September is a fantastic month to visit Spain. Not so hot, not so crowded and when much of the Northern hemisphere is switching on the heating and getting out the boots and sweaters, you are still able to enjoy a day out on the sea or a hike and picnic in the hills.
It’s a lovely time to be in Spain – most Spaniards have just returned from their own holidays and in the towns and cities, it’s all hustle and bustle as families get ready to go back to work, school and university. If you prefer to stay by the coast or in the smaller villages, you’ll still be able to find all the facilities and services you need. And in the rural or agricultural areas, the harvest and the harvest celebrations are a big draw.
Of course, September is also a big month for musical and sporting events. Here’s our pick of the larger festivals and attractions to catch every September in Spain.
San Sebastian – Oars and Actors
September is a busy month in San Sebastian in the water and out. Since 1879, the ‘fixed seat rowing Olympics’ has been held in San Sebastian on the first two Sundays in September. The Bandera de la Concha is one of the best places to appreciate the skill and speed of the trainera or sardine-fishing boats in the North of Spain. Teams from the Basque Country, Cantabria and Galicia compete to take the title. Both men and women race – it’s hard to say which is more fearsome to watch. This year’s event is on September 7 and 14 (in 2015). For more information see this website in Spanish.
It’s red carpet time from September 18-26 (in 2015) in San Sebastian for its International Film Festival. We’re still waiting to hear who this year’s master of ceremonies will be (it was Denzel Washington in 2014). This year’s event includes the section for gastronomy cinema, sports action films, a thematic retrospective of independent Japanese films from 2000-2015 and a retrospective on filmmakers Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack also.
Human Towers and Street Performance in Catalonia
Santa Tecla is held from September 14-24 in Tarragona (in 2015) and is best known for its castellers or human towers. Over 400 events take place throughout the festival – which is very lively (and loud at times). The video below of the castellers (in Catalan) is a long one but it’s hard not to get caught up in the emotion of the experience. Switch off the sound and dip into sections to see the team work involved in the construction of the towers.
Barcelona’s open air festival La Merce is a huge event taking place from September 18-24 (in 2015). Merce is the city’s saint and this city offers amazing street art, processions, concerts and traditional dance in her honour. Don’t miss the Sardana from Girona, the castellers from Tarragona and the street parades. If there is a Scandinavian feel from some of the events, that’s because Stockholm is the guest city this year.
Bullfighting – North & South
If you are interested in bullfighting, you will already know the Feria de Pedro Romero in Ronda takes place in Andalusia from September 4-6 (in 2015). Although this event only dates back to 1954, Ronda has been linked with bullfighting since 1572 when King Phillip II of Spain established a royal cavalry in the town. It’s an opportunity to see the social and cultural aspects of bullfighting – especially at the Corrida Goyesca on Saturday 5 September (in 2015). The rejoneo (a bullfight where the bullfighter is on horseback) is on Sunday 6. Bullfights start at 5.30pm each evening.
If you find yourself up North, and are curious about taurine events, you should read up about Ampuero’s bullrunning festival in Cantabria. The dates are still TBC for 2015 but in 2014 it ran from September 5-15. It’s a much smaller event than San Fermin in Pamplona although it does also get busy. It’s best known for its bullrunning for children – although this is not as scary as it sounds. There aren’t real bulls for starters!
Celebrating Spain’s Month of the Harvest
The harvesting of the grapes is a time of great celebration in Spain. In La Rioja you can take in two ‘vendimia’ festivals. On the 20 September (in 2015), the Rioja Alavesa Wine Harvest Festival will be held in Elciego. Unlike other wine festivals, this event switches location from year to year, moving from village to village, which makes it a real community affair. Last year it was held in Labastida which is home to 20 wineries – the best known including Torres and Rioja Alta – so there was no shortage of wines to sample in this area. Elciego is home to one of the best known wineries in Spain – Marques de Riscal. The festival day begins early with the announcement of the region’s wine competition winners at 11am. The first grapes are pressed and a tasting of the first must is held. Musicians, dancers, and local food producers are at hand to provide plenty of atmosphere and activities. At 2pm there is a traditional Riojan lunch with wine – of course! The festival arranges bus transfers from Bilbao and Vitoria to the festival and back on the same day which is perfect for those in the city who want to enjoy the harvest without having to drive afterwards!
A double fiesta for San Mateo and the Rioja Wine Harvest Festival takes place in Logrono in La Rioja. San Mateo kicks off at midday on 19 September (in 2015) in Logroño and runs for six days. On the first day, the patron of La Rioja – the Virgin de Valvanera – is offered the first pressing of the grapes. This is a festival steeped in tradition (it’s been running for nearly sixty years) and is observed by large crowds. Over the week, you’ll find children and adults dressed in local costume and music filling the streets. The days are packed with events such as bullfights, concerts, food tastings and fireworks.