La Tomatina in Buñol, near Valencia in Spain, is one of the world’s strangest events and biggest food fights. On the last Wednesday of every August, locals and tourists alike gather in the town centre to throw tomatoes at each other for an hour. Here are some facts and information about one very messy festival.
La Tomatina festival, Buñol, Valencia, Spain: History
You may have expected to have such a bizarre festival to have a long history, perhaps linked to a patron saint or political upheaval, but it only started in the 1940s. And, more to the point, no-one really knows why. There are various stories, all of which have probably been romanticised beyond all proportion, but one that seems to stick is that a group of friends had a spur-of-the-moment spontaneous food-fight in the main square. It’s said that they enjoyed it so much that they returned the next year to re-enact it, and the whole thing spiralled from there. This is probably a load of old cobblers, of course.
During the 1950s, the tomato-throwing festival was repeatedly banned, but locals defied their council anyway until it relented.
La Tomatina festival 2018, Buñol, Valencia, Spain: What to expect
Oh, you want more detail? Fair enough. Things start to get busy in the morning as people enter the town (most stay in nearby Valencia). Residents, wisely, spend the morning putting protective sheeting over their houses. The tomato fight begins at noon in the Plaza del Pueblo when the church clock strikes, and the trucks containing the ammunition roll in. Then a rocket is fired into the sky to signify that people can start lobbing fruit at each other with gay abandon. Another rocket is fired to end proceedings, by which stage anyone not covered in red juice and seeds has clearly not been doing it right.
Some people make more tempting targets than others, and tourists are included in this bracket. Anyone who is blatantly there from abroad can expect extra helpings, as can anyone chickening out by protecting their hair and their eyes. Naturally, any idiot that is stupid enough to try and capture the event on camera can justifiably expect it to get covered and ruined. Oh yes, and well-endowed women wearing minimal clothing can also expect a lot of attention from the fruit flingers.
La Tomatina festival 2018, Buñol, Valencia, Spain: Getting there
The event takes place on the last Wednesday of August each year. There is hardly any accommodation in Buñol, so it’s better to stay in Valencia, 40km east. To get there from Valencia, head to Estació del Nord and catch a train. They go at least every hour and it’s about 45 minutes to Buñol.