This weekend I visited the city of Vic, famous for its medieval market and I was not disappointed.
Vic is located 70km North of Barcelona and takes about an hour and a half to reach by train. It is a town steeped in history dating back to Roman times and is famous for its medieval market (Mercat Medieval de Vic). The market takes place during December, usually around the weekend between the 6th and 8th of December both of which are national holidays in Spain.
As I arrived into the city by train, I followed a procession of people pouring into the city centre. I first reached the main square, Plaça Major, and was greeted by a huge Christmas tree which seemed strangely lost in the enormous space surrounding it.
“Where to next?” I thought. I wandered down one of the narrow side streets off the square which led to a smaller square packed full of different stalls with medieval banners stretched out overhead. The stalls consisted of an array of items from winter necessities such as scarves, hats and gloves, to jewellery, or, for those wanting to get into the spirit of the market, medieval swords, shields, and horns. The food stalls lure you in with their enticing aromas. Fresh bread which you can see them making by hand, whole chickens skewered and roasting on an open fire and huge grills full of sausage and pork. In the cold air, mulled wine and hot chocolate is served to help warm you up. For those with a sweet tooth, there are mountains of waffles filled with thick layers of chocolate. I couldn’t resist so I had to buy one! I regret nothing.
One street opened out onto another small square where an olive tree stood in the middle weighed down with hundreds of white bits of paper. This was the Wishing Tree, where people write down their wishes for the Christmas and the New Year. Some were a bit too soppy for my taste, such as wishing for “every day to be as happy as this day” or the obvious “good health and happiness”, but then there were the much more realistic wishes such as “I want a penguin”.
I wind through the streets getting a bit lost, but end up following the crowds down to the river. Before crossing the bridge, I notice yet more stalls along the riverbed. Here there are demonstrations of different crafts such as glassmaking, pottery and a blacksmith. I don’t know how the glassmaking stall passed health and safety. The man making fragile glass ornaments used an extremely intense flame whilst casually sitting there without any gloves or protective items in sight. The young boy watching behind looked absolutely terrified that the flame might somehow backfire, but still stood there in fascination as the man manipulated the glass to form these fragile objects.
Further on at the end of the row, a crowd of people had gathered. I couldn’t see what was going on so I tried to get a better view further up. But still nothing. A man was speaking to the crowd in Catalan, I wished I could understand what he was saying! I could hear kids but I couldn’t see them, I assumed they were sat down. Then out of nowhere a great white owl flew up and landed on the man’s outstretched arm and almost immediately the crowds parted and walked back to the stalls. Show over.
On the other side of the river, yet more stalls. A man was carving a whole pig up, piling the cut meat in a box ready to be cooked later in the evening. Then I reach the Arab section of the market and am immediately hit by incredible aromas of various spices. Moroccan style lamps hang up, tagines line the floor and at the end, a tent full of people sitting down and enjoying pots of flavoured tea.
As I make my way back to the train station (unfortunately I had to work in the morning so I couldn’t stay all evening) night time falls and the streets are lit up with Christmas lights. I find my way back to the main square and the Christmas tree is no longer lost in the square but the star attraction, covered head to toe with blue lights. People fill the square eagerly taking selfies at every possible angle around the Christmas tree.
If you are in Barcelona or Catalonia during this time of the year, the Vic medieval market is a must. The festive atmosphere, the historic buildings and narrow streets perfectly match the theme of the market, and you could easily spend the whole day and evening here as there is so much to see and do.
Bon Nadal! (Merry Christmas!)