The summer festivities in the city have their roots in the commemoration of Málaga's incorporation into the Castilian crown by the Catholic Monarchs who made their triumphal entrance into the city on 19 August 1487. In 1491, coinciding with the religious celebrations of the Cathedral Council, the Municipal Town Council decreed popular festivities were to be established. It was in 1887 with the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Catholic Monarchs’ entrance into Málaga that these festivities regained their original splendour. Málaga’s August Fair has reached us as an expansive, cosmopolitan and international Grand Summer Fair that illustrates the capital's character as the leading tourist area in Europe, and the City of Málaga as the nerve centre of the Costa del Sol and its Metropolitan Area.
Some of the main events include the inauguration of the fair accompanied by a firework show, the Romería (pilgrimage) where horseback riders, horse-drawn carriages and people on foot accompany the bearer of the fair standard to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Victoria, the fair in the city centre, where you can savour wine and tapas while listening to music all along the ancient streets of Málaga and the Fairground offering marquees, live music and fair attractions for the enjoyment of visitors. If you need a guide for the Málaga Fair, you can see our suggestions for a day there or consult the official programme.
Before midnight and normally the Friday before 19 August, thousands of locals and visitors flock to the beaches at the Malagueta to hear the proclamation of the Fair, which opens the festivities and which each year is offered by a celebrity who is famous for his or her relationship with Málaga. At midnight, a spectacular sound, light and firework display begins. The skies of Málaga are filled with bursts of multicoloured lights and a combination of joy, fire and colour. This is the start of 9 days of intense partying for all Málaga's residents.
Pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Virgin de la Victoria:
At ten in the morning on the first Saturday of the fair, at the Paseo del Parque Central, opposite the Town Hall, a large number of pilgrims, riders, carts and carriages congregate. All are decked out in their finery to witness the urban pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Santa Maria Real Victoria, patron saint of the city. The Mayor hands the city flag, the 'green and purple', to the standard bearer on the steps of the Town Hall. Appointed by the association of the Historic Quarter, the standard bearer is usually someone whose personal or professional career or public significance has been outstanding during the year. This person will carry the flag to the building of the patron saint of Málaga, where it is dedicated to this saint with a floral offering and a solemn mass. After the religious ceremony has ended, the pilgrims return to the city centre and the festivals begin in earnest.
Every day during the Fair, from midday onwards, the Historical Quarter is an enticement to excitement and festivity. The old part of the city, with calle Larios as the hub, captures the attention of locals and visitors. Locals like to celebrate their festivals in the same place where the life of the city –the hustle and bustle of daily work– are usually conducted. In the bars, cafeterias and huts specially set up for the occasion, you can savour the region's generous wines accompanied by a great variety of “tapas”.
And at a time like this, tasting Málaga wines, which are historically linked to the arts, is especially delightful. Because of their unique character and noble ancestry, they have been mentioned in many literary works. There have been literary mentions of the wines produced in the benign climate of Málaga since the days of the Romans, although it was from the times of the Muslim invasion that these wines became an inspiration for a number of authors. In the 18th century they became the favourite of the Russian court: to the point that they were exempt from paying taxes. Our white wines are yellow wines, pale wines with a variety of aromas, elegant, crisp, fruity, fresh-tasting with acid notes while our reds are full-bodied wines, well structured, where mineral and Málaga's soil aromas and flavours prevail. Málaga also produces a very varied range of sweet wines.
Thousands of people fill the streets in the Historical Quarter and - drinks in hand - recharge their batteries to go to the late afternoon bullfight at La Malagueta Bullring. The Málaga Bullfighting Fair is one of the most important in Spain and a must for fans. Excitement, colour and brilliance are inherent characteristics of our Fair, in which a succession of the most characteristic images can be seen in every street of the Historical Quarter of the city. Visitors will feel just as much a part of it as the Málaga people do and, without a doubt, they will be fascinated by the beauty of our Fair.
Málaga Fair is the only one held in two different venues, the Historic Quarter and the Real Cortijo de Torres, in Spain. On the evening of the first Saturday of the Fair, the Mayor of Málaga, surrounded by thousands of citizens, switches on the illuminations that will light up the Fairground for the next nine nights, thus inaugurating the annual fair at Málaga’s Fairground. A little later, all the aisles, huts and attractions brim with lively festival-goers, out to enjoy the fair from the very first moment.
One of the elements that sets Málaga Fair apart from other fiestas is that none of the Casetas (individual entertainment marquees) that offer a multitude of different types of music and ambiances (flamenco, as well as dances that are typical to Málaga and Seville, "verdial" dancing, orchestras, music for young people, etc.) are free and do not charge an entry fee. Top national stars perform in the Municipal Auditorium and in the marquee devoted specifically to young people ( Caseta de la Juventud ). As every year, the Fair has its Queen, chosen from the city’s most beautiful women.
As the night progresses, excitement and enthusiasm grow, accompanied by wine, laughter and dancing. Only when the first lights of dawn herald the start of another day will the activities start to wane and this is time to move the celebrations from the Fairground to the city’s Historical Quarter. The choice, however, is a personal one: even during the day there are activities in the Real such as the horse and carriage parade.
With around 240 marquees, the Fairground is prepared to welcome locals and visitors. There is an area reserved for traditional fair rides as well as a huge parking area with capacity for over 15,000 vehicles and, of course, all the emergency services necessary for a fairground of around five hundred thousand square metres to which hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to every day.
Suggestion for an unforgettable day:
The city offers a great many possibilities during the Fair. Regardless of whether or not you have planned a route, there are plenty of things to be enjoyed from the early morning until well into the small hours. We sketch out a route here, which is just one of many that Málaga offers throughout the year, but which during the Fair becomes even more inviting.
It is time to go out while we are fresh and cool. We might take a walk down to the sea and stroll along the Málaga's beaches, a delight at this time in the morning.
The City Centre Fair has not yet begun. Let us make good use of our time. The La Concepción Historical-Botanical Gardens is an excellent choice. You will be amazed. If you have already been to visit the Park, you will definitely see the similarities. Or you might decide to stay in the city, take a walk around its streets and visit any of the city’s museums: Museo Casa Natal Pablo Ruiz Picasso (Pablo Ruiz Picasso’s Birthplace Museum), Museo Picasso de Málaga (Málaga Picasso Museum), CAC Málaga (Málaga's Contemporary Art Centre), the Cathedral Museum, the MIMMA (Museo Interactivo de la Música de Málaga - Málaga Interactive Music Museum), etc.
It is time to get ready for the Fair. It you are taking the children or you yourselves are still game for a bit of childish fun, take a walk round the Magic Fair (calle Alcazabilla), an area specifically designed for the little ones. Fun for all is guaranteed.
Folklore takes centre stage. Music and dance from all over the world meet in the Parque de Málaga where, through their universal language, they make contact with our own forms of expression.
Time to lose yourself in the very heart of the Fair. There are several stages set up in the Historical Quarter for performances of "verdiales" and other typical Fair music. The setting invites visitors to have fun. Dancing, “tapas” and laughter galore –an epicurean trilogy that can be repeated as many times as we can handle.
It is an offence to curb the festival. Five in the afternoon is as good an hour as any to take a break. A siesta, the envy of the world, is the best medicine for dealing with what is yet to come, which is quite something.
Back on the street again. The Bullfight awaits us. This spectacle is worth seeing any day of the week. If you had the opportunity of seeing Picasso’s works in the two museums we mentioned during your morning walk, you will probably still have in your mind’s eye the images you are about to see live.
You can go to the Historical Quarter of the city once more while still hearing the crowds leaving the bullring. The City Centre Fair is over.
And the Fairground swings into action. The Fairground explodes with colour, light, music and laughter. It is a FIESTA, with capital letters. There is always something going on starting from the morning. But at this time of night, the way to discover it is to walk through its aisles and visit a few of its casetas (entertainment marquees). Everyone, from the young to the not so young, will find something to enjoy in the wide areas dedicated to fairground rides or in the area reserved for the marquees, which are full of activities and excitement. The many municipal marquees offer great times: There are marquees for children, for verdial music, for flamenco and copla singing (popular Spanish songs) and for young people as well as the recently inaugurated Municipal Auditorium Marquee.
When you want to seek your bed is entirely up to you. You must have realised by now that the day starts all over again at 9 a.m., which is a good time for churros ( fried-dough pastry) and hot chocolate, the typical Spanish breakfast. Or perhaps you may prefer to end the day as it began and see how a new "unforgettable day" dawns over the Mediterranean.