Bilbao's ‘Great Week' (‘Semana Grande' or ‘Aste Nagusia') is the most important and recognizable fiesta in Bilbao. The celebration begins on the first Saturday after the 15th of August and lasts 9 days. Bilbao's ‘Semana Grande' has been officially celebrated since 1978 and has been taking place continuously year after year with the exception of the year 1983 when Bilbao suffered severe floods. During those 9 days in August the whole of Bilbao is vibrant and full of life and there is a great variety of things to see and do. Bilbao during its fiestas is definitely the place to be!!
• The first day of the fiestas will begin with the so-called txupinazo, which, since 2001, has taken place in the Plaza del Teatro Arriaga. This involves the launching of a rocket and the reading of the proclamation of the fiestas.
• One of the most interesting things to see is a spectacular fireworks show, which will take place everyday at 22.30 and can be watched from all areas of the city. Many pyrotechnists will take part in the show from all over Spain and also from other European countries.
• Bilbao's ‘Semana Grande' is a perfect opportunity for ‘corrida' fans to enjoy the bullfighting. As well as the fireworks, bullfights will also take place everyday in the Bilbao Bullring (Plaza de Toros) at 18.00. Although the tradition has raised a lot of controversy, bullfights are considered one of the most typical and significant Spanish traditions. In Bilbao's bullfights many widely known toreadors (toreros) will participate such as: Fermin Bohorquez, Manuel Jesus "El Cid", Julian Lopez "El Juli".
• There will also be a great opportunity to see the typical Basque traditions such as Basque dance. The dancers wear their traditional outfit and sometimes the dance requires the use of sticks and swords. Traditional Basque folk dances can be seen everyday except from Saturdays, at 19.00 in Plaza Nueva in Casco Viejo, the oldest part of the city. Each day a different type of Basque dance will be performed. Altogether there are approximately 400 different Basque folk dances each with its own story and significance. You can tell a good dancer by how high they jump, their double clicks, how high they kick, and their gracefulness.
• Music concerts form an important part of Bilbao's ‘Semana Grande' programme. There will be many concerts of different types of music taking place every day, so everyone will be able to find something suitable for them. Apart from concerts of local bands there will be a huge variety of widely known Spanish artists and internationally known bands from abroad. As for Spanish pop music stars there will be Rosario Flores (or simply Rosario), two-time Latin Grammy award-winning singer and actress, recognized thanks to Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her (Hable con Ella) movie, where she played one of the main characters. The concert will take place on Tuesday 19th at 23.30 in Abandoibarra. For the fans of flamenco music there is an Argentinean concert from Huelva-born new voice of the flamenco scene, on Monday 18th, at 24:00 in Plaza Nueva. An example of an international artist performing this year would be Travis, a Scottish band performing Britpop, who have been awarded BRIT awards twice. Reggae fans, in turn, will be happy to participate in The Heptones concert, a Jamaican vocal trio, on Saturday 23rd at 24:00 in Plaza Nueva. However, many more concerts of different types of music will also be taking place during Bilbao's ‘Semana Grande'.
Shoppers be warned, most city stores close down for the fiesta. The festival runs right through the night for nine days and come the weekend it is not unusual to still see people weaving through the throng as the sun rises. The streets are lined with marquees from various bars and societies, many accompanied by booming sound systems.
The whole week of fiestas in Bilbao is a great opportunity to get to know the traditional Basque and Spanish culture and also what fiesta means to Spaniards! See you there!!