11 de July, 2022
How about being transported to another time? Just like in other European countries, Portugal also has a vast calendar of events that recall the old fairs and markets of the Middle Ages. They began to spread across the country in the 1990s (Coimbra was the pioneer). In 2022, at least 45 medieval fairs will be held across the country by the end of the year. As well as boosting tourism and the local economy, generating jobs and income, these events usually mobilise communities, who often incorporate the spirit of the feast, decorate their houses and dress in character to create a period atmosphere. Not to mention how much fun they can be for the general public!
More common in summer, the Medieval Fairs take place mainly in July and August. Some are already well known, such as Silves, Óbidos, Santa Maria da Feira, Viana do Castelo and Sintra.
Atlantic Lovers* tells you all about the best medieval fairs in the country!
Medieval Tournament in Óbidos
Many events of this kind usually take place in towns that still retain their medieval architecture. Portugal has various castles scattered around the country. In Óbidos, for example, there is a village surrounded by walls, with preserved 13th century architecture, which in itself makes a perfect setting for the party.
The streets and the balconies of the houses are decorated with flags, banners and pennants bearing the traditional coats of arms of Portuguese families. Red carpets decorate noble areas, while straw covers the floor of the simplest environments. Chairs are replaced by straw benches.
Completing the scene are fairs that scatter torches, bonfires and hunting trophies along the street. Not to mention the instruments of torture common in the Middle Ages and the “bodies” of evildoers executed in public squares.
The atmosphere can also include smells: barbecue, drink and campfires.
In the burgos (population centers which sprang up around the castles), tents were set up, weapons were sharpened and men were prepared for battle. Camps of the military hosts defending the town are set up, for “the enemy lurks at any moment”.
Ancient trades such as goldsmiths, carpenters, potters, blacksmiths, shoemakers, furriers, among others, are demonstrated live. There are also spaces that recreate the old taverns and brothels. Not to mention the markets, present at all events.
In the stalls scattered around the streets there is a variety of handicraft products: jewellery, shoes, belts, sculptures, hunting weapons, toys, spices, fruit, incense, handmade soap, among other items. It is also possible to come across tents of fortune tellers and apothecaries.
Fools, princesses, knights, beggars, prostitutes and kings walk the streets. There is a procession accompanied by typical music and dancers. Jugglers and snake charmers show off their main skills. On stage, shows recall the historical battles that defined Portugal’s destiny. Duly dressed, actors and extras are everywhere. Many are not even professional actors, but the residents themselves, who make a point of participating. The municipal councils themselves invite and encourage this participation which, in some cases, can be remunerated.
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At some of these events it is also possible to contemplate – and participate in – period games and games. Wooden swords and horses, wooden stilts and activities with balls and ropes, which are sometimes available for those who want to try them out.
How about sitting at a banquet with land lords or diners, while watching a fair of knights? The toast can be with sangria, mead or craft beer. There is a bit of everything to eat: roast pork, migas, grilled meats, as well as various crepes and sweets. Most medieval fairs transform restaurants and bars into old-fashioned taverns. Glass and plastic cutlery is replaced by earthenware and wooden cutlery. And they don’t disappoint in terms of flavours!
See also: Top 7 Portuguese Heritage
As we’ve already said, there are dozens of events taking place from north to south of the country. Some are bigger, lasting for days and already have a successful history; others are simpler and less traditional. We have gathered below some that we recommend. Click on the links to access more information:
Óbidos Medieval Market: 10 days of historical recreation, from July 21st to 31st, inside the castle walls. The medieval market of Óbidos takes place since 2002, and this year the theme is Festivals, Pilgrimages and Pilgrimages, an experience in the Middle Ages among the devotions and festivities of the people, on the paths of redemption or sin.
Medieval Journey of Santa Maria da Feira: The Fair of Santa Maria is a true medieval journey, being considered one of the main events of historical reconstitution in Europe. The foundation and consolidation of the kingdom of Portugal during the First Dynasty – of Borgonha or Afonsina – is the motto for the recreation of historical episodes that will mark the 25th edition of the event, between 3 and 14 August 2022.
Silves Medieval Fair: One of the longest running fairs in Portugal, also with a 10 day programme, will take place from the 10th to the 20th August. No further information about this edition has been released yet.
Medieval Walk: The “Way of St. James” is the theme of the next edition of Caminha Medieval, which will take place in July, between the 20th and 24th, in the historic town of Caminha.
Medieval Days in Castro Mirim: Medieval Days in Castro Mirim : Its 23rd edition takes place from 24th to 28th August, having the Castle as its main stage, where the greatest spectacles take place, such as the medieval tournaments on horseback, as well as the exhibition of Instruments of Torture and Punishment.
Festival of History: From August 18th to 21st, in the historical centre of Vila Nova de Cerveira.
The annual agenda of events is quite long, which makes these festivities accessible to everyone. If you like thematic events, be sure to discover and be enchanted by Portugal’s medieval fairs!
Atlantic Lovers* is a special edition of Atlantic Bridge whose mission is to integrate our clients, friends and partners around the best that Portugal has to offer.
*Silvia Resende is marketing manager at Atlantic Bridge. From Bahia, she arrived in Portugal in 2015 to build a new life with her family. She has a degree and a master’s degree in Communication Sciences and has worked as a TV presenter, event producer, public relations, copywriter and tour guide in Porto. She loves to travel and to discover the cultural heritage of each place she goes. And she loves to talk about the cultural richness of Portugal!