There are many activities that take place in Bilbao all year round and they pull huge crowds of spectators – both local and foreign. Some of them include book fairs, film festivals, markets, religious parades, which usually take place around the Easter period and the Holy Week or as it is known locally, Semana Santa. The villages close to this town also host huge festivals like International Jazz Festival held on July and Folk Festival during the month of September in Gexto.
There are also around 12 national holidays that are celebrated in Bilbao. These include Epiphany or Epifinia on 5th of January and on 19th March, Bilbao people mark St. Joseph’s Day. In the period towards the end of March or the beginning of April, two occasions are marked; Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, Feast of the Assumption is marked on August 15th and on 1st November, they mark All Saints Day. The month of December has three holidays with 6th being Constitutional Day, Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8th and of course the year ends with Christmas Day on 25th.
Apart from these national days, Bilbao’s events and Festivals calendar has many to offer. These events are grouped according to the months they are held.
January: Zinegoak or the Bilbao International GLT (Gat-Lesbo-Trans) film festival. It is usually held at the start of the month and screening is done in various cinemas and theatres including Capital and Bilborock cinemas.
February: St Agueda ‘s Day which is a historic festival marked on 4th by parades of children’s choirs dressed in traditional costumes performing on the streets of the town. St. Blas Day marked in the middle on the month and lasts for a period of nine days that begin on 3rd. The aim is to celebrate the life of St Blas. The Carnival closes the month and during this time, many festivities take place in the center of the city with the partying characterizing Bilbao.
April: Semana Santa and Via Crucis Viviente de Balmaseda. Starting with the former, it is a religious festival that is over 5000 years old and it takes place in the week of Easter. In Bilbao, people mark it by slow parades with instruments like drums and trumpets on the streets. Bulls are also realized so that they run through the streets to the village of Zumaia as a way of marking the reenactments of Christ’s final day. The Via Crucis Viviente de Balmaseda is held around early April with many events and festivities to mark the Holy Week being held. Most of the activities during this period, including the performance of the Last Supper, take place in Balmaseda town, 30 KM from Bilbao.
May: Bilbao Fantastic Film Festival, which is held at the beginning of the month with many places showing films among other events.
June: Bilbao Book Fair or Feria del Libro, which is held in the historic District of Casco Viejo and it attracts several well known authors and celebrities. Significant authors are rewarded as families are entertained with performances.
July: Fiestas del Carmen en Santurce which celebrates the patron saint of Santurce called la Virgen Del Carmen. The event is held for one week in the village of Santurce which located 11 miles from Bilbao. Getxo International Jazz Festival also graces the city during this month and sees a number blues concerts taking place. Festividad de La Magdalene takes place on 22nd around Barmeo Village which is located around 34 km from Bilbao. Fiestas de Santiago en Gorliz is another event that is held in Gorliz and it has many street festivities, sports events and some local craft fairs.
August: Fiestas de Andramari en Gorliz which is a food festival that takes place from 4th to 8th of August. There is Fiestas de San Nicolas de Bari which has many events like sports, concerts, boat race and many more. Aste Nagusia also known as ‘Big Week’ has a number of cultural events and festivities that last for around 10 days and they include bullfighting, traditional music and many more that end with a display of fire works. Fiestas de Plantzia is also an occasion full of events and festivities like sports competitions and traditional events.
September: Festividad de SanAntolin en Lekeitio which is a historic festival that takes place in Lekeitio village, 60 km from Bilbao and has activities like catching a greased dead goose. Fiestas de Andramari en Bermeo which is marked to celebrate the life of patron saint of Andramari. Folk Festivals are also held during this month.
October: the whole country celebrates Nacional de Espana on 12th.
November: Festival International de Titeres which is a local storytelling festival that is widely know and attracts many people. International Festival Documentary and short films that begun in the 20th century and has since grown to attract many.
December: occasions like Feria del Libro y Discos Vascos which is a major book fair with many events. People go to shop for all kind of agricultural products and other things at markets in Jardines del Arenal. Festival de Teatro y Danza is also held and features theatre performances and family shows.