ORDIZIA MARKET/FAIR History

ORDIZIA MARKET/FAIR

Since the first market gatherings around the Shrine of San Bartolomé, Ordizia market has been a witness to the development of the town itself and to numerous anecdotes and events occurring around it.

One of these events is most certainly the fire that destroyed the town in 1512. Following this tragic event, Queen Joanna ‘the Mad’ of Castile granted Ordizia ‘the royal authority so that it could hold a weekly street market every Wednesday of the year’. It was probably this that gave the final impetus for the market to take hold and continue on to this day. With many ups and downs in its existence, the market finally took hold definitively in the eighteenth century, and the arrival of the railway in the 1860s was a huge boost to both the market and the municipality.
In 1925 – in response to many needs and requests – the unique concrete structure still covers Nagusia Square was built. Thus, based on the weight of history and tradition, Ordizia market has become a benchmark for the region’s agricultural products: native fruits and vegetables, Idiazábal cheese and lamb, among other products.

Ordizia is located in the Basque region of northern Spain, very near the French border. So you can be sure that gastronomy and the fruits of the land are very important to the people who live here, and to the thousands of visitors who come each year to taste the region’s treasures.
The Ordizia market has been held every Wednesday since 1512, but once each year they hold what is called an “extraordinary market” where, in addition to the cheese judging, there are special pilota (handball) games, Basque music and Basque people in traditional costume. Activities run from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

There are plenty of fresh foods (including a wide variety of ready-to-eat olives, cheeses, cured ham, wonderful cakes and pastries and locally made apple cider) to enjoy on-site, but also an interesting variety of local items you can take home with you, such as marinated wild mushrooms and local olive oil and fresh honey.

The most popular food item that you will find in Ordizia is the Idiazabal cheese, a hard white cheese, strong in flavour and high in acidity, made according to centuries-old family recipes (available in both smoked and un-smoked varieties.) You can still buy the cheese directly from the shepherds who make it from the milk of their latxa and carranzana sheep, two indigenous breeds to the area. It’s hard to believe that 300,000 kilos of Idiazabal cheese are sold in this tiny village of Ordizia each year!

The cheese is pricey, but worth it, and considered to be one of the 15 best gastronomical products in Europe. It is somewhat similar to the top quality Parmigiano Reggiano cheese of Italy that has become so popular worldwide. We are told that the Idiazabal cheese is especially flavourful as the sheep feast on the lush green grass that graces the local pastures. This region gets light rain on a continual basis which keeps the vegetation growing thick and lush.

As the Ordizia market is held year-round, when you visit will determine what types of goods you will find. In spring, you will find more limited varieties of fresh produce. Green onions and peas are featured. In summer, you’ll find more tomatoes and beans. Walnuts, chestnuts and suckling lambs are popular fall items. And in winter, there are more meats and cheeses and less fresh produce available.

The town of Ordizia was founded in 1268. So there is a lot of history here, and a lot of pride in the Basque people who still populate this region. You can learn much about the village and the region by visiting “Delikatuz,” the Tourist Information and Gastronomical Centre located at Santa MarÌa 24 in Ordizia. This is a modern facility built in an historic building, where you can watch informative videos and see a variety of interesting interpretative displays – in English and several other languages.