Malaga’s festivals are one of the Costa del Sol capital’s major tourist attractions and, as such, a lure for tourism at any time of year, since they take place from January to December and fill its streets with colour and life along with some of the most peculiar customs.
But it isn’t just Malaga capital which is renowned for its festivals, but also the villages and towns surrounding it, whose celebrations include everything from the virgin Mary in a procession towards the sea to dressing up as Andalusian bandits. In order to visit some of the most picturesque festivals of the province of Malaga, the best plan is to get a hire car so you can visit all of the events of Malaga and its surroundings.
Malaga capital’s festivals
Malaga’s festivals are renowned throughout the country. From its colourful Christmas celebrations, with a light and sound show which attracts visitors from all over Spain, to its Fair, which fills the streets with an air of Flamenco scattered with spots and ruffles.
Christmas celebrations are extremely popular in Malaga, particularly because of its spectacular lighting. At this time of year, Calle Larios has a popular light and sound show with more than half a million led lights which, in 2021, made it one of the 20 most beautiful cities in the world to visit at Christmas, according to the ranking of the European Best Destinations website.
It usually has a few showings at different times where locals and visitors line the streets to get the best photographs and videos and make sure they don’t miss a beat of any of the most famous carols both within and outside of Spain. Additionally, the city centre alternates other activities suitable for the whole family to enjoy during this popular time of year.
After Christmas, when February arrives, so does the Carnival which fills the streets with music and fun. This festival lasts for ten days and features various troupes, bands of musicians, choirs and quartets competing in a music competition where different groups choose a theme, create their own costume and set designs and make up funny lyrics, rhythm and satire to comment on the current situation.
Malaga’s Carnival starts off in small theatres, taking the best to its popular Cervantes Theatre (Teatro Cervantes) to compete for the final title. Afterwards, these same groups and other unregistered ones go onto the streets and surrounding areas to sing their lyrics to the crowds during the week before Ash Wednesday. The cherry on the cake of the festival is the burial of the anchovy, which takes place on Malagueta beach.
Holy Week (Semana Santa)
Holy Week in Malaga is one of the most popular festivals among locals. It is a religious affair, which takes place between March and April, on a date that varies each year. In it, different religious brotherhoods take part in processions holding giant images of saints, virgins and religious scenes with hundreds of people to hold each one of them.
During Holy Week, an official route is established which all of the brotherhoods must follow and which always passes through the city centre. Pamphlets are distributed with the times at which each of the brotherhoods will pass through each point of the route so people don’t miss any of the processions (known as “pasos”). This celebration is really interesting for people from other country’s to see, full of interesting features, folklore and devotion.
Spanish Film Festival (Festival del Cine Español)
During the month of March, the Spanish Film Festival takes place in Malaga, which aims to promote Spanish filmography and culture on a national and international level. This event began in 1998, and after more than 25 editions, it brings together celebrities each year from all over the country to celebrate the diversity of national cinema. All types of cultural activities take place related to this festival in bars, theatres and museums, bringing culture to all audiences.
Saint John’s Eve (Noche de San Juan)
On the evening of June 23, coinciding with St John’s Eve just like many other Mediterranean countries, on Malaga’s beaches people celebrate St John’s Eve (Noche de San Juan), where they light bonfires and participants throw pieces of paper into the fires with their wishes written on them, since they believe it is a magical night.
This evening is usually livened up with fireworks, music and sardine skewers while the bravest of each group dare to jump over the bonfires. On La Malagueta beach, there is a huge stage where popular artists liven up the evening with a small summer festival.
Malaga Fair (Feria de Málaga)
If all of Malaga’s festivals that have been mentioned above are unusual and special, the biggest festival par excellence for locals is its Fair, which is held in August. For ten days, Malaga Fair is divided between two different places.
On the one hand, during the day, the fair is held in the historic quarter, from calle Larios to Plaza de la Merced. In this area, visitors will be able to try the best wines of Malaga, although the star of the festival is Cartojal sweet wine, which is served cold in any bar or tent.
On the other hand, the festival continues in the Real de la Feria fairground, where there are long rows of tents with music, typical food from Malaga and live acts at popular prices. In addition, this site features attractions for children at night and activities during the day, such as horse and carriage parades, or concerts with national artists.
Malaga province’s festivals
The capital isn’t the only place with unusual festivals. There are other festivals in Malaga province that may be of great interest to visitors, from those that commemorate times gone by to typical gastronomy festivals.
Romantic Ronda (Ronda Romántica) in Ronda
Romantic Ronda (Ronda Romántica) is one of Malaga’s festivals which has been recognised as a Unique Provincial Tourist Festival (Fiesta de Singularidad Turística Provincial), where the inhabitants recreate a fair from the Romantic Period (19th century) in the town of the Tajo gorge, dressing up as bandits, romantics and beggars. This celebration is based on a livestock fair which was first held in 1501 and is nowadays recreated to be similar to the original. At the fair, you can try the typical produce of Ronda, enjoy parades, equestrian shows and bullfighting.
Day of the Snail (Día del Caracol) in Riogordo
Also in the month of May, the town of Riogordo enjoys another Unique Provincial Tourist Festival (Fiesta de Singularidad Turística Provincial) focussed on the area’s gastronomic speciality: snail’s in broth (caracol en caldillo). Although the entire celebration revolves around this typical dish, in which the snails are boiled in their own broth and served with local olives and wine, this Malaga town holds all types of activities, from parades of ‘rondalla’ serenade groups to a livestock fair which lasts for three days.
Virgen del Carmen in Fuengirola
This festival in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Virgen del Carmen), patron saint of fishermen, takes place on July 16th. This is a religious festival where fishermen carry the Virgin their shoulders from the Parish church of Santa Fe de Los Boliches to the beach. At this point, they carry her into the sea up to their knees and continue across Fuengirola’s sea front while a firework display takes place.
Map of festivals in Malaga
As you have been able to see above, there are a multitude of events in Malaga that can be enjoyed all year round, although these are the most notable. People wanting to discover all of its festivals can find them on the map below.