Dance, Dance, Dance at the Fería de Abril in Seville, Spain

Kick up your heels in Seville (Source: iStock / leonovo)

Attending the Fería de Abril (or April Fair) in Seville, Spain is probably the most Spanish thing you will ever do. What began in 1847 as a meeting of local cattle traders now draws more than one million people a year from all over the globe for fancy dresses, music, horse shows, and more. There is no better way to get a feel for the traditions and friendly nature of the southern Spanish people than heading to the fair in Seville.

Celebrating the traditions of southern Spain (Source: iStock)

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of however many days you can spend at the Fería. We’ll help you navigate the landscape during your first visit, and our comprehensive list of “dos and don’ts” will let you master the fair like the Sevillian you wish you were.

Fería 101, or everything you always wanted to know about Spanish culture

As denizens of what is both the political and the cultural capital of Spain’s Andalusia region, Sevillians are proud of their city and the history and culture they’ve preserved over the years. The Fería is their annual opportunity to demonstrate that pride with a week’s worth of 24-hour-long festivities.

The buildup to the event takes place in a ritual that is as rooted in tradition as the fería itself. Once Easter is a few weeks away, casetas (little event tents) start popping up on real de la fería, the fairgrounds on the west side of the Canal del Alfonso XIII between Tablada and Los Remedios neighborhoods. Families who have occupied the same locations in the fairgrounds for generations embrace and prepare.

A candy kiosk ready to go (Source: iStock)

Everything comes to a standstill when the fair begins two weeks after Easter. While the exact styles of the dresses change a bit each year, not much else does. Men don their hats and women dress in that year’s style of flamenco dress—be it a faralá or a traje de gitana—and spend the hot days and cool nights dancing, drinking, and celebrating Andalusian heritage as their ancestors have done for centuries.

Dos and Don’ts of the Fería in Seville

First time at the fair? Don’t worry. We’ll get you ready to maximize your time in Seville while avoiding the common mistakes newbies usually make.

Horses dressed up for the fair (Source: iStock)

Do: Check the calendar. Since it’s not associated with exact calendar dates, it’s best to check the timetable of the official Seville tourist website to know exactly when the Fería starts and ends before you book your trip.

Don’t: Forget your wallet. Everything at the Fería costs money—and that’s after you’ve spent a couple hundred dollars on a new dress. From food and drink to bus fare, everything in Seville is more expensive than usual during the fair so bring money. Cash is best as you can’t guarantee that purveyors will be able to take cards.

Do: Make friends. The warm atmosphere in the spring is not limited to the temperature. The people of the Seville are warm and welcoming as well—especially during the Fería. You will be eagerly welcomed to the public casetas and treated like a guest.

Don’t: Walk into a private caseta without being invited. One of the biggest mistake tourists make is not appreciating the differences between public and private tents. Public tents are hosted by the fair to make things festive for visitors. Private tents are organized by influential local families, companies, and unions. If you’ve made friends during the day, you might be invited to a private caseta later that night. If, on the other hand, you enter uninvited, you will be politely but sternly asked to leave.

Revelers enjoy a private caseta (Source: iStock)

Do: Make sure to dress in the current year’s style. Styles change at the Fería. Every. Single. Year. Gentlemen will want to dress in the current Jerez-style riding suit if possible, and ladies will definitely want a new dress in the latest style (plus matching flowers, shawl, earrings, necklace, and other accessories). You can find a second-hand one if you search really hard, but frankly, this isn’t the place you want to be miserly.

Don’t: Wear sandals. While there are fashion reasons for this advice, it’s mostly practical. The fairgrounds are full of people, horses, livestock, and all sorts of hazards. Leaving your toes unprotected is a mistake you won’t make twice.

Do: Dance! Everyone dances at the Fería—even people with no moves and no skill. Locals, of course, are born to dance, and they’ll do so all day and all night. If you have a chance, take a couple lessons and learn the traditional four-part sevillanas dance that everyone will be doing at the fair. Even if you can’t, there’s no such thing as embarrassment when a million people are twirling together—so get out there and dance, dance, dance!

Don’t: Skip the bullfights. Tickets for the afternoon events in the bullring are quite expensive—so much so that you’ll be tempted to avoid them altogether. Trust us: don’t. They’re the place to see and be seen, and they’re definitely worth the money. Get yourself down to the Plaza de Toros de Maestranza at 5:30 pm at least once during the Fería and you’ll know what we mean.

Do: Attend the fair in the afternoon, not just at night. Much of the cultural aspect of the Fería happens while the sun is high in the sky. There are equestrian events, family-friendly activities, and (best of all) far fewer people in the fairgrounds during the day. Get there right when things start at 1 pm, then take a nap and get ready for the evening.

Don’t: Drink alcohol all day long. The Sherry wine for which southern Spain is famous starts flowing in the early afternoon. Pace yourself, and opt for a rebujito (which is sherry mixed with soda) to cut the booziness. Don’t let the wine get the best of you—you’ll see far too many folks late at night who didn’t heed this advice and are paying the price.

Do: Bring tissues. The bathroom options aren’t always well stocked with paper products, so be prepared with your own.

Don’t: Forget your layers. Be ready for the mercury to drop! Guys, bring a jacket, and ladies, bring a simple shawl—or one with fringes and embroidery!

You’ll never forget your first Fería (Source: iStock)

Do: Come again. You’ll never forget your first time at the Fería. Whether or not it becomes an annual tradition in your family, your thoughts will surely turn back to Seville each April. Just be sure to plan ahead if you’re aiming to make the trip again.