The steady, well-balanced trot of a powerful hoof approaches, raising dust in a proud, unrelenting way, only drowned out by the spontaneous and wholehearted singing of his rider, conjuring up the splendor of the moment and of his city.
Where else could you be now but in one of Spain’s most glorious, most lively and most unique places – Sevilla!
If you find yourself in the capital of Andalusia, the Southernmost Spanish autonomous community, in the middle of April chances are you will be able to witness one of Spain’s most colorful, most vibrant and joyful celebrations, the Feria de Abril/ Seville Fair.
Seville Fair- Background and traditions
Founded in 1847 as a livestock fair by two councillors born in Northern Spain, Basque José María Ybarra and Catalonian Narciso Bonaplata, the fair transformed over the years more and more into a celebration of Andalucia’s customs, art and lifestyle.
Just like the attendees in the 1920’s, when the fair reached its peak, you will be nothing short of mesmerized by the intriguing melange presented to you: Spanish ladies dancing Sevillanas, the typical Flamenco inspired dance, in their Trajes de flamenca, or flamenco-style dresses, Andalusian men wearing their Cordobeses, typical hats, and best suits. Horses and horse carriages belong as much to the picture as the Casetas, individually decorated marquee tents which are exclusively built on the fairground for the Feria.
Andalusian horses- Andalusian equestrian arts are world-famous. Horse parades are therefore an essential part of the Feria de Abril!
Seville Feria de Abril fairground with its Casetas at night
The Casetas are usually owned by prominent families of Seville, clubs, trade associations, political parties or even groups of friends, who gather there to celebrate all the best that Andalusia’s lifestyle has to offer: lightness of being, laughter, delicious Tapas, great drinks, music and dance.
To understand the importance of the Feria de Abril for Sevilla, just consider these mind blowing numbers: in the six days that the fair takes place, starting on midnight on the Monday two weeks after Semana Santa or holy week, another important Spanish celebration, around 5 Million people visit the fairground with its over 1000 casetas!
Tourists from all over the world mingle with the Sevilla natives, women displaying an array of the most colorful flamenco dresses, wearing flowers in their hair, showing of big earrings as well as often the typical Manton de Manila, and men honing their masculinity in their suits or sometimes even the traditional trajes cortos, the probably bullfighter clothing inspired short jacket, tight trousers and boots.
Sevilla during the Feria seems to be a place where the feminine and masculine are still clearly distinctive, creating sizzling chemistry and a flirtatious mood while spring awakens with all its might. Blooming orange trees lure you in with their luscious scent, Jasmine flowers exude their sweet and beguiling perfume, an abundance of Bougainvillea caressing the walls of stunning white houses show of their perfect vibrant shades of pink.
Bougainvillea blooming in the centre of Seville
No wonder then that the celebrations during the Feria tend to go all night, from around nine in the evening till six or seven in the following morning. The parties take place in the streets as well as in the casetas, where joyous crowds enjoy Sherry, the typical Manzanilla and Rebujito drinks and eat Tapas while songs, laughter and music fill the air.
So, do by any means take a Granny nap in the afternoon if you must, so you won’t miss out on any of it! However, if you really can’t keep up with the Sevillanos– Party animals, you could still check out the daily parade of carriages and riders, transporting Seville’s leading citizens to the bullring, La maestranza, where the bullfighters and breeders meet. The parades take place daily around noon.
bullfighting, a controversial Spanish tradition
Either way, whether by day or by night: the experiencing of the Feria is a feast for the senses and an explosion of joy not to be missed.
Seville fair tips for a top-notch experience:
If this article has sparked your interest in this magnificent festivity – here some suggestions to make the most out of your time at the Feria:
- Food: to get the most authentic experience possible, try some typical Tapas like Patatas Bravas, potatoes in a spicy sauce, Flamenquines, a meat dish, or Huevos a la Flamenca, a healthy egg and vegetable dish. Find the latter recipe in my book “Speak in Spanish- Fun and motivation on your learning journey”.
- Drink: the best and most typical drinks to order are Sherry, Manzanilla wine, a variety of fino sherry made around the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, in the province of Cádiz or the Rebujito, a mix of Sherry and soft drinks.
- Preparation: Most of the Casetas are private, but there are some public Casetas you can access. To get the most original experience, you could of course try to make friends with some locals who might invite you to their Casetas! In order to do so, why don’t you pick up some Spanish for your Feria experience? If you want to book some Spanish classes with me, simply get in touch.
- Dance: You might also wanna do a Sevillanas dance crash course or at least check out Sevillanas Feria de Abril 2015, de Puente Siete/ YouTube to know what you are in for.
- Parking: If you do choose to go by car, there is a possibility to pre-book your own spot in a parking house, which is highly recommended. One of the closest parking spaces you can reserve is located at Plaza de Cuba, 5 minutes walk away from the Portada, the entry gate to the fairground.
- Accommodation: as you read before, the Feria is incredibly popular, so make sure to book in advance. It might be a good idea to try out Air BNB or to even consider staying slightly out-of-town to get better rates, as there are extra buses and other forms of public transport to the Feria.
- Save the date- Feria de Abril in the following years: 1-7 of May 2017, 23-29 of April 2018, 4-11 of May 2019, 26 April – 2 May 2020
The traje de gitana/ Flamenco style dress is the most authentic outfit in which to visit the fair. In the background you can also see the portada/ entry gate to the fairground in all its sparkly splendor.