The Seville fair, or feria, is no longer quite a fair, but simply the most grandiose event in Andalusia, along with the Easter holidays, and one of the brightest festivals in Spain. It takes place in April, when the city is already hot enough for light shirts and endless sangria, but the unbearable summer heat has not yet risen. But this year, the fair will be held in the first week of May.
Brief historyThe traditions of the Seville Fair (Feria de Abril, Feria De Sevilla) ― it is also the "April Fair" ― for over 150 years. The first feria took place either in 1846 or in 1847 ― the sources differ. What is known for sure: at first it was a cattle fair. But the Andalusians have enough reason to get together ― and the holiday will appear by itself. Therefore, in the early years, the first tent-salon of the local nobility appeared at the fair: they met with friends and partners, solved business, and danced, ate and drank manzanilla. The queen supported the tradition, and the fair became an annual event.
What to do on the April FeriaThe Seville Fair lasts a week. The brightest events take place from Wednesday to the second Saturday ― if you can’t visit the whole festival, then choose these days. It is best if you have a local guide in the city who will show you the best entertainment of the fair and take you to non-tourist cassettes.
Ride the carousel on Hell StreetThe Seville Fair takes place in the Los Remedios area. Part of this area is dedicated every year to the amusement park "Calle del Infierno" (Hell Street). On an area of 64,000 square meters, over 500 attractions, shows, circus events and entertainment for all ages are collected.
View the best bullfightThe fair coincides with the beginning of the bullfighting season, and it is on these days that the best performances of the season are held, when the most eminent bullfighters meet the most vicious and strong bulls in the Seville arena.
Penetrate the cassetteThe main attraction of the Seville Fair is the cassettes, or tents (literally caseta ― "little house"). From evening to morning, the traditional Sevillana is danced on the streets and in cassettes. They drink manzanilla and rebujito, snacking on tapas. Most cassettes are private and closed. They belong to noble local families, groups of friends, firms, clubs, associations or political parties. Each has its own bar with food and drinks, tables, toilets and space for dancing. You can get there only at the invitation of the owners. Having your own cassette the festival is an indicator of high status in the city and an opportunity to impress friends and partners, so from year to year the tents bear the same names on the facades.
An interesting point: from 12:00, the curtains of all cassettes must be closed, so it will not work to peep what is happening inside. The feria has more than a thousand cassettes of various sizes along 15 streets. Some of them are open to the public: for example, those owned by municipal authorities, trade unions and political parties.
A list of public tents can be got from the tourist information kiosk at the fair. Usually public cassettes are so crowded that it is difficult to get to the bar, and food and drinks can be 2 times higher than usual in bars.
Watch the caballos paradeEvery day, the festival begins with a parade of wagons and horsemen (paseo de caballos). By noon, they come to the arena in the Plaza de Toros, where bullfights take place almost daily.
Try to dance sevillanaSevillana (pronounced "sevillana") is a Seville folk dance, a variation of the Castilian seguidilla. An outside observer will hardly distinguish sevillana from flamenco, but be aware that it is sevillana that is danced on the feria. Non-professional dancers dance, usually in groups, and the dance script is pre-set ― this distinguishes Sevillana from real flamenco. The movements of the dancers are like the mating dances of flamingos ― they are provocatively close, but do not touch each other: historically, the sevillana was a courtship dance in a harsh religious society, where unmarried men and women had no other chance to be alone than on a feria, in front of everyone.
Recalculate illuminationTry to imagine the figure: it takes at least 350,000 light bulbs and paper lanterns to design a feria! The illumination turns on the mayor of Seville at midnight on Sunday. The main decoration is the large entrance arch, Portada, and with it, the fair is decorated with thousands of farolillos ― paper lanterns.
Dress like a SevilleLike the Oktoberfest in Munich, the Seville Fair has its own dress code. It is unnecessary for a tourist to wear this, but a person in ordinary clothes will look like a black sheep. Blending in with the locals and possibly accidentally infiltrating a private cassette is a higher chance in this suit. Women's costume repeats the Gypsy dress (Traje Gitanas). These are bright, colorful dresses, often with polka dots and always with flounces on the skirts. On the shoulders ― a scarf, and in the hands ― an obligatory fan.
Men are more likely to wear a regular suit, but those who are lucky with a figure, as well as those who arrive on horseback or in a carriage, wear traje corto ― a short suit of tight-fitting trousers and a short, tight-fitting jacket with a wide-brimmed hat. For local residents, a costume is another reason to stand out, just like the presence and status of a cassette or cart. A wealthy Sevillan wears each dress only once, and every day of the feria she has at least one new dress. Sometimes two ― different for the day and for the evening. Even a single dress will allow you to pretend to be local and take atmospheric photos on the feria.
Throughout the year, shops in the streets of Seville and in shopping centers (for example, El Corte Ingles) sell traditional dresses. Some of them are dazzling and festive, but you can also find a more neutral, almost everyday option.
Food and Drink of the Seville FeriaThe official drink of the fair is a light dry white sherry "manzanilla" and a cocktail based on it "rebujito" (rebujito): manzanilla (or its close analogue "fino"), mint and soda (sometimes it is replaced with a sprite). The Tourist Office of Seville estimated 1,5 million bottles of manzanilla were drunk during the fair. The traditional tapas of the fair are "Calamares fritos con ali-oli Andaluz", deep-fried squid rings with spicy garlic mayonnaise (aioli sauce). Another unusual dish that has migrated from the menu of the feria to the menu of tapas bars is "pescaido frito": small tortillas made from deep-fried dough and small pieces of fish, squid ("kalamares fritos") or miniature baby shrimp ("gambas fritos"). Squid and shrimp, both as flat cakes and simply fried, are called the same, so it's easy to get confused. Tapas on the feria are mostly simple, those that are cooked in second ― ready-made beans or nuts, deep-fried cod, sandwiches ― "montaditos".
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