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Every May, the Andalusian town of Jerez de la Frontera throws itself into the week-long Feria del Caballo, or Horse Fair. Read on for 10 things worth knowing before attending one of the most colourful and joyful festivals in Spain.
One thing’s for certain if you choose to attend the Feria del Caballo in Jerez: you won’t see many tourists there. Much more famous amongst foreign visitors to Andalusia is the larger and flashier Feria de Abril in nearby Seville; the Horse Fair, by contrast, is still a predominantly local affair, which only adds to its charm.
Like every other southern Spanish feria, the Feria del Caballo consists of a large, sanded fairground (recinto ferial) filled with individual marquees (casetas) where the drinking and dancing happens. Unlike elsewhere, though, all the casetas are open to everyone, giving the Horse Fair a wonderfully inclusive ambience.
It’s an undemanding 20-25-minute walk from Jerez city centre to the beautiful, palm-fringed González Hontoria park where the Horse Fair is held every May. Notable sights on the way (depending on which route you take) are the elegant buildings of the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art or the Lustau sherry bodegas.
The Feria del Caballo is fuelled by a refreshing drink known as rebujito, which is sold by the glass or jug (jarra) in the casetas. It’s a simple yet delicious cocktail of Manzanilla sherry (the dry white variety principally made in nearby Sanlúcar de Barrameda) and 7UP, served over ice and garnished with mint.
Not for nothing is Jerez’s spring celebration called the Horse Fair. Its magnificent equine stars are of the purebred Spanish (Pura Ruza Español) bloodline and are considered the finest horses in the world. Their traditionally-clad riders proudly ride them around the casetas, stopping outside each for a rebujito-on-horseback.
One of the most aesthetically-pleasing aspects of attending the Horse Fair is seeing the locals and Spaniards from nearby towns dressed in traditional costumes. Women wear the stunning flamenco dresses known as trajes de gitanas (gypsy dresses) and the men wear short-cropped riding jackets and flat, broad-rimmed hats.
During the Feria del Caballo, three or four well-attended bullfights are held in the city’s unusual-looking 19th century bullring. Usually starting at around 7pm, they star the world’s leading toreros and bulls from the finest Spanish breeding farms. You can read our guide on attending a Spanish bullfight here.
Jerez is not a big city and Spaniards from nearby towns flock to the Feria del Caballo, so hotels and hostels fill up fast. Make sure you book your accommodations early to avoid disappointment; we have some suggestions for where to stay here, including a beautiful five-star hotel right next to the fairground.
During the Horse Fair, casetas are brought alive with the sound of Sevillanas, old folk songs with a flamenco flavour that hail from Seville province. In their beautiful trajes de gitanas, women turn casetas into blurs of colour and movement whilst dancing to the music’s addictive rhythms.
Jerez’s Horse Fair is one of the most life-affirmingly colourful celebrations in all of Spain. There’s the dark black or pristine white of the horses, the many-hued, swirling trajes de gitanas, lush palm trees towering over the bright yellow sand and the deep, clear blue of an Andalusian sky. The colours alone make you feel happy.