Fiesta Nacional de España is, surprisingly enough, the national day of Spain. It is celebrated on October 12th, the day Christopher Columbus spotted the Americas. While this event didn’t really turn out well for the peoples of said Americas, it did bolster the Spanish Empire immensely. If you’re visiting Spain on this day, here are a few suggestions on what you should visit.
4. Military Parade in Madrid
The Fiesta Nacional de España was called like that to remove any references to colonialism while the date was chosen as a compromise between conservatives (who wanted to emphasize Spain’s historical past) and Republicans (who wanted a celebration for democratic Spain). For one reason or another, it’s also the day of the Spanish armed forces, and you can bet they want to celebrate the day!
So October the 12th, the Army does a parade in Madrid. Wanted to see those Leopard 2s in a country that doesn’t see snow most of the year? This is the place for you. Patrulla Águila, the demonstration team of the Spanish Air Force, will be putting on a show, too, flying the venerable C-101 Aviojet, the only jet fighter (well, trainer) Spain has ever produced. The king of Spain will also be in attendance, and you’ll be surprised to learn that Spain is actually a constitutional monarchy.
3. Fiestas del Pilar
Don’t like tanks, faint whiffs of colonialism or Madrid? Then go to Zaragozza for Fiestas del Pilar, the celebration that for some Spaniards overshadow the Fiesta Nacional. According to tradition, apostle St. James the Greater had traveled to Zaragozza before his martyrdom and there experienced a Marian apparition. The celebration of this event dates at least to the 12th century and is of great importance to Aragon (region of Spain – not to be confused with Aragorn).
On that day, a famous Aragonian person declares the start of the fiestas the crier, and all pious hell breaks loose. Aside from religious celebrations, you can expect to see gigantes y cabezudos – the giant sculptures – walking around, funfairs, The General Fair of Zaragoza, puppet shows and other events, closing with a huge concert.
2. Royal Armory of Madrid
What is the use of having an empire if you don’t even have an emperor? Well, Real Armería de Madrid is the place where Spanish kings and emperors stashed all their murder swag (called “weapons” in the common parlance). The armory houses object that was owned by such grands as Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, who also ruled the Spanish Empire as Charles I.
The collections of Charles V and Philip II are the most extensive and impressive, featuring both ostentatious pieces used in tournaments and the more practical stuff that the royals used in battle. It’s a fine museum of some of the best pieces leading armorers in Augsburg and Milan could muster, showing that the flourishing arts of Renaissance could have a killing edge to them.
1. Maritime Museum of Barcelona
One of the locations that you’re advised to visit on the 12th is the statue of Christopher Columbus in Barcelona. But seeing a single statue isn’t something that’s going to take up your entire day. So why not pay a visit to the Maritime Museum of Barcelona and see some exhibits that are more on the topic?
The museum is situated in a shipyard dating back to the 13th century. In it, you’ll find exhibits about everything that that’s important to a Maritime empire. Boat reconstructions, charts, maps and navigational tools are all on display and there’s a lot of ground to cover. Just be thankful that you’re not one of the poor souls tasked with crossing the Atlantic on an Age of Sail ship.
Incidentally, if flight delays, cancellations or overbooking make you miss the parade (it’s hard to miss the Fiestas del Pilar, since it lasts the entire week) or the festivities, submit your claim to Skycop. You might not get to see some tanks, but you might get flight compensation of up to €600!