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The Legends and Flavors of Solsona Spain

The Legends and Flavors of Solsona Spain

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If you are an adventurous traveler in Spain, willing to venture a mere two hours outside of Barcelona, you will be treated to an intimate view of Solsona.

There you will learn about the mysteries of the city and its legends, which will take you from the bottom of a forgotten church well to the top of the bell tower (almost).

You will also come to understand why the people of Solsona are proudly known as the Matarrucs – the donkey killers.

Where is Solsona, Spain?

Where is Solsona, Spain

Solsona Spain – 2 hours from Barcelona 

Solsona is part of Catalonia, Spain in the province of Lleida. It is a walled city with a population of about 9,000 persons. Solsona has a rich history dating back to ancient times.

Solsona Old Town

A walk through past the old walls will reveal the Old Town (Nucli antic) with its narrow streets and charm, where you can begin to learn the secrets of this historic city.

Narrow street of Solsona with Catalan flags draped from apartment windows

Narrow street of Solsona with Catalan flags draped from apartment windows

The streets of Solsona’s old town are characterized by cobblestone pavements, historic buildings, and a layout that preserves the town’s medieval and Renaissance heritage.

Streets of Solsona's Old Town

Streets of Solsona’s Old Town

Around every corner you can find interesting architectural elements that add the mystery and charm.

Interesting details carved into the face of the building

Interesting details carved into the face of the building

But some of the best viewing is finding the little details as you walk through the area, such as the carved wooden beams that have decorated the eves of building for over 500  years.

Carved wooden beams peeking out from the rafters

Carved wooden beams peeking out from the rafters

Eerie faces peer out at every corner

Eerie faces peer out at every corner

Solsona Legend of the Donkey

Like many Spanish towns, Solsona has its own cultural traditions and festivals. The town celebrates various events, including the annual festival of Mare de Déu del Claustre, which takes place in early September. During this festival, the streets come alive with processions, music, and traditional dances.

Other celebrations revolve around historical legends. One particular architectural beam has become the center of a legend in Solsona and has made it famous throughout the region.

According to the story, many years ago the townspeople decided to hoist a hungry donkey to the top of the bell tower so it could enjoy the fresh grass growing there.

Unfortunately for all involved, the method they employed was tying a rope around the donkey’s neck and hoisting it up.

When the donkey almost reached the top, it let go of its bladder – a sign which was initially taken by the townspeople of the donkey’s joy at seeing the rare greens.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. The donkey never got to savor the tasty grass. 

Ill fated tower of Solsona

Ill fated tower of Solsona

In commemoration, the townspeople hold a festival each year where they hoist a paper maché donkey up the tower from which a large dose of water is intermittently dispensed on passers-by via a hose.

The spectacle was televised one year and brought a number of animal activists to the area to protect the livestock from this abominable sport.

They were assured that no live donkey was actually hurt during the ritual (at least not recently). Any excuse for a party!

Cathedral of Santa Maria de Solsona

One other claim to fame of the town is housed in the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Solsona.

In the courtyard of the church is a deep well that was once used to hide religious icons and statues from invading enemies.

According to another legend, a boy was once playing in the courtyard and fell down the well. When he was finally lifted to safety he reported that he was not alone in the well.

Legendary Well of Solsona

Legendary Well of Solsona

A female figure, he said, put her arms around him and comforted him until his rescue. The townspeople went down into the well and recovered a long-forgotten statue of a black Madonna. Not just any black Madonna.

Black Madonna in Solsona Spain

Black Madonna in Solsona Spain

This one is one of the most detailed and best preserved Madonnas in the world. It’s now housed in the church itself and remains an icon and evidence for the people of Solsona of the occurrence of a miracle.

 Madonna of Solsona

Other such icons receive millions of visitors a year, while Solsona’s Madonna, even with its superior detail, receives only approximately 2 thousand per year.

So Solsona offers up a picturesque setting, a festival with a donkey, and a miracle. And just to inch it a little higher on the must visit scale, fantastic food.

Gourmet Dining in Solsona

The Mare De La Font Restaurant in located on the outskirts of Solsona in a tranquil out-of-the-way park environment. But while the setting may be serene, the food is anything but. The flavors here are traditional and bold.

Spanish appetizer of egg layered with fresh Spanish ham and cheese.

Spanish appetizer of egg layered with fresh Spanish ham and cheese.

We were treated to a tasting menu here where we were able to sample delicate starters with local fresh greens, seasonal fruits and Spanish ham.

Tender fried chicken appetizer with fresh local fruit and greens in the Spanish Pyrenees

Tender fried chicken appetizer with fresh local fruit and greens in the Spanish Pyrenees

We were also treated to main dishes, such as a pizza piled with fresh roasted peppers paired with gorgonzola cheese, to a locally sourced beef hamburger overstuffed with cheese.

The meal finished off with freshly made dark chocolate truffles handmade in-house. It was as good, maybe even a little better, than our pictures of the experience.

Related articles about travel in Spain that may help inspire or plan your Spanish holiday:

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The Legends and Flavors of Solsona Spain

Thank you to Contrast Trip Travel Agency for introducing us to the area. While our time in the Pyrenees was sponsored by the tour company and the Lleida Board of Tourism, our opinions and our stories are our own. You can contact them to learn more about Solsona and planning a trip to the Pyrenees.

Alberto rovira

Sunday 4th of August 2019

I love the pictures


Saturday 26th of March 2016

My grandmother comes from Solsona - actually her maternal last name is Solsona- I cannot wait to visit the town in the coming year. It appers to be another one of those hidden jewels in Spain.


Monday 28th of March 2016

It is a beautiful place - you will love it!

Brittany @ Green Global Travel

Thursday 11th of June 2015

Such interesting history and beautiful architecture in Solsona! The legend being the "donkey killers" title is especially interesting. Thank you for sharing! I enjoyed getting an inside look at your experience in Spain.

Saana / Always Abroad

Tuesday 9th of June 2015

Beautiful photos! Wish I would've known about this place when I visited Barcelona last November!

Dave from Daves Travel Pages

Sunday 7th of June 2015

Looks like a great place to visit. Hope to include it next time I go to Spain!