Europe's top cultural summer festivals

Thursday, 23 February 2012 2:38 PM

A cultural festival in Europe is the perfect way to get a taste of what a place has to offer. This allows you to take part in events that have been going on for years and enables you to follow the lead of locals and get stuck right into the action.

Two of the leading European cultural festivals that take place in the summer are found in Spain. La Tomatina and San Fermin will be unforgettable experiences and will inspire you to head to other countries on the continent to see what events are worth discovering.

La Tomatina

The La Tomatina festival in Bunol, Valencia is a huge tomato fight which sees visitors throw the fruit at one another for around an hour every August.

It began in 1945 when a group of teenagers hijacked a parade in the Town Square and the spectators became angry, grabbed the produce from a nearby stall and started to attack the youngsters - and then one another.

Come the following year and the teenagers returned, but this time with their own tomatoes. Over the years, the authorities tried to ban the now-popular event, but this resolve ended after protests in 1957.

Now, around 40,000 people take part in the frantic festival, but the organisers have some rules in place that you must abide by.

These include squashing the tomatoes before throwing them to make them less painful, not ripping others' clothing and instantly stopping the food fight when the second shot rings out.

San Fermin

The San Fermin festival in Spain - named after the patron saint of the same name - provides higher levels of adrenaline than La Tomatina, mainly because bulls are let loose to run after participants who wear red and white.

It takes place in Pamplona during July and lasts for nine days. The bull running is not the only event you can enjoy - and in fact, only takes up a few hours - as there is also live music, sporting competitions and other cultural activities spread over the festival's duration.

Hundreds of thousands of people travel from around the globe to see this summer festival in action and it should be at the top of your holiday list if you are looking for something more unusual to do.

On the day of the bull running itself, a firecracker will announce the creatures have been freed. In the past, local boys tried to beat the animals who were being led from the holding pens to the bullring for that evening's bullfights, and this soon became an annual tradition that continues to this day.

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