The Marbella Fair is one of the hidden gems of patron saint festivals in the Andalusian province. The city of the Golden Mile (Milla de Oro) is known for its luxury, excesses and exclusive hotels and clubs, but it also has its own traditions, which are highly valued by locals.
To be able to enjoy this patron saint festival in honour of Saint Barnabus (San Bernabé), the city’s patron saint, visitors will be able to hire a car at Malaga airport. That way, they can arrive on time and not miss out on any of the activities that take place at this fair to honour its tradition and enjoy the attractions, concerts, food and flamenco.
Origin of the Marbella fair
The origin of the Marbella fair dates back to the reconquest of the city by the Catholic Monarchs in 1485. For many years, this celebration consisted of a livestock trade fair, first held in 1847. Over time, the Saint Barnabus Fair (Feria de San Bernabé) has evolved and over the years it has included bullfighting events, parades of the Moors and Christians, and has now become an event more tailored to current times.
This celebration, which started off in Marbella’s historic quarter, grew year after year, welcoming people from all over the province and surrounding areas. This led the authorities to move the venue to the well-known neighbourhood of Las Albarizas, which is bigger and better equipped to host the typical facilities of this fair, with tents, stages, lighting and attractions.
What date is the Marbella fair held?
The Marbella fair takes place in mid-June, always revolving around the celebrations of Saint Barnabus, the patron saint of Marbella, which is celebrated on June 11th. It lasts for approximately one week, and over the years it has become one of Andalusia’s most famous summer fairs.
The Marbella fair today
As mentioned above, what started as a livestock fair and evolved into all types of celebrations is now one of the typical Andalusian festivals of the modern day, full of art, music and flamenco, in addition to the best gastronomy in the area.
For almost a week, the city of Marbella hosts street parades, dance shows with pasadobles, Sevillanas and rumbas, concerts and all types of activities aimed at an audience of all ages and tastes.
The fair is divided into two different spaces, starting at midday with the Day Fair and ending at dawn in the Evening Fair, where visitors will be able to find a plethora of tents with live music, shows and some of the best tapas in Marbella. At the evening venue, children will also be able to enjoy some truly fun attractions.
Main activities of the Marbella fair
On the days before the Marbella fair, the Saint Barnabus Pilgrimage (Romería de San Bernabé) takes place, where locals on foot move the patron saint from the Pilgrims of Saint Barnabus Home of the Brotherhood (Casa Hermandad Romeros de San Bernabé) to the Hermitage of the Patron Saint (Ermita del Santo Patrón), in Nagüeles park. This day starts with free churros and ends with free music and paella for all those attending.
Once this preliminary is over, the first day of the fair officially starts with the inauguration of the Arch of the Fair (Arco de la Feria), installed at the entrance to the Evening Fair enclosure. This is the green light for the opening of all of the tents (casetas) and the celebrations start with concerts, fireworks and the crowning of the Popular Queen (Reina Popular).
The next day, the inauguration of the Arch of the Day Fair takes place, starting with activities in the morning with popular dance shows, competitions and more concerts with artists that are famous in Spain and with free entry until filled to capacity.
The most famous activities of the Marbella fair include the parades of the giants and ‘big heads’ (gigantes y cabezudos), one of the most attractive popular celebrations to attend as a family, in addition to the historic recreation of the arrival of King Ferdinand II the Catholic in Marbella, which has is now in its fourth edition. It recreates the reconquest of Al-Andalus, with a large entourage of actors wearing typical costumes from the era. Visitors will be able to relive the arrival of the Christians to Arab Marbella, awarding Knighthoods, surrendering and handing over the keys to the city.
Ultimately, throughout the duration of this fair, a long list of cultural, festive and culinary activities take place of all types in a programme which is suited to all audiences. Notable are the free concerts and the attractions at the evening venue for little ones. All of this, together with the decor brimming with lights, a festive atmosphere and music, make this fair one of the most popular festivals in Málaga.
How to travel between the Marbella fair venues?
While in recent years, the neighbourhood of Albarizas has held both the Daytime and the Evening Fair, in 2020 the city has equipped a new fair venue for the evening fair which is further out of the city.
To reach the Evening Fair, Marbella City Council offers a series of lines of urban buses to connect the daytime and the evening venues, a highly recommended option thanks to the high frequency of buses and the convenience they provide.
However, if visitors want to attend the Evening Fair by car, they will find parking around it, although the area is usually packed if you don’t get there early enough. The map below shows which is the ideal route to travel between both venues by car.