Spring came late this year but it’s one of the best times of year to be in Madrid as the trees turn green, spirits are high and there’s just the right amount of sunshine before the sweltering summer heat hits. Aside from picnicking in the park and people watching in the outdoor cafes, here’s a round up of cool things to do in Madrid in May and June.

Urban art

Unless you walk around Madrid with your eyes closed, you’ve probably already noticed the brightly colored female sculptures that have recently popped up in different locations around the city. Local plastic artist Antonio Azzato has transformed the streets of Madrid into an art gallery in a dynamic new art project entitled the Meninas Madrid Gallery. He invited a group of well established and emerging artists and fashion designers (including Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Jorge Vázquez and Domingo Zapata) to reinterpret Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor of the Infant Margarita) from the famous painting by the famed Spanish painter Diego Velázquez that’s on show in the Prado Museum. The result is over 150 two-meter-high sculptures that have been placed in different plazas, streets and landmarks around the city. Each one communicates a different message about Madrid and what the city means to the sculpture’s creator. The urban exhibition runs until first week of July. To see where the Meninas are located, click here.

Flamenco fever

Flamenco shows in Madrid — © Pixabay.
Flamenco shows in Madrid — © Pixabay.

As one of Spain’s biggest passions, flamenco can be found in Madrid all year round but the month of May is when the flamenco spirit is really felt in the city. The Teatro Flamenco Madrid, located in a cozy hall of the Teatro Alfil, is one of the key players in the city’s local flamenco scene and is trying to inject fresh life and spirit into the country’s national dance. Their current show Emotion, choreographed by leading flamenco dancer Úrsula Moreno and guitarist Antonio Andrade, combines different flamenco styles in one intimate, mesmerizing performance. Expect the traditional long-tailed dresses, intense couple performances and beautiful vocal and guitar solos. The company also hosts offer various classes, workshops and conferences.

Tennis time

Mutua Madrid Tennis Open — © JC / Flickr.
Mutua Madrid Tennis Open — © JC / Flickr.

Pack some strawberries and a bottle of Cava and head to see some of the world’s greatest tennis players compete in the prestigious Madrid Open from May 4 to 13 at the city’s Caja Mágica, an impressive stadium designed by French architect Dominique Perrault. In terms of importance, this event that will celebrate it’s 10th edition this year, is just a step behind the Grand Slams and it’s one of the few tennis opens in the world where you can catch men’s and women’s matches at the same time. Since you’re on Spanish soil, it would only be right to root for Spain’s own Rafael Nadal, five-time winner of the Madrid Open, who will be battling to defend his title.

Festival fun

San Isidro festival in Madrid — © Alex Bikfalvi / Flickr.
San Isidro festival in Madrid — © Alex Bikfalvi / Flickr.

The Madrileños love any excuse for a party and honoring their very own patron saint San Isidro Labrador is one such excuse. Saint Isidore was a farmer and miracle worker and the festival that takes place every year from May 11 to 15 celebrates his life with religious feasts in which locals in traditional dress eat doughnuts and drink the saint’s water that pours from a spring next to the Shrine of Sans Isidro (according to legend, he had a talent for finding fresh water). There’s something for everyone and most of the events are free, including bullfights, music concerts, street parties and more. It’s a great time to experience Madrid’s fun-loving party spirit while learning about some of the city’s famous traditions.

One highlight is the Gigantes y Cabezudos (literally ‘Giants and Big Heads’) parade in which larger-than-life papier-mâché figures are paraded through the streets, passing by Plaza Mayor, Las Vistillas and San Isidro Park. You can also catch some Zarzuela (a Spanish form of lyrical theater that involves singing, speech and dance) and the Chotis, a popular traditional dance during which the chulapa (Spanish woman clad in a polka dot dress with a Manila shawl draped over her shoulders and a scarf around her head with a carnation sticking out) dances around the chulapo (Spanish man wearing a traditional hat, black pants and a waistcoat with a carnation in his lapel), who, in turn, spins around on the spot. There’s also a mini rock festival and a light and sound show in Retiro Park. Check here for a full calendar of events.

BMX rider at Mulafest 2015 — © Daniel Cruz Valle / Flickr.
BMX rider at Mulafest 2015 — © Daniel Cruz Valle / Flickr.

In June, Madrid’s palatial IFEMA convention center is transformed into an urban wonderland for the alternative festival Mulafest. A celebration of street culture, it features skateboarding, rollerblading and BMX shows, tattoo artists, live graffiti shows, art exhibitions and a whole host of related workshops. There are also live music concerts and electronic dance parties played by some of the world’s top DJs. The event runs from June 22 to June 24 and you can buy your tickets in advance here.

Park life

Nothing quite says spring like budding flowers and Madrid’s famous rose garden, Roselada, in Retiro Park, is at its best during the month of May when its rose bushes are out in full bloom. The sight of over 4,000 colorful roses is dazzling and provides the perfect backdrop for a few springtime cervezas in the sun.

Come across any other cool things to do in Madrid in the next couple of months? Share them with our readers in the comments section below.

Originally published on Ailola by Sophie Lloyd on May 11, 2018.