Medieval mischief returns to Ibiza’s old town

medieval times

Once a year, in the second weekend of May, the streets of Ibiza’s old town are crisscrossed with over 500 colourful flags, banners and bunting. The clinking of armour echoes against the stone walls while damsels in cotton bonnets eye rows of glistening toffee apples. Corsairs goad each other with friendly taunts while waiting for the ironmonger to finish sharpening their swords. The baker has long hung up his apron while the candlestick maker flirts with the tavern keeper’s daughter who has her eye on the acrobat stretching his limbs in preparation for a side splitting show. Have you woken to find yourself in a scene from the Game of Thrones? Not quite (thankfully). This is the Eivissa Medieval – an annual festival that honours Ibiza’s history and heritage.

It’s worth timing your Ibiza holiday to coincide with Eivissa Medieval for the mere fact that the spectacle is completely immersive, realistic and incredibly good fun the whole family. The cobbled streets of Dalt Vila, Ibiza’s UNESCO listed old town, would have once looked, sounded and smelled exactly like this. For four days and nights, the ancient heart of the island returns to its former glory as a Medieval hot spot with everyone playing a role so convincing you’ll be forgiven for breaking out into pirate speak! This is not the Ibiza you read about back home, making it an even more appealing event to add to the bucket list.

"Eivissa Medieval can engulf all five senses"

It’s a cornucopia of historical play – a joy for lovers of history and fairy tales and those who never quite gave up the dream of swashbuckling adventures. Knights break out into sword fights at the slightest hint of offence, rows upon rows of market stalls are manned by cassock wearing shopkeepers selling everything from artisanal cheeses to teas and spices from the far east, hand-crafted soaps and traditional wooden toys. Jesters, jugglers and fire-eaters vie for attention while bands of drummers stroll nosily down the ramparts. Archers practice with canvas targets while minstrels look on plucking the strings of ancient instruments.

Eivissa Medieval can engulf all five senses so to help bring some order to the jovial disorder here’s a few pointers. Obviously, one must enter via the sloping ramp to the drawbridge to get a true taste of what it would have been like back in medieval times. Here, be sure to stop for selfie with one of the guards dressed in breeches, hose, doublet and frilled lace collar. Be kind or he might take a swipe at you with his halberd. Once inside take a left and make your way in an upwards direction with lackadaisical deviations towards anything that catches your eye.

"a wide selection of traditional Ibicenco products"

Amongst the market stalls, locals in traditional Ibicenco dress ply their trade in the ancient crafts of the island. Weavers make espadrilles, sombreros and Ibiza’s famous reed baskets with leather handles; women spin yarn and make intricate lace trims while drum makers stretch goatskins over delicately carved wooden cylinders. There’s an abundance of medieval victuals to nourish the hungry. Be sure to stop in front of the Convent of Ses Monges to try a selection of traditional Ibicenco produce such as chorizo, butifarra, morcilla and sobrasada cured sausages. There’s platters of coques de pebrera – a rectangle of pastry topped with red peppers and tomatoes – along with traditional cakes like flao and orelletes biscuits. There’s dish upon dish of candied fruits, toffee apples, olives, cheeses and breads.

Slightly further up at the cannon-flanked Santa Lucia bulwark is a collection of stalls serving up the taste of the middle ages. Enormous grills support lamb legs and whole chickens sizzling over hot coals. Roast pork with crackling, ribs doused in sticky marinade, dozens of different sausages and gigantic pans of paella send a fragrant perfume across the whole area. Naturally, one must channel their inner Tyrion Lannister and gulp it all down with goblets of wine and tankards of beer. There’s fresh juices and lemonade for the non-drinkers and plenty of non-meaty tastiness for the vegetarians and vegans.

"It’s a cornucopia of historical play"

Above the fray, tucked into a stone corner the descendants of the Moorish caliphate brew sweet mint tea poured from silver pots into jewel coloured glasses for knights and ladies reclining in the shade of the bright fabric tent. Mounds of fresh falafel, pyramids of sticky baklava and almond and pistachio cookies all wait to accompany your tea and when you’re done, you can take the glass home with you.

There are approximately 80 performances and presentations each day of the festival. One of the most popular for kids and grown-ups is an encounter with birds of prey. Dressed in medieval garb a falconer shows off the skills of falcons, owls and hawks. Would be marksmen might like to spend some time with the crossbows practicing their archery skills before catching a jousting tournament and sword fight. The snake charmer does the rounds throughout the streets and a multitude of acrobats, jesters, puppeteers, witches and wizards cast spells throughout the day and night.

"Unbeknownst to many a tourist, May is a blissful time of year to visit Ibiza"

Unbeknownst to many a tourist, May is a blissful time of year to visit Ibiza. The sun has yet to reach its burning zenith making the days mild yet still beach-worthy. The hoards have yet to descend making getting a booking at your favourite restaurant a cinch. And the Eivissa Medieval festival rounds off any May escape with a merry dose of history.

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