La Feria de San Bernabé en Marbella

feria-de-san-bernabeOne of the most popular beach destinations on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain is Marbella which is home to many of the rich and famous. The wonderful Spanish sun and Mediterranean beaches attribute to much of its desirability amongst visitors. It is a great town that is buzzing with activity but, at the same time, the city center has retained its unique Spanish charm and tranquility.

Marbella’s origins date all the way back to 1600 BC, when it was founded by the Romans and called “Salduba”. In the year 711, the Moors invaded and conquered much of the Iberian Peninsula and under their rule Marbella became a prosperous town called “Marbi-la”.

Throughout its long history Marbella has offered its visitors a typical Andalusian style village, with narrow cobbled streets, charming whitewashed houses, historical town squares decorated with sweet smelling orange trees and the warm blue Mediterranean lapping at its beaches. A paseo (stroll) through the lovely Alameda (park) and Marbella’s promenade, Paseo Maritimo, will give you a good idea of the town’s quaintness and history.

La Feria de San Bernabé in June (7th-13th) is the grandest and most popular fair in Marbella, drawing as many as a million visitors from near and far. The fair celebrates and pays homage to the town’s patron saint, San Bernabé, June 11th being the official feast day. Additionally, Marbella remembers this week as the Commemoration of the Christian Conquest. The lively day includes two processions: one for the Reconquista (Reconquest) and one for San Bernabé.

This colorful feria is a lively combination of bullfighting, flamenco music, traditional dances of Andalusia, parades of horsemen and music for the young and old. For one week Marbella will be awash with makeshift bars, frilly flamenco dresses and major partying from noon until dawn. The Feria only comes to Marbella once a year, but boy do they make the most of it!

Head to the Old Town and lose yourself in the labyrinth of streets for a round of tapas, fino and dancing. Join the enthusiastic groups singing and clapping on every street corner, and soak up the festival frenzy hanging in the air. Dancing horses and their elegant riders trot gracefully through the streets. Feria goers who really want to get into the spirit of the “feria” dress up in their finery, the men in “traje de corto” (short jacket, tight trousers and boots) and the women in “farales” (flamenco style dress).

This is a time of year that all worries (and work!) are cast to one side for the locals of Marbella. Schools are on holiday, businesses shut down and the working world is asleep. For this reason, all of Marbella anxiously gathers on the Paseo Marítimo to await the impressive display of fireworks which officially kicks off the feria …..let the party begin!

Each day starts at 9am with a bang as rockets call for the attention of everyone to start the party. The Day time Fair gets going around noon (until 7pm) as thousands of people parade through the Alameda gardens and around the cobbled streets of Old Town. The Alameda, Avenida del Mar, Plaza de los Naranjos and the squares and of the old town are filled with the lively mood of fiesta. Strangers shake hands to show their friendship, toast each other with a glass of fino, and continue celebrating with a few new friends.

Even the crème de la crème of Spanish society, aristocracy, politicians, actors and artists parade through the town in traditional Andalusian horse carriages….it is a real “who’s who” spectacle.

As evening falls, the action moves to the Fair Ground where people of all ages spin around on the rides, eat cotton candy and enjoy the blend of music, dancing and laughter. The locals set up marquees known as casetas, people socialise, eat typical Andalusian dishes and drink, sing and dance sevillanas to celebrate San Bernabé. Each caseta is like an individual party where fino and manzanilla are served with plenty of chat and good cheer.

Famous Spanish artists are invited to entertain the thousands of feria visitors. You will have the opportunity to see and hear the likes of Niña Pastori, Diane Navarro, Ecos del Rocío, Queco, Junior, La Mala Rodríguez, Hakim, Melody, David Civera and José Mercé…..just to name a few. Concerts are held in Plazas José Palomo and Los Naranjos in the Old Town, and in the Alameda Park and at the Municipal Pavillion and new marquee tent at the feria grounds which holds an impressive 13,000 people. Best of all, these concerts are generally free, but arrive early to make sure you can find a spot.

The Marbella feria has an impressive program of bullfighters that appear to wow the audience with their fluid movements and bravado. Crowds cheer on the likes of toreros Manuel Diaz El Cordobes, Francisco Rivera Ordoñez and David Fandila. If you are a fan of the corrida, you will not be disappointed by the bullfights presented at this feria in the lovely Plaza de Toros El Toreo.

The Feria de San Bernabe is becoming increasingly international and attracting more visitors than ever before. That is because it is such a great atmosphere of jubilant crowds all there for the same reason, to have a good time. The great hospitality, great food and activities of Marbella keep people coming back from one year to the next.

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