Is there any country in the world that celebrates food as awesomely as Spain does? Here, the obsession with gastronomy goes far beyond the table, often pouring out into the streets and fields in all-out celebrations of all things edible and drinkable. Join the fun at these unforgettable food festivals in Spain!
From world-famous harvest celebrations and massive food fights, to street-side sea creature gulping and fast-paced saffron-harvesting contests, Spain is the place to be for food festivals. Here are 6 festivals in Spain for foodies that you definitely don't want to miss this year!
1. Saffron Rose Festival in Consuegra, Castilla-La Mancha)
On the flat, windmill-speckled plains of La Mancha, the land of Don Quixote, lie some of the world's largest saffron fields. On one fateful night in late October, the blankets of delicate crocus flowers bloom.
The next day is a frenzy as nearly the entire village of Consuegra in the province of Toledo rushes to the fields to harvest the three red stigmas from each flower. These stigmas of saffron are worth their weight in gold. Saffron may be famous as the most expensive spice in the world, but it's one of our most essential seasonings here in Spain.
After the furious day of harvesting is over, the village celebrates. The Fiesta de la Rosa del Azafrán, aka the Saffron Rose Festival, is a tribute to Manchego traditions with typical dances, local foods and, of course, saffron-picking contests!
When: Last weekend of October
Where: This celebration takes place in the village of Consuegra in the province of Toledo, about an hour and a half south of Madrid by car. There are a few beautifully rustic places to stay in Consuegra while attending the festival, or you can stay in the nearby medieval provincial captial of Toledo.
2. Grape Harvest Festival in Lanzarote's Volcanic Vineyards
While the volcanic island of Lanzarote may belong to the Spanish, it is much closer to the Sahara Desert than the coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Being so far south, Lanzarote is the first European wine region to kick of the grape harvest, or vendimia. The spectacle is celebrated as all vendimias on volcanic islands should be: with camels, barefoot grape crushing, barbecue and plenty of folk dancing!
When: Usually the second week of August, but depends on when the harvest falls.
3. Water and Jamón Festival
No one throws a water fight quite like the Andalusian village of Lanjarón. At midnight on June 23—the eve of the feast of St. John the Baptist—the village erupts into a no-holds-barred fight to drench every citizen, tourist or passerby with the natural spring water that pours abundantly through the village's many spigots and fountains.
After an hour, the buckets lie empty, the hoses are turned off, the water guns are racked in their holsters and the city is sufficiently soaked. People then turn to another loved liquid: beer. And in one of Spain's top cured ham producing regions, the obvious accompaniment to said beverage is slice after slice of spectacular Spanish jamón.
When: Midnight on June 23, the day before the feast of St. John the Baptist. Legend has it that the water fight originates from the handful of water that John the Baptist used to baptize Christ.
Where: The village of Lanjarón is 45 km from Granada in Spain's southernmost region of Andalusia. While there are a few hotels and hostels in Lanjarón, most hike prices during the festival and sell out months in advance. Another option is to stay in Granada and catch a bus to Lanjarón for the festival.
4. Erizada: Sea Urchin Day
To start of one of the biggest Carnival parties in Spain is a three day event. And I'm just taking about the kick-off celebration! On the first day of Cadiz's Carnival opening ceremonies, residents flood the streets to share free pestiños (anise-flavored fried pastries). The third day they gulp down 500 kilos of oysters (and more than 2 million liters of beer!).
But it's the second day of Cadiz's Carnaval kick-off that puts it on our list: the Erizada. Starting at midday, fisherman crack open kilo after kilo of black, spiny sea urchins. The alien-like creatures are served raw and free to the thousands of revelers gathered in Cadiz's La Viña neighborhood. By the end of the night, Gaditanos (as people from Cadiz are called) slurp down upwards of 650 kilos of sea urchins.
When: Usually the weekend after Three Kings Day in early January
Where: The bulk of the celebrations take place in the La Viña neighborhood of Cadiz. There are copious options for hotels, hostels, beach resorts and guest houses in this seaside town, or, if you prefer a big city, Seville is about 120 km north.
5. Haro Wine Fight
Super soakers, back-mounted sprayers, buckets and paintbrushes are all fair game in the raucous wine battle in Haro, La Rioja, Spain. This cozy winemaking town turns into a battlefield every year on the day of St. Peter as purple people (dyed that color from being doused in wine) do their darnedest to soak each other in as much wine as possible.
The festivities get started the night of June 28th as the entire village (and a few thousand tourists) overtake the town, indulging in copa after copa of the region's famous vino tinto. The celebrations go on all night until at 7 a.m. the revelers start the trek up a 5 km hill to the sight of the wine battle. When the trucks full of wine arrive, the battle begins!
When: June 28 and 29th
Where: The Batalla del Vino takes place in Haro, a winemaking village in the La Rioja wine region. There are a few hotels in Haro, but many people stay in the neighboring city of Logroño, about a 45 minute bus ride away. Logroño is a 3.5-hour drive from Madrid and a 4.5-hour drive from Barcelona.
6. Tomatina Tomato Fight
The Tomatina is perhaps the most famous food fight in the world. Each year upwards of 40,000 revelers pack the streets of the Valencian village of Buñol to hurl more than 100 tonnes of tomatoes at each other. This giant tomato fight has been dying the streets of the city bright red for 64 years in celebration of the town's patron saint, Saint Luis Beltrán.
Because Tomatina has taken on such international fame, you now have to buy tickets in advance to participate.
When: Last Wednesday of August
Where: Tomatina takes place in the village of Buñol, about 40 km from Valencia and a 3.5- hour drive from Barcelona. Many tour companies run buses from Valencia or Barcelona to Buñol for the festival as there are very few places to stay in this small town.
Are there any awesome Spanish food festivals we are missing? Let us know in the comments! We may just have to do a Food Festivals in Spain Part II!