Generally two weeks after Semana Santa and everyone has
had plenty of time to rest after a week of eating, drinking
and of course the crowds. All this while contemplating Jesus
and the Virgin Mary. How do you recover from the madness
of Semana Santa? Blow off a little steam with a week of
eating and drinking, crowds...then add dancing, toros and cheap carnival rides in place of all that religion!
The Feria de Abril is a great time to see what many consider
the typical Andalucia - sherry, Sevillanas, toros,
flamenco dresses and horses. Giving the people who live
in the center a break after trampling through their streets
for a solid week, the Feria takes place on the other side
of the river and breathes a little life into Los Remedios.
Below I've tried to offer a brief guide to the Feria, including
a little background, what to expect and how to enjoy it. The Feria is not for everyone, and deciding on whether to attend during the night (party time!) or day (horse and children time!) can significantly change your opinion of the event. If in doubt, try a day time trip one day, then get some rest and try the night on the following day.
or gate, marking the entrance to the Feria
In 2013 the Feria de Abril will be the week of 15 - 20 April. The Feria de Abril has a longer history than
what you may read. The "modern" Feria was started
in the Prado de San Sebastian as a cattle fair in the late
1840's. Before these times a cattle fair was held at the
Cruz del Campo, which is now on Avda. Cruz del Campo next
to the cerveza factory by the same name. The fair
grew in size and eventually the people were more into celebrating
than purchasing a certain number of heads of cattle. In
1950 the celebrating and cattle parted ways and the Feria
as an event evolved into more or less what it is today.
In the early 70's the event moved to the grounds on the
edge of Los Remedios where it is held today. The size and
attraction of the fair has grown considerably and there
is now talk of moving it once again to Charco de la Pava
where there is yet more space. That decision may be made
in the next year, but it may take longer to actually move
the Feria to that location. In my opinion it would be a
shame to move it further away from the center. With more
and more people wanting to lay down some cash for a private
tent the Feria grounds have proven to be small. A private
tent is a status symbol, and the smell of money may lead
to a change in venue.
drawn carriages make their way from the
Plaza de Toros to the Feria
The Feria is essentially a small city erected for less
than one week. Over a month ago we stopped by to see the
main gate almost finished, so work begins well before Semana
Santa. In the "spirit of Los Remedios" (I'm kidding
a bit on this one) it is set up in a grid with rows of casetas or square tents lining the streets which are named for famous
bullfighters. There are of course places to eat, and a section
of the grounds with rides and games. The afternoon is the
time to see horses and most of the traditional dress of
Feria goers. The night is the time for drinking and dancing
until the sun comes up! As with all fairs almost anywhere
in the world expect higher prices for just about anything
including things outside of the grounds like hotel rooms
and taxis. And while May is technically still spring, and
a wonderful time in Sevilla, the end of Feria seems to mark
the beginning of summer. This changes a bit this year with
the early arrival of Semana Santa and thus the early Feria
Some rules, customs, observations and things to decide on:
Opening and closing
The Feria de Abril officially opens on
Monday/Tuesday morning (at midnight) when the puerta is illuminated (el alumbrao). Fried fish
has become a traditional meal on this night. Wasting no time
the people enter just after midnight and the festivities begin.
On the following Sunday Feria closes at midnight with a fireworks
display. Depending on your location, the weather,
and your roof-top terrace, you may be able to catch a glimpse
a bite to eat
There is some good food to be had at the Feria,
but the prices tend to be expensive and your choices will
often be more limited than your average restaurant in Sevilla.
Expect plenty of cured ham, sausage and the like. Also typical
is seafood and lots of it. If you plan to eat a meal be prepared
to part with a decent sum of money for sometimes average food
(Some places are quite good). In the early morning after a
night of drinking you'll likely see people gathered on the
corner of the Triana bridge eating churros y chocolate.
Day or Night
Feria is two different experiences depending
on which you select. The day is the best for seeing the horses
-and there are plenty of them. Those riding horses or being
pulled in horse-drawn carriages are typically in traditional
dress. You can rent a carriage at this time, although it is
quite expensive. The day is also a good time to eat and take
in the scene with a crowd that varies in age. You'll get the
best pictures as well. People are more laid back and there's
less rowdy behavior in my opinion. Night is for drinking and Sevillanas. And there's a lot of drinking going on
- fino and manzanilla are consumed in large
quantities. The crowd is younger and many don't start their
time on the grounds until midnight after having hit the bars
close by or in the center. The lights go on and anyone visiting
should try and at least get a glimpse of the main gate, or puerta, at night during some point during the week.
If crowds are not your thing the day may be better, but still
expect a crowd!
The casetas are typically set-up
and run by associations, private groups and companies. What
you can't do when you get there is enter most of the tents
or casetas, as many are private and require a previous
invitation. A few community and other tents are open to everyone
and are free of charge. You may have some luck if the guy
at the front of the caseta is nice and lets you in,
but don't count on it. Having a caseta for Feria
is a sign of wealth in most cases - you put it up and pay
for it and then invite all your friends and anyone
else you may want to impress.
of a caseta
The Feria does not take place in the center, but on the other
side of the river in Los Remedios. Depending on where your
hotel or apartment is you may be looking at a 30 minute walk
or more! That's fine as your making your way there, but keep
it in mind on your way back. While I won't give directions
it's easy to find - cross the bridge to Plaza de Cuba, keep
going straight a few blocks and then take a left. You'll eventually
run into the grounds.
The rides and games
If you've been to a state fair in the U.S. then your all set!
With all the pictures you see the horses, dresses and casetas.
You generally don't see all the carnival games and rides which
are part of the scene. Take a trip down the appropriately
named calle de infierno, or "road from hell",
where you can get your fill of hastily constructed rides balanced
on wooden blocks, the typical "rigged" carnival
games and of course cotton candy and the other foods which
don't mix well with the rides.
There's plenty of music and dancing going on and many visitors
remark about all the flamenco music and dance. But it's almost
always Sevillanas that they're seeing and hearing. Sevillanas is a variation of flamenco but not the
typical kind. There is a difference in the timing, rhythm
and style of singing and the locals are specific about calling
it Sevillanas, not flamenco. It may seem that every
sevillano is born with the ability to dance Sevillanas - almost all know it to some degree or another.
Tourists, crowds with people squeezing
by, lots of cameras and of course money for the day in the
street, all make the Feria de Abril an ideal place for pickpockets
and the like. While I’ve never had a problem, many do
– keep your belongings close to yourself and never take
your eye off them. Funny, all I had to do was change Semana
Santa for Feria de Abril in this section!
Feria would not be complete without a bullfight or two
every day. Considering the names of the streets in the Feria
grounds and the origins of the event, the bullfight plays
an important part in the overall festivities. After Semana
Santa the schedule goes full steam with a corrida every day until the end of Feria. But the Feria de Abril
sees some of the best action and most famous toreros.
If you don't get in to see a bullfight during the week it's
interesting enough to pass by the Plaza de Toros after the
event to see the horses and carriages as they take people
to the Feria across the river. The bars in the Arenal, the
neighborhood surrounding the Plaza, should be crowded and
offer plenty of action before and after the corridas as well.
Sometime close to February I will post a schedule for the week of Feria 2012 and note
that tickets are hard to come by. Check at the Plaza de
Toros itself or try your luck and pay a higher price at
the office on Calle Tetuan which sells tickets to many events.
You can check out some of Feria de Abril
photos from 2003 until about the present. I missed a few years along the way and in some years did not stay long (I prefer Semana Santa, which is at my doorstep!) Some early photos are provided by Dave Barlag. He was kind
enough to send some along to me after I missed the
event one year. And of course Feria means toros with a bullfight everyday!