Spain is the home of the fiesta. Find out about the origins and what to expect from each of the main events on the annual calendar of Madrid Province…
Madrid hosts many annual events and festivals (fiestas) throughout the year. As well as the national public holidays in Spain, each region has its own calendar of festivities, ferias and fiestas. These festivals showcase traditional dances, processions, firework displays, music, markets and food and drink. Many festivals in Spain have their origins in ancient tradition and religion, often celebrating saints’ days, but also marking gastronomic and sporting events.
The carnival takes place in February and March, with many parades and costume parties, and ends with the traditional Burial of the Sardine (Entierro de la Sardina), which marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
Dos de Mayo
The Dos de Mayo festival on 2 May is a festival marking the uprising of the city against Napoleon’s troops in 1808. This popular revolt led to the War of Independence and the defeat of the French invaders. Celebrations include concerts, dancing and sporting events. Bullfighting events are often held.
Every year on 15 May Madrid celebrates the festival of San Isidro, Patron Saint of Madrid. The legend states that San Isidro was a peasant farm worker who, with his wife Santa María de la Cabeza, became popular due to his generosity donating food to the poor. This is Madrid’s biggest fiesta and traditionally starts on the Friday before the 15th and continues for nine days. Spain’s biggest bullfighting event takes place at this time, with a corrida every day. The series of fights, held in Madrid’s Plaza de Ventas, attracts the best fighters and breeders. During this time there are also art exhibitions, open-air concerts and firework displays. Many of the Madrileños dress in folk costume for the occasion.
A two-day festival held in May or June, Festimad attracts thousands of spectators from all over Spain. The programme includes rock music concerts, dance, poetry reading and more. Internationally renowned artists headline the event. It is normally held in the Bellas Artes building and in Móstoles.
Los Veranos de la Villa
Madrid’s summer arts festival runs from June to September and involves over a hundred shows. There are music, dance, cinema, theatre, opera, zarzuela and circus performances held at various venues and in squares, streets and neighbourhoods around the city. Participating venues normally include Conde Duque, the Sabatini Gardens, the Centrol Cultural de la Villa and the Teatro Español.
La Noche en Blanco
Part of the European White Nights Festival, which began in Paris in 2002, La Noche en Blanco brings culture and art to the general public. For one night in September, Madrid hosts a series of free concerts, circus shows, theatrical performances, street art, film screenings, special activities and fine art exhibitions. Similar events are also held in Brussels, Paris, Riga and Rome.
Festival d’Otoño (Madrid Autumn Festival)
This festival was created in 1984 and is now becoming very popular. A series of cultural events take place in different areas around the town, including theatre and dance performances, photography and painting exhibitions, live music and films. The festival attracts many famous Spanish artists such as Teresa Berganza and José Carreras.
Madrid Jazz Festival
Usually held in November and December, the Festival Jazz Madrid includes musical performances, films and other jazz related activities. The festival has a different theme each year.
New Year’s Eve
Madrid is famous for its New Year’s Eve festivities at the Puerta del Sol. Crowds gather at midnight to await the announcement of the New Year by the bells of the clock on the main building of Madrid’s Regional Government. Each person tries to eat a grape for every chime of the clock leading to midnight. After midnight the entire city becomes one huge party.