Named European Capital of Culture in 2002, Salamanca naturally has a cultural agenda to fit its reputation. With cultural festivals, arts festivals, and a wide range of other events taking place throughout the city and throughout the year, you never know when you might run into a laid-back jazz festival, an Argentinian film series, a sky-illuminating fireworks display, or a solemn religious procession.
Aside from the festivals below, check out Salamanca's extensive agenda of unique arts festivals- there's something for everyone!
Don't forget to click on the links for more information on Salamanca's most famous festivals!
When: January 5-6
Festival Description: On January 5, Salamanca takes to the streets to welcome the arrival of the Three Kings. A huge parade called the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos snakes through the city during the evening hours. Featuring music, costumes, and vibrant colors, the real highlight is naturally religious monarchs, who ride regally through the streets to the delight of all who watch- especially the children. The next morning, January 6, is the equivalent of Christmas day in the United States- full of presents, family, and holiday cheer.
Carnaval del Toro
(Carnival of the Bull)
When: February (variable dates)
Festival Description: While not located in Salamanca itself, travel a mere half-hour to Ciudad Rodrigo, a quiet city plucked straight from medieval Spain. However, the sleepy city wakes up in a big way for its annual Carnaval del Toro. The festival, featuring a week full of parades, carnival groups, music, and all-night parties in the streets, is the most famous carnival in the province and, dating back to the years of the Catholic Monarchs, is the oldest festival of its kind in Spain. Plus, as a festival centered around a quintessential emblem of Spanish culture, the bull, there are bull fights and even "encierros"- the crazed running of the bulls for which the eastern city of Pamplona is known.
San Juan de Sahagun
(Saint John of Sahagun)
When: June 12
Festival Description: To commemorate the feast day of San Juan de Sahagún, Salamanca's patron saint who is said to have performed miracles within the very walls of the city, there are bullfights, eating, drinking and a celebratory fireworks display by the Tormes River. Not related but usually coinciding with the festival is Salamanca's annual medieval market, where you can poke through the stands full of regional artisan goods and tasty treast.
When: June 18
Festival Description: The Corpus Christi celebration in Salamanca is amongst the best in the province; it's even been named a festival of "interés turístico nacional" (national touristic interest). Celebrating the institution of the Eucharist, a solemn and naturally religious-themed procession passes through the city; the cathedral complex is perhaps the most picturesque place to take it all in.
Fiesta de Santiago Apóstol
(Festival of Saint James the Apostle)
When: July 25
Festival Description: The feast day of Santiago Apóstol (Saint James the Apostle), the Catholic saint and Spanish hero, is a celebration spanning the entire country. In Salamanca and its surrounding towns and villages, expect to see the typical Spanish manifestation of a party: processions, bullfights, drinking, and eating- the traditional food of the celebration is a pie filled with scallops, the symbol of Santiago.
Festival Description: One of the most interesting, albeit also one of the most peculiar, festivals in Salamanca is that of La Mariseca- a symbolic act announcing the upcoming Feria de Salamanca (see below). Traditionally, men involved in the bullfighting industry climbed to the highest point of the Plaza Mayor's Ayuntamiento (City Hall) to place la mariseca, a bull-shaped weathervane boasting a Spanish flag, upon it. Nowadays the firemen tend to take care of the task, but the locals turn out in droves to watch the spectacle, which is then followed by music and fireworks.
Nochebuena / Navidad
(Christmas Eve / Christmas)
When: December 24-25
Festival Description: La Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve, features the biggest meal of the year. Families- not only the immediate but rather the entire extended family- spend the evening indulging in conversation, merriment and, of course, copious amounts of food and drink. While a present or two from Santa Claus might make their way into your hands on Navidad, Christmas Day, the big day of gift-giving is a couple of weeks later, on Reyes Magos. The day is essentially spent relaxing with family and recuperating from the previous evening's festivities.
When: December 31-January 1
Festival Description: La Nochevieja, or New Years Eve, kicks off with a family dinner, after which young people take to the streets for the real celebrations with their friends. In Salamanca, follow the hoards of party-goers to the Plaza Mayor. Be sure to keep your eyes on the clock, as when it strikes midnight you'll be expected to 12 grapes- one with each chime! It may be quite the entertaining spectacle, but complete the feat and you're guaranteed a year of good luck! Champagne is then uncorked to celebrate the new year and the partying continues in the street; afterwards, head to Salamanca's bars and clubs where there are sure to be all-night festivities.