Feasting, floating heads and festivities: welcome to Madrid's Fiesta de San Isidro.
If you're wandering through Madrid in May and see giant heads floating past, you may wonder if that third sangria at lunch was a good idea. Luckily, you're probably just witnessing the Fiesta de San Isidro (Festival of Saint Isidro), an early summer weekend event which is celebrated throughout the city each year.
Although the official date for festivities is May the 15th, in true Spanish style the Fiesta de San Isidro lasts the whole weekend (or sometimes beyond). Each year, Madrid turns into a party town with a festival atmosphere, as the streets fill with Madrileños (locals), parades and traditional activities.
Celebrating the ancient story of a charitable farmer (Isidro) and his wife, the festival is a chance for Spain's capital to celebrate with pride the history of its customs. A public holiday, Fiesta de San Isidro is opened by the city's mayor and several sell-out bullfights are held at Las Ventas bullring to mark the occasion. You'll also see plenty of traditional checkered costumes taking part in dances (known as 'chotis') while 'barquilleros' (organ grinders) merrily playing along. To add to the spectacle, puppets and (somewhat strangely) giant papier-mâché heads pass through the city on flotillas to the delight of watching crowds.
Like many of Spain's public holidays, there's also huge emphasis of food and family. By day, snack on sweet treats known as 'barquillos' which are widely available from one of the many market stalls. However the real feast happens on the Sunday - a huge 'Cocido Madrileño' (chickpea, meat and vegetable stew) is cooked and enjoyed by all the family (it's also served in restaurants too).
However you choose to celebrate, make sure you embrace the city's customs and traditions - the locals are always keen to involve visitors. Join in with a 'chotis' or hone your organ grinder skills - just maybe not after three sangrias.
*We do our very best to verify the dates of our events but please check with the official event provider before booking your flights. We would hate for you to be disappointed!