9 Jul, 2023 @ 15:03
4 mins read

SUMMER NIGHTS: Spain’s most spectacular open air shows 

Iconica Sevilla Fest
Iconica Sevilla Fest 2023

BEAT the heat by turning nocturnal and heading outdoors at 9pm. Spain’s bars and restaurants offer outside seating year-round, but July and August bring an explosion of open air night time activity. 

Cinemas, theatres, night markets and festival campsites are set up under the stars. And stages for concerts – or for a summer series of concerts – are erected in spectacular locations. Here’s what to expect at the best:

Icónica Sevilla Fest

Iconica Sevilla Fest Bar Area
Pre-concert drinks at Iconica Sevilla Fest

For spectacular, it’s hard to beat the Plaza de España, Sevilla. After all, the huge half-circle building with its towers was designed to be the centrepiece of the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 and impress the world. It’s the backdrop for Icónica’s nightly concerts, on now until July 22. The organisers ratchet the dazzle up to the max by using more than 400 high-powered spotlights that turn the building from green to purple to white and red, and strobe the trees of the park. It’s magical.

The multi-award winning Icónica is also vast: the capacity for seated concerts is 3000, and there’s room for 18,000 for standing concert nights. 

Above the audience area, an avenue of upmarket bars and clubs and food stalls – The Village – stretches along the edge of the Parque Maria Luisa, lit by dangling bulbs. Every few paces, you’ll find a group of friends sitting fanning themselves and drinking wine or large gin and tonics.

This fest is really an immersive wonderworld, a great place to be – that also happens to have live performances by top national and international artists. The atmosphere is truly festive.

The music is, of course, the draw. Upcoming acts include Nile Rodgers (famed producer of Madonna and Daft Punk) with Chic (the band he founded) on July 12. Cue Good Times and Le Freak and energetic dancing by people of a certain age.

On July 13, there’s Ennio Morricone – The Official Concert Celebration and, doubtless, the eery keening of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and other spaghetti western hits along with his classic scores from Cinema Paradiso to The Mission

And if you’re all outta love, don’t miss Anastacia on July 14.

Icónica Sevilla Fest

Gates open for these three concerts at 8pm and the shows start at 10pm – some concerts start later. All are followed by DJ sets (or live sessions) in the Village.

See Icónica Sevilla Fest website for artists and tickets.


Teatro Romano de Merida (Badajoz)

Teatro Romano De Merida
Teatro Romano de Merida

THE Roman theatre in lovely Merida is a worthy challenger for most spectacular open air performance setting. The International Classic Theatre Festival includes 10 plays at this ancient site through July and August. Built before the 15th century BC, the theatre used to seat 6000. The capacity is a bit less these days, so book ahead.

Castell de Peralada (Girona)

Castell de Peralada

OPERA and dance are on the bill during July and early August in the grounds and nooks of this sturdy mediaeval castle in the little town of Peralada close to the Costa Brava. The castle has fancy accommodation and a Michelin restaurant, and the owners also produce the confusingly named ‘Perelada’ wines, making this International Music Festival a nicely sophisticated option.

Auditorio ‘Paco Martin’ del Parque Torres (Cartagena)

Auditorio Del Torres Catagena
Before the sun’s gone down: the Auditorio, Cartagena

IT’s not an authentic Roman theatre, but it looks a bit like one and was built in the 1970s just above a real one. High above the city of Cartagena, and next to the Castillo de la Concepción, you get sea views and excellent live music from around the world as part of the award-winning La Mar de Musicas festival, which runs from July 14 to 22.

Puy du Fou España

Puy Du Fou Espana Toledo
About halfway through the history of Spain at Puy du Fou España, Toledo

TOLEDO prides itself on having the biggest show in Spain: El Sueño de Toledo. Marvel in the balmy night as 200 actors recreate 1,500 years of Spanish history against the  backdrop of the city walls on a 5-hectare stage, helped by amazing special effects. Limited tickets available until October.

Casa Batlló (Barcelona)

Screen Shot 2023 07 06 At 16.50.29
Up on the roof at casa Batlló © ASSOCIACIÓ DEL PASSEIG DE GRÀCIA

THE ‘Magic Nights’ at Gaudi’s Casa Batlló in Barcelona are just that. Mind-blowing immersive tours are followed by a glass of Cava and live jazz, soul, folk, swing or flamenco (depending on the date) up on the dragon roof terrace. 

Starlite Marbella

Starlite Marbella
Starlite Marbella in Spain’s best decorated quarry

ROUNDING off this taster of spectacular places in which to spend a hot night is the Cantera de Nagüeles on the Costa del Sol – better known as Starlite Marbella. Starlite has transformed the old quarry into a jewel of an open air venue, well worthy of the stars that come to strut their stuff each summer. This year’s lineup includes Ricky Martín (July 14 & 15), Sir Rod ‘Rodders’ Stewart (July 21), and David Bisbal (July 24, August 30).


Screen Shot 2023 07 06 At 17.48.39
Brihuega: lavender fields forever

THE lavender fields of Brihuega (an hour from Madrid) are spectacular in a different way, and a surreal and fragrant location for summer concerts. There are only two dates left for the Festival de la Lavanda – July 14 & 15 – so get a move on if a night on a chair in the lavender, listening to music, appeals.

Part of the wow factor associated with the concert site Olivar de Castillejo, where you loaf under 100-year-old olive trees listening to quintets and quartets, is that this natural spot is in the centre of Madrid. Concerts (bar and snacks) start 8pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays, until September 16.

Also in Madrid itself, the Noches de Botánico continue throughout July in the Jardín Botánico Alfonso XIII at the University Complutense. Highlights include Salif Keita (July 10), Ruben Blades (July 13), and Joss Stone (July 26).

Sorrel Downer

Sorrel is a journalist based in Spain who writes for The Guardian, and whose bylines include The Telegraph, The Times, Financial Times, Conde Nast Traveller, Business Life, Business Insider, Reader's Digest, Evening Standard, and the BBC.

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