Saint Isidro festivity: the most authentic plan in Madrid

"St. Isidro Labrador, removes water and provides Sun", says the well-known proverb.

One of the most important festivities in the Spanish capital (perhaps the most...) takes place every May 15th, around the patron saint of Madrid and of farmers: St. Isidro Labrador. It is a festival declared an Asset of Cultural Interest and is celebrated with this feeling by Madrileños and non-Madrileños alike, because it is impossible not to get caught up in the festive atmosphere.


The nights of San Isidro

The celebrations run on May from 13th to 15th and this year is particularly special. The Holy Year of St. Isidro has been declared, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the canonisation of the patron saint.

In its essence, the festival of San Isidro takes place in the neighbourhood of San Isidro, in Carabanchel, with its epicentre in Pradera de San Isidro, where the saint's hermitage is also located. However, the celebration spreads throughout the city, in places such as the gardens of Las Vistillas and Plaza Mayor, where music is usually the protagonist with concerts and open-air dances.


Tradition dictates

St. Isidro tilled the land and is therefore the patron saint of farmers and is prayed for rain.  For this reason, the festivity of St. Isidro is associated with water and the custom is to go on a pilgrimage to his hermitage to drink the "water of the saint" directly from an adjoining spring.

Another custom is to have a snack or picnic in the meadows of St. Isidro, which are located in the surroundings of the hermitage and where the celebration is extended with activities for all ages.


From the carnation to the parsley

In terms of clothing, the people of Madrid dress up as chulapos and chulapas, the typical costume of the festival of St. Isidro. For women, it consists of a tight white blouse around the waist and a skirt down to the feet, accompanied by a Manila shawl and a headscarf tied around the neck and crowned with a carnation. The men wear a suit of trousers, and a dark waistcoat, accompanied by boots, a carnation in their lapels, and a beret on their heads called parpusa.

Chulapo and chulapa clothing at Fiesta de San Isidro | Photo


St. Isidro's plans


Chotis: The dance of San Isidro

On St. Isidro festivities, dancing is a must, and the traditional dance is chotis, the most popular in Madrid. In addition, there is a programme of concerts and zarzuela shows, with the traditional parades of giants and big-heads or the proclamation in Plaza de la Villa.

This year, the Community of Madrid has also included film cycles, gastronomic routes and even a Pasea Madrid visit that will revolve around the figure of the patron saint of Madrid.


Some clever, some silly: but all delicious!

Gastronomy is no exception. The traditional dishes of the festival of St. Isidro are entresijos and gallinejas. But there are also torraos, pickles and marinades.

Regarding the sweets, the windows of Madrid's pastry shops are dressed with four types of doughnutsThe 'listas' with icing sugar, the 'tontas' without icing, the Santa Clara ones covered with meringue and the French ones with almonds. Sweets such as sugared almonds and caramelised apples are also added.

The typical doughnuts of the St. Isidro Festival | Photo


The traditional drink is 'clara con limón' (beer with lemon), the well-known lemonade, and another one called 'los chicos de Valdepeñas' (glasses of wine).

This year's St. Isidro festivities will undoubtedly have a special sparkle, and a glance at the programme is enough to prove it.


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