The fiesta season in Seville moves up a notch as spring arrives in the beautiful capital city of Andalucia. First of all Semana Santa (Holy Week) takes place then two weeks later it’s the Feria de Abril or Seville April Fair as we foreigners tend to call it. Officially the Fair begins at midnight on the Monday which falls two weeks after Semana Santa ending the following Sunday at midnight with a spectacular firework display over the Guadadalquivir River. However, the variable dates for Easter could push the whole of the Seville April Fair into the month of May so on occasions it is agreed that dates can be changed to ensure that at the very least the ‘Alumbrao’ (turning on of the lights) takes place at the end of April.
The proposed dates of the Feria for the next few years are as follows, however, do be warned that these dates are subject to change so you should confirm them with an official Seville Tourism authority before booking a trip:
- 2016 12-17 April
- 2017 2-7 May
- 2018 17-22 April
- 2019 7-12 May
- 2020 28 April – 3 May
The official Seville Tourist Office can be contacted through their website at http://www.visitasevilla.es/.
History of the April Fair
The origins of the Fair can be traced back to a cattle fair which took place on the grounds of the Prado de Sebastian in 1847. The people of Seville have never been afraid of a good party so the following year three marquees appeared at this same event where local dignitaries were able to socialise. These tent structures are known as ‘casetas’ growing in numbers year after year until the 1920s when the Feria de Abril had grown into the city’s biggest annual fiesta. In 1973 the event moved venue to its current location opposite the Parque de María Luisa in Barrio de los Remedios. This fairground is known as ‘Real de la Feria’, it is an enormous site located between Los Remedios and Tablada which for this one week becomes a city in its own right. At last year’s event it was reported that around 1,050 temporary ‘casetas’ were set up to allow ‘Los Sevillanos’ to celebrate their beloved April Fair. Located right next to the ‘Real de la Feria’ in Calle del Infierno a huge fairground is set up with lots of the typical rides and attractions together with a circus show.
What Happens at the Feria de Abril?
In Spanish the Monday night is known as ‘La Noche del Pescaíto’ which sounds interesting until you translate it to ‘Fish Night’. It simply refers to this being an evening when traditionally fish is eaten for dinner. After dinner people head for the ‘Portada’ which is the beautiful structure at the entrance to the Feria where thousands of lights are switched on by the Mayor of Seville at midnight. Then it’s time to head for the ‘caseta’, crack open the sherry and let the Fino Sherry and let the partying begin.
Tueday is the first official day of the festival when there are horseback parades through the fairground with the women wearing beautiful flamenco dresses and the men in their traditional suits known as ‘el traje corto’. Seeing these finely dressed ‘Sevillanas’ at the Fair it is easy to understand why the poet Byron referred to Seville as being “famous for its oranges and women”! The birthplace of flamenco lies just across the river in the barrio of Triana so it shouldn’t come as an great surprise to learn that the colourful dresses are known as ‘trajes de gitano’ or ‘gypsy suits’.
The rest of the week continues with more of the same beginning with a midday procession called the ‘Paseo de Caballos’ in which beautiful horses carry people in their traditional attire to the Real Maestranza bullring. Every evening some of the year’s top bullfights take place at this historic Plaza de Toros with tickets often selling out many months in advance. Details of these bullfights appears on their website.
Casetas at the April Fair
There are more than 1000 of these ‘casetas’ in the showground which are fully equipped with a bar, kitchen and substantial music system. From early afternoon the drinking starts, the tapas appear, the music gets louder and by the evening there will be plenty impromptu flamenco dancing going on. But these are privately owned tents so unless you meet a member of one of them who invites you along you won’t be able to go into them. The private nature of these parties has led to many readers contacting us to ask whether Seville Fair is strictly for locals:
Have recently returned from a Round The World trip during which we spent six weeks in Spain. The trip was absolutely fantastic, but there is one aspect from our visit in Spain which I would like to bring to your attention. One hears a lot about the Seville festival and how it is something not to be missed. We arrived in the afternoon expecting to be able to visit one of the casetas. Surprise, surprise the casetas are only open for invited guests. Needless to say we were extremely annoyed as all the hype about visiting a caseta and sampling the typical Spanish cuisine and seeing flamenco dancing was a complete mis-representation of the truth. We ended up getting something to eat and drink at a cafe opposite the fair. Discussing our disappointment with the locals in the cafe they informed us that the Seville Festival is for the people of Seville.
We returned to Cordoba on an earlier train that evening quite disgusted with the attitude we had encountered at the Fair. I can assure we tried to find somewhere to eat and have a drink but were turned away. On our return to Cordoba, we mentioned what had happened and the locals were not too surprised and informed us that Cordoba also has a Festival in May and everyone is welcome. Just had to let you know about our experience, as it left a bit of a sour taste.
Of course it can be disappointing for visitors to find that they can’t get into these privately owned ‘casetas’ but it’s also understandable that they are for the use of the owner’s friends and family who will be substantial in numbers. You’ll still experience the atmosphere of the fiestas when you visit the Real de la Feria and can go to a number of public ‘casetas’ which are also home to some serious partying.
Have You Been to La Feria de Abril?
The atmosphere in the city throughout this week is sensational but it is understandable that some visitors are a little disappointed when they learn that most of the ‘casetas’ are private parties. Did you find this an issue or did you enjoy your time at the Fair anyway? Please leave us a comment below.