Feria de Abril
The Feria is now a not-so-distant memory but when I think about it, it still brings a smile to my face. I was told by various Sevillanos that you either hate or you love Feria and that’s that. It’s not for everyone and not everyone in Seville is thrilled about attending Feria. The enthusiasm that goes into this single week of activity is something incredible to behold.
After 2 long years without a Feria, you can only imagine how hungry the city was for this fiesta. This week-long multiple block party that would put off any introvert as much as it would delight the party animals in your life is a tradition that started quite differently and for some different purposes but I’ll have to go into that in another post.
So what’s the deal with the love/hate relationship with Feria which always falls 10 days after the end of Semana Santa? To present you two contrasts, I have a friend whose spouse would not set foot anywhere near the Feria. She can go off dancing the Sevillanas as much as she likes but he won’t be in attendance not even for 1 minute. On the other extreme, I have another friend who is a “socio” (member) of a caseta and after paying a whopping 1200 euros/year for this privilege to attend Feria in one of the many private casetas, he very much intended to spend every single day there from sometime in the late afternoon (more like evening), until almost 5 am only to turn back around and return again. Completely nuts to some, absolutely amazing to others.
We were very lucky to have been invited to not one but three private casetas. You will hear it said by many locals that if you want to really enjoy the Feria, you need to have a friend who has a caseta. Why, you may ask? Well the tents (the casitas), in the Sevilla Feria are mostly private. While there are a number of public ones that you can enter freely, any private casita would have a “bouncer” at the door verifying that you are indeed meant to be there, so you’ll see people outside the “club” waving to their friends who are inside enjoying their rebujitos. I’m told that other Ferias throughout Spain are not quite as elitist but I got my golden ticket so I’m not going to worry about that. No, actually, we also went to two public casetas, one was quite large and crowded and the other much less so and it was fine. Both of these occasions were during the day so not quite as rowdy as it can get as the night drags on.
I thought that I could share with you today my tips on how to successfully navigate the Feria so that if you are here next year or the year after, you can enjoy the festivities because, frankly, you should see it at least once.
First things first – Navigation
Download the Feria grounds map. This place is huge, like a mini-city within the city. Currently, the Feria grounds are located in the barrio of Los Remedios between the Puente de San Telmo & the Parque de Los Principes. The streets are all named after famous bullfighters and each caseta has a number so if you still remember how to read a map, you’re good. This was the map for 2022. Whatever year you are coming just Google, Plano feria de Sevilla, and off you go to the races.
At the extremity of the Feria, grounds is a street very aptly named, Calle del Infierno on the other side of which is the gigantic amusement park. If you come here later in the evening, be prepared – you will definitely NOT be alone.
Dress for Success
So, no, you don’t have to have a Feria dress but maybe try not to stick out like a sore thumb either and dress in your “31’s”, as the French say, or your “Sunday best”, if you will. In the daytime, it can be more casual but even then, you will see some glamorous flamenco-style dresses. At night, it is a whole other game. Come to be impressed and impress those around you. If you do a great job, don’t be surprised if someone takes your photo.
Options for Flamenco dresses include renting a dress. This article (in Spanish) gives you some of the locations both online and offline from where you would rent a dress for the occasion – because, why not?
Some of the advantages to the feria dresses is that in the ample bottoms, there is space to put a hidden pocket. I had two such pockets in my dress. One that was included when the dress was originally made and another that I had put in, so I was able to be handbag free (and you want to try to be as handbag free as possible or wear a bag with a long strap that you can put across your body over one shoulder (ladies, you get what I mean). I was able to hold my phone, a small set of keys, cash, and credit card in a slim case, and even my selfie stick, hand cream, & hand sanitizer. And then you have the guy with you whose pockets you can fill with whatever else you need.
Another dress tip: While they look sexy, those close-fitting dresses are quite some work when nature calls, so if you are not prepared to remove the dress entirely in the tiny, questionably clean restrooms, I suggest not going overboard here.
Accessories – many of the tourist shops (and local shops), have tons of accessories that magically come out in the weeks coming up to Feria. You may see people carrying their dresses in with them to pick just the right color combo for their flowers, earrings, and other items to make them stand out as the belle of the ball. I took a photo of my dress only to discover that the photos of one of the colors were completely different than the reality. I eventually went back with a color palette in hand. A pleasant discovery was that much of my mother’s jewelry from over 40 years ago also paired nicely.
Footwear Survival Kit
So, while flamenco dancing shoes may indeed have you looking the part, the best advice that I was given for footwear options was to wear espadrilles or alpargatas – those casual canvas or cotton shoes that are super flexible and have a jute or fiber rope sole. You’ll see many ladies sporting those. Don’t go wasting tons of money on those, you can find shoes that will work for as little as 10 euros!
Learn the Sevillanas
As Feria approaches you will see advertised in groups like Expat Sevilla, and various people offering Sevillana classes. Watch a YouTube video if you can’t make a crash course. In the end, fake it till you make it. You may not know all the moves but the dancing turned out to be less formal than I thought it would be. People danced between tables and chairs, on the street, and just about everywhere else. There are 4 pasos to the Sevillanas and while I did take a few lessons, only the first paso stayed in my head. All the same, I danced (a little). At the end of the night, if you have made it that far, the music moves from Sevillanas to club music in just about every caseta I passed. So you just need to make it that far – good luck!
Some Sevillana music to get used to the rhythm
Tutorial with music (yup, the men dance too).
What happens if you are invited to a caseta? Even if you are not a local, it could happen. Say you have this gorgeous flamenco dress on and someone on the street says, come on into our private caseta! Well, the rule is that if you are invited to someone’s caseta you buy them rebujito to say thank you. The thing about the caseta invites is that sometimes, you are INVITED, meaning your host is not expecting you to pay. Other times, you are invited, and you pay your tab at the bar as you go. When in doubt, assume you need to pay and have both cash and a card handy. Rebujito is THE drink of the Feria in Andalusia. Don’t be surprised if you can only get it in a large pitcher with tiny cups to help you make it last. I noticed that depending on the caseta, the amount of alcohol used differed greatly. A few of those and you’ll forget that you don’t know how to dance the Sevillana.
When to go and have some fun
When to head over to the Feria depends on what kind of party animal you are. Attending Feria with kids is very possible. If the kid is Spanish they could probably last until the 5 am finish as my friend’s 11-year-old daughter did (CRAZY!!!), but our son is not being raised on full-on Spanish time so we did the following:
Day 1 – We went to the Feria at about 12 PM because no Sevillano is going to be out at 12 PM. Kidding, there were a few but frankly not many. If you want to eat at the Feria and you don’t have an exact planned rendez-vous, I suggest arriving just before the locals generally dine so before 1 or 2 PM. Once we ate in an almost empty public caseta, we took Remi and his friend to the amusement park. Also by day and at 3 PM when the Sevillanos are sitting down to eat, the amusement park was not that crowded so they actually got to go on a few rides. It was hot as Hades but hey we had our bottled water!
After dropping Remi and his friend off at the other parent (did you catch on to my devilish plan yet), we took a short break before returning back to the Feria grounds as we were invited for the adults-only evening which ended at 3 or 4 in the morning after a number of rebujitos, a few tapas, a bit of dancing, running into some friends looking for a caseta, and buñelos! Ah yes, it’s not Feria until you have ended with some delicious (but overpriced), buñelos and chocolate made by the gitanos. We truly got the full experience.
We were not die-hard Feria-goers this time. It took us 1.5 days to recover from our late-night fiesta – I simply don’t know how the Spaniards do it. Friends who have been waiting for this moment for 2 years attended if not every single evening of the Feria (and still managed to make it to work), did attend most of it.
A finale to light up the night sky
The finale of Feria is fireworks show that answers the question as to why they don’t do fireworks on New Year’s Eve – They couldn’t possibly have any more to spare. At exactly midnight on the last day of the Seville feria, the city was treated to a spectacular fireworks display. We found perfect viewing spots on the Triana bridge where we enjoyed the show with two clients who booked a private food tour with us. I jokingly told them that this was all part of the package 😉. I was not the only one to use this magic moment to their advantage; up above us on the Mariatrifulca restaurant’s perched terrace, a guy decided this was the time to ask his lady love for her hand in marriage in full view of 1/2 of Seville – thankfully, she said yes.
Look, I won’t lie to you, it is not cheap attending Feria. Friends have given me tricks like eat before you go and carry a bottle of water etc. but we wanted to live the Feria at least this time. Some casetas serve up a huge amount of food so you don’t really need to over-order. You can always go back. Yes, you may wait a long time but 1 media + 2 cervezas to start is not bad. Some say it will cost you 100 euros per day, others say more like 202 euros (not sure where the extra 2 comes from). I’ve heard that people save up for Feria or even take out loans. What a cultural eye-opener. No wonder the Feria rakes in over 900 million euros for the city!!!!!
Now that you are Feria savvy here’s my take on some handy items to have in your “feria survival kit”:
Items to have on hand:
Crazy glue – this one was a funny discovery. I didn’t actually have any but while enjoying the invitation of one of our friend’s in the private caseta, his wife arrived and informed us that her espadrilles had already fallen apart even before she had made it inside. At that exact moment, I thought, mental note, carry some crazy glue (or some small nails and a hammer but the glue is probably easier).
A packet of tissues – I was lucky, in all the times I went to the restroom in either the public or private casetas (and my Spanish teacher and others had given me such a fright about this that I almost didn’t even try to go), I did not encounter one that did not have toilet paper – but it can happen. Heck, it happens in restaurants so pack some tissues.
Hand sanitzer – pandemic or not, this is good to have because while the toilet paper may have been restocked, not always the case for the hand soap.
An abanico (a hand-held fan) – Not only will you look elegant if it is assorted to your outfit but it can be helpful when inside a crowded caseta or just walking down the street.
Water – What is it about Spain where the temperatures can get quite high and getting water? Sure you can ask for water and maybe you get a small – really small, glass or you spring for the bottled water but I found it was faster getting cervezas and rebujitos than the bottle of water. I did not bring my bottle but if you do, one of those thermal bottles that keep the liquid cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 can be really handy. Probably won’t fit into your hidden pocket though
A handbag that you can throw across your shoulder – if you are not lucky enough to have hidden pockets in your flamenco dress or a lovely partner who is willing to carry a backpack for you, this will be handy and if you are even luckier, you’ll have it match your dress perfectly.
A bit of cash – while many take cards, a few only wanted cash so it’s a good idea to have some on hand especially if you need to be treating someone to a few rounds of rebujitos.
Want some more Feria highlights, please have a look at my videos here and check out our friends’ the AG3 Family on their YouTube channel as they share yet another adventure of African American family living and traveling abroad.
The Feria de Abril was over May 8th so you may be thinking, why did she go into all these details now. First, it was a recap and I was busy, and second, it is worthwhile preparing yourself for next year because the Sevillanos certainly do. In fact, the winning portada (entryway) to the Feria Sevilla 2023 has already been selected!! Viva la feria! See you in 2023.