Portugal promotes the most prominent medieval fairs in the world. They happen especially in July and August, on different days each year.
Damas, I’m planning a trip to Portugal. Still in doubt if I choose Summer – July or August – or Spring. Depending on your opinion, I will favor Summer. So, please, what can I expect from a medieval fair?
Depending on the city, you can raise your expectations. It’s like being on a vast set, joining the cast of a medieval film based on Ken Follett’s book.
I will show you details with photos and vibrant videos. As always, expect tips for your visit.
Take your sword, helmet, and magic potion… and come with me before the king guards find us wandering around.
Medieval Fairs in Portugal
The city’s Historic Center changes to create a – guess what? – medieval atmosphere.
People cover the facades of buildings with an ancient style. Workers appear in different costumes of that time. Bars and restaurants replace modern seats and tables with old ones – sometimes made of straw – and serve beer in clay mugs. The money used to pay the bill may be a coin created especially for the event.
Some details are shocking now but were natural or common at that time. In the open sky, corpses of hanged people (dolls, of course!) are visible to everyone. We also see sufferers (actors) of several tortures.
The local castle is part of the show. The best place to be. Moving around and inside it, we find actors dressed like knights, bishops, slaves, kings, criminals, artists, wizards.
They interact with us. I still laugh aloud when remembering a scene in the castle of Castro Marim (Algarve). In the role of a slave, an actress chased me, begging for help because she had escaped her “owner.”
Hey, Damas, I’m disappointed for not being an actor or actress. How fun I would have in the role of a medieval person!
Disappointed? Never in a Portuguese medieval fair. Visitors are encouraged to wear medieval costumes. You can buy or rent one at the entrance. And more: consider purchasing a ticket to join the royal banquet – yes, with the king, the queen, and other people of the highest nobility.
I highly recommend spending a little more on tickets for the extra daily shows. Those include knight battles, castle invasions, horse rides, dance numbers, etc. The performances may be simple in some cities, like Silves (Algarve), but impressive in others. For instance, in Santa Maria da Feira, the shows are astonishing, jaw-dropping.
Opening this post, I said the medieval fairs happen especially in July and August (Summer). The greatest ones, I may say. You can discover different fairs in other months like January and October.
There are no specific days for each city. You need to check in advance. (I will show you below links to official web pages.)
The number of medieval days depends on the city. Usually, the event happens for at least three days. Some of them extend to more than ten days.
The tickets give access to one full day.
The most famous medieval fairs in Portugal
Portugal’s most acclaimed medieval fair takes place in Santa Maria da Feira (discover the city on Google Maps). The dimension of their production is comparable to the production of a film. Battle sequences, for instance, are jaw-dropping. It is understandable why the city promotes the event as the most prominent medieval recreation in Europe.
Óbidos – one of Portugal’s most notable tourist places – is another outstanding example.
The Algarve, southern Portugal, promotes medieval fairs in two cities: Silves and Castro Marim. They are both famous, but I prefer the one in Castro Marim, Spain’s border. They invest much more effort and money. The name of the event there, to be precise, is Medieval Days, not Medieval Fair.
Here are the links to the major events: Santa Maria da Feira, Óbidos, Castro Marim, and Silves. If there is no English version, use a tool like Google Translate or a web browser that offers automatic translation.
Tips and warnings
Before the videos, I have some tips and warnings for you.
As I said, the major medieval fairs happen in Summer, especially in July and August. This season usually is ruthless in Portugal, even more in the Algarve. Expect sweltering and dry days.
If you plan to be in a medieval fair during the day, I recommend sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat. And drink a lot. (Beer? A lot of beer? The delicious Portuguese beer? Ok, do drink a lot. I promise to tell nobody.)
The best time to go
The event will probably start in the early afternoon and should extend until the end of the night, maybe dawn.
I am crazy for medieval fairs (dazzled like a child at Disney World). So, I stay day and night.
Damas, it will not be possible to spend all day there. What do you suggest?
It depends on your preferences. Please, consider the following:
- Fewer people.
- Less uproar, smaller queues.
- We observe more details.
- Too hot. The weather may be ruthless.
- There are usually fewer shows.
- More pleasant weather.
- More shows.
- The royal dinner.
- More intense atmosphere (dark; use of fire; unique lights).
- The atmosphere is more intense, but we do not notice some details of the historic place.
How to go & Parking
If going by car, arrive early. Otherwise, you will face the enormous challenge of finding a spot to park.
The most organized events – Santa Maria da Feira is an example – offer online reservations to the park. You can also buy your entrance ticket – an excellent idea to avoid the lengthy queues.
Well, well, Damas, I prefer public transportation.
You are clever. But this is not a suitable choice for the medieval fairs in Silves and Castro Marim because public transportation is terrible (a shame!) in the Algarve. Forget about bus and train. And there is no underground.
Unfortunately, a medieval fair is not a viable visit for people with reduced mobility. We move through historic places with stones, uneven floors, long stairs, sloping streets.
Once again, Santa Maria da Feira is an exception. They provide an accessible itinerary for people with hearing, visual, or motor impairment. They even offer wheelchairs.
The producers of Santa Maria da Feira’s event published the videos below. The audio is in Portuguese, but the images will be enough to show what you need to see.
May you live a fascinating medieval day in Portugal!
» I live in the Algarve (South of Portugal). My first fiction book, for young adults, was published in 2001 in the Portuguese language — a time travel adventure with thousands of readers. I also wrote books and guides about travel and technology. Screenplays are my greatest passion.
» This is the English version of my blog G. DAMAS (Portuguese language, online since 2010). English is not my native language.
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