From throwing tomatoes and diving out the way of rampaging bulls to water jousting and dressing in lederhosen to drink flagons of beer, Europe is home to some pretty special festivals.
These are traditions that date back hundreds of years and create quite the spectacle for anyone that happens to be passing through. They transform normally quiet and reserved cities into an explosion of colour and celebration as the locals come out in their droves for the annual festivities. They are some parties.
We’ve taken a look at some of the best festivals across Europe for you to add to your 2019 bucket list.
Festa de Sant Medir – Barcelona (March)
Barcelona is a city steeped in tradition and every March, the old town of Gràcia holds a festival in tribute to a humble peasant called Sant Medir. The Festa de Sant Medir sees colourful parades and floats pass through the suburb as sweets and toffees are thrown to the public. Groups or ‘colledes’ then embark on a pilgrimage to the Ermita de Sant Medir shrine in the Collserola mountains.
The origins of the festival date back to 303 AD when Sant Medir met the Bishop of Barcelona, Server, who was fleeing the city as the Romans were persecuting Christians. As Medir sowed broad beans, the bishop vowed to die before giving up his faith and told Medir to tell his pursuers of his whereabouts, as he left, the broad beans began to grow.
Both Medir and Sever were captured and killed, and in Medir’s honour Gràcia locals throw broad beans during the festival.
Gran Canaria Carnival – Las Palmas, Gran Canaria (February/March)
Through the months of February and March is when Gran Canaria goes into party mode. This is when Carnival comes to town. Each town and city across the island throws its own celebration but the main event is in the capital of Las Palmas.
Each year takes on a different theme – 2019 is dedicated to ‘One night in Rio’ – with extravagant parades filling the streets and, of course, the burial of the sardine. This centuries-old tradition sees the festival participants laying to rest a huge mock fish, said to represent the excesses of the festival and marking the beginning of Lent.
Dubrovnik Summer Festival – Dubrovnik (July/August)
The historic city of Dubrovnik is transformed in the summer months as it holds a series of open air concerts as part of its summer festival. Held since 1950, it adds an extra touch of magic to this beautiful Renaissance-Baroque city.
The cobbled streets are filled with orchestral music as numerous outdoor stages are set up in the Old Town for operatic performances, ballet recitals and theatrical plays attracting some of the best Croatian artists. The festival opens with a spectacular firework display at Stradun which cannot be missed.
Alameda Beer Fest – Faro, Portugal (July)
Photo credit: Alameda Beer Fest Facebook
There are not many better words in the English language than ‘beer festival’ and when you throw in the beautiful surroundings of the Algarve, you have a match made in Heaven. Alameda Beer Fest is southern Portugal’s showcase event of the best local and international beer.
Set in the charming Jardim da Alameda in the heart of Faro, there is live music, DJs, a whole host of street food stalls and even a couple of roaming peacocks. There are also workshops and entertainment for children meaning it is also a great family day out.
Paphos Aphrodite Festival – Paphos, Cyprus (September)
Photo credit: Carole Raddato via Flickr
Paphos and the legend of Aphrodite go hand-in-hand. The Greek goddess of love and beauty set her eyes on the Cypriot city when she rose from the sea and used it as her sanctuary. Today, you can see the famous Rock of Aphrodite and Paphos host a late-summer festival dedicated to this legend of Greek mythology.
Pafos Aphrodite Festival welcomes some of the best orchestras from around the world performing the most beloved operas. The performances take place at the Square of the Medieval Castle in Paphos, providing an incredibly dramatic setting. In the past the Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow and Opera of the National Theatre Prague have joined the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra for masterful recitals.
Malta International Arts Festival – Valletta (July)
As a former European Capital of Culture, it is no surprise that Valletta has a series of thought-provoking festivals throughout the year. Among the most popular is the Malta International Art Festival, a showcase of the best of artists around the islands.
Held across the city the exhibits display artists pushing the boundaries and challenging perceptions through music, theatre, dance, visual arts, opera, film and much more. The festival is a must for holidaymakers looking to get a better understanding of the culture and history of Malta.
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