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Seven unmissable corners in San Isidro

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Every May 15, Madrid celebrates the patronal feasts of San Isidro. What began as a pilgrimage to the hermitage of the patron saint of the city, is currently a celebration that lasts almost a week where the most authentic tradition is mixed with a program of cultural and leisure activities of the greatest variety. . The inhabitants of the capital put on their chulapo costumes and take to the streets ready to take full advantage of the whole festive program which combines modernity and tradition.

History of the San Isidro Festival

May is the month in which the city of Madrid celebrates its festivities in honor of San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of the city and of farmers. More than a hundred miracles are attributed to his figure, one of the most remarkable is the gift of easily finding water where it was scarce.. In fact, the celebrations of these May festivities revolve around the relationship between water and the saint. The pilgrimage takes place in the Pradera de San Isidro and in the surrounding streets, and it is customary for the chulapos to drink the miraculous water that flows from a spring next to the hermitage of San Isidro.

This tradition mingles with that of snacking on donuts and lemonade in the meadows of San Isidro. Typical donuts to choose from are “crazy” (with egg), “listas” (with egg and covered in icing sugar), Santa Clara (with a layer of white meringue), and French (with almonds). As for lemonade, Madrid’s contains wine, lemon, sugar and chopped fruit (usually apples).

San Isidro Museum

san isidro museum

To know these popular festivals so linked to the history of Madrid, nothing better than to go to the San Isidro Museum to know the origins of the city and its evolution until today. There is a permanent exhibition but, in addition, conferences and activities related to the popular traditions of the capital are organised.

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In the Museo del Prado you can find the famous paintings in which Francisco de Goya represented, in the 18th century, how the festivities of San Isidro were lived in Madrid. It is curious to observe how it was done in a very different way than today, although with the same enthusiasm.

City center

City center

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The Plaza de la Villa is one of the best preserved monumental ensembles in Madrid. It is located in the historic district, near Puerta del Sol and was the seat of the capital city council. It is here that the festivities of San Isidro begin, since every year the proclamation of the start of the festivities is offered from its balcony, which, with some exceptions, always takes place on May 14.

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It was one of the main centers of medieval Madrid. There are three buildings of great historical and artistic value: the Casa y Torre de los Lujanes (15th century), the Casa de Cisneros (16th century) and the Casa de la Villa (17th century). In the 15th century, the Square adopted its current name, coinciding with the granting of the title of Noble and Loyal Villa received by Madrid, from King Enrique IV of Castile (1425-1474).

Meadow of San Isidro


This park is the center of the festival since here is the hermitage of the saint who is honored during the festivities. In addition to the traditional pilgrimage and long queues to drink the miraculous water from the hermitage, there is also a large funfair with food stalls and fairground attractions. Many people from Madrid meet in this park in the Carabanchel district to picnic with family or friends, taking advantage of the good weather on these dates.

main square

Madrid main square

Before Madrid was a modern capital, its street layout was of a medieval type with small, narrow streets and alleyways. This arcaded square is the heart of Madrid de los Austrias and the old part of the city.

The Plaza Mayor began to be built on the site of the old Plaza del Arrabal, where the city’s most popular market was located at the end of the 15th century. In 1617, the architect Juan Gómez de Mora was commissioned to standardize the buildings of this place, which for centuries hosted popular acts, bullfights, beatifications and coronations, among other events.

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During San Isidro, the Plaza Mayor becomes the scene of traditional zarzuelas and modern music since the programming reserves a place for pop music with the Primavera Pop festival of the Los40 radio station.

Vistailles gardens

The most avant-garde programming is concentrated in this enclave, far from the traditional chotis and zarzuelas. The Rock Villa Awards in Madrid, children’s theater and sustainability workshops stand out.

Good retirement park

Trips to the Retiro

On the occasion of San Isidro, Buen Retiro Park adorns its nights with lots of color, music and lights. During holiday weekends, its popular pool is the scene of fireworks which are synchronized with the music and reflected in the water. Without a doubt, one of the most spectacular shots of the San Isidro festivities. During the day, music concerts are also held at the bandstand.

Sales Square

Las Ventas bullring

In May, the Plaza Monumental de Las Ventas hosts what is considered one of the most prestigious bullfighting events in Spain. The most prominent bullfighters of the national scene appear on the poster and they always come here, in addition to anonymous fans, personalities from Madrid’s politics, culture and high society who appreciate this spectacle.

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