1. Three Kings Festival, Alcoi
5th and 6th January
This festival will start off your year with a bang. Los Reyes Magos is as popular, if not more so, than Christmas in Spain, celebrating the three kings of the Old Testament. It’s mainly a grand parade with traditional music, spectacular costumes and magical fireworks and bonfires, particularly great for families with small children as copious amounts of sweets are handed out every parade! You can find one in all Spanish towns, though arguably the very best is found in Alcoi, as the festival has supposedly been celebrated there for the longest time. Here, the three kings are bigger than Santa and the gorgeous little town is transformed early January every year into a place of magic and colour. Take the train to Alcoi from Valencia in just over 2 hours, or a 6-hour train from Barcelona.
2. International Festival of the Wind, Valencia
First week of April
Looking for something more unusual than just music and dancing? Look to the skies for a festival that will leave you stunned in Valencia, where the International Festival of the Wind sees the beaches and marina fill with kite flyers and the skies flock with colourful creations, including inflatable aircraft and other handmade contraptions. Held at the beginning of April, this is the only festival of kite flying in Spain and one of the best in the world. What’s more, Valencia is just 1h 38m from Madrid and the beach is easy to get to from the station, a direct 30-minute bus ride. While you’re at the beach, head to one of the authentic little restaurants for some excellent seafood – the Bodega Casa Montaña is a great choice, especially for its special 1836 set menu featuring delicious anchovy and sardine tapas dishes.
3. Medieval Festival, Briones
Third week of June
There are medieval festivals all over Spain and all the major cities celebrate Spain’s vast medieval culture at some point, yet what could be better than a bona fide medieval village to experience life back in the Dark Ages? Take the train to Logroño, then a 30-minute bus ride to Briones in late June to see this entire village travel back in time, with real blacksmiths and other traditional craftsmen temporarily taking the place of modern shops, along with non-stop games, music and feasting. You can even watch some real jousting and a recreation of a medieval witch hunt, albeit a fun child-friendly version! With Bilbao just 2h 30m away and Madrid just over 3 hours, both direct, it’s easy to pop over for the day, although you’ll get most out of it if you book a night in the village and stay up to watch the skies explode in colour.
4. Aste Nagusia, Bilbao
Literally meaning ‘Big Week’, this is the biggest festival in all northern Spain, a week-long celebration of Basque culture kicking off in mid-August – usually on the Sunday following the 19th of the month. Adding to Bilbao’s already impressive range of fantastic music, culture and art attractions, the festival takes over the city centre and includes not only music and dancing but a whole gamut of quirky Basque traditions, such as strongman competitions and parades of towering giants. The festival rounds off with a huge bonfire to burn up the festival’s effigy Marijaia – a sort of female ‘Guy Fawkes’ who beams down at you, arms stretched wide in welcome – while a spectacular fireworks display lights up the sky. Bilbao is easily reached from all major Spanish cities.
5. San Sebastián International Film Festival, San Sebastián
End of September
Just 3h 30m east of Bilbao lies the art and culture centre of northern Spain – San Sebastián, where one of the world’s most prized film festivals takes place every last week in September. Though it may seem like a small fish in a big pond that includes the likes of Cannes and Venice, this film festival is a favourite among tourists and film professionals alike for its friendly, laid-back atmosphere, not to mention fantastic traditional food, and what else would you expect from the warm and welcoming Basque region?
From the Basque country to Alicante, whatever the season, there is always a festival going on somewhere in Spain, all you need to do is choose and hop on the train!