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What’s on in Spain: 14 fun things to do in February

February is the month to shake off the winter blues with Carnival! Or head to a celebration of the most tragic of star-crossed lovers. Failing that how about a festival focusing on food?

What's on in Spain: 14 fun things to do in February
Carnival is celebrated across Spain in February. Photo: AFP

Here are some of the highlights going on across Spain this February.

Food

Madrid Gastrofestival, February 7th until February 23rd

Photo: GastroFestival  Madrid

This is more than just a food festival. The Spanish capital becomes a hub for gourmet cuisine, as well as the art, fashion, literature and films that are inspired by it. 2020 celebrates an extended edition of the famous festival. Foodies come, eat and rejoice.

Calçots in Catalonia (February and March)


Photo by Silvia Martin/Flickr

February and March are Calçots time in Catalonia! You can find the traditional grilled spring onion all around the region. In Barcelona there is a market throughout the period in Parc de les Tres Xemeineies where guests can celebrate the urban edition of the Calçotada to the sounds of Sardana music and a porró of vino tinto.

Recipe: How to make, eat and enjoy calçots

 

Exhibitions

“1939 Exilio Republicano Español“, Madrid until February 29th


Photo from the exhibition of a young Spanish exile by Germaine Chaumel

 

A huge exhibition of sketches, photographs and paintings records the plight of the 500,000 republican refugees after the civil war.

The exhibition entitled “1939 Exilio Republicano Español” at the La Arquería in Madrid's Nuevos Ministerios has been extended until the end of February. and includes powerful works created by the most famous exile from the Spanish Civil War, Pablo Picasso.

The exihibit also includes documentary evidence chronicling those who took the path into exile, what life was like in the enternment camps in France and how exiles rebuilt their life in the ensuing years.  

ARCOmadrid International Contemporary Art Fair February 26th until March 1st

Photo: Arco-Madrid / Ifema

The International Contemporary Art Fair is one of the main art fairs on the international circuit and a must-see for art lovers and collectors in Madrid. It takes place in the huge exhibition center IFEMA but also look out for galleries in the captal holding their own events.

Cultural Festivals

Spring…and almond blossom!


Blossom in Madrid's Parque de Berlin. Photo: F Govan
 

February is the month when almond trees burst into bloom with their exquisite pale pink blossom. Some areas, like the Canary Island of La Palma celebrate the blossoming of the almond trees that grow everywhere on the island with a festival that involves lots of exquisite handmade almod sweets, but wherever you are in Spain, you won't be far from some blooms, so get out into the countryside and enjoy that spring air! 

La Endiabla , Cuenca, Castille-La Mancha, February 1st to 4th


Photo: La Endiablada

Every year at the beginning of February, visitors flock to the small town of Almonacid del Marquesado in Cuenca where locals celebrate La Endiablada, or “the brotherhood of the devils”. Since at least the 13th century, locals have gathered for this celebration, dressing up in outlandish “devil” costumes with noisy cowbells and dancing through the town. The festival is meant to honour both the Virgin Mary as well as the town's patron saint, San Blas.

 

Festes de Moros i Cristians a Sant Blai, Bocairent, Valencia February 1st to 6th. 


Photo: Juan Sanz/  Bocairent Town Hall

In February, the small town Bocairent in the Valencia region hosts the tradtional Moors and Christians festival.  There are re-enactments of the fights between the two groups as well as parades and fireworks – not to mention the perfect opportunity to visit this truly charming town.

Santa Eulàlia Festival, Barcelona, February 7th to 12th


Photo: Santa Eulalia Festival

Once the patron of Barcelona, Santa Eulàlia was more or less abandoned in the 17th century to make space for the city's beloved Mercé. However, the celebration of the former patron now takes place in February and is the perfect opportunity for everyone who missed the Festes de la Mercé in September to encounter giants on the street or risk a scorching in the correfocs, the traditional firework runs. You might also stumble upon the famous human towers and Sardana dances. On the 12th of February, Saint Eulàlias day, visitors can enter the Ajuntament (City Hall) as well as several other museums for free.

READ MORE Els Castells: What you need to know about the human towers of Catalonia

 

Las Bodas de Isabel de Segura, Teruel, Aragon February 20th to 23rd 

Photo: Teruel City Hall

Believing her true love to be dead, Isabel marries another in Spain’s take on Romeo and Juliet. Every year the city of Teruel revives the tragedy of the two lovers on the month of romance. Celebrate your Valentine’s day with star-crossed lovers and medieval dress in the mountainous Aragon region of eastern Spain.

Flamenco festival of Jerez  February 21st, March 7th.


Photo: AFP

The Andalusian town of Jerez takes its unofficial title of “city of flamenco” quite seriously, and no other time of year is that more apparent than during the annual Festival de Jerez. For two weeks, the city comes alive with dozens of performances of the traditional dance and musical style.

Carnival

Carnival Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, February 19th to March 1st 


Photo: Depositphotos

Those looking to have the Rio de Janeiro carnival experience without having to fly all the way to South America should head instead to the largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife. Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a twin city of the Brazilian metropolis and its carnival is world-renowned – as much as it is out of this world.

Sitges Carnival February 18th to 26th


Photo:Sitges festival

More than 250,000 people flock to the coastal town of Sitges about 35 kilometres from Barcelona, every February for one of the biggest gay carnivals in the world. The week is packed with parades, parties and shows and the gay-friendly town opens its doors to thousands of revellers. 

Cádiz Carnival February 28th until March 10th 


Photo: Depositphotos

The carnival in Cádiz is one of the most famous in Spain, dating back to the 16th century. These days it’s all about dressing up and poking fun at politicians and people in the news, as well as the usual eating and drinking of course.

Sports

Seville Marathon February 23rd


Photo: Zurich Marathon, Sevilla

If hills aren't your thing, why not take part in the flattest marathon in Europe, which takes in some of the most picturesque sights of Seville along the route. You can still register if you fancy taking up a New Year´s challenge. Otherwise, why not lend your support to the runners by cheering them on from the side lines?

 

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IN IMAGES: Spain’s ‘scrap cathedral’ lives on after creator’s death

For over 60 years, former monk Justo Gallego almost single-handedly built a cathedral out of scrap materials on the outskirts of Madrid. Here is a picture-based ode to his remarkable labour of love.

IN IMAGES: Spain's 'scrap cathedral' lives on after creator's death
File photo taken on August 3, 1999 shows Justo Gallego Martinez, then 73, posing in front of his cathedral. Photo: ERIC CABANIS / AFP

The 96-year-old died over the weekend, but left the unfinished complex in Mejorada del Campo to a charity run by a priest that has vowed to complete his labour of love.

Gallego began the project in 1961 when he was in his mid-30s on land inherited from his family after a bout of tuberculosis forced him to leave an order of Trappist monks.

Today, the “Cathedral of Justo” features a crypt, two cloisters and 12 towers spread over 4,700 square metres (50,600 square feet), although the central dome still does not have a cover.

He used bricks, wood and other material scavenged from old building sites, as well as through donations that began to arrive once the project became better known.

A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The building’s pillars are made from stacked oil drums while windows have been cobbled and glued together from shards of coloured glass.

“Recycling is fashionable now, but he used it 60 years ago when nobody talked about it,” said Juan Carlos Arroyo, an engineer and architect with engineering firm Calter.

Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid.
Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid. Photo: (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The charity that is taking over the project, “Messengers of Peace”, hired the firm to assess the structural soundness of the building, which lacks a permit.

No blueprint

“The structure has withstood significant weather events throughout its construction,” Arroyo told AFP, predicting it will only need some “small surgical interventions”.

Renowned British architect Norman Foster visited the site in 2009 — when he came to Spain to collect a prize — telling Gallego that he should be the one getting the award, Arroyo added.

Religious murals on a walls of Justo's cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Religious murals on a walls of Justo’s cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The sturdiness of the project is surprising given that Gallego had no formal training as a builder, and he worked without a blueprint.

In interviews, he repeatedly said that the details for the cathedral were “in his head” and “it all comes from above”.

Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The complex stands in a street called Avenida Antoni Gaudi, named after the architect behind Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia basilica which has been under construction since 1883.

But unlike the Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral of Justo Gallego as it is known is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a place of worship.

Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral's completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral’s completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

‘Worth visiting’

Father Angel Garcia Rodriguez, the maverick priest who heads Messengers of Peace, wants to turn Gallego’s building into an inclusive space for all faiths and one that is used to help the poor.

“There are already too many cathedrals and too many churches, that sometimes lack people,” he said.

“It will not be a typical cathedral, but a social centre where people can come to pray or if they are facing difficulties,” he added.

A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

Father Angel is famous in Spain for running a restaurant offering meals to the homeless and for running a church in central Madrid where pets are welcome and the faithful can confess via iPad.

Inside the Cathedral of Justo, volunteers continued working on the structure while a steady stream of visitors walked around the grounds admiring the building in the nondescript suburb.

“If the means are put in, especially materials and money, to finish it, then it will be a very beautiful place of worship,” said Ramon Calvo, 74, who was visiting the grounds with friends.

FIND OUT MORE: How to get to Justo’s Cathedral and more amazing images

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