Fiesta de San Isidro

Fiesta de San Isidro 2016 is actually a series of month-long festivals beginning in mid-May to honor San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of Madrid and of farmers. May 15 is the saint's Feast Day, and the festivities begin on the Friday before the fifteenth. This is the most important festival in all of Madrid. This also opens the city's bullfighting season, a momentous occasion in Madrid.

Fiesta de San Isidro History

San Isidro was born in Madrid near the end of the eleventh century. Although poor themselves, he and his wife were known for their generosity towards those less fortunate. Several miracles are attributed to him. Beginning shortly after his death, thousands would make the pilgrimage to the meadow where he performed his miracles.

Today, the San Isidro Festival in Madrid features a Mass at the baroque Basilica of San Isidro followed by a pilgrimage procession to the meadow. Two famous paintings by Goya depict this pilgrimage and hang the Prado Museum, one of the finest art museums in the world. Many families will picnic in the meadow after the pilgrimage

Fiesta de San Isidro Location and Getting There

The Basilica of San Isidro (which served as the Cathedral of Madrid until 1993 when the Almudena Cathedral was completed) is located on the Calle de Toledo. On the afternoon of May 15, images of the saint and his wife (Santa Maria de la Cabeza) will be paraded through the city streets from Calle del Sacramento to the Plaza de la Villa along the Calle del Cordon. Place yourself anywhere along this route to observe the procession. With the religious duties out of the way, Madrilenos get down to the serious business of Fiesta de San Isidro 2016 celebrations, parties, concerts, and performances that take place in the streets and in venues around the city. There are organ grinders (barquilleros) dressed in traditional San Isidro costumes, and stands selling trademark snacks called "barquillos," a traditional sweet rolled wafer.

Head to the Plaza Mayor for the liveliest and most accessible Fiesta de San Isidro 2016 events. There is a Metro stop at the Plaza, making this the easiest way to get there. Local residents, dressed in traditional costume partake in dancing to the accompaniment of guitars and tambourines. In the Casa de Campo Park to the west of the plaza, there are huge open-air rock concerts that are small music festivals in their own right.

Fiesta de San Isidro Tickets

Head to the Las Ventas Bullring, if you are lucky enough to have tickets. The bullfights fights during the San Isidro Festival in Madrid month draw the best fighters and most prized bulls from all over the country. If you intend to attend one of the fights, you should obtain tickets for the most sought after fights as far in advance as possible. There are bullfights daily during this season, and you can obtain fairly cheap tickets at the last minute for some of the minor events, which are held mostly during the mornings. Many of the events are, since they happen in public streets. The May 15 concert is free, and 20,000 people are allowed in. There are also many cultural events in Retiro Park that are free.

Fiesta de San Isidro Lodging

You have a wide variety of choices when it comes to Fiesta de San Isidro 2016 lodging because just about every area of the city hosts some aspect of the festival. There are hostels and luxury hotels, posh expensive apartments, charming pensions, and just about everything else you can imagine. Just remember that the most desirable places fill up long before May. To ensure you have the lodging of your choice, book as far in advance as possible.

On one end of the scale is the elegant AC Palacio del Retiro located at Alfonso XII, 14, right next to Retiro Park. Or you might choose the slightly funky and very popular MAD Hostel at Calle de la Cabeza, 24, located in a historic "corrala," a building of apartments accessed by interior balconies and stairway that overlook a central courtyard. This excellent hostel is within walking distance of many of the most famous Madrid museums and attractions.

Image: Antonio Tajuelo (flickr)

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