There are plenty of reasons to travel to Madrid in the autumn, perhaps for a weekend break or more extended holidays. For lovers of art, theatre, music and dance, between October and November is definitely the right time to come because of the annually-held Festival de Otoño. This performance-focused arts festival is the perfect reason for newcomers to discover the city and for old-hands to see it with fresh eyes once more. The best news is that everyone can enjoy the festive atmosphere for little cost.
In recent years, the festival has updated its format in order to introduce both the best of Spain’s stage productions and those of international renown. Three decades ago, the festival was pioneered with the idea of offering a programme of international and experimental theatrical productions; at the time, Madrid’s theatre going public did not have access to such productions.
Nowadays, the region affords a much wider, some would say eclectic and varied, theatrical experience with home grown talent, too. The evolution of Festival de Otoño has made it possible for audiences to see productions that they would have otherwise missed out on. Last year, the theatrical part of the festival ran over a longer period than the usual single month, extending and developing the original idea and catering to all levels of budget.
Madrid’s cultural festival is much more than a series of avant-garde theatrical productions. Musical events are put on all over the city to coincide with the shows. In recent years, Eddie Palmieri, the Grammy Award winning Puerto Rican pianist, the Spanish Orquesta Nacional de Jazz and the Brodsky Quartet have all performed there. Expect a wide range of musical tastes, including street performances for little or no cost.
Like the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and many others around the world, a healthy fringe festival has been building up in Madrid over recent years. Teatro Pradillo is a theatrical space in the city that provides unusual entertainment during the festival season and is mostly noted for its puppet shows and productions aimed at children. Another fringe venue of note is Sala Cuarta Pared. However, in many of the towns that surround the capital, you will find events put on that get a little less publicity than the festival proper. It is well worth seeking out some of these as they can be hidden cultural gems and will invariably cost less than the major shows.
The Festival de Otoño is a great favourite with locals both in Madrid itself and the surrounding region. For visitors spending their holidays in the city, it is something not to be missed and with the city taken over by performances and live music, it remains accessible for even tighter budgets.
Josie Pallendon writes on cultural events throughout Europe. She is planning a trip to check out the Australian art scene next year.
Images by Felipe Gabaldón and Sala Cuarta Pared, used under Creative Comms license