The Malaga Fair is a week long party with lots to see and do, as well as lots to eat and drink. Our tips for enjoying the fair the way the locals do!
Málaga’s annual fair takes place in August. It’s not as well known internationally as Seville’s April fair, but we promise that it’s every bit as fun and worth making the trip. In fact, the first time I ever visited Málaga was during “feria” and it’s still one of my favorite celebrations. If you are planning a trip to the fair (13 – 20 agosto 2016) we have come up with a list of our best tips for enjoying the feria in true “malagueño” style.
Don’t Miss the Fireworks and the Romería
On Friday night (August 12th, 2016) there will be fireworks on the beach at midnight. We suggest you pack a sandwich for dinner or stop in at a chiringuito for some fried fish. It’s always a great show and I love that the festivities start down by the water. What could be better for a summer fair? On Saturday morning head to the center for the Romería where you can see a parade of beautiful horses and people wearing in traditional flamenco dresses singing and clapping through the historic city center.
El Real vs. the City Center
Málaga’s fair is divided into two parts: the fair in the streets of the historic city center and the Real. The Real is where they have carnival rides, “casetas,” or little tents with music, food and drink, and the classic Andalusian atmosphere. The Real during the day is the most traditional part of the feria. We suggest you go for lunch and stay enjoying a drink and some music until the sun begins to set.
We enjoy going to the fair in the center, but it’s true that over the past few years it’s become more and more chaotic. What was once a way to bring the fair atmosphere to the center has become more of a (sometimes) out of control street party. Our advice? Go for a few hours just before lunch, have your aperitif and then take the public bus to the Real.
What does a girl wear to the August fair?
While most people do not wear a flamenco dress to the Málaga fair, it’s true that it’s considered a special occasion. People tend to dress nicely in Spain when they go out, so think of the feria like a social event. You wouldn’t show up wearing gym shorts and a tee shirt (and if you do, don’t expect to be allowed into some of the bars or “casetas.”) What you will see are lots of stands along calle Larios selling plastic flowers and colorful fans along with big hoop earrings. It’s about dressing sharply and accessorizing. We can handle that!
Ok, so what do the guys wear to the fair?
There are very few men who wear the traditional Malagueño dress, although you might see some. The “malagueño” wears long black pants with suspenders, a white shirt and a piece of purple and green cloth tied around his waist. The most traditional will also wear a wide brimmed hat. It might not be as spectacular as the women’s dresses, but certainly classy when it’s worn well. Most men, however, dress nicely to go to the feria. During the day a polo shirt with shorts and deck shoes will do. At night, you should dress like you are going out for a nice dinner or to go dancing. Many places won’t allow you into their “caseta” turned dance club if you are wearing sneakers or sandals, so keep that in mind, as well.
I’m hungry. What do people eat and drink at the fair?
The most typical drink at the Feria is a sweet white wine with a bright pink label called Cartojal. It is sold ice cold by the bottle and most often you see a group of friends pouring it into small cups. Of course, most of the casetas also have beer, soda and the traditional mixed drinks. As far as food goes, it’s mostly tapas and fair food, so grab a plate and share some paella, a pork skewer or just a plate of serrano ham.
Put your (flamenco) dancing shoes on
The typical flamenco style in Málaga are the verdiales. If you know a bit about flamenco, you will see a similarity to the fandango. You can see various groups singing and dancing on Calle Larios, as well as at other venues during the week of feria. We suggest the patio of the Hotel Molina Larios for flamenco in the afternoon starting at 17:30h. Sometimes the crowd even gets into the act dancing in the large indoor patio turned “caseta.”
Time to hit the beach
One of the best things about the Málaga fair is that it happens in the middle of summer at a city on the beach. In fact, our perfect day during the feria often includes a few hours spent lounging on the beach and recharging our batteries before going to the “Real” at night. Don’t feel bad about “missing” the fair, as temperatures during the afternoon hours get so hot, after lunch there is a lull in the action until things cool off when the sun starts to set.
Everybody on the bus
There is nothing worse than looking for parking at the Feria. Luckily, the city runs extra buses on a special route that will take you from Calle Larios in the center directly to the fairgrounds. They run late into the night, and I always enjoy looking at everyone dressed up headed out for a night of fun. Another great reason to take the bus is the air conditioning. On those hot and humid Málaga nights it’s always a nice cool ride.
Try your luck at the carnival games
One of my favorite things to do at night is head over to the carnival games and rides. There are all sorts of easy games for all ages to win prizes. The ferris wheel is also a great ride for the faint of heart, and you get some amazing views of the fairgrounds from up above. Of course, there are games and rides for the little ones and for the dare devils!
End the night with churros and chocolate
A night at the feria wouldn’t be complete without a late night snack of fried dough and piping hot chocolate. There are always several food trucks selling churros and waffles topped with whipped cream. Without a doubt it’s the best thing to counterbalance a few too many drinks, and it’s a delicious time honored tradition. Who can argue with that?
Is it easy to find a place to stay for Feria?
To be perfectly honest, NO. If you are thinking of coming to the Málaga Fair, you’d better think ahead and look for a hotel well in advance. Apart from the fact that a lot of people come to the fair, you have to factor in that it is summer and we are a city on the coast which is one of the top tourist destinations year round. Here is a list of hotels where you can find a place to stay that best suits your needs. We suggest that you look for something a little bit removed from the historic center, although that sounds a bit contradictory. (The area near the train station is a good bet as it is close to the beach and only 10 minutes from the city center.)