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July is a fantastic time to visit Spain. Nearly every week in Madrid, there are hundreds of people taking to the streets for a fiesta. Here are some of the ones to look out for…

13th July

One of the most exciting fiestas in Madrid this summer will be the Vallecas Naval Battle. Every summer, the Vallecas district in south-east Madrid celebrates its patron saint, la Virgen del Carmen, with a naval battle.

Organised by the Cofradia Marinera de Vellecas (Vellecas Naval Brotherhood), the only one in Spain not to be based at a sea port, the battle is really just an excuse for a good old-fashioned water fight.

The action commences at 5pm sharp and the 5000-strong crowd egg each other on, shouting “Agua, agua, queremos agua!” (“Water, water, we want water!”) Given the naval theme, participants dress up as pirates, sailors and buccaneers, taking any opportunity to soak their friends, neighbours and complete strangers using buckets, hoses and watering cans.

At 9pm the battle comes to a close, people change clothes and the party continues late into the night in Plaza del Nica.

16-23 July

The Chamberi neighbourhood north of Madrid city centre comes alive for a week around 16 July, to celebrate their patron saint, la Virgen del Carmen.

The action revolves around Plaza Chamber, which hosts the opening ceremony, open-air parties and children’s shows. There’s more fun at the fairground at the junction of Calle San Francisco and Calle Pablo Iglesias, where there are rollercoasters, coconut shies, fishing games, helter skelters and children’s rides, as well as games and sports for children in the mornings and live music at night.

27th July

Once a year, Madrid’s Iglesia de la Encarnación brings out an ancient relic containing the blood of a doctor, San Pantaleón, martyred in the 4th century AD. Spectators come to watch the congealed blood liquefy in front of their eyes.

The relic originates from Pope Paul V, who bequeathed it to the Viceroy of Naples in the 7th century. It found its way to the church through the Viceroy’s daughter, who served as a nun in the then-convent.

For those of you who are not frightened by the sight of blood, it is worth witnessing this fascinating phenomenon. Once fully liquefied, the relic is paraded through the church to the exclamations of the locals.

Summertime is a popular time in Madrid for tourists so my advice would be to get booking your Madrid accommodation sooner rather than later. There are some great Madrid apartments available for rent all over the city.

 

The Retiro Park was created as a royal park; it belonged to the Real Sitio del Buen Retiro palace. The palace was built in 1632 by King Philips IV as a retreat for the Royal family. Of the original palace, only two buildings have survived, the rest was destroyed during the Napoleonic wars. One of the remaining buildings houses the Museo del Ejército, an army museum. The museum covers Spain’s military history. It contains a nice collection of armour. The most important item in the collection is the sword of El Cid or La Tizona. Not really weaponry, but another notable item on display is the cross that Columbus took with him to the New World. The other surviving building is the Casón del Buen Retiro, a museum with a collection of 19th and 20th century paintings, including works by Joaquín Sorolla.

In the 17th century the park was well outside the city walls, but now Madrid has completely enclosed the Retiro park and become an important part of the life of the people of Madrid.

On Sunday mornings in particular you’ll see Madrileños leaving their Madrid apartments and enjoying their leisure time with some wandering around before their ‘aperitivo’ (pre-lunchtime drink), others jogging or some reading the paper on benches or in a café. Many visitors take the opportunity to leave their rented Madrid accommodation and soak up the sunshine in the park.

Close to the northern entrance of the Parque del Retiro is a large artificial lake, the Estanque del Retiro. Here you can rent a rowing boat, especially popular during weekends. A large monument with an equestrian statue of King Alfonso XII overlooks the lake.

More to the south is another, much smaller lake. At the edge is a beautiful glass building, the Palacio de Cristal. Built in 1887 by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco after the Crystal Palace in London, it was initially used to house exotic plants brought over from the Philippines. It is now mainly used for temporary exhibitions.

One of the most remarkable features of the park is the statue of El Angel Caído (the fallen angel). This dedication to Satan is possibly the only statue of its kind in Europe.

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