The 10 Best Music Festivals in Spain
Primavera Sound, FIB, Mad Cool Festival, and the Azkena Rock Festival are some of the best music festivals in Spain. But there’s plenty more to discover in the land of the bull skin, including the Sónar Festival, Bilbao BBK Live, and the Barcelona Beach Festival.
From salsa to flamenco, Spain has given the world some of the best pop and folk music there is. Do their music festivals live up to the high standards of the country? I’ve listed the 10 best Spanish music festivals below, and I’m convinced they do!
Before reading, please keep in mind this is a subjective and non-definitive list.
1. Primavera Sound
When: May/June (12 days)
To say that Primavera Sound is a music festival is only half accurate. More than an annual event that takes place between the end of May and the beginning of June, Primavera Sound is a music institution. As reported by Forbes, recent editions of the festival have reunited close to 500K attendants from more than 130 countries over 12 days.
If that’s not impressive enough, what about the rapid international expansion of the event? Primavera Sound Porto has been happening since 2012 and is one of the best music festivals in Portugal, but alternative editions have also taken place in Latin America, Los Angeles, and Benidorm.
Curiously enough, it all started as a relatively small music show attended by roughly 8K people in 2001. Today, Primavera Sound is the Spanish festival where all of the world’s biggest indie acts dream of playing, so it’s no coincidence it’s listed as one of the 50 best music festivals in the world.
2. Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (FIB)
When: July (8 days in total, 4 days of music)
While it’s hard to argue that Primavera Sound is the most reputable music festival in Spain, some Spanish music fans find that debatable. Met by approximately 150K attendants annually, the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (FIB) stands at the sweet spot between a small music event and a super large summer festival. And to many festivalgoers in sunny Spain, it’s the best event the country has to offer.
FIB takes place in the Castelló beach-resort municipality of Benicàssim. Add that to the fact that it regularly features some of the biggest pop-rock, folk, and electronic music acts in the world and you have the recipe for a near-perfect music festival. The whole experience lasts eight days, even though only half present music performances. Additional attractions include short movies, art expositions, and fashion shows.
3. Mad Cool Festival
When: July (3 days)
Every major European capital has a weekend-long summer music festival, and Spain’s Madrid is no exception. The Mad Cool Festival regularly features dreamy line-ups with the most popular and hyped artists of the hour, as well as one or two iconic headliners. While it’s clear that Mad Cool is biased toward rock, it already hosted concerts of all genres of music, including various electronic dance music DJs.
At one point attended by close to 250K music fans, Mad Cool Festival has since downsized to ensure that everybody paying for a ticket has the most pleasant possible experience. The reviews of the festival, published by major international outlets, are quite impressive. The Independent called it “Europe’s answer to Coachella,” while Consequence highlighted its “incredibly welcoming and friendly” crowd.
4. Azkena Rock Festival (ARF)
When: June (3 days)
People have been proclaiming the “death of rock” for years now, but the fan-favorite Azkena Rock Festival (ARF) is here to show everyone that we’re not there yet. Surely the most popular all-rock music festival in Spain, ARF is the ideal summer event for all people who love to bang their heads to great guitar solos, sweaty lead singers, and energetic drummers.
If you’re a rock fan, there’s a good chance you’ll find at least one of your favorite childhood bands in the ARF lineup. Attending the event is also a great opportunity to get to know Vitoria-Gasteiz, a beautiful city that tends to fly under the radar despite being the administrative capital of the Basque Country. With glamping, classy hotels, and rural-tourism homes close by, ARF is also excellent in terms of accommodation.
5. Vida Festival
When: June/July (3 days)
Barcelona is perhaps one of the most charming cities in all of Europe, but there are plenty of good things to enjoy on the city’s outskirts. Determined to convince music fans to get to know a different side of Barcelona, the Vida Festival takes place in Vilanova, focuses on cultural decentralization, and features many up-and-coming acts from the European indie scene.
Vida is the Spanish word for “Life,” and making its crowd feel alive is precisely the point of this three-day summer event. A must-try for festivalgoers who like to discover new artists while surrounded by nature, Vida Festival is also extremely inclusive, with a focus on multiculturalism and people with disabilities. Away from the mainstream but too lively to be merely called “underground,” Vida Festival is also perfect for families with children.
6. Bilbao BBK Live
When: July (3 days)
Some music festivals grow exponentially year after year. Others, such as the aforementioned Mad Cool Festival, are forced to downsize. But Bilbao BBK Live has been an uber-ambitious project from the very start. The first edition of the music festival, in 2006, was attended by more than 100K music fans and inspired the construction of a specially-dedicated music complex in Mount Cobetas, one of Bilbao’s largest mountains.
When you start with such a bang, it’s sometimes hard to keep it up. But Bilbao BBK Live has never failed to meet the expectations of its crowd, landing several European Festival Awards and featuring finely-curated lineups with room for both major indie acts and relatively unknown, up-and-coming artists.
7. Sónar Festival
When: June (3 days)
It’s always hard to define what’s cool and what’s not (because it’s always a matter of perspective), but it wouldn’t be silly to call Sónar Festival the coolest cultural event in Spain. Once described as a “European institution” by the New York Times, Sónar Festival offers an eclectic selection of musical and non-musical attractions that incorporate everything from deeply abstract experimentalism to crowd-pleasing electronic dance music.
Pretty much like the other super cool festival in town (Primavera Sound), Sónar Festival has already expanded internationally. Alternative versions of the event can be visited in Lisbon (Portugal), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Reykjavik (Iceland), and even Hong Kong.
What sets this one-of-a-kind music festival apart, however, are its daily talks and congresses, which attract many top professionals from around the world and tend to focus on topics such as business and technology.
8. Barcelona Beach Festival (BBF)
When: July (1 day)
When it comes to quality music festivals, Barcelona has got to be one of the finest cities in Europe. Fans of electronic dance music can always count on the Barcelona Beach Festival (BBF) to move their feet and hips to the sounds of the world’s most popular DJs. The event is 100% focused on dance music, organized by the major American promoter Live Nation, and held annually at Platja del Fórum, near Barcelona’s beautiful marina.
From the perfect location and mainstream lineup to the fact that it only lasts one day (one very intense day), BBF is the perfect Spanish music festival for all music fans looking for the rave of their lifetime. Modern through and through, BBF is cashless, focuses on sustainability, and features premium and VIP tickets.
9. Festival Cruïlla
When: July (4 days)
Another great music festival held in Catalonia’s capital, Festival Cruïlla is praised for its iconic venue (Barcelona’s Parc del Fòrum), interesting lineup, and comfortable gastronomic and lounge sites. It’s a music festival with a great vibe that should be pleasing for the whole family and meet the expectations of both mainstream- and indie-music fans.
Attended by roughly 25K people per day, Festival Cruïlla is also highly aware of its environmental impact. On its official website, the festival’s organizers have listed a series of measures implemented to ensure the event’s up with its ambitious sustainability and social responsibility goals.
10. Rototom Sunsplash Festival
When: August (8 to 10 days)
If you’re a big fan of reggae music, I don’t need to tell you about the iconic Rototom Sunsplash Festival. With an annual attendance of roughly 250K people, this is widely regarded to be the biggest reggae music festival in the world. Held successfully since 1994, it traveled from the small Italian city of Pordenone to the always-inviting Spanish municipality of Benicàssim.
The Rototom Sunsplash Festival has lasted as long as 10 days and is considered to be an international phenomenon. Needless to say, you may not enjoy it that much if you’re not into reggae. But if you like the genre even moderately, you shouldn’t snub the opportunity to attend reggae’s Mecca and hang out with one of the coolest music-festival crowds in the world.
If not for the blazing sun, the delicious tortilla, or the stunning architecture, Spain is worth a visit for its amazing music festivals. The 10 music events listed above are arguably the best in the country and make for an interesting mix of large and medium-sized festivals with lineups featuring all sorts of artists. Just pick your favorite and buy yourself a ticket: you won’t regret it!