Look out for fiestas
whenever you're in Madrid: there are dozens, some of which involve the whole city, others just an individual barrio
. The more important dates 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) concerts (classical, rock, flamenco), theatre and cinema. Many events are free and, in the summer, often open air, taking place in the city's parks and squares. One of the nicest venues is the courtyard of the Antiguo Cuartel del Conde Duque (Métro: Ventura Rodríguez), where weekly flamenco recitals are held. Annual festivals for alternative theatre (Feb), flamenco (Feb), dance (mid-May to mid-June), photography (mid-June to mid-July) and jazz (Nov) are also firmly established on the cultural agenda. Full programmes are published in the monthly En Madrid tourist hand-out.
5 Cabalgata de los Reyes (Cavalcade of the Three Kings); an evening procession through the city centre in which children are showered with sweets.
Week before Lent Carnaval - is the 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.
Easter Week Semana Santa is celebrated in Madrid, but with less spirit and processional activity than in Toledo.
2 Fiesta del Dos de Mayo in Malasaña and elsewhere in Madrid. Bands and partying around the Plaza Dos de Mayo - a bit low-key in recent years, having been the funkiest festival in the city during the 1980s.
15 Fiestas de San Isidro - Madrid's patron saint - spread for a week either side of this date, and are among the country's biggest festivals. A nonstop round of carnival events: bands, parades and loads of free entertainment, usually centred around Plaza Mayor. There's a band each night in the Jardines de las Vistillas (south of the Palacio Real), and the evenings there start out with chotis (a dance typical of Madrid) music and dancing. The fiestas also herald the start of the bullfighting season.
13 Fiesta de la Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida ; events around the church and in the adjacent Parque de la Bombilla.
17-24 Fiestas de San Juan ; bonfires and fireworks in El Retiro.
9-16 La Virgen del Carmen ; local fiesta in Chamberí barrio , north of the city centre.
6-15 Castizo fiestas . Traditional fiestas of San Cayetano, San Lorenzo and La Virgen de la Paloma in La Latina and Lavapiés barrios . Much of the activity takes place around the Plaza de la Paja and the Jardines de las Vistillas.
31 New Year's Eve ( nochevieja ) is celebrated at bars, restaurants and parties all over the city, and there are bands in some of the squares. 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 strike.