San Isidro in Madrid


Kids in Madrid essentials: the festival of San Isidro

This weekend in Madrid is the ideal time to get out and enjoy the good weather with your family as the huge annual fiesta San Isidro hits the Spanish capital! Let Kids in Madrid explain what it is all about and why your children will have fun joining in.

When and why

From 11 – 16 May, Madrileños put on their costumes and welcome newcomers and tourists to join them in the celebrations in honour of Madrid’s patron saint, San Isidro. This medieval saint, who was born and spent his whole life in rural Madrid, is said to have carried out many miracles, including being able to find springs of fresh water. Over this five day period long queues of families  holding empty bottles, some  dressed as chulapos and chulapas, form at the fountain next to Saint Isidore’s shrine to drink the saint’s water. To read more about the life of Saint Isidore the Farmer in English click here for a children’s version. 

Family-oriented activities

As fellow blogger Noah Wanebo from Naked Madrid eloquently points out, much of the fun for adults during the San Isidro festival is about drinking during the day at one of the sprawling picnics in the city’s parks. Families, tourists and teenagers all join together to celebrate the festivities.

KIM loves the parades

Don’t miss the Big Heads and Giants parades, the first of which starts at 6pm on the 11 May from Calle de la Sal and ends at 8pm in the Plaza de la Villa. Watch how the Giants move gracefully through the narrowest streets of the city centre whilst the ‘Big-Heads’ interact playfully with the young children in the crowd. These giants come out again on Saturday at 12pm in the Plaza de la Villa for a circular route up Calle Mayor, along Calle Bailen, past the palace and back to Calle Mayor, ending outside the central town hall (Calle Mayor 72).  They can next be seen on Sunday 13 May at 4pm in the Vistillas area of Madrid as part of the show, which is laid on every year by the association of local folklore groups of Madrid. Their final appearance is on the saint’s day itself (15 May) from 10am onwards where they begin their parade on the Paseo Quince de Mayo and end at the Ermita del Santo. This parade is particularly popular as thousands of red carnations are handed out to onlookers by locals dressed in traditional outfits.

KIM loves the concerts

Several improvised stages pop up around the city to host open air concerts of all types of music which are very popular and free of charge.

The concerts not to miss if you have children are:

On Saturday 12 May at 11:30h in (Plaza de Oriente), the supurb Clasicos Excéntricos play classical music on a whole range of instruments, some traditional and some rather unusual, with visual aids and clown performances.

On Saturday 12 May at 18:30h, the incredibly popular children’s pop music entertainers Petit Pop will take the main stage at Parque San Isidro for an hour’s concert that promises to bring crowds of screaming tween-age fans.

On Monday 14 May at 18:30h, the captivating and vibrant Yo Soy Ratón – No Soy un Muñeco concert (Loosely translated as “I’m a rodent, not a doll”) will be on the main stage at Parque San Isidro with the aim of captivating youngsters into creating their own individual “me” through music, dance and actions.

Also worth a mention is the municipal symphonic orchestra concert at the Retiro Park on Sunday morning (12pm). This attracts a huge crowd so arrive early to avoid disappointment.

KIM loves the gardens

Hosting picnics, food stalls, concerts and dancing, the gardens and parks of Madrid burst with life during the San Isidro festivities.

The best place to go with young children is Las Vistillas garden. From 11am to 6pm on Saturday 12 May, the town hall is laying on a series of workshops and games based on the theme of keeping Madrid environmentally friendly. On Sunday 13 May, the association of local folklore groups lay on a show from 11am onwards which includes children’s entertainment, facepainting, crafts and, from 6pm onwards, the handing out of fresh red carnations as a symbol of these festivities.

If you prefer to soak up the atmosphere at the traditional Parque de San Isidro, don’t miss the family showTran Trán” on 12 May at 5pm or the magician Carlos Adriano on the 15 May at 12pm.

Finally, on the saint’s day itself you can’t do better than to visit one of the less known parks of the city centre: the Parque de Arganzuela (Metro Legazpi). Here the town hall is laying on a festival of children’s activities called Pichikids with workshops, face painting, drawing, dance classes on the esplanade and music all day long, completely free of charge.

KIM loves the fun fairs

As the city fills with up with street artists, musicians and shows of all varieties, families could easily forget that the place to visit with their small children on one of the 5 days of official festivities is the Pradera de San Isidro. As well as being one of the official venues for open air concerts and entertainment, this park offers the best fun fair you will find in Madrid this May. There are plenty of rides, plenty of stalls and plenty of fairground attractions for all ages from noon until midnight. Enjoy!

KIM loves the food

Traditional food for San Isidro includes sweet rosquillas (doughnuts) eaten with hot chocolate and sold at stalls all over the city and barquillos (cylindrical wafers) which children often win by the pair when playing a game similar to roulette at the fun fairs. 

Why not try these local delicacies free of charge at the fair trade stalls that will be set up in Plaza Opera from 11h to 13h on Saturday 12 May? Sponsored by Fairtrade Iberica, Oxfam and others, the idea is to help raise awareness of fair trade products related to San Isidro.

And although not traditionally madrileño, you can’t do better than to time your visit to the Pradera San Isidro with the free paella tasting that takes place at 13h on 14 May. If you prefer to wait until the saint’s day itself you will find them handing out plates of traditional cocido at the same time and same place.

and finally….KIM loves the fireworks!

Although at the rather family-unfriendly hour of 22:30h, the San Isidro fireworks are a must for young children. Held on 14 and 15 May in Parque Enrique Tierno Galvan these are quite simply spectacular. A rival pyrotechnical display at midnight on Tuesday 15 May can be seen at the football ground of C. Gorrion (next to Parque de San Isidro) free of charge and thus marks the end of the five day festivities.

Have fun!

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