Horse races, firework festivals, tomato fights, folkloristic feasts… They are all happening right here, in Southern Europe. Don’t miss out on these fabulous events in France, Spain, Italy and Portugal this month.
TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS | MAIN PHOTO © CHRISTOPHE CRÉNEL
Inter-Celtic Festival of Lorient
2 – 11 August, Lorient, France
As the most important Celtic region on the European mainland, Brittany hosts one of the most popular Celtic festivals around. For ten days, thousands of guests from the United Kingdom, Northern Spain and the Isle of Man come to celebrate their roots with traditional arts, music, theatre, sports and gastronomy.
Inter-Celtic Festival of Lorient. Photo © Gwen Lenormand
10 – 17 August, San Sebastián, Spain
During the Aste Nagusia (Basque for ‘the big week’), the coastal metropole of San Sebastian becomes a giant festival ground. During daytime hours, you can participate in the pirate fest ‘Al Abordaje’, or gaze at the parade of the giants. Every night, a firework show from a world-renowned artist amazes the masses. At the end of the festival, the best pyrotechnician receives the festival’s prestigious award.
Aste Nagusia. Photo © Sara Santos
Festa Major de Gràcia
15 – 21 August, Barcelona, Spain
Just like any other Catalan village or neighbourhood, Barcelona’s district of Gràcia hosts a Festa Major (main festival) once a year. Besides the traditional concerts, cultural activities and ‘correfocs’ (fire parades), the Festa Major de Gràcia is famous for its decorated streets. All year long, each street’s committee creates the most spectacular decorations to spruce up the roads with. Stroll from one world into the next during Barcelona’s most atmospheric event.
Festa Major de Gràcia. Photo © Joan Brebo
Il Palio di Siena
16 August, Siena, Italy
In the Tuscan city of Siena, horse racing is of vital importance. Twice each summer, ten of the city’s 17 neighbourhoods can send a jockey to the Piazza del Campo to defend the honour of the neighbourhood. They don’t have much time to impress, though: because as soon as one circles the big square three times, a new champion is found.
Il Palio di Siena. Photo © Pxhere
Rock en Seine
23 – 25 August, Paris, France
Rock en Seine, one of France’s biggest music festivals, is a true celebration of ‘liberté’, ‘égalité’ and ‘fraternité’. Just a stone’s throw away from the Eiffel Tower, the festival is the perfect place to relax in the grass with friends while enjoying the tunes of modern legends like The Cure, Major Lazer and Royal Blood.
Rock en Seine. Photo © Zélie Noreda
Madeira Wine Festival
25 August – 8 September, Madeira, Portugal
During the grape harvest, the island of Madeira celebrates the drink that has made it famous. With a myriad of traditional parades, winemaking demonstrations and – of course – tastings, the islanders fill two weeks with authentic, surprising and delicious activities.
Madeira Wine Festival. Photo © Madeira
28 August, Buñol, Spain
Few events are as brilliant in their simplicity as La Tomatina: 40,000 people attack each other with 145,000 kilogrammes of tomatoes for one hour straight. The tradition first saw the light of day in 1945, when a handful of youngsters disturbed the town’s traditional parade by throwing tomatoes at it. Today, the deep-red festival attracts participants from all corners of the world.
La Tomatina. Photo © Wikipedia
Venice International Film Festival
28 August – 7 September, Venice, Italy
Venice’s film festival is the oldest in the world and (alongside the ones in Berlin and Cannes) the most prestigious one around. Many world-famous film stars and directors travel to Italy during the festival to promote their pictures on the red carpet or to compete for that much-desired Golden Lion. Legends like Guillermo del Toro and Sophia Coppola already have such a statue on their mantle.
Venice International Film Festival. Photo © ASAC
International Chimney Sweeps Gathering
30 August – 2 September, Santa Maria Maggiore, Italy
Annually, the world’s last remaining chimney sweeps fraternise in the beautiful Santa Maria Maggiore. Through music, art and an international parade in traditional clothing, they tell the world about their dangerous profession and the mass migration which it has caused.
Nuits de Sologne. Photo © Joy Tek
Nuits de Sologne
7 September, Nouan-le-Fuzelier, France
Once a year, the hamlet of Nouan-le-Fuzelier becomes a colourful inferno when fireworks and music brighten up its sky. With fire and colour as its media, Nuits de Sologne will, this year, tell the story of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table. To top it off, you can sample the finest local specialities and drinks at the many stalls.