The Golegã National Horse Fair (Feira Nacional do Cavalo) is Portugal’s most important and prestigious horse event. The Horse Fair is an annual event that takes places over a ten-day period in November and always includes Saint Martin’s Day or the Feast of Saint Martin which is on 11 November. On this day, people eat chestnuts, drink new wine and wear traditional Portuguese Horseback Riding Attire. Although when we visited which wasn’t on the 11th, we witnessed plenty of chestnuts being consumed, wine being drunk and locals wearing the traditional clothes.
Click Here for More Photos of the Golega National Horse Fair (Feira Nacional do Cavalo)
Where is Golega?
Golegã, ‘the Capital of Horses,’ is a small town, close to Torres Novas in Central Portugal. It’s situated between the River Almonda and the River Tagus in the Ribatejo Region. The naming of the town dates back to the 12th century when a lady from Galicia opened a guesthouse, and the village became known as Venda da Golega (the Village of the Galician). This region is famous for its Lusitano horse breeders.
A Little History Of The Golegã National Horse Fair
The Golega National Horse Fair was initially known as the Feira de São Martinho and dates back to the 18th century. It was originally an agricultural fair – an opportunity for the local farmers to sell their products. Actually, there are still quite a few local stalls selling yummy cheeses, jams, and other local delights today.
As there were and still are so many Lusitano horse breeders in the region, they were invited to bring along and show off their horses. The horses became such a popular part of the fair that the name changed to Feira Nacional do Cavalo (National Horse Fair).
What Happens During The Golega National Horse Fair?
The normally sleepy town of Golega comes alive. It’s a charming, chaotic mix of horses, horse carts, food stalls, and market stalls catering for the horse lover and rider. The air is filled with the sound of horses neighing, hooves clip-clopping, horse bells jingling and the smell of smoke from roasting chestnuts and barbecues.
From late afternoon, the streets get busy with locals and tourists until the early hours, but we sneaked off back home as the crowds started to swarm in. Yes, I know, we are party poopers.
For those that love shopping, as well as stalls selling traditional riding gear, saddles, and local foods, you will find bags, belts, hats, toys, antiques, and wooden giraffes. Yeah, we found that last one was a bit odd too!
During the festival, many horse competitions take place. Most of these events take place over the weekend, but we went to observe a dressage competition for a little while.
In the evenings, most events take place in the showground at the heart of the town. Here you can watch parades, equestrian events, and local dances. When I mentioned traditional dancing was going to take place later to Jonathan, he seemed very keen then to head home. Portugal is good at many things but dancing, not one of their best talents but that’s just a personal opinion.
Around the central showground are the horse breeders ‘casettas’ where you can meet the breeders and the horses and enjoy a glass of wine. All terribly civilised!
See Here For More Information
For details and programme of events taking place, have a look here http://feiradagolega.com/en/.
Have you been to the Golega National Horse Fair? We would love to read your comments about your experience there.
Where To Stay In Golegã
There is accommodation to suit all budgets around Golegã, but you will need to make reservations early if you plan to visit Golegã during the Horse Festival. During the festival, the centre of town will be noisy (they like to party!) so if you prefer a more restful sleep, look for accommodation a little out of town.
How To Get To Golegã, Portugal
From Lisbon, it’s just over an hour’s drive. There is a lot of parking nearby, but we went during the week, not at the busiest times. Recommend that you avoid parking right inside the town centre though.
By public transportation, the nearest train station is Riachos-T. Novas-Golega. Trains depart from Lisbon Santa Apolónia. Journey time 1 hour 30.
Buses leave from Lisbon Sete Rios Bus Station, and you will need to change at Torres Novas. Journey time to Torres Novas takes 1 hour 15. There are local buses from Torres Novas to Golegã, but they are not that frequent so a taxi from the bus station would be a lot easier.