BIGGEST AND BEST IN MADRID!!
As usual, it is almost impossible to find information on these fiestas, even a week out. My usual source: posters in windows of shops and cafeterias, which often appear before the official posters on bus stops and the like. So for now, this information is based on past experience. Things usually do not change much, though exact dates vary a little depending on how the dates fall. Read on for more about these fun fiestas!
The first half of August has three “fiestas” that are quite close together: San Cayetano, San Lorenzo, and the Virgen de la Paloma (Virgin of the Dove. All three days have an evening or nightime procession from the saint’s church on the saint’s day, and usually things going on for 3-4 days before the actual saint’s day.
These “fiestas” are a must-see, must-do, must-celebrate for any resident or visitor, major street parties for young and old. You’ll see people strolling in traditional Madrid dress, sometimes dancing traditional dances in the street – if you’re lucky, that will include the schotis, where the man rotates slowly while the full-skirted woman swirls around him (a saying about the man’s schotis technique: if he’s good, he can stand on a brick while doing his part). Eating is an important part of the celebration (how not): stands set up to sell churros, sandwiches, some simple tapas, pickled eggplant (messy to eat but yummy). On the drinks side you can get traditional barley water, beer, soft drinks, sangria and the truly typical drink of these fiestas: “limonada”, a kind of white sangria which can be tremendously potent or a pleasant buzz – best to start slow if you plan a long evening.
San Cayetano (Aug. 7), in the area around Plaza Cascorro and the first part of Embajadores street. San Cayetano church: calle Embajadores 15. Festivities usually include: outdoor stage and music in Cascorro square for at least a few nights, street party outside the neighborhood association on calle Oso (next to the church), and some spillover to square a little down Meson de Paredes street. Procession on saint’s day, probably starting at 7.30 or 8pm. Probable celebration dates in 2016: Aug 5-7.
San Lorenzo (Aug. 10), in the area around Plaza Lavapies, including calle Argumosa, Valencia, and probably over to calle Embajadores to include the Corrala and San Fernando market. San Lorenzo church: calle Doctor Piga 4 / calle Salitre. Festivities usually include: This area is a little bigger so there’s more going on, often carnival type arrangement where you can win stuffed animals or the like, plus lots of outdoor eateries set up for the occasion. Check out San Fernando market, now doing fun cultural things so probably participating in the fiestas. Procession on saint’s day, probably starting at 7.30 or 8pm. Probable celebration dates in 2016: Aug 7-10
As you can see, these dates are quite close, and if you know Madrid you know the neighborhoods are right next to each other, so all you have to do is follow the general flow of people and noise between Cascorro and Lavapies.
La Virgen de la Paloma (Aug 15), in the area around La Latina metro, especially calles Calatrava, Paloma, Aguila, Angel, and the streets around San Francisco el Grande church. La Paloma church: end of La Paloma street, about a block from calle Calatrava. La Paloma is Madrid’s unofficial patron saint as well as patron of the center city, and as such, this is the biggest of the three fiestas. Festivities usually include: lots of paseo action, locals strolling in typical dress (from babies to grannies); streets around San Francisco close for a carnival arrangement and lots of outdoor eatieries; spillover into Las Vistillas park (just off calle Bailen) with outdoor stage and dancing most nights. Procession on saint’s day, probably starting at 7.30 or 8pm. Probable celebration dates in 2016: Aug 12-15.
Proud to say that this is my neighborhood, best in the city! But must say, the fiestas are pretty crazy and I try not to be here, since the entire city parties until 3AM for four nights in a row (one ok, but four?). Depending on what you want, you can have some fun, laid back strolling and eating (8-10pm more or less) then a transition time until it really heats up around midnight and goes strong until 2 or 3am. We are talking mega crowds, the cannot move kind of crowds, which some people love and others do not love. If that’s not your scene, arrive early, enjoy, and leave when it’s too crowded for you.