Spain in-depth: Festivals

San Isidro in Madrid festival, Bulls and Rosquillas.

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San Isidro in Madrid festival, Bulls and Rosquillas.

Each 15th of May in Madrid is the festival of San Isidro, the patron of Madrid. For a period of five days, locals take to the streets to celebrate their pilgrimage in the Pradera of San Isidro and also to enjoy music, dancing and Madrid cuisine in the gardens of the Vistillas.

The day before the party, in the streets of downtown Madrid, you can hear the excitement from the Parade of Giants, announcing the arrival of the Proclamation that occurs on the afternoon of the 14th on Plaza de la Villa.

On the morning of the 15th, the festival of San Isidro begins procession and mass in honor of the saint. It is a tradition to drink water from the well where San Isidro worked during one of his most important miracles. The son of San Isidro Labrador had fallen into the well and his father, through praying, managed to make the waters rise thus preventing him from drowning. The Mass of the Bell is celebrated at 12am


Concerts and festivals are held every day in the meadow of San Isidro from the 14th to the 18th with performances for children and adults. There are orchestras playing and shows where girls and the boys can dance the “chotis” dressed in their traditional costumes, showing for one day the openness and the sassy nature of most traditional Madrilenians.

Every day in the meadow you will be able to taste great dishes from the community such as Madrid Stew or tripes. In the stalls you can try specialties such as gallinejas and other intricacies with a good beer. You can also take the tortilla (potato omelet) from home to share with a good glass of wine or a glass of beer with your friends and family.

For snacking, another San Isidro tradition is the typical Holy donut. Today you can find lemon, chocolate and more modern variations of the donut. Another typical San Isidro sweet these days is the wafer and its fun roulette.

Like in the case of San Fermin, San Isidro festivities cannot be complete without bulls. This is because two weeks before May 15th and until early June are different bullfights held every day at the Monumental Plaza de las Ventas. Here you will see less experienced toreadors “novilleros” to more experienced “toreros”, that give fame to more prestigious bullfighting festivals worldwide.

The fair of San Isidro is a unique spectacle for fans of bullfighting as it brings together the most recognized figures in the bullfighting roster of the moment, the best farms, all in an iconic scene in the center of the capital. 

Besides the San Isidro bullfights, we need to highlight two bullfights for their importance and tradition: the bullfight of La Prensa and the Charity Bullfight, where you will surely find someone from the Royal House.

More shows worth seeing live are the zarzuela concerts, that take place on Plaza de la Villa or Plaza Mayor and the so called Opera Girl for its more popular, folkloric character – bringing joy to the nights of San Isidro.

But if  Zarzuela is not your musical genre, you can choose between different rock concerts that take place daily in the Vistillas or Pradera of San Isidro from 9 to 12 at night.

To end each day at midnight, the skies of Madrid fill with color with the nights of fire and music in the gardens of Retiro. It all ends on the 18th with a large fireworks display on the Prairie of San Isidro.