When: September 8 - 21
Where: The Feria de Salamanca (Salamanca Fair) festivities go from the Roman bridge on the southern edge up to the northern Plaza de Toros (bullring) and everywhere in between.
Feria de Salamanca Traditions:
Kicking off the weeklong Feria de Salamanca, a wild week of indulgent eating, drinking and festivity, is ironically the religious-themed day of the Virgen de la Vega (Our Lady of the Valley). To celebrate the Virgen de la Vega, one of the city's beloved patron saints, "Salmantinos" (as the locals are called) flock to the Catedral Vieja (Old Cathedral) where her image, a graceful bronze statue dating back to Romanesque times, sits front and center on the altar. Along with a floral offering ceremony, there is a beautiful procession- because really, what would a Spanish celebration be without a procession.
With the religious obligations out of the way, Salmantinos spend the rest of the week at full-speed celebrating simply being Salmantinos. Day and night, the city's open squares become stages for ethnic, traditional and modern concerts and events; the Plaza Mayor, for example, sees a constant string of cultural performances within its Baroque setting walls.
During the day, complementing the food and drink are parades festively winding through the city and top-notch bullfights in the late afternoon. Head to the river bank where you'll find costumed artisans selling local goods, to the Parque de San Francisco for a food fair featuring specialties from Spain's widely diverse regions, or to the Plaza de los Bandos for Spanish wine-tasting.
At night, the Feria de Salamanca kicks up another few notches. Along with general partying in the streets, fireworks light the night sky, concerts and performances continue to liven the atmosphere, and much of the city heads to the Aldehuela- the fairgrounds where you can take a spin on the ferris wheel, try your luck at a wide range of typical fair games, and try out the offerings of the myriad of food stands.
Feria de Salamanca History:
Like many of Spain's local "ferias," the weeklong festivities of the animated Feria de Salamanca began long ago by the Roman bridge as a simple agricultural and livestock fair. At the time, the region's economy was heavily based on these two sectors and Salamanca became the place where farmers convened to buy and sell products. Little by little, the focus of the fair began to shift away from cattle and farming, instead becoming more of an occasion for the entire city to come together and celebrate. As you'll come to find out, Spaniards love any excuse for a good party!
While it was originally a pagan celebration, Spain's centuries as an ultra-Catholic country sooner or later meant that most Spanish festivals ended up with a religious figure thrown in as an afterthought. In Salamanca's case, it was the Virgen de la Vega (Our Lady of the Valley), who was declared the city's patron saint in 1618. However, the celebration did not take on its religious undertones until 1706, when the Virgen de la Vega allegedly helped protect the city against the endeavors of an invading army. Since then, the first day of the Feria de Salamanca- September 8th- is dedicated to the Virgen de la Vega who helps to welcome the eating, drinking, and entertainment of the days that follow.