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Festivals and Events

Madrid offers an impressive variety of cultural and traditional events. Here a list of the most important ones.

New Year
At New Year’s Eve thousands of people meet at Puerta del Sol to celebrate the start of the new year together. It is tradition to eat a grape and make a wish to each of the twelve strokes of the clock, which herald the new year. This event is shown countrywide on TV.

Calbagata de Reyes
In the evening of the 5th of January children can watch the Magi solemnly entering Madrid. When they come home later, the Reyes have already left their gifts. It is worth to visit this event, even though there will be no presents waiting for you.

Arco
This is the international art fair at the fairgrounds called Ifema and it is among the most important ones in Europe. It takes place in the middle of February. More at: http://www.arco.ifema.es

Carnival
Carnival has been celebrated in Madrid since the Middle Ages. General Franco prohibited the tradition of carnival during the civil war but in 1976 the processions continued and they gained more and more in popularity. On the last day of carnival you can be witness of the “Entierro de la Sardina”, the funeral of the sardine at Paseo de la Florida, where a sardine made of cardboard is being carried in a coffin along the streets.

Semana Santa
During Holy Week impressive processions and events take place in Madrid. Sinners do penance for their misdeeds, during the most important days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Sunday colourful processions move throughout the city in honour of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. This is a huge event, many streets are closed and you have the feeling that everyone is outside!

Feria de San Isidro
This religious event takes place in May (8 – 15) in honour of the patron saint of the city. The festival starts with a speech of the mayor on Friday before the 15th and ends with a traditional Cocido Madrileño meal (traditional dish, similar to a stew) on the Sunday after May 15. During this time the most important bullfights take place in the arena of Las Ventas, you can also visit one of the many lively festivals in the street or watch an excellent theatre performance. Many Madrilenians wear their traditional costume, called Chulapo (for men) and Chulapa (for women).

Festimad
The most important rock festival in the region of Madrid takes place on the last weekend of May in Fuenlabrada (18 km to the south of the city). More at: http://www.festimad.es

Feria del Libro
It takes place in Retiro park and you have the opportunity to ask some of the most significant Spanish writers for an autograph. In the end of May / beginning of June.

Noche de San Juan
During the Night of St. John (June 23/24) you can see young Madrilenians jumping over a fire, e.g. at Plaza Dos de Mayo or at the square behind the church of San Francisco el Grande.

Día del Orgullo Gay
The gay demonstration in Chueca (gay district) has become the largest folk festival of Madrid. Here Madrid is dancing in the streets and on the squares and you can watch colourfully decorated parades.

Veranos de la Villa
This cultural festival takes place between August 1st and 15 and you have the chance to see numerous exhibitions of photographs and art, operas, concerts and theatre performances. Among those performances are smaller and less known bands and ensembles but around Plaza España you can also see the appearance of internationally famous groups and musicians. During the night the party continues at Plaza Mayor and surroundings until the early morning hours.

Verbena de la Paloma
This fesival takes place between August 6 and 15 in the district of La Latina. During the evening people meet up in bars and you will see free live concerts everywhere. During the last night you can admire an impressive display of fireworks. A lot of traditional folklore is presented as well, which turns this part of Madrid almost into a village, where you forget about the hustle and bustle of this large city. You do not want to miss out on that! Go there, buy a mojito or a “mini” (sounds small but is exactly the opposite of small, 1 litre) of beer or sangria and enjoy!

Jazz Festival
The "Club de Música y Jazz San Juan Evangelista" has been organising the annual Jazz festival in Madrid since the year 1970, where Jazz legends like Chick Corea or Dizzy Gillespie have been performing in the last years. This organisation also arranges other festivals like the Festival Flamenco. The aim is to attract as many people as possible, so they keep the admission price low. It takes place in November. A must for Jazz and music fans!

Here a public holiday calendar for Madrid:

  January 1 Año Nuevo
  January 6 Reyes (Magi)
  Maundy Thursday Jueves Santo
  Good Friday Viernes Santo
  May 1 Día del Trabajo (Labour Day)
  May 2 Día de la Comunidad: festival of the autonomous region of Madrid to remind of the uprising against the troops of Napoleon in 1808
  May 15 San Isidro: festival of the patron saint of the city
  July 25 Santiago
  August 15 Asunción de la Virgen (Assumption Day)
  October 12 Día de la Hispanidad: to remind of Columbus arriving in America in 1492
  November 1 Todos los Santos (All Saints’ Day)