Fiestas del Pilar in Zaragoza, Spain, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, is one of the best Spanish fiestas. And we all know it: there are no parties like Spanish fiestas! They are flamboyant and massive, colourful and intense, noisy and joyful, rich in details, with centuries old traditions and involving entire cities.
Fiestas del Pilar, although of religious origins, nowadays is a massive series of events including both religious traditions and totally secular parties, concerts, entertainment, food, drinks and fun.
With the background of the spectacular, enormous Basilica del Pilar and other impressive monuments of the historical centre of Zaragoza, the former capital of the Kingdom of Aragon, it is quite a spectacle to see and experience!
Fiestas del Pilar – When?
Fiestas del Pilar, a spectacular week-long festival including multitude of events, is organized in Zaragoza every year in mid October.
This year, the festival takes place from 5th to 13th October.
The tradition dating back to the 12th century takes its name from the patron saint of the city – Virgen del Pilar – Our Lady of the Pillar. However, nowadays the celebrations go far beyond the religious festivities. Great news is that 90% of the activities take place in the streets and are completely free of charge – everybody is welcome to join the happy crowd!
There are traditional processions, concerts, street theatres, folklore groups, even circus, and the streets of Zaragoza turn into one big outdoor party place.
First we will go through some of the main concerts and places to enjoy the fiestas, later on, we will explain the historic and religious traditions that accompany the celebrations.
1. Main concerts, events and places
Each day there are plenty of concerts around the city. Below, you will find a list with the main events of each day, but you should check the constantly updated website as there are still new events being added and the final programme is not finished yet.
1.1. Friday 4th October, evening
Although the festivities start on 5th of October with the Pregón, the festival Rave in the River takes place the night before in Valdespartera (one of the main areas of concerts for the festivities). You will find several international and national DJ’s specialized in hard techno.
Manuel Carrasco will be on the Pabellón Principe Felipe. He is one of the most renown Spanish singers.
1.2. Saturday 5th October – Pregón
After the Pregón there is a free concert in Plaza del Pilar. This year, Los Secretos will play their main songs for free in the main square. Los Secretos is a Spanish band from Madrid associated with la movida madrileña.
You can enjoy the concert for free and the move towards the bars and clubs in el Tubo and el Casco Viejo, which are nearby.
1.3. Sunday 6th October
To enjoy some local culture you can visit at 10.00am in the Mozart Hall of the Auditorium, the 133th (CXXXIII) official contest of Aragonese Jota, the regional music and dance which is an important part of Aragonese folklore.
After it, we recommend you to visit the “Oktoberfest” in the theme park of Zaragoza. During the night there will be more concerts and parties in the main areas of the city, nearby the Plaza del Pilar.
1.4. Monday 7th October
At 8 p.m. there will be a free show of light, water and sound in the José Antonio Labordeta Park. The name of the theme is Surrealism.
1.5. Tuesday 8th October
Don’t miss the Comparsa de Gigantes y Cabezudos, where the 12 figures which were introduced in the 15th century by the King Alfonso V will pass by the Ebro River at 6 p.m.
At 9 p.m. there will be Jazz Festival will present Incognito in Plaza del Justicia.
1.6. Wednesday 9th October
Anuel AA., a pioneer of the Latin trap movement will be in EspacioZity from 10 p.m.
1.7. Thursday 10th October
In the huge Plaza del Pilar, MAXIMA FM (a national radio station) will be playing music for free. Nearby, in Plaza del Justicia will be Manolo Kabezabolo, a local (but well known) punk singer will be playing for free.
The whole city will be crowded with music and live performances, especially near Plaza del Pilar, so you can lose yourself in the streets and discover different events.
1.8. Friday 11th October
This will be another crowded day with plenty of events. We recommend to visit the Plaza del Pilar for the free concert of 40 Principales (another radio station). This time with Amaral.
1.9. Saturday 12th October
If you have been walking around Plaza del Pilar and Plaza España you probably already noticed Puerta Cinegia, a building in the city centre which holds a food market with typical and interesting tapas. If you haven’t visited it yet, perhaps the day before Fiestas del Pilar finishes is a good opportunity.
Later on you can enjoy in Plaza del Pilar a free concert of Europa FM with Lola Índigo.
1.10. Sunday 13th October
Final fireworks by the river to say goodbye to the festivities until the next year.
2. The Traditions of Fiestas del Pilar
The main day of the traditional festivities is 12th October, the day of remembrance of Marian – Blessed Virgin Mary’s – apparition.
2.1. Rosario de la Aurora (Dawn Rosary)
That day starts with a mass at 4:30 in the morning, attended by surprisingly many people, and at 5 a.m. continues with the Rosario de la Aurora (Dawn Rosary) – a procession in the city centre.
2.2. Ofrenda de Flores (Flower Offering)
The most spectacular and unique ceremony takes place throughout 12th October: the highlight celebration is the Ofrenda de Flores (Flower Offering), when people parade in the old town dressed in vintage folk dresses and put up to 8 million(!) flowers under St Mary’s statue standing on a huge pyramid. There is no similar tradition anywhere in the world and its very impressive to see!
2.3. Ofrenda de Frutos (Fruit Offering)
On 13th October, there is an analogical Ofrenda de Frutos (Fruit Offering), when the Regional Associations donate a wide variety of fruits, which after the ceremony are given away to social care centres of the city. Also on 13th October there is an evening Glass Rosary parade, with 29 glass religious objects called faroles (lamps), beautifully illuminated.
2.4. Gigantes (Giants) and Cabezudos (Big Heads)
You will see also a traditional parade of Gigantes (Giants) and Cabezudos (Big Heads), huge figures of papier-mâché in historical costumes, walking around the city centre.
Other Fun & Entertainment during Fiestas del Pilar
If you are more into pure fun than folk traditions, you can enjoy some of numerous concerts of different music genres in one of many venues in the city (look up the program of events here (only in Spanish).
At the end of the Fiestas del Pilar there is a splendid show of fireworks above the iconic Basilica del Pilar.
Fiestas del Pilar with Children
You can take a look at local products at the General Fair in the Exhibition Hall of Zaragoza. There are also plenty of activities for kids, including street theatres and puppet shows, clowns and mimes.
Other Fiestas in Zaragoza
Another time of the year when you may see impressive centuries old traditions in Zaragoza is the Holy Week around Easter. As in many other big Spanish cities, the way of celebrating it in Zaragoza is quite a feast to the eyes!
Anything else you need to know before the Fiestas del Pilar in Zaragoza?
See the rich photo gallery of Fiestas del Pilar here:
If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to write them below!