Every autumn, Alcala de Henares prepares for its largest festival of the year, which brings around 300,000 tourists to the city. The Medieval Market, which is one of the largest markets of its kind in Europe, arrives at the beginning of October (Friday the 7th this year) to commemorate the baptism of the most famous Spanish writer, Miguel Cervantes. The town will be transformed into a 16th century market. The medieval times will take over the Historic area from the Plaza de San Diego to Plaza de Cervantes all the way up Calle Mayor and ending near the Palacio Arzobispal in the Pico de Obispo parking lot.
Food: If you love to eat grilled meat then this is the place for you. At the market you will find huge circular grills filled to the brim with a large variety of traditional Spanish meats including chorizo, morcilla, ribs, sausages, and pinchos morunos (no translation, but its delicious meat on a stick). Another item to try would be the grilled octopus known as pulpo gallego but watch out because it can be a bit on the expensive side! For all the vegetarians or simply potato lovers, there are enormous baked potatoes that you can fill with scrumptious toppings. There are also freshly made potato chips that make for a great snack. If you are in the mood for something sweet, stop in one of the Moroccan tents to get a mint tea and baklava. If you’d rather have pastries check out one of the many stands on Calle Mayor, you will be sure to find authentic desserts from the 16th century.
Shopping: If you need a break from eating one too many pinchos morunos, have a look around at the varying shops that sell anything from handcrafted jewelry to toys and puzzles. There are many artisan shops that sell leather goods, soaps and natural remedies. There are also shops that sell food from around Spain including different types cheese, cured meats, teas and spices. One of the most popular items for girls to buy at the market is a flower crown, which helps you fit in with all the shopkeepers who are dressed to impress in their most traditional 16th century attire. For guys, the most popular purchase is a sword, which can be wooden or metal depending on what you are willing to spend.
Activities: If the food and the shopping haven’t made you feel like you are in the 16th century then the entertainment certainly will. One of the most interactive events is the jousting tournament. This takes place out near the Puerta de Madrid in the Pico de Obispo parking. The tickets are about 3 euros and definitely worth the money. In the Corral de Comedias, there are daily reenactments from the “Siglo de Oro” as well as readings from Miguel de Cervantes, played by Pere Ponce. If you prefer something free, the parades down Calle Mayor are never ending. They feature Don Quijote and Sancho Panza on horse/donkey back. Musicians, camels, snake charmers, dancers and other parade like characters accompany the pair through the streets.
Overall, the Medieval Market is one of a kind and unique to Alcala de Henares. It is a great way to spend the long weekend but be aware that it will be crowded. If you want to avoid the crowds try to go in the morning or during the “siesta” hours. Whenever you decide to go, enjoy the time travel back to this wonderful period in history! For more information about all the events that will take place, check out HERE. There you can find specific schedules so you don’t miss a moment of the fun.