Things to do in Madrid

Best Festivals in Madrid, Spain

Every day in Madrid is a cause for celebration, but these festivals really wow the crowds.

Madrid might be known for its historic locations and thriving nightlife, but that’s not all there is to see. This city is brimming with festivals throughout the year. Each is as memorable and unique as the last, offering a completely different side to the rich culture.

But no matter how different they may be, they share one thing. They’re some of the most amazing things to do in Madrid. Checking out the city's festivals takes you on an unforgettable cultural journey.

From learning to celebrate holidays the Madrilenian way to delve into the arts and culture that add to the city's vibrance, you will surely find a festival that speaks to you.

Holiday Festivals

Holidays in Madrid call for celebrations as big and bold as this city’s history.

1. Nochevieja (December 31)

Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve) is a big deal in Madrid, and the official countdown occurs at Puerta del Sol. This square is in the city center and features the famous Real Casa de Correos clock. Celebrants gather from near and far for the biggest official countdown in the province.

By 9:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, virtually everything in the city closes down, and people feast with families at home until closer to midnight. Then, they flock to Puerta del Sol and prepare to celebrate in style.

The turn of the year rings in with 12 clock chimes, and tradition says you’re supposed to eat a lucky grape with each chime. According to legend, wine producers had too many grapes in 1909 and gave them away to the citizens, stating they’d have good luck in the new year if they ate them.

The tradition is such a big deal that four warning tolls ring out moments before the chimes, so everyone has a chance to get ready. After the clock strikes midnight, the party begins. Many bars reopen, music surges through the air, and people celebrate with cava.

Photographer: Alvaro Araoz

2. Semana Santa (April)

In Spain, Semana Santa (Holy Week) is one of the most important religious observations of the year. Practicing Catholics reflect upon the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The city’s reverence — steeped in tradition and culture — comes alive during this solemn affair.

It's a massive cultural celebration; thousands crowd the streets to see the religious processions. Across the city, churches host sacred music concerts and other events. The celebrations come to an end with the morning drum tour. This parade makes its way to Plaza Mayor to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus.

Historical Festivals

Delve into the rich history and stories of Madrid with its spirited festivals.

3. Fiestas del Dos de Mayo (May 2)

On March 23, 1808, French troops stormed Madrid, taking control of the city. However, the citizens’ indomitable spirit refused to be crushed.

The people of Madrid rebelled on May 2, 1808, sparking the start of the Spanish War of Independence, which continued for nearly six years. The Fiestas del Dos de Mayo are held yearly to commemorate the people's courage and honor those who lost their lives.

Events celebrate the occasion with pride, and street parties and large-scale events, such as military parades, pop up around the city. Reenactments of the events leading up to the revolution occur in several spaces each year.

4. Fiesta de la Paloma (August 15)

Fiesta de la Paloma is one of the most renowned celebrations in Madrid, Spain. It celebrates the patron saint of the La Latina neighborhood, La Virgen de la Paloma. The festival's hallmark event is the devoted procession.

A statue of the Virgin is carried through the neighborhood, accompanied by song and dance. The vibrant atmosphere is a spectacle to behold, and many events surround the procession.

Music can be heard everywhere, and street fairs and rides pop up, welcoming families to join the jubilance. Mouthwatering smells waft through the air as food stalls keep everyone fed. Even tourists are embraced with open arms at this impressive cultural display.

5. Almudena Festival (November 9)

There’s always something going on in Madrid, and on November 9, the opportunity to celebrate comes in the form of the Almudena Festival. Held to honor the Virgin de la Almudena, festivities spill into the day before and after the 9th.

While the heart of the event is religious, with the high mass at 11:00 a.m. in the Catedral de la Almudena, plenty of other events draw people of all faiths. Free concerts — both religious and secular — an abundance of delectable food, and floral offerings demand attention.

It’s traditional to eat a custard-filled pastry called the corona de la Almudena, which is sold at bakeries during the festivities. Following the high mass, the Procession of the Virgin of Almudena weaves through the city streets. A statue depicting the Virgin is taken from the cathedral to Plaza Mayor and back.

Photographer: Hernan Gonzalez

6. San Isidro Festival (May 15)

Traditions and modern trends collide at the San Isidro Festival every May. According to legend, Isidore the Labourer was a man of miracles with a penchant for finding water.

For this celebration, women wear a Manila shawl, headscarf, and polka-dot dress, while men grab their best waistcoats, chulapo caps, and scarves. Once dressed for the occasion, music invites people to do the traditional chotis dance in pairs.

Traditional foods include donuts in just about any flavor. Entresijos and gallinejas are usually challenging to find, but during this festival, they’re everywhere. These dishes feature lamb intestines fried in fat. Don’t forget to wash it down with limonada, a traditional San Isidro cocktail made from wine mixed with lemon, sugar, and chopped apples.

Cultural Festivals

Many cultural festivals take place in Madrid’s parks and gardens.

7. Madrid Pride Week (June/July)

Madrid is a diverse city that welcomes everyone regardless of their identities. It's also one of the premier destinations for LGBTQ+ people and allies looking to celebrate Pride Week in June. Most festivities happen in the Chueca neighborhood, but you’ll find concerts and events across the city.

Celebrations begin on June 28 with the Pride Proclamation and continue the following week. They culminate in the Pride Parade on the first Saturday of July. The city's main roads shut down while people march for tolerance and equality.

The parade is festive and lively, featuring floats and music alongside fan-favorite events, such as the High-Heel Race, where people compete in heels up to 15 cm high.

Photographer: patri

8. La Transhumance (October)

Once yearly, sheep take over Madrid’s main streets as shepherds reassert their right to travel the designated route. In the 15th century, a pact was made between the city and shepherds of the area, promising them they could migrate through.

While the need to cross paved streets with sheep dwindled over the years as the city became urbanized, the practice was reinstated in 1994. Thus, La Transhumance was born. The city's main roads are now closed to human traffic for the beloved tradition.

All along the route, people prepare to witness the absurdity of sheep lined up as far as the eye can see. This unconventional annual event draws people from all over to watch as shepherds traverse from the Casa de Campo park to the Plaza de Cibeles to deliver 50 ancient coins to the mayor.

Art and Music Festivals

Art and music flow through Madrid’s veins. Join these lively celebrations to get a feel for the city's culture.

9. Mad Cool Festival (July)

Prepare for some of the best live music in Madrid. The city draws the international music scene’s attention each July with its Mad Cool Festival.

Big-name artists, such as Avril Lavigne, The Smashing Pumpkins, and others, come together for one of the largest multi-night concerts in the country. Shows start at around 6 p.m. each year; the last act usually continues well into the early morning.

This festival is one of the most anticipated of the year for music lovers, and thousands of people make the trek from around the world to join in the excitement. Prepare for expert displays of artistry as your favorite musicians take the stage by storm.

10. ARCOmadrid (February)

Art is our way of life. It’s the air we breathe and everything we strive to create in our shows. Spain’s ARCOmadrid is a lot like us in that fashion.

This international contemporary art fair comes to the city each February, intriguing and inspiring all who visit. IFEMA Madrid has made it one of the city’s most anticipated annual festivals.

The exhibition displays hundreds of avant-garde pieces. Each year, ARCO emphasizes a different region of the world and international artists. Past exhibitions have featured hundreds of galleries and over a thousand artists from around the world.

11. A Summer Story (June)

Electronic music fans in Spain can’t wait for June when the rhythm of A Summer Story's beats fill the air. This festival is held in Arganda del Rey, about 35 km from Madrid. For lovers of the genre, it’s the perfect way to greet the beginning of summer as it falls on the solstice.

For two days, the best Spanish and international DJs leave crowds spellbound. Part of the experience is camping on-site at the Ciudad del Rock de Arganda del Rey, keeping the party running and energy high around the clock.

12. Festival de Otoño (November)

Performing artists can command a crowd, evoke powerful emotions, and cultivate beautiful displays to move their audience. We do it daily as we weave tales with our stories, stunts, and songs. The artists at the Festival de Otoño do as well.

This prime performing arts festival is the best of its kind and has been held in Madrid for decades. Cultural venues around the city, such as Teatro de La Abadía and Teatros del Canal, join the celebrations, hosting theater, dance, and performance productions. Artists come from all over Spain and the rest of the world to participate.

13. Three Kings Parade (January)

Traditionally, Christmas in Spain looks much different than in other countries. Instead of handing out presents on December 25, giving them on January 6th, the Day of the Epiphany, is customary. Before society embraced Santa as the ultimate Christmas gift-giver for children, the distinct honor belonged to The Three Kings.

On January 5, the Three Kings Parade pays respect to Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. The more than two-hour parade represents the kings' biblical journey to visit the baby Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The parade is far from quietly reverent. Fanfare abounds, with over 2,000 people joining the procession. Acrobats, dancers, and musicians delight the crowds as seasonal songs blare. Keep your eyes peeled for candy — people on floats toss it into the crowds.

As children rub their weary eyes in anticipation of waking up to gifts the following day, fireworks offer an explosive end to the evening.

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14. White Night Festival (September)

Artistry has no bedtime; sometimes, the best contemplating happens under the stars. In Madrid, the best time for middle-of-the-night museum musings occurs in mid-September.

On one Saturday night, the city pulls an all-nighter, beckoning its artistic-minded patrons to appreciate the beauty it holds. This 24-hour celebration of arts and cultures is one of the city’s most popular events. It's also the perfect opportunity to enter some of the most artistically significant venues in the city.

Many of Madrid’s creative hubs, such as museums, galleries, and theaters, are open to the public — free of charge. Known as the White Night Festival, eager people engage with the arts across the city. Performances pop up in plazas and parks; you never know what to expect.

Embracing Celebrations in Madrid, Spain

The festivities in Madrid know no bounds, and its annual events offer the perfect opportunity to see the city. Embrace the culture as you learn about its history, legends, and values.

Like the awe-inspiring events you’ll discover, we evoke many emotions. We jump through hoops and perform stunts that fit right in alongside the parades and performances found in this city. Get ready to enter a new world of dreams and wonders at our shows in Madrid.

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