Spain is well known for its many festivals, rich in tradition. The Moros y Cristianos Festival is one of them. The festival is celebrated in towns across the Valencian Community but the one in Alcoy is the biggest and most renowned.
Legend and fancy dress for the Moros y Cristianos Festival
In Alcoy and other towns in the Valencian Community, people get dressed up in battle gear (fancy dress battle gear), parade the streets and take part in faux battles. Whilst many of Spain’s festivals all share some features in common (plenty of food, drink and fireworks for instance), the faux battles are a major and possibly unique feature of the Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) Festival. Given the festival commemorates the battles between the moors and christians in the middle ages, the faux battles make perfect sense.
Incredibly, the original (and real) battles between the Moors and Christians lasted several hundred years during the ‘Reconquista’. They culminated in the defeat of the Moors in the 15th century. For an insight into the history of the Reconquista, The Conversation has a good article of how 700 years of Muslim rule came to an end.
Waging war but it’s all good fun!
Hundreds of people take part in the festival and preparation for it begins long before the festival starts. Those participating will be part of a ‘filá’, a group associated either with the Moors or the Christians and they will spend the run up to the festival fundraising and preparing their costumes.
The festival usually takes place over several days with daily parades of the various groups in their costumes accompanied by their own marching band. There’s usually dancing too. Battle reenactments follow the parades amidst the haze from gunsmoke and firecrackers. It’s a spectacular, colourful and noisy affair that’s also just a lot of fun.
St George to the rescue
In Alcoy, the festival is of particular importance and takes place around the feast day of St George, the town’s patron saint. According to legend, in 1275, St George appeared in Alcoy and helped to defeat the Moors.
So on the final day of the festival, there is a special appearance by St George on horseback. And to mark the end of official festivities, arrows are shot from a makeshift castle in Plaça Espanya. Of course, that doesn’t mean an end to celebrations as they continue on into the night with music, dancing and fireworks. If you’re there, you’ll no doubt find yourself invited to carry on partying to the morning by locals.
You might not get the an accurate description of the historical events the festival is based on but you will get a lot of colour, music, food, dancing and fireworks with lots of added pomp.
Moros y Cristianos Festival in Alcoy: 22-24 April
Alcoy is a small town lies in a verdant valley and surrounded by the Comtat mountain ranges in the north of Alicante province. It’s located 54 kms from Alicante city and about 60 kms from Benidorm. This year, the festival takes place between 22 and 24 April. The main focal point for the festival is in Plaça Espanya in the centre of town,
The parade route will be lined with seats, which you can buy tickets for. Alternatively, you can stand for free!
If you’re planning to go, make sure you book your accommodation in advance. And check in with the tourist information office about buying tickets if you’d like a seat. They should also have information on the parade route.
Things to see and do in Alcoy
Alcoy has a picturesque setting between two nature reserves: Serra de Mariola and Font Roja. So, there’s plenty of opportunity for scenic drives and hikes nearby.
In the town itself, the main sights are located close to the city centre around Plaça Espanya. There, you’ll find the Archaeological Museum as well as a museum dedicated to the Moros y Cristianos Festival (Museu Alcoia de la Festa – MAF).
With three rivers running through it, Alcoy also has a number of bridges. They’ve become an emblem of the city and the one pictured above is Puente de San Jorge (St George Bridge). You’ll find is a short walk from Plaça Espanya. There’s something for fans of modernist architecture in Alcoy too as it boasts a number of modernist buildings. The Music and Dance Conservatory (Conservatorio de Música y Danza Joan Cantó) is one of the notable modernist buildings in town.
Alicante car hire
Home to the biggest airport in the region, Alicante is a great starting point if you’re looking to explore this area. Heading to the Costa Blanca and flying to Alicante Airport? Check out our guides to collecting and returning a car hire at Alicante Airport first: