How to Conquer Seville’s Feria Celebration in Spain
La Feria de Abril, or just Feria, is the biggest party in the southern city of Seville, Spain. About two weeks after Holy Week for Easter, the whole city joins together at the fairgrounds and enters under a massive, illuminated archway that’s unique every year. Night and day, Feria encourages lots of dancing, horseback promenades, music, carnival rides and more. What used to be an animal livestock competition is now a brightly-coloured display of traditional Spanish flamenco dresses and celebration of spring.
Here are a few guidelines to experiencing Feria as a traveler to the city:
Plan months in advance
Feria is huge and widely popular in all of Andalucía. In order to come as a guest, you will need to secure a hotel, holiday rental or other place to stay very far in advance. Choosing accommodation outside the city isn’t advisable, as many roads are closed and it can be difficult to get in-and-out of Seville. Some businesses will also close, so be prepared for less food or supplies available during the week as well.
Meet the locals
The number one thing you can do is know someone personally in Seville. Families will set up ‘casetas’ weeks in advance that are invite only on the fair grounds. These are tent-like structures with wooden floors and sometimes even full bars on the inside. You’ll need to be friendly with a family member to join their dancing, eating and drinking celebration. However, there are larger, public tents to visit as well that welcome everyone. These are associated with businesses or even political affiliations, but they have all types of people dancing and dining in these party spots. Some tour operators will offer their guidance during Feria as well to help navigate the food and fun.
Learn the Sevillano
The Sevillano dance, which is like a cross between flamenco and country line dancing, is in the blood of those who live in Seville. It’s tough as an outsider to learn all the moves perfectly, but there are plenty of studios and teachers offering lessons before Feria. People will be dancing in pairs throughout the festival in the tents and out on the streets, so it can be a way to meet others and be invited into private parties.
It takes about 2-3 months of weekly lessons to get the 8-count dance down correctly, although much is improvised as well depending on the bravado of your dance partner. If you prefer to watch, you can clap along to the Sevillano songs or, at the end, proclaim ‘Ole!’ and “Eso es!” following a good performance.
The fashion changes slightly every year and is closely followed by both men and ladies. You might think you’ve found a steal on a dress, but it could be last year’s trend. However, thousands of people are in dresses (and not dressed) for Feria, so wear whatever you like and are comfortable in.
If the whole skirt and top is too much, look for some fun accessories that can get you in the Feria spirit. Women often have a single silk flower bobby pinned on the top of their head that goes with a plastic or metal comb. There are beautiful, embroidered scarves for sale at boutique shops downtown you can drape over your shoulders or use in the Sevillano dance too. As for the guys, you can fully suit up with a ‘traje corto’, or simply dress smartly with one of the traditional wide-brimmed hats.
With all this said, you can certainly attend the Feria and get swept up in all the excitement no matter what you do. But to fully immerse is such a vibrant Spanish tradition is even better!