Horses and Sherry! The sights, sounds and smells of the Jerez Feria

Introducing the Feria de Jerez, also known by the locals as the Feria del Caballo (Horse Fair) which happens each year around May, and is one of the most important regional celebrations in the famous Sherry producing town of Jerez de la Frontera.

The sights and sounds of the feria are a joy to the senses and once you enter the feria grounds at the Gonzalo Hontoria Fairgrounds, it only begs the question, which bit of the 52,000 square metre show ground do you start with?

Horse riding 


500 years of history and culture go into each modern Feria and for aficionados of all things Spain and Spanish, you simply can't beat a good Spanish feria, in fact, whereas the Seville Feria, one month earlier is often reserved for private groups in their little casetas, home from home, the casetas (or large decorated party tents a little bit like a marquee tent) at the Jerez feria are open to the public and it makes for a more inclusive feel for visitors too!

In these casetas, and at all times of the day and night, revellers drink fino sherry, although more recently there is trend is to mix the sherry with lemonade and ice cubes which creates a refreshing cocktail known as Rebujito.

But enough about drinking, and on with the show!

The Jerez Feria

The feria has something for everyone, yes even people who never drink sherry or in fact don't care much for horses! Although saying that, there is plenty to tempt you to try a nice cool sherry, and as we are slap bang in the heart of Sherry production, you can be assured of the highest quality and the widest range to choose from.

jerez horse fair 

The feria usually takes place in May and on the day before the official start, when the final preparations are being made, there is a competition of the sorts that until now I had never even heard of!

The Concurso Nacional de Acoso y Derribo, is actually a display of cow herding, Andalusian style, and the horses and riders gallop around herding cows in various ways and using very different methods, to show off their cowboy skills, in fact, although the feria has not yet started, it is certainly worth watching, in fact how these men keep on their horses with such sharp manoeuvres, twists and turns, I first thought they had glued their boots to the stirrups but alas no!

Jerez de la Frontera - Feria del Caballo 

The start of the feria

The first day you enter the feria, through the bustling and heaving crowds, you will notice that most of the locals are bedecked in splendour, in traditional flamenco dresses, with the important accoutrements that belong with the style, so even the most distracted visitor will you know they are in for a treat as soon as they arrive.

There is simply LOADS to do, from eating the finest tapas, drinking the best sherry (or a beer!), watching authentic Flamenco, seeing amazing horsemanship, and above all, mingling with people who are passionate about who they are, where they live and what they do!

Flamenco dancer

What's on at the feria this year?

There are fantastic and colourful processions of Horses and Carriages around the Fairground and they are available to see at around 1 pm, and then later on at 7 pm, and with the hot sun, the latter one is usually the preferred one, especially if you have children with you.

At the location of the stud farm, in Spanish, the rather disgustingly titled Depósito de Sementales (Please don't ask me to translate that!) we find the National Competition of Doma Vaquera, which is the Spanish version of dressage.

Sevilla - Feria de Abril - horse rider

During the second part of the feria week we see what is known as the Morphologic Awards take place, which is best described as a "Best of breed" type show and various experts pour their eyes over the best breeds that the area has to offer, and a hark back in time to the origins of the show 500 years ago where horse traders met at Jerez, and a competition was born.

What else can you do if you don't care much for horses?


The feria is a showcase of all the best bits of the area and there are certainly more than enough "bits" to go around to suit anyone, with lots of other things to do if horses and sherry aren't your thing. For example, and especially as we are in Andalusia, dancing is the order of the day, and expect to see a lot of dancing shows and competitions, plus some amazing flamenco music too.

Of course, the commercial aspects of the feria do not go unnoticed and there are lots of stalls and shops selling all manner of stuff, from professional horse tack and wear, livery items, grooming and veterinary outlets, to of course Sherry sales, from the local bodegas, some famous brands, and some smaller, family-run ones too.

 Flamenco dresses

If flamenco is your thing that there are many places where you can buy your very own flamenco dress, either off-the-peg or to have one professionally made and fitted for you. Dance classes are also sometimes available and if you fancy swinging your hips, Spanish style, this could be the gig you have been waiting for!

Like most other ferias or show-grounds of its type, there is, of course, the usual fun of the fair stuff such as rides, candy floss, toffee apples, all the real traditional stuff you would expect, and of course during a feria week, not much sleeping gets done, so expect huge and flamboyant firework displays most evenings too.

Discover the finest Sherry in the world

Something that surprises many first time visitors to Jerez is the fact that the town has a long-standing connection with the United Kingdom. British merchants have been involved in the wine trade here for centuries, producing and shipping a fortified wine known as sherry.

Famous names of these dynasties can be seen here over the doors of the enticing bodegas; Sandeman, John Harvey, Domecq, Gonzalez Byass and so on.

Walk anywhere in the town and your nose immediately catches a whiff of Sherry, it's all around here and you can't avoid it, but why would you want to?


Jerez de la Frontera - bodega 

The town of Jerez itself is a must-see if you are planning to visit the feria this year and there is, of course, plenty to do and see when you get here.

The magnet for most British tourists when they arrive is to head for the La Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre, the horse school, located in Avda. Duque de Abrantes,  (Tel: 956 319 635) where you can see the finest Andalusian horses and a fantastic display of "Doma" which is Spanish for Dressage, and the fantastic things these horses and their riders can do, you really don't need to be an equestrian type to enjoy it!

Jerez de la Frontera - Royal Andalucian School of Equestrian Art 

After the show, you can take a stroll around the grounds of a fantastic palace (above), a testimony to the wealth that sherry brought to the area, and of course the grounds contain an extensive botanical garden, plus a museum too, various places for refreshments and of course for the horsey types, there does exist opportunities to get up close to them too.

All in all, a trip to Jerez for the horse fair is one of those things that you really "have" to do. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the atmosphere, the passion.

How to get to Jerez

Jerez has, rather conveniently, a small airport serving the town although flights during off-peak seasons are limited but Ryanair has a service from London Stanstead, and there are also flights from German and Spanish airports too.

To arrive by road, you can take the E-5 motorway from Seville, or from the south, the AP-4 from Gibraltar. There are also high-speed trains available from Madrid, getting you there in style and great for connecting flights to elsewhere in Europe and the rest of the world.

Jerez de la Frontera - sherry 

More information on any aspect of visiting Jerez can be found at the Jerez Tourist Information Office, which is situated at the Plaza del Arenal, Edificio Los Arcos in the centre of the town. They can be called on (0034) 956338874, or 956341711, and their Fax number is 956341711 

Where to stay in Jerez

Find the best holiday rentals in Jerez to enjoy the feria here.