Spain's La Tomatina: The World's Biggest Food Fight

La Tomatina Tomato Fight History

Tomato slinging madmen crowd the streets of Spain.
Tomato slinging madmen crowd the streets of Spain.
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

No one is exactly sure about the origins of the La Tomatina food fight. There are stories of a food fight that broke out between friends and escalated to a full town of tomato hurlers. Other origin stories include everything from a bad musician to city councilmen getting pegged with tomatoes by angry townspeople. One story was simply that a tomato truck turned over in the center of town and people decided to have a little fun in the aftermath.

The most commonly agreed upon origin has to do with a town parade full of townsfolk wearing giant-headed costumes sometime around 1945. Legend has it, one of these human bobble heads fell over during the parade after some kids tried to join in, and his costumed head was knocked off. He was so angry that he started a fight with any and all takers. The local kids retaliated by raiding a nearby tomato stand and assaulting him with the messy vegetables. The following year, the same kids reenacted the event, and it followed as such each year until it was a bona-fide town event. The city council and local police weren't crazy about the event and attempted to stop it at various points over the years, but they eventually embraced it and the notoriety it brought to the sleepy town of 9,000.

If you want to take part in the world's largest food fight, you better make plans ahead of time. The sheer number of people who come to Spain for La Tomatina each year means that it's nearly impossible to find accommodations there. Your best bet is to reserve a room at a hotel or hostel in nearby Valencia. Trains leave for Bunol about once an hour.

You should also heed the following unofficial rules:

  • Do not wear flip flops.
  • Do not bring any kind of object to the food fight.
  • Do not tear or throw your shirt.
  • You must crush each tomato before you throw it.
  • The start and end is marked by a firecracker.
  • Respect the starting and ending times.
  • Avoid the tomato trucks.