There are dozens of fiestas in Madrid, some of which involve the whole city, others just an individual barrio. The more important dates celebrated in the capital are listed below.
Also well worth checking out are cultural festivals organized by the city council, in particular the Veranos de la Villa (July–Sept) and Festival de Otoño (Sept–Nov). Many events are free and, in the summer, often open air, taking place in the city’s parks and squares. Annual festivals for alternative theatre (Feb), flamenco (Feb), books (end May), dance (April & May), photography (mid-June to mid-July) and jazz (Nov) are also firmly established on the cultural agenda. Full programmes are published in the monthly what’s-on magazine esMadrid, free from any of the tourist offices and from the city’s tourist website (esmadrid.com).
5: Cabalgata de los Reyes To celebrate the arrival of the gift-bearing Three Kings there is a hugely popular evening procession through the city centre in which children are showered with sweets. It’s held on the evening before presents are traditionally exchanged in Spain.
Week before Lent: Carnaval An excuse for a lot of partying and fancy-dress parades, especially in the gay zone around Chueca. The end of Carnaval is marked by the bizarre and entertaining parade, El Entierro de la Sardina (The Burial of the Sardine), on the Paseo de la Florida.
Semana Santa (Holy Week) Celebrated with a series of solemn processions around Madrid, although for a more impressive backdrop head for Toledo (routes and times of processions are available from tourist offices).
2: Fiesta del Dos de Mayo Held in Malasaña and elsewhere in Madrid. Bands and partying around the Plaza Dos de Mayo, though a bit low-key in recent years.
15: Fiestas de San Isidro Festivities to honour Madrid’s patron saint are spread a week either side of this date, and are among the country’s biggest festivals. The fiestas also herald the start of the bullfighting season.
End June/beginning July: La Semana del Orgullo Gay (Gay Pride Week) Week-long party throughout Chueca, culminating in a massive carnival-style parade that brings the city centre to a standstill.
6–15: Castizo (Traditional fiestas of San Cayetano, San Lorenzo and La Virgen de la Paloma) in La Latina and Lavapiés barrios. Much of the activity – processions, dancing and live music – takes place around Calle Toledo, the Plaza de la Paja and the Jardines de las Vistillas.
25: Navidad During Christmas, Plaza Mayor is filled with stalls selling festive decorations and displaying a large model of a Nativity scene. El Corte Inglés, at the bottom of c/Preciados, has an all-singing, all-dancing clockwork Christmas scene (Cortylandia), which plays at certain times of the day to the delight of assembled children.
31: Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve) is celebrated at bars, restaurants and parties all over the city. Puerta del Sol is the customary place to gather, waiting for the strokes of the clock – it is traditional to swallow a grape on each stroke to bring good luck in the coming year.