Jerez Horse Fair
It’s the most spectacular fair in Andalucia you’ve never heard of!
The sherry drinking alone requires the staying power of a Grand National winner!
Jerez Horse Fair 2019 Dates: May 11-18
All Jerez gets on its high horse for the Feria del Caballo, an elegant equine extravaganza that takes over the city for a week in May. Watch dressage in the streets, dance Sevillanas in the sunshine and gypsy rumbas after dark and enjoy all the fun of the fairground.
10 more reasons why you shouldn’t miss it
1. It’s a Spanish Secret
People say Jerez Horse Fair is what Sevilla’s more famous Feria de Abril used to be like, before the rest of the world discovered it. Officially a Fiesta of International Tourist Interest, you won’t see many tourists as 95 per cent of visitors are Spanish. But that only adds to its charm.
Originally a medieval livestock fair like most Spanish ferias, it’s one of the few to hang on to its horse-trading tradition. Among the crowds you’ll find horse ranchers, bull breeders and family members of big sherry dynasties like Domecq, Lustau and González Byass all mixing business with pleasure. If you like your ferias authentic, this is the real thing!
2. The horses are amazing
You’ve seen them in Gladiator, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Andalusian horses have been a noble breed since Henry VIII of England met Francis 1 of France on Spanish horseback at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. For feria, whether ridden or hitched to antique carriages they are beautifully turned out with plaited mains and tails and coats curry-combed to a shine.
3. It’s a Stud Show
Jerez is the cradle of the noble Carthusian horse, the purest of Andalusian bloodlines introduced 500 years ago by the monks of La Cartuja Monastery on the city outskirts. You can see them in a dressage show every Saturday morning at adjacent Hierro del Bocado stud farm. www.yeguadacartuja.com
4. The clothes are amazing
You can tell it’s a thoroughbred gig by the get-ups. There are laughing caballeros in wide-brimmed Cordobes hats and ladies in frills, florals and polka dots all colours of the rainbow, matched to shawls and hair combs and the bobbles on the horse’s harnesses.
Don’t miss the Wednesday, a Ladies Day Ascot would take its hat off to.
5. The fairground is a leafy park
González Hontoria Park is a cut above your average Spanish fairground, which are usually purpose-built concrete spaces on the outskirts of town. It’s a city-central green space the size of Windsor Castle grounds with trees and wide sand-sprinkled avenues for the horses and carriages, and pop-up bar restaurants called casetas around the edges.
6. The casetas are open to all
Unlike Sevilla’s April Fair where the casetas are run as private clubs, in Jerez they have non-member zones where visitors can eat, drink and soak up the flamenco ambience Entry is free, prices are usually reasonable and it beats having to munch a hotdog on the hoof.
A complete caseta crawl will take you round 188 this year! These pop-up bar/restaurants are run by sherry bodegas, equestrian organisations and neighbourhood flamenco clubs and as there’s a prize for the best decor they’re usually pretty neat.
7. You can OD on sherry cocktails …
The rebujito is the iconic Feria del Caballo stirrup cup. It’s one part fino to two parts Sprite, finished with ice and a sprig of mint. It’s much more refreshing than neat sherry on a hot May day and it will help you stay the distance – but be careful. Sherry is a fortified wine and we’re talking tumblers here, not your grandma’s cut-glass thimbles!
8. You can try gypsy gastronomy
Look out for dishes with a flamenco twist like berza gitana, a hearty stew of pork, cabbage and pulses; menudo, a spicy chick pea, chorizo and pepper potage - perfect for soaking up the sherry; and tagarninas – wild Spanish asparagus.
9. … and gourmet jamon de Jabugo
The 2019 edition of the Feria del Caballo is dedicated to the white village of Jabugo in Huelva, whose acorn forests fatten the pigs that make best jamón iberico in the world. With a glass of earthy oloroso it’s a maridaje made in heaven! Bodegas Lustau has some great ideas for pairing food and sherries here.
10. There’s a day and a night fair
Every day, from noon the jacaranda-fringed avenues become a stage for an endless parade of high-stepping horses drawing antique carriages filled with matrons in mantillas and señoritas fluttering fans. Jerezanos were born in the saddle and many of the riders are kids.
After dark the horses return to their stables, one million coloured bulbs strung over the park power up and the funfair gets going. The sherry flows more freely, guitar rhythms accelerate and the night air vibrates with the foot-stomping beat of flamenco.
It’s fun to walk to the fairground along the route the horses and riders take as it’s only 25 minutes from the centre. It’s in a particularly beautiful part of the city along a wide boulevard close to the Lustau sherry bodega and opposite the famous Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art.
Get directions and a map from the tourist office in Plaza del Arenal where you’ll also find a taxi rank and a bus stop. You could also buy a day pass on the town tour bus which allows you to hop on and off anywhere and stops right outside the fairground. Or join the procession in one of the city’s hired horse-drawn chariots and arrive in style!
Walking Map - City Centre to Fairground
Need to Know
The 2019 fair runs from May 11-18. The full programme includes sideshows of carriage racing, show jumping, polo, livestock auctions, bullfighting and fireworks. Horses and carriages are in the park daily from 13.00 to 19.30.
Where to stay and what else to do in Jerez