes from the name Judas, the traitorous apostle, a symbol of all negative things, which are burned to start the new season off right.
The Haro Wine Festival
The Haro Wine Festival is held every year from the 28th to the 30th of June, in the Riojan town of Haro, with its major focus being the famous Batalla Del Vino (wine battle).
This wine battle is a party like no other. It is everything you can expect it to be by its name – crazy, fun, messy, and definitely sticky, but overall fantastic. This is an event everyone should aim to tick off their travelling bucket list.
On the 29th, the most awaited day, most participants put on the traditional red and white garb and at 7 am are ready to follow the mayor of Haro (who is on horseback) on a 7km procession out of town, up into the cliffs of Bilibio, to the Hermitage of San Felices. After their arrival at the top and a short mass, the true battle begins. In a few minutes, everyone will be covered with red wine from head to toe. The weapons you can use for better reach are buckets, jugs, bottles cups, and even water pistols.
It is believed that the tradition of this iconic wine battle dates all the way back to the 6th century.
The festival of San Fermín is a historically rooted celebration that honours Saint Fermín, born in Pamplona, Navarre, where the party is held.
There are records of this event happening since 1186 but in October. Almost half a century later, in 1591, the festivities were moved to July, from the 6th until the 14th, because that was when dances, music and plays were performed and the weather was more suitable for outdoor celebrations.
Nowadays the main attraction of this event is the Encierro, or running of the bulls, which brings thousands of people every year to experience the risk and the thrill of this tradition immortalised by Ernest Hemingway in his novel Fiesta. This involves the release of a group of bulls into the streets, which then chase a crowd of people as they run towards the bullring. This tradition was born out of the need to move the bulls from the outskirts of the city to the bullring.
Moors and Christians
For a period of eight days, from July 24th to the 31st, the town of Villajoyosa in Alicante travels back in time to 1538 to recreate the epic battle between the Moorish vessels and the Christians that marked the history of the city.
The festivity begins with the marching bands and the Moors and Christians parade, which fill the streets with dancing, music and, of course, fireworks during the first days.
The peak of this party is El Desembarco (the disembark). On the 28th at dawn, around thirty Moorish ships gather off the coast of the town while the defending Christians let off cannons and handheld mortars. A land battle then ensues as the Moors disembark their ships and push the Christians towards the castle walls, who are subsequently captured by the invaders. In the afternoon, the Christians try to recapture the castle, first through negotiations and later with force. Another large battle takes place resulting in the retreat of the Moorish troops. The re-enactment allows you to learn more about the history of this city and truly feel like you are part of this mission to protect the inhabitants from the invaders.
These festivities have been held in Villajoyosa for over 250 years, always in honour of Santa Marta, the saint who is believed to be behind the victory of the Christians in 1538.
The Descenso Del Sella
The Descenso del Sella occurs in the Asturias region, specifically along the Sella River, on the first Saturday of August. It is all about a 20-kilometre-long canoe race where the participants paddle their way through the river’s crystal-clear waters and beautiful scenery.
This canoe race is one of the oldest in the world and marked the origin of Spanish canoeing competitions in calm waters. It is estimated that more than 1000 canoes participate in this race every year. It is therefore a great sports event and it does not skip any of the fun activities so typical of the Asturian parties: music, dancing, parades, and their worldwide famous cider.
Romaria Vikinga De Catoira
Romaria Vikinga De Catoira is a festivity with a few similarities with the Moors and Christians event from Alicante. This one is based on the re-enactment of one of many Viking invasions in Catoira, Galicia, from the 9th and 10th centuries. The Vikings would attack the coast of Galicia relentlessly, raiding and pillaging towns and villages before returning to their homeland in Scandinavia.
The party takes place on the first Sunday of August and starts at 10 am, with folk music blasting in the streets. The music spreads to the Torres del Oeste, where the main event is held. We are talking about a 9th-century fortified compound that is nowadays one of the most important archaeological and historical heritage sites in Galicia, which resisted military attacks for centuries. Here you will still find the remains of two towers and a shrine dedicated to Saint James the Apostle. A medieval market is set up around these special towers and at noon, the modern Vikings are given mussels and wine from Ulla.
But the fun has not even started yet. Later in the day, you will see a replica of an 11th-century Viking ship approaching, full of northern invaders who will try to conquer the Torres del Oeste. The locals will fight back with all their strength to resist and then a very messy battle will occur in which everyone will end up completely soaked in wine. After the battle that immediately reminds us of the Wine Battle from Haro, everyone gets together to enjoy a good rustic meal such as octopus, grilled sardines or empanadas, accompanied by the sound of traditional bagpipes. The fun continues into the night with an outdoor dance, literary proclamations and theatrical performances.
Festa Major de Gràcia
The Festa Major de Gràcia is a very unique and quaint celebration of the Gràcia district of Barcelona which offers all different kinds of fun activities. From August 15th to 21st you will be able to attend concerts of many different genres, workshops, exhibitions, parades and cultural performances. Many of the concerts and performances take place in the streets, making the festival accessible to everyone.
In fact, the Festa Major is all about being in the streets to properly soak up the essence of the neighbourhood and that is why the main highlight is the spectacular decoration of the streets themselves. Each year the residents of Gràcia compete to see who can create the most impressive and creative decorations, such as colourful papier mache figures and lights that are hung in between the houses, creating a vibrant and festive atmosphere.
This wide range of events is organized by the locals with the goal of celebrating their diverse community and the cultural heritage of the Catalan region.
Feria de Málaga
The Malaga Fair is one of the most important festivals in Andalusia and has its roots in the 15th century, when the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella reconquered the city from the Moors. It traditionally runs for a week from Saturday to Sunday (inclusive) over the third week in August. This year 2023 it will be from the 12th to the 19th of August.
The start of this castanet-clicking party is announced with a spectacular firework display in the Paseo del Parque which can be seen for miles around. The streets are adorned with colourful lights and the air is filled with the smell of traditional Andalusian cuisine.
If you want to fit in with the locals you must gear up and face a big challenge: wearing their traditional garb. Women will be wearing their traje de flamenca, a brightly coloured and fitted dress with a full skirt, typically worn with a shawl and a flower in the hair. Men will be wearing traditional Andalusian suits, which include jacket and trousers made from linen or cotton.
People will also perform the traditional dance of Andalucia, called 'Sevillanas', comprising four distinct dances with plenty of finger-clicking, foot-stomping and, above all, feeling.
Even though millions of people visit the fair, very few tourists know this detail about the Feria which is actually two distinct events. During the day all the action happens in the city centre and it is called Feria de Dia, until around 6 pm. From 9 pm until dawn, it is called Feria de Noche and takes place on the fairground west of the city centre. The party during the night may even be more alive than before! You will find fairground rides, live music, endless food and drinks and some more Sevillanas dancing. The night is yours!
Aste Nagusia or “The Great Week” is Bilbao’s main festival, celebrated for nine days beginning on the first Saturday following August 15th. In 2023 it takes place from August 19th to 27th.
On Saturday, the crowds gather at the Arriaga Theatre on the banks of the Nervion River to start the fun, but the party hasn’t officially started until one iconic rocket shot into the sky, known as the txupinazo. Right after, the festival’s mascot Marijaia makes her grand entrance on the theatre balcony. Now it is officially time to celebrate!
Head to the txosnas scattered around the city, which are tents run by local associations and businesses that offer food and drinks as a way to sample traditional Basque cuisine.
Throughout the festival, there are also numerous sporting events, such as the "Bilbao Night Marathon" and the "Pelota Basque Championship".
As you already know by now, dancing is a must in these celebrations! There will be people performing the traditional Basque dance, known as aurresku, in the city's main square. The dance is performed by a group of dancers and accompanied by the sound of traditional Basque instruments, such as the txalaparta and the trikitixa. All of the daily adventures are followed by a nightly fireworks competition that lights up the city’s sky. However, right after the sky goes dark again, another round of concerts and partying takes place.
Aste Nagusia comes to an end with a strange plot twist - Marijaia ends up being set on fire. Locals say that her hands are raised into the air as a sign of optimism and to symbolize dancing.
Overall, this Great Week is a celebration and a homage to the Basque culture and history. It is a chance for locals and visitors to come together and enjoy what the Basque Country has to offer.
La Tomatina is a world-famous festival that takes place in the town of Buñol, Valencia, on the last Wednesday of August, so this year is on August 30th. This fiesta is a one-of-a-kind event where participants throw tomatoes at each other for about an hour.
The origin of La Tomatina is uncertain, but it is believed to have started in the middle of the 20th century when a group of young people started throwing tomatoes during a parade. Over time, the tradition grew in popularity and it became an official event in Buñol.
But before the tomato throwing starts, the participants face a challenge called "Palo Jamón", which consists of climbing a greasy pole to reach the ham at the top. It is way more difficult than it may sound due to the slippery pole. Once the ham is taken down, the tomato fight begins and around 150,000 kilograms of tomatoes are thrown.
To sum it up, la Tomatina is a unique and exciting festival that has become a popular attraction for tourists visiting Spain. It is an opportunity to let loose, meet new people and have a completely different experience. If you are considering attending, be sure to purchase the tickets ahead of time and the most important part, do not forget to take those old clothes that you do not mind getting dirty!
Cascamorras has been held in the cities of Baza and Guadix in the province of Granada for over 500 years. On September 6th the two cities live the most awaited day of the year, the celebration of their battle over a sacred relic. Legend has it that in the 15th century, a worker found a valuable statue of the Virgen de la Piedad hidden in a cave in Baza. The people of Guadix claimed that it belonged to them and sent a man, dressed as a clown, to retrieve it. However, the people of Baza refused to hand the relic over, which then resulted in a battle, and now in a precious tradition.
During this party, a man dressed in a harlequin costume, known as the Cascamorras, re-enacts the attempt to bring back the statue of the Virgen de la Piedad and the locals of Baza try to prevent him from taking the statue by throwing paint, mud, and other colourful substances at him. The Cascamorras is accompanied by a group of people from Guadix who also try to protect him from the paint and mud thrown by the locals of Baza.
The festival officially begins with the Encierro, where the Cascamorras is chased through the streets of Guadix by a group of locals, and then moves to Baza, where the Cascamorras is welcomed with fireworks, music and dancing. Overall, Cascamorras has a vibrant and exciting atmosphere but also a deep cultural significance, which aims to offer a glimpse into the rich heritage and traditions of Granada.