Updated: Aug 27, 2021
I love to explore ruins and relics in the places I visit, non more so than architectural wonders. The written word can be manipulated over time, memories clouded, but what stands in stone stands as fact, no matter how the years may have sort to destroy it. There’s a stoic truth to be found in bricks and mortar, in which I find inspiration for my novels and articles.
So, it is no surprise that as a lifetime devotee to clubbing and all excessive forms of entertainment, I couldn’t resist the lure of the ruins of Festival Club, in Ibiza. The first mega club, Festival was so much more than a place to dance. It was a vast partying mecca, offering up sumptuous food from the restaurant, concerts in the amphitheatre, mock bullfighting, performance art and entertainment in all geises.
The open-air complex sprang to life in 1972, after 3 years of building work. High in the rural hills of San Jose, nestled in the heart of the sprawling pines, revellers were bought in by the bus and coach load to indulge in night long drinking, dancing and flirting beneath the stars. A haven for the rich and famous, locals and thrill-seekers alike; On the surface, it’s hard to see why this triumph of ingenuity, design and pleasure failed to survive past its second year. The truth is that the vision came at an astronomical cost, in 1974, amid escalating debts and expenses, following the catastrophic fuel crises, which robbed the island of its tourists the previous season, Festival Club closed its doors.
The beautiful landscape, which the club once dominated, has subsequently flipped its role. Now the aggressor in the tale of Festival Club, the wildlife is claiming back the land with alarming force. When visiting, the murals and graffiti that coat every inch of the remaining walls and surfaces give you the feeling of being in an immersive art gallery. One which takes you through the ages from the 70’s to the present day.
The plaster relief tribal warriors remain from the original design. They would have once glowed white, now they are hidden beneath a slick of silver spray paint. When I sort them out and rested my hand upon the wall, it was as if I could feel the energy of the people that had walked there before me. In the same way that the ruins of a prison may feel ominous or scary, this place feels joyous.
It’s hard to explain why a ruin, crumbling and buried in litter is so special. Perhaps in a time when so much entertainment is fast and disposable; The Festival club still stands for what it was built for. To bring pleasure, for people stand in awe and wonder, to be something unique, a draw for tourists and locals alike and to that ends it is fair to say it still stands.
The world and Ibiza were not quite ready for the Festival Club, but it inspired much of the nightlife we have come to love across the island.
I could not recommend a trip to this dystopian, spray-paint playground more highly. You’ll be lucky to have the place to yourself, as it’s a popular spot for urban explorers, Instagram snappers and those seeking a drink perched on a disintegrating wall, where their grandparents may have marvelled at Jimmy Hendrix on the main stage (if the legends are to believed).
Located in the hills above San Jose. Please click the link below to find The ruins, but beware of the roads; they have seen far better and safer days. The sheer drops and potholes on offer are not for the faint-hearted.
Beware that this is a derelict site and not an official tourist attraction. Wear safe footwear, and be vigilant with little ones if you have them with you. There is a lot of broken glass and tiles to avoid.