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Posts from the ‘Feria de Abril’ Category

Seville | All the Fun of the Fair

Let it never be said that the Spanish don’t know how to party. And the place to party is at the annual local feria, or fair. Every town and city (and some city neighbourhoods) has its own, but one of the biggest and most famous is The April Fair (Feria de Abril) in Seville. Coming two weeks after Semana Santa, the big religious festival leading up to Easter, the fair is an almost pagan celebration of spring, and is all about having a good time. This year the official dates are from Tuesday, April 21 to Sunday, April 26, although in fact things really get going the day before, leading up to the alumbrado, the switching on of the lights, at midnight on Monday.

portada 2015putting the finishing touches on this year’s portada 

But the fair isn’t only about having a good time, it’s also about tradition – though like many traditions it’s not as hoarily ancient as you might think. The first April Fair was held in 1847 (okay, it’s old, but not as old as El Jueves or the Vela de Santa Ana) on the Prado de San Sebastian, and was initially a horse and cattle fair that was a kind of modernised version of mediaeval fairs. It moved to its present location, a purpose-built site on the southern edge of the suburb of Los Remedios, in 1973 (within living memory, so barely a tradition at all), by which time the cattle were long gone, and the fair had developed the character it has today.

feria horseshorse carriages and casetas

So, what’s it all about, and what are some of the traditions that make it so beloved by most Sevillanos? Well, first of all there’s the fairground itself. Even before you arrive, making your way towards it among the hurrying crowds generates a sense of expectation and excitement. You enter the fairground through a specially constructed gateway, the portada, which is rebuilt every year to represent some aspect of Seville (this year it’s the facade of the Bellas Artes Museum). Inside, especially at night with the strings of light bulbs and paper globes, everything is hustle and bustle and that strange combination of the tacky and the magical that is the hallmark of fairs and circuses the world over.  The streets are lined with small marquee style tents, called casetas, where people congregate to eat, drink and socialise, though the fact that most of these are private tends to exclude outsiders. You can, of course, get something to eat at one of the fast food stalls, or treat yourself to candy floss or some other sugary concoction.

feria dressescolourful flamenco dresses

In many ways there are two fairs. Daytime is for the horses and carriages that parade around the fairground, with the men dressed in the traditional traje corto (short jacket and tight trousers), and the women in traditional flamenco dresses, a time for society folks to  see and be seen, so if you like horses and spectacle this is the time for you.

At night is the second fair, the fair of lights and noise, the drinking of many rebujitos (sherry with 7-up) and dancing of Sevillanas  (a folk dance with flamenco style music) in the casetas, with traditional fried fish and  puchero to ward off hangover, that often carries on until dawn. You should also pay a visit to the Calle del Infierno (Hell Street) funfair, where the younger element can mostly be found, and scare yourself to death on one of the rides. On your way home stop for churros and chocolate, the breakfast for those who haven’t been to bed yet. The fair always ends (officially) with fireworks at midnight on the last day.

feria casetascasetas

The feria is also bullfighting season. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you want to experience the atmosphere of a bullfight, tickets are available here.

To get to the fairground you can take a taxi, one of the regular bus services 6 or C1/C2, or the special Feria bus service that runs from the Prado San Sebastian. It’s also possible to walk, especially if you’re in the southern part of the city.

If you’re here for Feria, renting an apartment will give you the flexibility and do-as-you-please freedom to enjoy late nights and sleeping in, as well as seeing more of Seville.

Seville | Spring Flowers

jacarandasjacaranda trees in blossom

With the equinox less than a fortnight away, the last week has seen a definite shift from winter to spring in southern Spain. It’s not as if winter is really tough here, of course, but the days are short and the nights chilly, and the blue skies and sunshine are harbingers of the year’s reawakening.

Spring has always been a good time to come to Seville. For a start, the weather is near perfect (as in most places the changing of the seasons can bring a little unpredictability), warm enough for shorts, sandals and T-shirts, but without the sweat and exhaustion inducing heat that will kick in during June. It’s the season for eating al fresco, strolling through the parks, gardens and charming squares with which Seville abounds, or relaxing on the terrace of your apartment with a siesta-time cocktail.

1-0504_macarena-seville-apartments-terrace-spain-01flowering plants on sunny Macarena Terrace

Early spring, around mid-March, is also the time for one of Seville’s best (and free) attractions, for this is orange-blossom season. The orange trees (around 30,000 of them) are decorated with the delicate white flowers of the azahar, and for around three weeks the air is filled with one of the most delightful scents known to mankind.

orange blossomazahar – aka orange blossom

The colours of spring are everywhere in the city, which is vibrant with flowers and blossoms of every hue. Particularly worth looking out for are the blossom of the almond trees, and in June, just when you thought it was all over, the purple of the jacaranda erupts for a couple of weeks, a blaze of glory to finish the season.

spring blossomsalmond blossoms in Maris Luisa Park

Seville is justly famous for its two Spring Festivals too, the first deeply religious, and the second its “have a good time” party week.

Semana Santa, Holy Week, leading up to Easter weekend, sees the streets full of processions with statues of the Christ and the Virgin Mary being carried to the Cathedral, huge numbers of penitents and Nazarenos in their pointed hoods carrying crosses or long candles, the smell of incense and the distinctive brass band Semana Santa music. Being a spring and rebirth festival flowers again figure prominently. Religious observance has declined, but the processions still draw huge crowds (especially the overnight processions on Thursday through to Good Friday morning), and are a moving and emotional experience. The celebrations in Seville are said to be the largest and most elaborate in the world, and are worth seeing even for the non-religious. They also say there are two types of Sevillanos – those that watch all the processions, and those that leave town for the week.

flowers virginflower-festooned procession float – photo courtesy of ABC.es

Two weeks later it’s the April Fair, La Feria de Abril. The modern fair grew out of an older horse and cattle fair, and during the day this is still evident in the horse and carriage parades. But the primary purpose nowadays is to dress up in your flamenco finery, put a flower in your hair, drink lots of rebujito (a mix of dry sherry and 7up), and dance the night away. The main venue is on a purpose built area of small marquees on the edge of town, but the carriages, horses and polka dot dresses can be spotted anywhere in town. April Fair is also the main bullfighting season, when the upper crust can be found eyeing each other up outside the bullring (a kind of Spanish Ascot) before the main event.

feria flowerswomen  at the Seville fair with “flowers” in their hair

More than any other time of year the spring is when Seville is at its most alive and colourful, and the chance to visit and experience its unique atmosphere is not to be missed.

Seville | April Fair 101

feria 2014 gateFeria de Abril Portada 2014

The people of Seville have a reputation for knowing how to party, and next week is Seville’s biggest party of the year, the April Fair (this year it’s actually in May, following a late Easter). If you’re looking for the Spain of myth, legend and picture postcard, with señoritas in polka-dot dresses and smartly dressed men on horseback, this is a good place to start. But for a first-timer it can all be a bit confusing and overwhelming, so you’ll be needing a few tips on what it’s all about and how to blend in with the locals.

The first fair was held in 1847, and was intended as a livestock show and market, but even from the early years it increasingly became an important social event, and by the time it moved to its present site in 1973, it had become the week-long party we know today. That present site is on a large strip of land (reclaimed from the original course of the river) on the southern edge of Los Remedios, across the river from Maria Luisa Park. It’s entered through the portada, a specially constructed gateway with a different theme every year. This year’s was inspired by the “water kiosks” built in the late 19th century to provide drinking water, and the 50th anniversary of the canonical coronation of the Virgin of Hope of Macarena the following year.

feria horses

The fair opens officially at midnight on Monday (May 5) with the alumbrada, the switching on of the lights, and ends the following Sunday night with an impressive fireworks display. The streets of the fairground are all named after famous bullfighters and are lined by the casetas, the small decorated marquees that are the focus of the socialising. Most of these are privately owned, either by wealthy individuals and companies, or by professional associations, clubs or groups of friends, and you’ll need an invite to be allowed in. But don’t panic! There are a number of public casetas run by the city council and neighbourhoods, so you’ll still have places to go for refreshment and to watch the dancing and singing.

It’s often said that there are really two fairs. The daytime fair is the one with the processions of horses and carriages, mostly owned, ridden or driven by the Sevillian social elite (it is, after all, an activity that doesn’t come cheap). They are there to see and be seen, so it’s quite an impressive display, with everyone and everything immaculately presented. The rest of us may not be in that league, but you’ll still want to look good. Flouncy flamenco dresses will cost you anywhere from 200€ up so you may not want to invest in one for just a short visit. However, a colourful shawl and espadrilles, along with a few bright accessories – flowers for your hair and big plastic hoop earrings – will probably do it for the ladies. Check out Flamenco & Más for some inspiration. Men should probably avoid the traditional traje corte, the short jacket and tight trousers, unless they’re really in good shape (and own a horse). Casual smart is the best way to go if you don’t want to look too much like a tourist.

feria dresses

The night fair is for eating tapas and drinking rebujitos (dry manzanilla sherry mixed with 7Up), dancing Sevillanas, and visiting the Calle de Infierno (Hell Street!) for the fairground attractions. By daybreak you should be ready for the traditional breakfast of churros and chocolate, or just head home for bed, depending on your stamina.

This is also the main bullfighting season, so if you want to see a fight go to the Real Maestranza. Best to book your tickets in advance.

Fiestas, Ferias and Festivals of Andalucia

Andalucía is justly famous for its fiestas (a word that means both party and holiday), which cover the full range from the solemn (often passionately so), to the riotous and celebratory, especially in spring. So, if you’re planning a holiday in the South of Spain this year, and are thinking of experiencing one of the traditional fairs or some religious processions, now’s the time to be getting out your diaries and making a note of the dates.

The first fiesta of the year (after the Magic Kings on January 5) is definitely the party kind. The Cadiz Carnival, which this year takes place from February 27 to March 9, is the largest on mainland Spain, a ten-day spree of processions, concerts, children’s shows, street theatre and the like, many of them with a satirical edge, the highlight being a singing competition for satirical and humorous songs. Oh, and there’s lots of eating and drinking, too.

semana santa 2012the Macarena procession in Seville

In April it’s the turn of Spain’s biggest religious festival, Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week), which this year is from April 13-20. There will be processions in every city, but the biggest and best (and the most) are in Seville. The atmosphere, with the distinctive brass band music, the elaborate floats, the hooded penitents and all the little rituals, is absolutely unique, but if you’re coming to Seville to see it bear in mind that hotels and apartments can double in price and fill up quickly.

Other religious festivals include Corpus Christi (June 19) and the El Rocio pilgrimage (June 4-9). It’s worth being in town for the departure of the pilgrims in their wild-west style covered wagons drawn by oxen.

rociothe Seville brotherhood leaving for El Rocio

In the meantime it’s the turn of the traditional spring fairs. The biggest is Seville’s April Fair (which this year, because Easter falls so late, is actually in May, from the 5th to the 11th), which is immediately followed by the Jerez Fair (May 11 to 18), and a little later by the Cordoba Fair (May 24 to 31). Both of these are easily reached by train or car from Seville. Typical of all the fairs are the little marquees, or casetas, where people gather to eat and drink rebujitos, the traditional sherry and 7-Up cocktails, horses and carriages, and fairground rides and fast food stalls. They also coincide with the local bullfighting season too. The Seville casetas are mostly private, so if you don’t know anyone who is a member of one the Jerez and Cordoba fairs will be more fun and friendlier. The Malaga Fair is a bit later, running from August 16-25, and has more daytime activities away from the Fairground itself, including a re-enactment of the fall of Moorish Malaga to the Christians.

cordoba patiosthe Patios of Cordoba

Two other festivals that are worth seeing are the Patio Festival, or Festival of the Flowers, in Cordoba (May 8-19), which takes the form of a competition for the best patios and balconies in the city, and the city is full of the colours and scents of the spring flowers, and the Fiesta del Carmen in Malaga on July 16, which celebrates the patron saint of fishermen with an unusual water-borne procession.

Veoapartment has holiday rental apartments in both Seville and Malaga, that make a perfect base for experiencing these fabulous Andalusian festivals. For a complete listing of upcoming events in 2014 check out our city information pages for: Seville and Malaga.

Seville | Other Spring Fairs

Seville’s famous Feria de Abril has come and gone for another year but in case you missed it here are three more upcoming fairs that you can visit from Seville.

jerez feria

Puerto de Santa Maria
Puerto de Santa Maria’s Spring Fair and Festival of Fine Wine got under way yesterday (24 April) and finishes on Monday.  This cosy coastal town is at one corner of Andalucia’s “Sherry Triangle”, and although this is a relatively small and local fair, it incorporates  a festival to celebrate the first fruits of the new year, as well as the usual horses and carriages, casetas and a funfair.

Jerez
The Jerez Horse Fair (Feria del Caballo) takes place in the Parque González Hontoria between 6 May and 12 May 2013. Of all the fairs, Jerez has maintained most closely the atmosphere of a “horse fair”, so if you’re really into horses this is the one for you. It’s also a very open fair – almost all the casetas are public, rather than private as they are in Seville, and because it’s in a park, rather than a “fairground”, it’s also surprisingly pretty. There’s a short bullfighting festival from the 9th to 11th, horse shows, a funfair for the kids, and as you would expect, plenty of sherry for the grown-ups.

cordoba feriaCórdoba
The Feria de Córdoba runs from May 25 to June 1 on the municipal fairground, near the river to the east of the Mezquita. There is all the usual things to do, with horses and carriages by day, a funfair and impromptu Sevillanas. Although most of the casetas are privately owned the public are allowed in, so it’s less cliquey and exclusive than the Seville fair, and so more fun for visitors. And the larger casetas even have air-conditioning!

 

All three fairs are easy and comfortable to get to as a day trip by train, but if you want to watch the opening and closing firework displays, or sample the night life into the wee hours of the morning, you’ll need an overnight stay.