The final week of April through the first week of May marks the most colourful festival in all of Spain. Feria de Abril is held annually in Seville, and it’s the largest fair in the region complete with costumed participants, horses, and extravagance at every turn.
A more vibrant and lively festival you will not find than the Feria de Abril. This year, the dates of the week-long celebration are from midnight Monday, April 28, until midnight Sunday, May 3. Offering all the opportunities for an elaborate immersion into Spanish culture, abundant activities include strolling music players, street dancing, amazing culinary fare, and the chance to make new acquaintances or visit with family and friends. The festival takes place on the fairgrounds just across from Maria Luisa Park. It is located approximately 1.25 km northeast of the centre of Seville.
The fair begins with the illumination of thousands of colourful light bulbs, stretched all along the fairground and the main entranceway. The lighting, dubbed the “lighting test,” occurs at midnight on Monday and highlights the celebration’s beginning. All festival events are free.
History of the Fair
The Feria de Abril started in 1847 as a “cattle fair.” Over time, the absolute joy that began to transcend the event replaced the original “agricultural fair,” transforming it into the social highlight it is today. The fair has taken on more exotic overtones throughout its years of increasing renown until it has become one exciting week-long adventure. These days, a new festival theme is chosen each year, and the 50 metre high gateway to the fairgrounds is always a creative homage to each year’s theme.
The Casetas (or Tents)
The casetas are the heart of the fair. It is here that you will probably be spending a good deal of time. Inside each lies the essence of the festival itself. Groups of families and friends share the space of their casetas to welcome guests and acquaintances, and offer them food and drink. Many of these casetas are privately owned, and you have to be invited to join the revelry inside. Fortunately, you will find the people of Seville to be friendly, warm, and caring. They will try to get you involved in the celebration if you are just passing by, as they want you to feel welcome and share in the joy of this event. The people of Seville take their festival fun seriously!
In any case, however, there are also many public casetas for you to share in the joy and merriment of the occasion. Flamenco dancing in popular dress is the favourite tradition. Sevillanas is flamenco dancing in the local flavour and much of that exists within the caseta partitions, often spilling outside and into the streets beyond. The social gatherings, the food, the drink, the dancing, all of this occurring inside the casetas reflects the true spirit of this fiesta. Information booths set up at the festival entrance will tell you about each caseta and any activities occurring throughout the day.
The festival attire is of Andalusian influence for performers and participants. Typical clothing for men is that of a farm worker, while women wear exotic gypsy or brilliant, multi-coloured flamenco dresses. Women’s clothing is especially vibrant and lends an air of excitement to the festivities. The colours are stunning in the crowd.
The Feria de Abril has a multitude of options for children, thus making the fair a family event. Adjacent to the fairgrounds is the Calle del Infierno. Despite the name (translated, it means Hell’s Street), the area is alive with a wealth of attractions and activities designed especially for children, which adults can enjoy also. Vendors sell snacks and cold drinks in the nearby streets.
Each day of the fair at noon, the famous horse and carriage parade takes place. The procession is called the “Paseo de Caballos” and includes carriages filled with beautiful ladies dressed in the striking attire of flamenco dancers. You can become a part of this parade yourself by renting a buggy and driver! Imagine riding in the streets with other parade participants and waving at the glamorously dressed crowds as you roll by. Each day, horsemen and horsewomen take part is this celebration with wonderfully decorated carriages.
The activities of the day, however, cannot compare to the nightlife surrounding the fair. Of course, you are in Spain, so naturally, you are going to want to see a bullfight. This fair offers that enticement as well as many others. Late afternoon and early evening brings festival-goers to the Plaza de la Maestranza bullring to watch the excitement as it unfolds. Tickets to this event can be purchased ahead of time or at the event itself.
The festival has a “party all night” philosophy. The casetas are filled with music, dancing, eating, drinking, and partying that goes until the wee hours of the morning. To truly experience the Feria de Abril, you must live the life of a casetas party reveler! The lively beat of the music will make that easy to do! Also make sure you try tapas while enjoying the food at the caseta or in Seville. Tapas are a delightful appetizer, and Seville is credited with their invention.
The Feria de Abril concludes with a magnificent fireworks display that has the intention of sending the crowds off with enthusiasm until the event returns next year. Midnight on Sunday brings the magical light explosion in the sky that signals the end of this year’s fair.