Feisty Fiestas in Galicia
More food, drink, dancing and entertainment than you can shake a paella pan at
For a truly authentic Galician experience, sniff out one of the region’s fantastic fiestas. Not to be muddled with the indolent Spanish siesta, these vibrant celebrations take place regularly throughout the year, and are usually held in honour of food or religion. They are family affairs where children are welcomed, and locals mingle with tourists as one. Indeed, fiestas are a great opportunity to get to know a place and its people. They make up some of the best events in Galicia.
The best time to enjoy Galicia’s fiestas is the summer, when practically every village contributes to a magnificently diverse collection of celebrations across the entire region. Regardless of the date, however, fiestas are guaranteed to leave you feeling delirious with excitement, promising more food, drink, dancing and entertainment than you can shake a paella pan at.
200,000 gastronomy fanatics descend upon Galicia each October for the Fiesta de Exaltación del Marisco in O Grove, a place that has become famous for its seafood delicacies. Sample the succulent pink meat of the local nécora crab, soak up a bowl of fresh fish stew, gobble a dish of steaming clams or savour some of Galicia’s large, juicy mussels. The only drawback of this fiesta is that it’ll leave you wanting for more.
Alternatively, if you like your wine fine, don’t miss the Albarino Wine Festival in Cambados. Held during the first week of August, this fiesta celebrates the sweet Albarino white wine grape through a varied programme that includes wine tasting sessions, informative courses and music concerts.
For a spectacle unlike any other, head to Galicia in June and see the Bonfires of San Juan in La Coruna. Galicia’s districts and Riazor beach are brought to life by hundreds of flickering bonfires in celebration of the summer solstice, during which participants dance around the fires and share a feast of roast sardines and boiled potatoes, known as cachelos.
If you’re more of a history buff, you’ll be disappointed to learn that you’ve just missed the opportunity to attend this year’s Fiesta de la Arribada in the old town of Baiona, which celebrates the arrival of Christopher Columbus after his first voyage. Fret not, however, there’s always next year! Local residents dress up in fancy costumes and take part in a procession, alongside which a variety of historic scenes are re-enacted on the beach. Best of all, the bars are open all day.
The indisputable madre of all Galician events, however, is the Festival of St. James the Apostle, held in Santiago de Compostela each year at the end of July. Festivities begin with a bang on the eve of the Day of the Apostle, with a dazzling fireworks display in Obradoiro Square that includes the traditional burning of the cathedral façade which brings the city’s distinctive baroque stonework to life. The following morning an offering is made to the Apostle in the cathedral, after which a parade takes place, featuring giant headed figures and traditional music, along with a series of concerts in the city’s squares.