Are you thinking of going to Seville? Would you love to go to the Feria de Abril/April Fair, but could do with some expert advice to help you enjoy this amazing event? Well, you’re in luck! Because today we have a very special guest: Josefa DeOrtega, YOSE, a content creator, architect, fashion lover and sailing enthusiast, as well as a mum and many other things besides. One of her passions is Flamenco and, of course, the Feria. So are you ready to find out why taking part in this event is so worth it?
Hi YOSE, first of all, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview; we’re delighted to have this opportunity to hear all the secrets you can tell us about the Feria! Let’s start with your bio for the benefit of the Volare readers… would you like to introduce yourself in a few words?
Hi! My name is Yose, I’m a technical architect and have been involved in the world of social media since 2010. I’m originally from Cadiz, although I’ve been living in Seville for 27 years. My main passion is the sea and I love sailing. Although I live in Seville, I can’t go for more than two weeks without being by the sea! I live with my daughter, who is seven, and I’m also trying to instil this passion in her.
Tell us about the Feria de Abril, when and where it takes place and why; what is its significance?
The Feria, known as the Feria de Abril (April Fair) or Feria de Sevilla (Seville Fair), is a festival held annually in the city of Seville; when it was first held, in 1847, it was a purely commercial event, but it has now become a wonderful expression of folklore, colour and joy, for both locals and visitors. The event takes place in its own large grounds, called the Real de la Feria, made up of streets lined with casetas (marquee tents), decorated with paper lanterns (farolillos), and full of horse-drawn carriages and people on horseback. It’s held one or two weeks after Easter; in 2023 it will take place from Sunday 23 April until Saturday 29 April.
How important is the Feria to the local culture of Seville?
For the people of Seville, the Feria is a fundamental part of their lives; if you think that many people from the city of Seville allocate part of their annual budget to the Feria, as it’s very expensive, both to attend every day and to invite people to the casetas, as well as the outfits and all the accessories.
I can assure you that the Feria takes up a large amount of any savings that a middle-class family in Seville might have! Having said that, no one goes without during that week, even if it means giving up a holiday or certain luxuries throughout the year. The priority is to enjoy the Feria to the full!
But it’s not just about having fun. The Feria continues to be important from a commercial and professional point of view, as it is a networking space where a lot of business is negotiated, for example, by inviting someone you’re about to do some work with to eat in your caseta.
Then, from 8pm onwards, there’s no more shop talk and it all becomes much more fun!
What are the key features and events of the Feria? Tell us about the casetas and how they work. Are there any opportunities for tourists to access the casetas or are they just for the locals?
The Feria takes place within huge grounds, with surfaces of yellow-coloured clay, known as albero, and casetas, with horses being ridden and horse-drawn carriages constantly passing by. Apart from the exhibición de enganches, a parade of more than 100 carriages, one of the key events is the feria taurina, the bullfighting.
The casetas are private marquees belonging to families or groups of friends who pay for them all year round; it’s true that there are some public ones – known as casetas de distrito – but the music in those is not usually Flamenco from Seville; they’re more like little nightclubs, frequented by young people who don’t have access to a family caseta.
At the Feria, you normally go to your own caseta or one owned by a friend or relative. The casetas aren’t cheap, of course, and there’s also quite a long waiting list to get one. In some casetas you can pay and go in to eat and see concerts, but there are others where only the members pay, so only guests invited by them can go in. It’s a very family-focused, personal atmosphere.
But don’t worry if you’re coming from somewhere else and don’t know anyone with a caseta. I’ve been living in Seville for 27 years and I go the Feria whenever I like and I’ve never had a problem getting into casetas. At the end of the day, the locals are keen to invite you and they want you to share this amazing event with them!
What do you need to take into account if you want to go to the Feria and enjoy it like the locals?
The key to enjoying the Feria like someone from Seville is to come with someone from Seville! Why? Because otherwise, yes, you’ll be able to experience the Feria from outside, you’ll be able to stroll through the Real, see the horses go by, but you won’t be able to experience the coolest part of the festival!
If you miss out on the most important part of the Feria, which for me and for most people there is to go into those family casetas and experience this aspect of the city’s life, you’re going to leave the Feria with only half an idea of what the Feria de Sevilla is all about. There are other fairs, such as the one in Jerez, where there is in fact the option for everyone to go inside the casetas, but in Seville it’s a more private affair, so ideally you need to go with someone local. But as I said before, if you don’t know anyone in the city, don’t lose heart, the locals are very hospitable!
We know that Seville gets very busy around the time of the Feria, so how far in advance should you book your accommodation? And where would you advise visitors to stay?
The issue of accommodation is quite tricky, as people tend to book apartments well in advance; it’s true that the number of rooms and apartments for rent increases quite a lot during the period of the Feria, especially in the area of Los Remedios, a fairly typical neighbourhood where the Real de la Feria is located. I live here and in fact, as I’m answering your questions I’m looking at the entrance to the 2023 Feria, which is now being set up.
As you can imagine, staying in a hotel during the Feria is expensive, and people also look for options that are quite close to the grounds, because transport isn’t straightforward. Taxis, Cabify and Uber are extremely busy at this time, so people prefer to stay somewhere that they can more or less walk from. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the Feria can be exhausting; you can be inside the grounds for eight hours and when you leave worn out, you just want to get home.
If you don’t have any friends in Seville who can put you up, it’s best to book well in advance; and if you can’t find anywhere to stay in the area of Los Remedios, looking outside of Seville may be a good option: it’s actually going to cost you the same to get to the centre from another part of Seville as it will, say, from Aljarafe (a comarca, or area, within the province of Seville). Luckily, the district of Los Remedios is quite well connected with the ring road.
What do you eat at the Feria de Sevilla? Are there any particular drinks or dishes?
At the Feria de Sevilla it’s very traditional to drink rebujito, an alcoholic drink typical of Andalusia, made by blending manzanilla wine, a carbonated lemon & lime soft drink, mint and ice. This is what you drink all day long. Of course, there is also beer and wine, but drinking rebujito is a good idea to avoid getting too drunk, as of course, you can’t drink manzanilla wine for eight hours, we’d all end up completely drunk!
Foodwise, there are some truly traditional regional dishes: ham platters, plates of tortilla, fried fish, shrimp fritters, cheese and almonds in the evening; there’s no particularly typical dessert, you mainly find traditional finger food from Seville, that can be eaten standing up. On some days you might stay for a sit-down dinner or lunch, a bit more formal, but the idea is to have a great time in a caseta on your feet, mingling with others.
Let’s talk about Flamenco fashion: Any suggestions for anyone wanting to buy something to wear at the Feria? We know that the Flamenco dress is the only regional costume that follows different trends every year. Big or small ruffles, high waists, flowers on one side or the other… Can you give us a preview of what everyone will be wearing this year?
Well, to be honest, there is in fact a fairly well established dress code, as there are things that are not permitted at the Feria. For example, men are not supposed to wear jeans. You can’t go to the Feria casually dressed; you need to dress for the occasion!
Men typically wear trousers with pleats, dress shoes and a jacket, which can be a blazer or a more formal jacket, with or without a tie. Definitely no T-shirts, please!
Women can either dress Flamenco-style or normally, but if they are dressing normally, they should dress quite formally and one can’t be combined with the other. What I mean is that it’s completely forbidden to dress normally but, for example, with a flower in your hair. If you decide to put a flower in your hair it’s because you’re wearing a Flamenco dress!
Traditional Flamenco dress consists of flat esparto shoes (as it would be quite painful to wear heels for such a long time at the Feria), a long fitted dress, usually accompanied by an embroidered shawl, with a brooch, a flower and some drop earrings; you don’t normally carry a bag but there’s usually a hidden pocket under the ruffles, where you can keep your money, phone and whatever else you need.
It’s interesting to know that Flamenco fashion is increasing in popularity. We have two Flamenco fashion shows in Seville and in recent years this style has been catching on more and more internationally. The more traditional sectors of Seville society tend to stick, shall we say, to the more formal style, whereas in my case, I like to try something different: for example, a skirt with fringes, or not wearing a shawl.
Seville’s most typical Flamenco outfit, which at the end of the day everyone wears, is called a canastero Flamenco dress, with just one set of ruffles, consisting of as many as you like. It’s best to avoid very low necklines, as being in a family environment with too low a neckline is not very well looked upon; the Feria is not the place for flaunting too sexy or provocative an outfit.
You have a young daughter. What advice can you give anyone wanting to attend the Feria as a family?
The Feria is of course an event that welcomes children; it’s best to avoid taking very young children and babies, but from the age of five or six, children can have a great time at the Feria during the day. It’s true that from around 6pm onwards the children tend to disappear and in the evening the casetas are usually for adults only.
There’s an area at the Feria called “Calle del infierno” (Hell Street), an amusement park where you can take your children. There are also children who ride horses with their parents, and in some of the larger casetas there are even some children’s shows, with clowns, magicians and other fun activities.
The Feria is definitely a place for children, but for those coming from elsewhere with very young children, my advice is to try and secure an invitation to a caseta in advance; being at the Feria with children with nowhere to take a break can be quite overwhelming.
What is your best memory of the Feria?
All of the times in any caseta with live music, Flamenco, sevillanas and having a good time with my friends. I find every year at the Feria unforgettable, but I certainly have a very set kind of ritual, for example, from the moment I get dressed up, and since my daughter has been going with me to the Feria, it means so much more.
It’s a beautiful moment: getting our outfits ready, the different coloured flowers, the shawls, the shoes, and getting dressed up together, I love it!