Medieval street performers.
Santo Domingo de la Calzada, in the region of La Rioja, is one of the emblematic places on the Way of Saint James. When December arrives, with it comes one more reason to discover this beautiful town in northern Spain. This is the La Concepción Festival, a fiesta capable of bringing together more than 100,000 people.
Hundreds of years ago, King Alfonso X “the Wise” granted a royal privilege to the town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, allowing it to celebrate an annual fair. What started as an agricultural and livestock event, has gradually become a unique and especially attractive traditional fiesta: the La Concepción Festival. Proof of this can be found in the thousands of people who make for this town in the Region of La Rioja during the celebrations. If you decide to take part too, you will not be disappointed.
A stroll through the Middle Ages
What will you find? A little of everything: crafts, gastronomy, music, dance, street theatre, shows… The best thing is the historic centre of the town, transformed into a huge medieval market. You will love the atmosphere, strolling through streets decked out with flags and banners, browsing the products on market stalls, chatting with sellers dressed in medieval costume… Furthermore, there are a host of activities organised for young and old alike. There are falconry exhibitions and archery, street entertainment, acrobats, medieval weddings and knights’ tournaments.
The opening of the medieval market is one of the moments not to be missed. The sound of drums and bagpipes accompany the Chief Magistrate’s committee through the town on their way to the Town Hall. A golden eagle bearing a parchment with the royal privilege makes a flight to the same destination, so that the Chief Magistrate can solemnly read the text and start the celebrations. The closing ceremony is also worth seeing: by the light of flaming torches, the Chief Magistrate’s committee returns to the Town Hall to close the market, accompanied by music and dance.
Another thing you can do at the festival in Santo Domingo de la Calzada is visit the Organic Produce Fair. Some thirty stalls in the sports centre on Calle Margubete Street sell all kinds of food, drink and objects produced with complete respect for the environment: fruit, vegetables, honey, olive oil, creams… All this not to mention the Camino Market, located in Plaza Jacobea Square. In a marquee covering 1,600 square metres you will find more than 80 stalls selling crafts and wines, through to sweets and gourmet products.
During the La Concepción Festival, you should also take the opportunity to sample some of the most typical dishes of La Rioja’s gastronomy at the La Rioja Cuisine Event organised by the town’s two Parador Hotels. Finally, if you are interested in the Way of Saint James, its history and tradition, take the chance to visit an interactive exhibition at the recently opened Way of Saint James Visitor Centre.
There is no doubt, Santo Domingo de la Calzada is a destination you will like for many different reasons. And what better time to discover it than during the traditional La Concepción Festival?