The Spanish love an excuse for a party and throughout the year cities, towns and villages across the region hold celebrations and festivals. Below is a list of some of the main festivals that take place in Andalucía. If your visit coincides with any of these, it’s a great way to experience some real local colour!
5th – 6th Jan, Three Kings
The festival of the Three Kings (Reyes) is traditionally the time at which children in Spain receive their Christmas gifts. Although Father Christmas is increasingly replacing the Three Kings as the bearer of seasonal gifts, parades starting at dusk on 5th January still take place in urban areas, with the three wise men and their entourage handing out sweets to youngsters. The 6th is a national holiday when families gather to eat, exchange gifts and spend time together.
February 2015 Carnival
This traditional festival 40 days before Lent is a chance to indulge before the prohibitions of lent and most towns celebrate carnival with processions, dances and costume contests. You can see processions through the streets either the weekend before or after Shrove Tuesday. Cities and larger towns have festivities lasting all week or longer and carnival in the city of Cadiz is one of the most famous in Andalucía, but the processions are great fun in Marbella too.
Semana Santa (Holy Week) Dates: end of March to the beginning of April
Holy week is celebrated throughout Andalucía’s towns and cities with huge pageantry. If you are here at this time of year, it is a spectacle that should not be missed. Elaborately decorated floats, brass bands and hooded Nazarenes parade through the streets carrying statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The most impressive of these processions are to be found in Malaga and Seville, but even the smallest villages get involved and it’s a great way to see the white villages come to life.
23rd June, San Juan
A celebration of the summer solstice, all along the coast bonfires are lit on the beaches, music is played, food is eaten and drinks are consumed. It’s a totally free party for anyone that wants to attend. Some believe that jumping over the fire three times will cleanse the body and the soul, while jumping in the sea at midnight is supposed to be a way to wash away evil spirits. San Juan in Marbella is always fun, but if you fancy going a little further afield, Sabinillas throws an epic party.
From April through to October every town and village in Andalucía celebrates its own feria. The summer ferias originated in the middle ages, to exchange goods and trade. Nowadays it’s just a good excuse for a party lasting several days: streets are closed to traffic, and businesses close for the week as well. Tables and chairs are set up and the bars serve food and drink in the street with music playing on every corner. People of all ages sing and dance, and visitors are always welcome. If you can time your visit with one of the local ferias it’s a great way to experience Spain and Spaniards at play.
April, (two weeks after Semana Santa – Easter)
Feria de Sevilla, Seville
The spring feria in Seville is the most famous of all the ferias, and takes place in the Los Remedios, to the south-west of the city, next to the river. It is a week of serious dancing, drinking, eating and socializing, with late nights – or all-nighters – being the norm.
From around midday until early evening – especially on Tuesday, the first official day – Seville society parades around the fairground, many of them dressed in traditional costumes, in carriages or on horseback. There is non-stop music, dancing, tapas, drinks and also daily bullfights.
End April-beginning May, Feria Internacional de los Pueblos, Fuengirola
Take a tour around the world by enjoying the music, food and culture of more than 30 countries. This five day festival is a celebration of all the nationalities who live on the Costa del Sol and a great opportunity to try new food and meet people. Thousands of people flock to the Fair Ground in the city during the day and night to enjoy this special occasion.
May (one week after Feria de Seville)
Jerez Horse Fair, Jerez
The Jerez Horse Fair (Feria de Caballo) is an exciting and lively event that brings the entire city to the Gonzalo Hontoria Fairgrounds, where the finest horses of Jerez, as synonymous with the city as sherry and flamenco, show off their moves to the crowds.
The history of this fair dates back over 500 years and is known for its refined air, due to the many aristocratic sherry families in the city who keep beautiful horses.
May 3, Cruz de Mayo, Granada
This special date is celebrated in many places, but is particularly famous in Granada where crosses made of flowers and other beautiful materials are created and put in squares and streets around the town. There is live music and lots going on and it’s a really interesting way to explore a beautiful and historic town.
May 4th -15th, Patios de Cordoba, Cordoba
This is the central part of the annual May Festival which also includes the Battle of the Flowers (1st May), and coincides with two Romerias, closely followed by the Feria. A great chance to wander the streets seeing the beautiful patios decked out with thousands of colourful scented blooms, as well as mosaic decorations. There are many cultural events too, including top flamenco performers.
Early June, Marbella Fair
Every year at the beginning of June, Marbella pays homage to its patron saint San Bernabe (Saint Bernard) with a weeklong fair. The Marbella Féria includes all the traditional elements of an Andalusian fair: food, drink, dancing, entertainment and of course, the trademark “casetas” that are set up just for the fair.
On Monday night everyone heads for the beach near the emblematic El Fuerte Hotel (one of the oldest in town) to see the fireworks before diving in to a full scale feria frenzy the next day. From there, you can expect the “day fair” to take over the old part of Marbella and the “night fair” (féria de noche) to be held outside of town near the La Cañada shopping centre. Bus service connects the city centre with all the action on the outskirts.
If you’re not here for this one, there are several others nearby which follow a very similar format. The Nueva Andalucia feria is held the fourth week in July and the San Pedro feria is the third week in October
First weekend in July, Ojén Music Festival
Every summer on the first weekend in July our usually sleepy local village of Ojén comes to life with the Ojeando music festival. People flock to the village from across Malaga to hear a mix of rock, pop and indie bands playing on three different stages set up within the village, some are free, some you have to pay to access.
Dubbed an ‘anti-crisis’ festival, it’s characteristic of the Spanish determination to enjoy life, no matter what. Crowds fill the cobbled streets and customers spill out of the bars and restaurants; local artisans sell their jewellery and crafts and young and old turn out to enjoy the lively atmosphere.
16th July, Virgin Del Carmen
In fishing villages and towns up and down the coast, statues of the Virgin del Carmen – the protectress of seamen – are paraded through the streets and taken for a spin round the bay on flower-adorned boats, accompanied by a flotilla of “jábegas” (fishing boats). Brass bands play, crowds cheer, rockets shoot off and fireworks fill the late dusk sky.
A good place to see this fiesta is Estepona, where the Virgin del Carmen is one of the town’s most beloved saints.
First Saturday of August – Full Moon Festival, Sabinillas
At the beginning of August, thousands of people flock to Sabinillas beach dressed in white for the Full Moon Festival. Take picnics down to the beach, or enjoy the cocktails being served on the paseo, or any of the many beach restaurants and listen to live music late into the night.
August, Benalauria, Malaga
Moros Y Cristianos – Moors & Christian Festival
Typical recreation of medieval battle between Moors from North Africa and Spanish Christians, celebrated every first Sunday in August.
11th – 15th August, Competa, Malaga
Noche Del Vino
A famous wine festival, whose most important day is 15 August, originally to bid farewell to the grape-pickers who were off to bring in the harvest. These days, poets, artists and writers take part; a mural is painted; you can see flamenco performances and exhibitions; and of course, the highlight is free muscatel wine (comes in both dry and sweet varieties) for all comers, with tours and tastings. This day is also when Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion, the town’s patron saint, is honoured.
16th – 23rd August, Malaga Feria
The annual Malaga fair in August is an exuberant week-long street party with plenty of flamenco and ‘fino'(sherry).The fair commemorates the re-conquest of the city by Isabella and Ferdinand in 1487 and traditionally runs from Saturday to Saturday on the third week in August.
During the day the celebration take place in Calle Marques de Larios, in the city centre which is decorated with paper lanterns and flags and where horses replace cars as the means of transport. At night the party moves to the fairground and goes on until dawn. Millions of people visit the fair, although very few tourists seem to even know about this intrinsically Andalusian traditional fiesta.
First week September, Feria Goyesca, Ronda Ronda’s Feria Goyesca is a fairly recent festival, at least in Andalucía terms; it has become an event that has captured the imagination of Spain with its traditional dress, important bullfights and its ageless glamour.
Ronda is well-known as the home of the modern corrida or bullfight and this week-long celebration honours key figures in the history of bullfighting and is a chance to recreate some of the pomp and pageantry of this very Spanish tradition.
2 weekends in September (11/09-19/09), Luna Mora Festival, Guaro
This celebration of September’s full moon is a wonderful occasion when the charming town of Guaro is lit by 25,000 candles burning in the night. The streets are lined with hand craft stalls, music and food on the streets and is a very special way to explore this village.
First weekend in October, Blood & Love in Grazalema
Step back in time in Grazalema, when the whole village is transformed to look the way it would have done in the 19th century. The event is a historical recreation based on the life of one of the most famous bandits in the area, María “El Tempranillo”. The Asomaderos Plaza is the focal point with locals dressed in period costumes, set at their decorated posts, including bandoliero houses, stables taverns and a real, live bandit camp.
6th – 12th October, Fuengirola
Feria y Fiestas De La Virgen Del Rosario
With 32 peñas (houses offering shows & food), this feria offers a wide range of activities, as well as performances in the Palacio de la Paz.
8th – 12th October, Feria de Nerja, Malaga
You can see a flamenco singing festival, folkloric performances, dancing competitions and carriage processions. Three Reinas de la Fiesta are elected – child, youth and elderly – as well as Mr and Miss Nerja beauty pageant.
1st November National holiday
Around this time of year you can find many villages offering El Tostón de Castañas, Chestnut Toasting Festivals, again with local bands, music, dancing, drinking, and of course hot toasted Chestnuts & chestnut liquor.
27th November, Totalan, Malaga
Fiesta De La Chanfaina
Chanfaina is a traditional dish is made from fried potatoes and chorizo, on a bed of breadcrumbs with garlic, oregano, cloves, cumin and pepper. It was eaten by those who worked long hours in the fields. Today it is celebrated in this festival, on the last Sunday of November, where it is eaten accompanied by local wine or beer, along with verdiales and other music and dancing.