When you think of stereotypical “Spain” what images come to mind? For me it’s flamenco dresses, good wine, music, and dancing…and Sanlúcar’s Feria de la Manzanilla encompasses all of these elements and then some! Cities all over Spain have their own annual fairs but if you ask me, the feria of Sanlúcar de Barrameda is the best. Of course, I’m slightly biased considering I live here…but once you’ve attended a few ferias for yourself you might feel the same way! Before getting into the details of the event, let’s go over a few vocab words. Make sure to check out my post on the ferias of Andalusia as well for more tips.
- Caseta: During feria there will be numerous casetas set up on the Calzada with brightly colored exteriors; casetas are temporary structures or tents (similar to a small bar) where people gather to drink, eat and dance. Typically a family or group of friends will sponsor a caseta and supply the food, entertainment, furnishings, decorations, alcohol, etc. Sanlúcars casetas are public (unlike the ones in Seville), so you can enter into any of them and order food and drinks.
- Traje de Gitana: You’ll see women wearing these traditional gypsy dresses / flamenco dresses at the feria. I’m obsessed with them (I own five of my own) and love attending the annual fashion shows that take place before feria begins.
- Sevillanas: You’ll see people dancing Sevillanas at feria. It’s a traditional dance and music style that got its flamenco flair in the nineteenth century. I took Sevillanas classes in Sanlúcar and my instructor explained that the four parts of the dance represent four stages of a romantic courtship; first the couple meets, then they fall in love, then they fight, and finally they make up. The pasos or parts of the dance interpret this story.
- La Portada: Sanlúcar’s feria lasts from Tuesday night to Sunday night. Tuesday is known as el día del alumbrado—i.e. the day they inaugurate the fair and turn on the lights of the “portada” or doorway to feria. Each feria has its own portada as well as its own lighting ceremony. The first day you attend Sanlúcar’s feria (each year) you must enter through the portada hopping on your right foot (with left foot in the air). You’ll see other locals doing this and it’s meant to bring you good luck and a guaranteed good time at the feria!
- Cacharitos: This word refers to the carnival rides (attraciones) which are located near the portada of the feria. Keep in mind you’ll need to purchase tickets to go on the rides. And I’d recommend visiting this section of the feria before drinking Manzanilla. 😉 On Wednesdays you can ride the cacharitos for half-price too!
The history of Sanlúcar’s fair
Sanlúcar’s annual fair first started in 1295 for commercial motives—specificallly as an event to encourage trade and livestock sales. The tradition continued over the years, and in 1616 it acquired a religious flair with celebrations near churches in different locations all over the city. In 1972 the feria evolved into what we see today; it received its official name of Feria de la Manzanilla and the city’s Avenida Calzada Duquesa Isabel (a.k.a. the Calzada) was designated as the location for the event from there on out.
What is Manzanilla and why do you drink “rebujitos”?
Have you ever heard of the Sherry Triangle of Cádiz? The corners of the triangle are marked by the cities of Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Manzanilla is a pale, dry white wine (sherry) that can only be produced in this region of Spain—more specifically, Manzanilla can only be produced in Sanlúcar de Barrameda due to its climate (or so they say). At the feria in Sanlúcar you’ll see everyone drinking Manzanilla or rebujitos (a.k.a. Manzanilla mixed with sprite). When you go to the feria order a pitcher of rebujito, a jarra de rebujito, at any of the casetas. A bottle of Manzanilla or a pitcher of rebujito will cost you around €6 – €8 and it will be accompanied by small plastic shot glasses for sharing.
Local business hours to keep in mind during feria
If you’re planning to visit Sanlúcar during feria it’s important to know that some of the local businesses (shops, restaurants and bars) close during the week and over the weekend. I do believe the larger supermarkets will be open (like Mercadona) and some restaurants in the center stay open as well. The Monday after feria is known as lunes de Resaca (Hangover Monday), and it’s a local holiday so almost everything will be closed.
Extra tips for enjoying Sanlúcar’s fair
Head to Hotel Guadalquivir for a rooftop view of the fair below!