Zaragoza loves festivals and the Fiestas del Pilar are among the most celebrated festivals in Spain. The Holy Week of Zaragoza has more than 700 years of history and was declared as international tourist interest
Like no other event, this October festival showcases the open and welcoming nature of Zaragoza’s people. It is a time to enjoy street life at all hours of the day or night and popular culture.
During the Fiestas del Pilar, Zaragoza becomes the centre of national, and even global, attention. For ten days in October, Zaragoza is bursting with festivities and filled with fun: the squares of the Historical Quarter become emblematic stages for any kind of cultural and fun activities for all kind of public. The grand act of the Fiestas del Pilar is the Flower Offering to the Virgin of the Pilar on October the12th. A unique act in the world which impresses the visitors.
Tradition, avant-garde, music, theatre and street entertainment come together
In Zaragoza, the opening days of the month of October are synonymous with this festival. For nine days around the 12th of October, the feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar, Zaragoza natives and visitors take to the streets to enjoy one of the most packed and varied programmes of activities (most of them free) of the entire year. Outdoor concerts, both large and small, folk and rock, art exhibitions and street processions, theatre, cinema, something for all ages.
It is an open, universal celebration to which everyone is invited and which requires no instruction manual.
The activities are concentrated in the city centre, with the historic district, the area around Plaza del Pilar, the Ebro River and Paseo de la Independencia as the axes. But they also extend to every neighbourhood of the Aragonese capital.
Music is the focal point around which the festive environment revolves. The city’s squares are filled with performances, many of them reflecting a calendar that extends throughout the entire year: jazz, flamenco, purely Aragonese sounds, rap, rock, pop and more. There are also large festival venues in the outskirts, designed to allow the celebrations to continue long into the night.
On the 12th, the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, a river of flowers floods the streets, with thousands upon thousands of people taking part in the best-known and most universal element of the festival: the Offering.
Day and night without rest
Concerts, theatre, folklore, children’s activities
The only problem visitors to Zaragoza will encounter during the Festival of El Pilar is figuring out what to choose from the vast programme of activities. During the Festival of El Pilar, the Aragonese capital makes every effort to put its best face forward, providing a showcase for the cultural offerings of the entire year.
In this regard, music has a fundamental advantage. The idea is to provide something for every taste, from the hardest partiers to those seeking an oasis in the midst of the hubbub. The city’s squares, both those with a huge capacity and the most intimate, are the main stage for offerings that range from pop to alt rock, from jazz to folk (with the jota in a starring role, of course). Nor does the city overlook classical programming or the big hits of each season, capable of filling enormous venues.
Theatres around the city join in the festivities, while the streets provide another stage for performance lovers. Zaragoza is well known for the quality of its street entertainment, and the Off de Calle Competition recognizes the best each year.
Girls and boys
And how could we forget the little ones? An entire park on the banks of the Ebro is their fiefdom during the celebrations. A small theme park created by children’s theatre experts is a big success year after year, not to mention the local idols: the cabezudos (giant-headed papier-mâché figures) and Tragachicos (a giant slide). There are also puppet shows in Labordeta Park.
The Holy Week of Zaragoza has more than 700 years of history and was declared as international tourist interest
Warmed by Soul
Zaragoza welcomes the summer with the Slap! Festival, dedicated to black music and dance. The party goes on both day and night, with activities for children, markets and fun by the pool.
The Slap! Festival has garnered a place for itself among the rituals ushering in the summer months. For four days, and at very affordable prices, Camping de Zaragoza becomes a temple dedicated to black music and dance (from soul to funk and electronic) open to adults as well as children. For the latter there are workshops, games and concerts. The swimming pool, complete with DJ, is the heart of the festival during the hot mornings and afternoons.
There is time for basketball, break dancing, markets, eating areas, skating and more.
And when the night comes, the best voices echo through the pines. Slap! (which also offers small samplers during the summer at its indoor version) has featured such artists as William Bell, The JB’s, Ray Lugo, Vintage Trouble, King Salomon Hicks, The Coup and Sonny Knight & The Lakers, among others.
Step right up!
Spring brings a flowering of the circus arts to the city with the Zirco Festival.
The goal is to distribute the magic of the circus throughout the city, offering a wide range of perspectives, from the most traditional to the most fringe and avant-garde. Zirco. Circus Arts, promoted by the Town Council and associations and professionals working in this area, is a new festival which arrives in spring to entertain and present the circus to an audience predominantly made up of families. For its debut this year, companies from Europe and Latin America came to Zaragoza to perform on 26 stages in seven of the city’s districts (the majority of the performances being free).
The origins of this event lie in other initiatives with a long history in the city, including Entrepayasaos, the Circo Social Festival and the Zaragoza Jugglers’ Association.
CLOWNS, JUGGLERS AND MORE
The skies of Zaragoza become a big top housing an immense variety of circus entertainments, from jugglers to theatrical clowns such as Pepe Viyuela. There are also film cycles inspired by the subject of the circus and photography exhibitions. The event offers a complete multi-disciplinary overview of a genre which is both age-old and constantly renewing itself.
Life, art, colour…
Every September, the Asalto Urban Art Festival brings the biggest names in this vibrant scene to Zaragoza. The Aragonese capital is now among the leading international locations for this art form, with one of the best collections of murals in the world.
In September, all Zaragoza turns a face to the wall. But this is no punishment, quite the opposite, in fact. It is the celebration of the senses known as the Asalto Festival. This is the Aragonese capital’s annual date with the cream of international urban art. At each edition, a select group of artists present their work on walls … and many other places. But Asalto is more than just spray paint, it also includes workshops, talks, performances, children’s activities: a programme which seeks to deal with issues that extend beyond art, such as city models and new trends in urban development. In a history spanning over ten years, the event has helped transform many areas of the city with its art, leaving behind dozens of painted walls in the historic district and neighbourhoods such as San José, La Almozara, Valdefierro and Las Delicias. This artistic legacy has made Zaragoza one of Europe’s leading centres of this new and creative cultural scene. Antonyo Marest, Okuda, 100 Pression, Agostino Iacurci, Aryz, Boa Mistura, Gonzalo Borondo, Guim Tió, Zest, Mantra, Harsa and Pastel are just some of the creators whose work can be found in Zaragoza. During the festival, there are guided walking and bicycle tours to see the art.
In recent years, the festival has also included an urban art fair (with clothing, accessories, illustrations and more) and a ‘headquarters’ which offers a gathering place for visitors and artists, as well as providing space for live music.
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