Location: Valencia, Spain. The fireworks displays are in Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

Dates: 12–19 March

 

 

Description: Exuberant and anarchic, Las Fallas is Europe’s wildest spring party, which is a pretty big deal for what is essentially a glorified puppet show. It’s a time when the city is all but taken over by the fallas, which are huge sculptures of papier-mâché on wood, built by teams of local artists. Each neighbourhood sponsors its own falla, and when the town wakes after the plantà (overnight placement of the fallas) on the morning of 16 March, more than 350 have been erected. Reaching up to 15m in height, with the most expensive costing more than €350,000 to build, these grotesque, colourful effigies satirise celebrities, current affairs and local customs.

Though the festival begins on 12 March, it doesn’t really get going until after the plantà. The fallas are placed at various locations around the city and you have four days to wander about checking out the displays as well as revelling in the around-the-clock festivities, which include street parties, paella-cooking competitions, parades, open-air concerts and bullfights.

What Las Fallas truly prides itself on is fireworks, with afternoon shows that also reach their peak on 16 March. Valencia considers itself the pyrotechnic capital of the world and each day at 2pm a mascletà (more than five minutes of deafening thumps and explosions) literally shakes the city, so much so that pregnant women are banned from attending a mascletà…this could be one of the loudest events you’ve witnessed.

Unsurprisingly, Las Fallas’ grand finale involves fireworks when, at midnight on the final day, each falla goes up in flames in another fiery explosion, with months of work turning to ash in seconds. Thirty minutes after midnight, it’s the turn of the falla judged the festival’s best to be burned. It’s hardly the spoils of victory.

Las Fallas is held in honour of St Joseph’s Day (19 March), though it’s said to trace its origins to a pagan celebration of the spring equinox. The first records of the festival are from the late 15th century. Banned in the mid-19th century, and then taxed almost out of existence, the fallas were revived in the 1880s. Today, the festival attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Essentials: Come prepared for a manic few days. Maps are available to guide you between the fallas displays – pick one up at the regional tourist office at Calle Paz 48.

Local Attractions: Visit the aesthetically stunning Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts & Sciences), which is mostly the work of local architect Santiago Calatrava, designer of the new World Trade Center site in New York. Inside, you can go marine at the Oceanogràfic, Europe’s largest aquarium.

More Info: 
Valencia Tourism & Convention Bureau (www.turis valencia.es)

Source: worldnomads.com

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona, Spain

 

 

Dates: 14–16 June


Billing itself as a festival of progressive music and multimedia arts, Sónar began in 1993 as a hobnobbing opportunity for the music industry and now attracts 80,000 electronica lovers. The cutting-edge festival is an appropriate excuse to visit Barcelona, where Gaudí built psychedelic buildings in the early 1900s and the Spanish Civil War inspired great literary accounts.

 

By day you can discover musical genres such as ‘digital concretism’ by checking out the showcases in the Museum of Contemporary Art and Centre of Contemporary Culture. The buildings, not far from La Rambla in central Barcelona, also host technology demonstrations, record and clothes fairs, multimedia art, and film screenings.

 

By night the chin stroking is replaced by flailing arms when the action shifts to a clubber’s nirvana, with four stages of live acts, DJs and VJs. No wonder the day’s programme starts at midday. The rollcall of international artists who have swung by the Catalonian capital for the event includes Aphex Twin, Björk, De La Soul, Richie Hawtin and the Chemical Brothers.

Essentials: Swot-up on what terms like ‘post-rock’ mean for conversations with electronica enthusiasts.

 

 

Local Attractions: If you have any energy left after climbing Gaudí’s modernist basilica, the Sagrada Família, Barcelona has galleries devoted to Picasso and the surrealist Miró, who both spent periods here.

 

 

More Info: www.sonar.es

Location: Barcelona, Spain

Dates: Four days around 24 September

 

The Catalan capital’s festa major, a final burst of prewinter madness for the Mediterranean city, is dedicated to its co-patron saint, the Virgin of Mercy. Nostra Senyora de la Mercè, whose image lies in the church of the same name on Plaça de la Mercè, was named co-patron after she single-handedly beat off a plague of locusts in 1637! Then in 1714, as Barcelona faced defeat in the War of the Spanish Succession, the obviously desperate town elders appointed her commander in chief of the city’s defences.

Some 600 events take place, most of them in the city centre. There’s a swimming race across the harbour, a fun run and a series of free concerts. Adding to the local colour are the essential ingredients of all self-respecting Catalan festivals: sardana (folk dancing from northern Catalonia) and parades of gegants (giants), dancing in synch with the costumed groups carrying them. Brave combatants known as castellers compete to form the highest human pyramid; the towers rise up to eight storeys high. The correfoc (fire run) is a pyromaniac’s dream. Crowds hurl themselves along Via Laietana before ‘devils’ and other fire-spurting beasts, not to mention kids armed with firecrackers.

 

Local Attractions: Take the opportunity to visit Barcelona’s museums for free and to sample the local Cava (sparkling wine).

 

More Info: www.bcn.es/merce

 


 

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Every year on the last Wednesday in August a little town called Buñol in the Valencia region of Spain plays host to the world’s largest food fight. During La Tomatina, tens of thousands of people throw around 150,000 tomatoes (equal to 90,000 pounds or 140 tons) at one another for an hour in the city’s streets.

 

La Tomatina is a week-long festival featuring music, parades, dancing, fireworks, and a paella-cooking contest the night before the big fight. A number of stories have been offered up explaining the origins of La Tomatina in the mid-1940s. Not officially recognized until 1952, it was also banned during the Spanish State period under Francisco Franco for its lack of religious significance. The festival is held in the honor of the town’s patron saints, San Luis Bertràn and the Mare de Déu dels Desemparats.

 

There is limited accommodation for those who travel to Buñol for La Tomatina. Many opt to stay in Valencia and take the 38km bus or train trip in for the festival. In preparation for the dirty mess that will ensue, shopkeepers use huge plastic covers on their storefronts in order to protect them. Firefighters use water cannons to wash down the streets after the festival. Oddly enough, little evidence of the tomato battle remains afterward as the acidity in the tomatoes has a way of cleaning the street.

 

Rules of the “Fight”

 

 A cannon is fired to signal the beginning and end of the tomato-throwing. According to the official La Tomatina website, there are just five rules:

1. You must not bring bottles or other objects that could cause an accident or injury.

2. You must not tear or throw t-shirts.

3. To avoid hurting people, you must squish tomatoes before they are thrown.

4. You must be careful around any trucks or vans.

5. After hearing the second shot, you must stop throwing tomatoes.

The “simple rules of civic responsibility and cohabitation,” as the website states, are meant to ensure the safety of La Tomatina participants.

La Tomatina Festival Tips

 

Thinking of joining in the food-flinging fun at La Tomatina? Here are a few bits of advice…

  • Choose a pair of shoes that you’re okay with ruining. You probably want to leave your  new, $150 cross-trainers at home. Go for lace-ups over slip-ons, if you want to keep them, that is.
  • Wear old clothes you don’t intend to use again.
  • Swim goggles are a good idea. The acid in the tomatoes can sting your eyes.
  • Use a waterproof camera if you want to take pictures.
  • Don’t miss the soap stick, a pole smeared with soap that has a ham hanging at the top. Whoever gets to the ham first, keeps it.
  • Enjoy yourself! Doing something as absurd as throwing tons of tomatoes at one another  for an hour isn’t something you do everyday!
Source: worldnomads.com

When: June 29
Where: Haro, Spain

Haro Wine Festival is a festival in the town of Haro in the La Rioja region of northern Spain. It is held every year in the summer and involves wine drinking competitions and contests and a Batalla de Vino (Battle of Wine) where wines are poured at each other from buckets.

The celebration takes place on June 29, the day of the patron saint San Pedro. The day begins at 7:00 am, with a procession of people old and young, dressed in white shirts and red scarves, all carrying jugs, bottles, botas and other types of containers filled with red wine. Led by the town’s mayor, on horseback, the procession winds through the town to the Cliffs of Bilibio, where a mass is celebrated at the Hermitage of San Felices de Bilibio. After the mass a true free-for-all begins, with everyone tossing wine on each other until all are soaked from head to foot. There is a sea of wet, pink shirts everywhere. Then at noon everyone returns to town to celebrate at the Plaza de la Paz, followed by bullfights in the town’s bullring. But the bullfights are only for the youth, and the “bulls” are actually just heifers. [1]

When: May 25
Where: Granada, Spain

Festival Description: Outdoor dancing and a variety of cultural events mark the anniversary of the death of Granada’s young political heroine Mariana Pineda. She was imprisoned and killed for her liberal beliefs, for conspiracy against the ultra-conservative government, and for her refusal to name her fellow liberal “conspirators.”

When: February 2
Where: Granada, Spain

Festival Description: To celebrate the feast day of San Cecilio, Granada’s patron saint, a mass is held in the Abadía del Sacromonte (Sacromonte Abbey), where he is interred. Another big highlight of the festival is the gastronomic competitions- a great way to try the best of Granada’s mouth-watering food.

Date: January 2
Place: Granada, Spain

To celebrate the day that the Catholic Monarchs “liberated” Granada back in 1492, festivities include a colorful procession featuring 15th century period costumes, the raising of the monarchs’ banner at the Ayuntamiento (City Hall), and hoards of young people scrambling up the Alhambra’s Torre de la Vela to ring its bell.