This blog post was originally posted on March 21, 2015, and was updated on January 18, 2018.
Seville is a city with a full calendar of traditional celebrations, and April means one thing: The Seville Fair!
One of the most famous in all of Spain, Seville’s April Fair, is one of the things we love most about our city. There is something special about starting Spring with a huge party complete with beautiful dresses, tradition, food, and drink.
Here are five tips on how to spend the April Fair in Seville.
1.Read up on the history before you go!
The Seville Fair dates back to the year 1847 when Isabel II opened a fair where livestock could be bought and sold. The first fair had only 19 casetas (little tents) and it was a huge success. In fact, only three years later, in 1850 there were 60,000 visitors to the fair. That year, the selling of livestock was kept separate from the area where people came to socialize and enjoy themselves. Nowadays, the April Fair boasts over 1,500 casetas, is one of the biggest celebrations of the year in Seville, and one of our favorite things to do in April. (Needless to say, the buying and selling of livestock is no longer part of the fair…)
2. The Casetas
In the Seville Fair, the main grounds are composed of private and public tents called casetas. These tents are set up in the form of streets and they are the key to enjoying the April fair. You can only enter a private tent if you know someone who is a member of that caseta. However, the public ones are open to everyone. It is important to note that some casetas accept cash, but in others, you need to have tickets to get something to eat or drink.
There is even a public caseta specifically for tourists! You can make lunch or dinner reservations at various times of day that suit you, and you’ll be able to watch some Sevillanas while you eat. Even if you don’t want a sit-down meal, it’s still a great way for you to experience all that the fair has to offer!
3. What to eat and drink at the April Fair
The most typical foods at the Seville Fair are simple raciones (larger portions of food to share). Families tuck into plates of fried fish like chocos (cuttlefish) or, perhaps the most typical, adobo (marinated dogfish – sounds strange but tastes incredible!). We wash the food down with our typical drink for the fair, called rebujito. This mixture of manzanilla sherry with Sprite or 7-Up is extremely refreshing, but be careful – it can go straight to your head! After you’ve had your fill of food, drink and socializing, head over to the food stands. They sell fried dough treats like buñuelos or churros with hot chocolate or even whipped cream. It’s a deliciously sweet way to end the night!
4. What to wear
The thing that makes the April Fair so famous is the beautiful dresses the women wear. The traditional dress is called a traje de gitana (literally translated: a gypsy dress). It has beautiful, bright colors, often with polka dots and ruffles (volantes). Each year, the style changes slightly and as the Seville Fair is the first of the year, it is the first city to show off the new fashions. Some women have numerous dresses for one year’s April Fair knowing full well that it will go out of style the following year.
If you are visiting, you don’t have to worry! Many women simply dress nicely and use accessories such as a flower in their hair, a mantoncillo (hair comb) or large earrings to give that flamenco flair. The fairgrounds are covered in dirt so make sure to wear shoes that can be cleaned, or that you don’t mind getting dirty. It’s all in the name of fashion, after all!
Men are generally expected to wear suit and tie, but if you’re just visiting we’d advise you to just look as smart as possible. Sevillanos take the fair dress code very seriously! A button down shirt and some dress pants will suffice.
5. As different as night and day
During the day at the Seville Fair, you will see horse-drawn carriages maneuvering through the fairgrounds. This is the more traditional part of the celebration with a more formal sit down meal and drinks. At night, however, the younger crowd joins in the festivities, with the rides in the Calle Infierno being particularly popular. On the first night, head to the huge entrance gate (portada) to see the lighting ceremony. Local officials switch on the lights on the impressive gate, along with the lights that run throughout the fairground. Similarly, on the last night, take in the fireworks display, which you will actually see better far away on the Muelle de las Delicias.