April and May are typically the time of year where every Spanish woman regrets having that extra piece of torrija (a delicious sweet fried bread consumed during Easter) and tries to squeeze herself into something which was neither created for speed nor comfort. I’m talking about the traje de flamenca (the iconic Spanish flamenco dresses) for the annual Feria. We were fortunate enough to experience Feria in Sevilla last year and we are still coming down from the buzz.
What is Feria?
Feria is basically the big annual fair of each town. These fairs are huge in Spain, especially in Andalucía and allow Spaniards to do what they do best – party.
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The feria in Sevilla is the most famous, commencing on the Monday two weeks after Easter Sunday of Semana Santa. Normally known as La Feria de Abril or La Feria de la Primavera (if it happens to occur in May), the feria in Sevilla is a week full of dancing, eating, drinking, socialising and daily events, such as bullfights and horse parades. The fun lasts all week, with many locals partying every spare minute of the day until the festivities end. We even knew people who would work during the day and return to the feria each night after work and pull an all-nighter, dancing the night away until the morning.
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Travel-Ling Tip: Do as the locals do and pace yourself. Spaniards are experts at pulling all-nighters, without getting too drunk. Feria is not about how much you can drink, but more how long you can dance, socialise and stay out.
Approximately one million people attend feria in Sevilla, and it’s no wonder; it is THE place to be for the entire week. The city itself becomes a fashion parade, with men and women showcasing their traditional Andalucían dress (the stunning trajes de flamenca are my favourite) through the streets, often by fancy horse carriages. But like so many festivities in Spain, La Feria had quite humble beginnings. Originating as a humble cattle market in 1847, the casetas (tents, which translate to ‘little houses’) were erected to sell livestock. Nowadays, over a thousand of brightly decorated casetas, adorned with pretty paper lanterns, line the grounds of El Real de la Feria (the fair grounds), filled with food, drinks and lively music.
Travel-Ling Tip: Sample and enjoy the traditional food. We love our croquetas and tortilla. Vino dulce is also pretty nice (once you get past how strong it is!)
It was such an experience to walk past each caseta and see a different party going on in each one. Individual groups were dancing sevillanas (a popular flamenco-based dance) to the loud flamenco music blaring from each tent. Sadly, the majority of the casetas at the Feria in Sevilla are privately owned and not accessible to the public. Thankfully there were still a few large casetas put on by the local council for us ‘plebs’ but the liveliest ones were the ones privately owned and paid for by corporations, political parties or wealthy families, complete with their own security guard at the front as well! That being said, the public casetas were still great, with groups dancing and singing along to the upbeat flamenco, flowing alcohol (and yet no drunkenness!) and cheap food, including the Spanish staples of potato tortilla, croquetas and bocadillos (mini sandwiches).
Travel-Ling Tip: Towards the entrance of the casetas is a large map, showing who owns which caseta. Stop here and check out where the public ones are, otherwise you will be walking around for a while to find one, as there are only seven out of 1,000 accessible for the public.
El Real de la Feria doesn’t just house the casetas though. There is also a huge fairground, called La Calle del Infierno (The Street of Hell – clearly named by the tired parents of kids running on a nasty combination of lack of sleep, adrenaline and sugar), complete with theme rides, raffle booths and plenty of carnival food and drink. The total space the fairground covers is an impressive 1.2km2 – plenty of room for fun and debauchery. Feria in Sevilla has an amazing and festive atmosphere, and one the big kid in me loved to soak up. I couldn’t resist a ride in the huge ferris wheel, taking in unbeatable views of the whole fairground. It was quite astounding to see how huge and spread out the Real de la Feria actually was!
Travel-Ling Tip: If you value your feet, wear comfy shoes! The fairground itself is quite huge to walk (or dance) through, and if you are staying in the old centre of Sevilla, you have a bit of a walk to get to the feria grounds (as it’s over the bridge, on the other side of the city).
Whilst the showgrounds were impressive, the entrance to the Feria has to be my favourite – La Portada (the main gate). This huge gate, lit up in thousands of lights, overlooks el real de la feria. The gate showcases a new design each year and is constructed solely for the event. In fact, the whole fairground is temporary, and only constructed for the feria, before being packed away at the end of the event for the following year.
What to Wear to Feria (for the ladies)
Now, let’s talk about THE DRESS. I’ve always wanted to wear one since I saw them years ago. As soon as I knew I was going to be in Spain for the Auxiliares Program, I vowed to myself that I would save up and buy one. It’s a rite of passage for so many Spanish women and it was a dream of mine to also partake in this tradition. Searching high and low in multiple cities, I found the perfect one for me. The whole process of searching through different colours and designs and trying different dresses on was like buying a formal (prom) or wedding dress. So for me, it was definitely a fun part of the process.
At first, I was a little self-conscious walking around Sevilla in my dress, especially as I did not hold back on the torrijas during Semana Santa! However, the nerves quickly melted away and my inner flamenco diva came out. Maybe it was due to the lack of breath or blood circulation (did I mention this thing was tight?), but I was on cloud 9, feeling like a million bucks, and definitely part of the cool crowd. I was even stopped multiple times by tourists asking if they could take photos with me! Being the showpony that I am, I couldn’t say no, putting on my best Spanish accent as possible (we don’t want them to feel gypped that their photo souvenir with a Spanish diva was actually with an Australian wanna-be, right?).
Travel-Ling Tip: The style of the dress (mermaid) is quite tight around the thighs, so be prepared to walk a lot slower than usual! If, like me, you weren’t blessed with inner-thigh gap, stockings might help reduce chafing (sorry for the TMI, but us girls have got to stick together, much like my thighs in this dress!).
Travel-Ling Tip: Nothing is sexier than confidence, so once you’ve squeezed yourself into the dress, own it!
Have you been to Feria in Sevilla? Or any other Ferias? What did you think? Comment below!