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Arts and Culture for Expats in Spain

Submitted: July 2013

Spanish art and culture are simply phenomenal. There are simply too many things to do in Spain to even attempt a comprehensive list. This article will therefore focus on some of the more famous events as well as some of the writer’s personal recommendations from his experience.

Spain is after all the birthplace of art legends such as Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Francisco Goya so it is no surprise that it is home to one of the world’s most famous art museums, the Prado in Madrid. I would suggest that spend some time preparing what you would like to see before actually venturing there. The museum’s website is very helpful and is translated into 6 different languages. https://www.museodelprado.es/en
Not too far from the Prado is one of my favourite museums, the Museo Reina Sofia.

No article on art in Spain would be complete without mention of the genius of Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi. In addition to the home of a fairly remarkable football team, Barcelona displays Gaudi’s designs which, frankly, are beyond description. The Sagrada Familia Cathedral is an absolute must see as well as the Park Guell to name just a few. If there is only one thing can do/see while in Spain, I would without doubt recommend a visit to Barcelona to see the Sagrada Familia.

There are a number of cultural events in Spain throughout the year as well. Some of the more well-known events include: La Tomatina, The San Fermin Running of the Bulls and the Carnival.

La Tomatina is, simply put, a large tomato fight. It is held in the last Wednesday of August in the town of Bunol in Valencia.

The San Fermin Bull Run – If you are the adventurous sort, why not participate in the San Fermin Bull Run? Held in July every year, the city’s courageous assemble at 8am for morning run with a twist – they are chased down the narrow streets by a herd of stampeding bulls. Beware – persons are known to have been injured in these events. For the less adventurous, you can spectate from the safety of the sidelines behind barriers. Even if you are not too interested in the running of the bulls, there is a great party later in the evening.

Also worth experiencing are the celebrations during the Holy Week period (Semana Santa) and the Epiphany on 6 January (Los tres reyes). I would personally recommend Southern coastal town of Malaga for both festivals. A particular highlight is the enormous and ornate floats (called “tronos”) which are paraded through the town on the shoulders of young men. If you do visit Malaga, while there, be sure to visit the Pablo Picasso museum (another personal favourite of mine). Malaga being the birthplace of Picasso, it is no surprise that this museum is home a beautiful collection of his work.

If you cannot make it to Rio de Janeiro or Trinidad & Tobago for Carnival but you are posted in Spain, prepare yourself for a treat nonetheless. The Spanish carnival is also quite a festive event. It is known for the beautifully decorated costumes and the exciting street parties. The carnival is held the two days before the Catholic period Lent begins and the city of Tenerife is said to have one of the best Carnival festivals in all of Spain.

Additionally, the Spanish Christmas and New Years celebrations are breath-taking. If away from your family for Christmas, you will enjoy the season all the same. There is something magical about the atmosphere in Spain during that time of the year. As part of the Spanish tradition, Spaniards eat grapes and wear red underwear on New Year’s eve.

A particularly useful website with a calendar of artistic and cultural events is the Spain is Culture website (English) - https://www.spainisculture.com/en/agenda.html



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