73rd Saint Tomas Market
Rural products take centre stage along with sagardo (cider) and talo (corn tortilla).
- 21 december
21st December is a big day in Bilbao. The day of Saint Thomas (San Tomas Eguna) is celebrated throughout the Basque Country. Rural products take centre stage along with sagardo (cider) and talo (corn tortilla). The most popular towns and cities celebrating this day are Arrasate, Azpeitia, Bilbao, Donostia, Errenteria, Hondarribia, Irun, Lekeitio and Usurbil. Wear you checkered scarf and get immerse into the traditional fair par excellence!
Thousands of people enjoy this popular pre-Christmas festivity in Bilbao. Throughout the day, the baserritarras (farmers) exhibit farm animals and make available to the public the best locally grown products and from their farms: cheese, honey, doughnuts, fruit and vegetables or handicraft products. In the city, the festival is concentrated in two main centres: the Arenal and the Plaza Nueva.
The origins of this fair are dated back to late 19th century. In the beginning, the stands were placed in the Plaza Vieja of Bilbao. The Plaza Vieja was next to San Anton Church, where the Ribera market stands up majestically nowadays.
The Plaza Vieja has always been the busiest part of the town. It was there where the port of Bilbao of that period was placed; close to San Anton Bridge, at the gates of the Church near the place where the boats were taken to cross the estuary. The centre of the social life of those years.
At the beginning of the last century, the market was moved to Plaza Nueva. This is the 73rd edition of the Bilbao’s Santo Tomas Market.
December 21st is not a random date; this period of the year entails several relevant events of our culture and tradition.
Basque culture keeps a tight relation to solstices, many of our traditions and rituals have their origin on this event. The winter solstice varies from December 21st to 23rd, this is one of reasons why Santo Tomas is held in this dates. Autumn is over and gardens are harvested, moreover, animals have been sacrificed to cope with the winter and the season of making wines and cider has ended. People from the countryside come down to the city to sell the surplus they have. In fact, people from the city went to the market looking for the best products that the hamlets kept for this day, in order to buy food for Christmas dinner.
In addition, peasants rent for their villages had to be paid between the end of the harvest and Christmas day. A significant part of the owners of agricultural properties had move to the city by this time.
Do not miss out!
Market fair. The main attraction of the fair is the market and the most important points are held in Plaza Nueva and El Arenal. Hundred of stands fill these two areas with a great variety of seasonal products like DO Idiazabal cheese, honey, peppers or cider. These stands give our town a colourful atmosphere for everyone.
Animal fair. The animals shown this day are usually farm animals like hens and pigs, which are protagonists, without forgetting cows, oxens, goats, horses and donkeys.
Basque music. Throughout the day musical groups, trikitilaris (Basque diatonic button accordionists), txalapartaris (Basque wooden percussionists) and bertsolaris provide the musical note with street performances and cheering up this great festival.
For the little ones. Bilbao does not forget the “txikis”(kids) and in the city we will find a wide range of games and activities for children. For example, there are craft workshops and farm activities, which help them to understand the rural world and the care of the locally grown produce and animals.
Talo (corn tortilla) and sagardo (cider). Another strong point of the fair are usually small stands that are settled along El Arenal and Plaza Nueva where, among other products, is offered the typical talo with chorizo (spicy sausage in a corn tortilla) and sagardo. The talo is a traditional corn tortilla of Basque culture and usually comes rolled with a piece of chorizo, chistorra or cheese. It is accompanied with Bizkaiko txakolina, our own white wine, or Basque cider.
The night. The party continues until the early hours of 22nd December morning, like most festivities. The streets of Bilbao’s Old Town fill up with a cheerful atmosphere. For the most revellers, the bars don’t close until late and a large number of people hang on until the sun comes back.
We recommend you to get up early if you want to buy these products without crowds and in a quiet way. At noon, the stands are full of people and the purchase becomes more complicated. Don’t forget to try cider and talo with chorizo or cheese. You would love it!
How to reach us
Plaza Nueva and Arenal are in the main centre of Bilbao. You can get there easily by public transport. You will find Metro (Casco Viejo or Abando), train, tramway and bus stops very close to these main spots. We advise you against taking your own car. It is going to be very difficult to find parking this day.
Where to eat
The best option is to taste the locally grown produce from our farms. You can find several stands to take our traditional and delicious food like talos with chorizo, cheese, ring-shaped pastries, etc.
Where to sleep
Bilbao is a top tourist destination that receive hundreds of thousands of visitors all year round. A dynamic city, it hosts conferences, music festivals among other events like Santo Tomas Eguna. December is a peak season: this means you must book your hotel, hostel, B&B or holiday apartment (the best that suits your needs) in advance.