Throughout the year thousands of people take part in the exciting events in Nerja. Most of the celebrations in Nerja have a religious background. Catholic customs bring religion, tradition and family together on this day. But often the flamenco with music and dance is important too. For the people of Nerja these days are an important part of their tradition. Every year a lot of effort is put into the events. The inhabitants show on these days a large readiness with organizing and converting their customs. The great result can be seen at the events. This also gives tourists the opportunity to get a little closer to the Andalusian tradition. On these days you can get to know Nerja from a completely different side. Maybe there is an interesting date for you? These are eleven events in Nerja you shouldn’t miss.
Carnival in Nerja – February/March
Dates for 2019 and 2020
28.02. – 03.03.2019
20.02. – 23.02.2020
On four days Nerja becomes a colourful festival. The Carnival in Nerja is a lively event with a great program for adults and children. The last opportunity to celebrate and dance, because according to the custom it is supposed to be fasted until Easter. This makes the people in Nerja turn into the craziest figures. On the streets of Nerja you will probably find the most imaginative and craziest disguises. The start of the carnival in Nerja begins with an opening speech and a subsequent comedy event in the cultural centre of Nerja. Afterwards it goes into the city to celebrate.
The second day continues with competition in the Plaza de España. We are looking for the best carnival costume in Nerja. Adults, as well as children, compete in different categories. The motivation to win is high because the winner of the competition will receive prize money. It is very important for many inhabitants to perform in a costume that is both elaborate and individual. The tailoring and designing of the costume for the big performance at the carnival is already prepared and planned weeks before.
On the third day, the big parade takes place. Not only the winners of the competition will take part, but also anyone who wants to show their costume. Even groups of friends and families take part as a group and accompany the parade with singing and coordinated costumes. The big parade through the streets of Nerja is one of the biggest events and is followed by hundreds of spectators. The procession ends in Plaza de España. Usually the parade passes through the following streets:
Calle Jaen, Diputación, Plaza Cavana, Granada, Plaza de la Ermita, Calle San Miguel, Plaza de Cantarero, Calle Pintada, Puerta del Mar und dann zurück zum Plaza de España.
The carnival in Nerja ends on the last day with the funeral of the Chanquet. At this funeral, the participants dress in black and mourn the old fisherman from the Spanish TV series “Verano Azul” from the 80s. In honour of the fisherman, a big dummy of a fish is carried to the beach Calahonda during this funeral procession. A somewhat bizzare tradition, but interesting for those who follow this event for the first time. Once the fish has arrived at the beach, a big fireworks display starts at the Balcon de Europa to conclude the carnival in Nerja.
Semana Santa in Nerja – March/April
Dates for 2019 and 2020
14.04. – 21.04.2019
05.04. – 11.04.2020
The Semana Santa takes place in Spain during Holy Week. This is the week before Easter. It begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday. On these days people gather on the streets of Nerja for the most important religious event in Spain. Although the number of believers in Spain is decreasing, the Semana Santa is still a very important event for many Spaniards. Also in Nerja several Catholic processions are practiced by the locals and are considered to be the largest public events of the city. The processions are organized and carried out by the brotherhoods of Nerja. Religious idols are carried on a large pedestal through the streets of Nerja. This centuries-old ritual is accompanied by a red carpet, incense, and music. Each procession has its own meaning and plays a very important role in the celebrations. The highlight of the event is Good Friday or Easter Sunday. On these days you can follow most of the processions on the streets of Nerja.
Cruces de Mayo in Nerja – 3rd May
On 3rd May the Cruces de Mayo (May Cross) festival takes place in Spain. Beside Cruces de Mayo also the names Dia de la Cruz (day of the cross) and Fiesta de las Cruces (festival of the crosses) are common. According to the Roman rite of the Catholic Church, the Holy Cross was discovered on this day. An important day in parts of Spain and in Spanish South America. The largest and most famous festivals in Spain take place in the Andalusian cities of Cordoba and Granada. They have big competitions for the most beautiful crosses, which are traditionally decorated with red and white carnations. You can find them all over the city during these festivities.
As in many other cities in Andalusia, Nerja also participates in this tradition. Besides the religious part, history, tradition, and flamenco also play an important role. The processions and the building of the meter-high crosses are carried out by religious groups in Nerja. In addition to the colorful flowers, objects associated with the sea are also used as decoration. These objects represent the history and traditions of Nerja. An important aspect for the people of Nerja, who are also dedicated to the queen of the sea “Virgen del Carmen”. During the day more and more people gather at the crosses and the atmosphere begins to become more alive at a late hour. At the meetings on the cross, drinks and food are also served.
If you want to be part of this ceremony, you should either look at the Balcon de Europa or the street “Calle Pintada” on that day. The most beautiful crosses are usually exhibited there. Since the crosses have to be registered, you can also ask at the tourist information in Nerja. They will give you all the important exhibition locations and you will not miss one single cross.
Romería de San Isidro in Nerja – 15th May
The San Isidro pilgrimage is one of the most spectacular events in Nerja. On this day you can see the most beautiful customs of the Andalusian tradition, as it is known from the picture book. Women and men dress in Spanish costume for the pilgrimage and accompany the farmers with their cattle on their way to the caves of Nerja. Flamenco dancing and singing will accompany the pilgrimage. All this takes place in honour of Saint Isidore. With this event the farmers thank him. This should bring good luck and a good harvest for the coming year.
Who was San Isidro? Isidor the farmer was born in Madrid in 1070. The hardworking farmer was known for his charity for animals and people. In 1622 he was canonized by Pope Gregory XV. The stories tell of several miracles that San Isidro experienced. The figure of San Isidro is celebrated throughout Spain and in many parts of the world. The capital Madrid, as well as many other Spanish cities, villages and islands, made him their patron saint of the city and now honor him every year on 15th May with a pilgrimage.
In Nerja, the festivities begin on the evening of 14th May with a party at the caves of Nerja. However, this has nothing to do with the actual tradition and only serves as anticipation. The actual event with all religious aspects starts every year on 15th May at the church El Salvador at the Balcon de Europa. It starts with a divine service, a performance of the choir Peña Nerjeña and the offering of the saint. Before the procession or pilgrimage of San Isidro starts, the statue of the saint is placed on a wagon decorated with flowers, which is pulled by oxen to the caves of Nerja. Hundreds of people and farmers from the surrounding area accompany this event with carriages, carts, horses, oxen and tractors. For this event the inhabitants dress up and wear their most beautiful Andalusian costume in honour of San Isidro.
The way from the church of El Salvador to the caves of Nerja is about 3 km long and can take up to four hours. On the way to the caves of Nerja people sing, dance and drink. The pilgrimage can be accompanied by anyone and is a great insight into Spanish traditions and customs. Arrived at the caves of Nerja, the first competitions begin. The most impressive riders, carriages are awarded prizes. At a late hour, the event turnes into a party with modern music and an open dance floor. On the two evenings of 14th and 15th May, buses commute to and from the caves of Nerja. These usually run on 14th May between 22:00 and 07:00 hours and on 15th May from 10:00 to 01:30 hours. So nobody has to worry about how to get home.
Noche de San Juan in Nerja – 23th/24th June
St. John’s Night is the night of St. John’s Day, from 23th to 24th June. On this night, the Spanish celebrate the summer solstice on the beaches of Spain. A very popular event in the coastal towns of Spain. The procedure is relatively simple. Family and friends already meet at noon on 23th June on the beach or on a promenade. With tent or camping equipment, wine, good food, dancing and singing are celebrated into the early hours of the morning. During this night a bonfire is usually lit. This fire has two meanings. On the one hand the sun should give more power to shine, because from this day on it becomes weaker and the days shorter. On the other hand, it should free you from your sins. It is said that anyone who jumps over one of these bonfires three times will be cleansed of his sins and his problems will be burned. Since this custom is dangerous and now forbidden in many cities, I advise you to stick to the custom below.
The highlight in the San Juan night is the common jump into the sea tradition at midnight. As soon as the clock jumps to 00:00, all people run into the sea. Through this ritual you wash away your sins. Once you have washed your face and feet three times in the water, the custom also grants you three wishes and happy twelve months. If you also want to cleanse your sins that night, this is definitely the safe option. The most popular beaches to celebrate in Nerja are Playazo Beach and Burriana Beach. The beach Playazo offers a lot of space. A suitable place for large groups and self-catering. The official event starts at 22:00 in Burriana. Here you will find many catering facilities, a large campfire and live music with fireworks.
The music festival in the caves of Nerja – July
Dates for 2019
29.06. – 03.08.2019
Since 1959 the music festival takes place in the caves of Nerja. In summer the caves open for the international music and dance festival and offer a stage for artists. The underground halls give the sounds of the music a unique acoustics and make the performance an experience. Covering an area of 140,000 square meters and 700 meters in length, the Nerja Caves offer ample space for artists and visitors alike. The program includes famous Spanish singers, ballet groups and flamenco dancers. The festival attracts many visitors to the caves every year. The current program can be found on the official website.
Día de la Virgen del Carmen in Nerja – 16th July
The 16th of July is dedicated to the Virgin Carmen and is an important festival for many coastal towns in Spain. The Virgin Carmen, also known as “La Reina de los Mares” (Queen of the Seas), is the patron saint of sailors and fishermen and has a very special place in the hearts of coastal communities in Spain. Also in Nerja, the “Virgen del Carmen” is the patron saint of the city and is at the centre of many events. The celebrations begin on the evening of 15th July with prayers and flowers for the Virgin in the church of El Salvador.
On 16th July, the event begins with a service in the church of El Salvador followed by a procession. The statue of the “Virgen del Carmen” decorated with flowers is carried to the beach of Torrecilla. There the Virgin is loaded into a beautifully decorated boat. This boat drives the statue along the coast of Nerja, which is accompanied by many other fishing boats. From the beach, the spectators can observe the fleet and shout and applaud to the Virgin. The final stop is Calahonda beach, where the Virgin is brought ashore and returned to the church of El Salvador. The end of the procession ends with a glowing fireworks display at the Balcon de Europa.
Fiesta Blanca in Nerja – 14th August
Every year on the 14th of August a big beach party takes place in Nerja at the beach El Salón. The special thing about this event is the dress code. All persons at this party wear white. The entire beach shines in a bright tone. On this evening, visitors will be offered various performances and live music on a large stage. With modern music and cool drinks, the people dance until the early hours of the morning. A great summer event for locals and tourists.
Feria in Nerja – second week of October
The Feria in Nerja is the folk festival in Nerja and takes place every year in the second week of October. Part of the program is the election of the Queen and Gentlemen of Nerja, as well as traditional flamenco performances. Children will also have fun at the fair. On five days the Feria in Nerja offers a wide range of traditions and celebrations. The inhabitants of Nerja wear the Spanish costume on these days and celebrate and dance to the music. With exciting events and Andalusian customs the Feria is the highlight of the year in Nerja. You can find more information in my article Feria in Nerja.
Christmas in Nerja
Those who decide to visit Nerja at Christmas time can look forward to a relaxing atmosphere, beautiful Christmas events and a bright Christmas decoration in the old town.
Christmas Eve in Nerja – 24th – 25th December
The Holy Night, or “La Nochebuena” in Spanish, is not the traditional Christmas that you might know. The Holy Night is also a big family celebration in Spain, but the great gift-giving is missing. The distributing of the gifts begins on 6th January on the day of the holy three kings. On Christmas Eve it remains with a large dinner with the family. The restaurants are filled in this evening and afterward many people meet at the Plaza Tutti Frutti to celebrate with friends.
Christmas dinners and menus in the restaurants of Nerja
During this time many restaurants in Nerja offer a Christmas menu. The offers are very good and you usually get a large menu with starter, main course and dessert. Some drinks are also included. Every year I meet my friends from Nerja for a Christmas dinner in the restaurant Puerta del Mar. Here you get a very good menu with fish, seafood and drinks for an unbeatable price. My recommendation to you!
The Three Holy Kings (Los Reyes Magos) in Nerja – 6th January
6th January, the day the star of Bethlehem led the three kings to Jesus. The most important Christmas day of the Spaniards and probably the most popular for the children, because here the gifts are distributed to friends and family.
Among the children, the three holy kings Balthasar, Caspar and Melchior are better known than Santa Claus. Every year on 5th January at the Cabalgata de Reyes in Nerja, you can meet the three holy kings on a Christmas procession. A big event for children. The procession is also accompanied by many other participants in Christmas costumes who throw large quantities of sweets for the children into the audience. The parade usually follows this route:
Parque Verano Azul, Calle Jaén, Calle Diputación, Calle Granada, Calle San Miguel, Plaza Cantarero, Calle Pintada and finally the Balcón de Europa
The Roscón de Reyes is another tradition that you can see in many Spanish families on 6th January. This is a big round cake with a hole in the middle. A toy or a Christmas figure is then added to it. The custom should bring luck for the coming year.
The Spanish Christmas speciality Turron
During this time you can also buy the Spanish Christmas specialty Turron in many shops. This is a very popular Christmas candy. Turron is a variant of white nougat made from almonds, honey, sugar, and egg white. Turron is available in many different varieties and flavors. The packaging looks like a bar of chocolate.
New Year’s Eve (Nochevieja) in Nerja – 31th December
The place you should be on New Year’s Eve is the Balcón de Europa. On this night it is the meeting point to celebrate the New Year. From 23:00 the live music starts on stage and enough bars provide drinks.
Shortly before midnight, it begins. You should prepare exactly twelve grapes for this event and bring them with you to New Year’s Eve. Each time the clock strikes shortly before midnight, a grape is put into the mouth and eaten. This custom brings luck for the New Year if you manage to eat all the grapes in time. Another tradition in Spain and Italy is to wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve. This should also bring luck. The crowning finale after the grape meal is the huge fireworks at the Balcon de Europa.
Secure your accommodation on your desired date
Depending on the season, holiday season or local events, the availability of hotels or apartments in Nerja also varies. Therefore, you should get an overview of the available offers for your desired date and price range as soon as possible.
Still no accommodation found for Nerja? Then have a look at Airbnb, the largest online platform for private accommodation. Register here and get 25 € for your first booking via my link!
Do you have any more tips about the events in Nerja?
Have you already gained experience at one of these events? Are there any other events you liked in Nerja? I would be happy to hear from you in the comments.
Do you have any unanswered questions on this subject? Then just write me in the comments and I will answer them in the best possible way for you.
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