The Seville april Fair is a week where people don´t think about all the money they are spending. Y0u can enjoy the best “pata negra” spanish jam, good wine, cotton candy and churros with chocolate. What is the fair if we return home without eating the “churros” with chocolate?
There are those who have the habit of comparing the fair in Seville with other Andalusian fairs, such as those of Malaga or Jerez. And I always say that the comparisons are hateful, each fair has its own essence.
Let´s start with a little bit of history, because it is very interesting how it all started.
History of the Seville april fair
In 1847 Queen Isabel II allowed a 3-day cattle fair to be established in Seville. The place chosen was El Prado de Sebastián which sevillian people know as “El prao”.
The objective of this cattle fair was an exhibition of cattle farms where each rancher exhibited his cattle, his horses and each one bought and sold what he could.
And it turned out that those who had to stay and look after the animals and the sheds 24 hours a day were very bored and encouraged each other by inviting each other, showing off the best wine and how well the women cooked. And then they danced, to warm themselves up.
Some of the little people who wanted to have a good time would come over at night to enjoy the excitement and take advantage of the opportunity to have a little chat with some pretty gypsy women.
As time went by, the plots where the farmers made their deals, were filled with awnings to protect themselves from the cold of the nights, from the rain (you know, “Abril aguas mil”) and under the awnings a table and some chairs to rest at ease, and next to them, a little kitchen and a barrel of wine….
And so, year after year, the cattle fair made way for the April Fair as we know it today.
It´s very exciting the see the “Real” two months before the fair and see that the cover is almost ready!
The cover is a must at the fair. Every year, the cover commemorates some emblematic building of Seville.
The lightning “El alumbrao”
What we popularly know as the “alumbrao” is called the “proof of lighting” and it also has its history. Once, the lighting of the real one failed, and since then, every year, the night from Monday to Tuesday at 12 o’clock at night is made “the test of the lighting” to make sure that the fair (that in theory begins on Tuesday) will have light to decorate our nights.
The origin of “pescaíto” is also curious. As I said before, the fair starts on Tuesday.
But many booths were open on Monday and they had not yet finished decorating them with the lanterns and such, so many people had to do “overtime” and stayed in the booth eating fried fish, and set with sevillanas.
Today, this is already like the beginning of the fair. The members of the stalls get together, have a feast in which besides pescaíto there is ham, prawns and potato omelette and then they go together to see the “alumbrao”.
Private or public house?
Some people discredit the Seville Fair for having private booths. They are logically, the people who do not have a stand.
Let’s see, at the fair there are private booths and public booths.
In the public ones there is good food, sevillanas and so on, and normally (except for the district or political party booths) they are empty.
The private ones are owned by an association of workers, or friends (or whatever) who pay a fee to have that booth. Besides the typical, some private booths hire music groups that sing 3 or 4 hours at night the fashionable songs (those of Bisbal, Juanes…) and even some paso doble to encourage the abueletes.
It is logical that when you walk around the fair you want to enter a booth with an orchestra where everyone dances instead of an empty booth.
But for that you pay a fee all year round, so that when the fair arrives you have a place to meet your friends and have a good time. Whoever wants a private booth, should pay for it, and whoever doesn’t, should get a public one!
By day or by night?
Whoever likes the fair likes it all the time, because every hour has its charm.
The morning is very nice, because you can see the recently watered Real, with its yellow poplars, the workers fixing the stands…
From 12h onwards it is beautiful because there is the horse ride, with its horses adorned with their bells, proudly pulling their cart loaded with beautiful women dressed in flamenco who are singing.
And the horses seem to know that they are being watched, as they raise their smug heads….
And the night is much more atmospheric, there are many more people, the orchestras play in the stalls and the lights illuminate everything.
Most people like the fair better during day, better than at night.
The “street of hell”
The area of the attractions (or cacharrito, or calesitas, as we say here) is called “the street of hell”. Actually, I don’t know where that name comes from, but I guess it’s because being there is hell!
Roller coasters, waterwheels, live guys, crazy cars, raffles, bingos, castles of terror, circus…..each and every one of the “bangers” announcing themselves at the top of their voices, each and every one of them with a different music at full volume.
In the streets of hell, you either get angry so they can hear you, or you learn the language of gestures.
The flamenco dresses
The flamenco costume, also called, gypsy costume or faralaes costume, is the typical costume of the April fair.
It is a fitted suit, to mark the silhouette of the woman, which has some flounces in the sleeves (either carnation or lantern flounces) and more flounces in the skirt, which reaches the feet.
The classics are polka dot, but there are also plain ones, printed with flowers…
But couturiers have to eat, so every year new designs come out, sometimes they hook and sometimes they don’t get accepted.
This year they have made short gypsy dresses (knee-length) fashionable and also made from denim. I’ll tell you if I see a lot!
The costume’s adornments consist of a flower in the hair, held in place with combs, large earrings and a colourful necklace.
Of course, you should not miss the high heels to be able to heel, but more and more people are signing up for canvas slippers, esparto grass or any footwear that allows you to spend hours and hours standing.
On horseback through the Real de la Feria
There are many ways to live it, none better than another, it just depends on how we want to do it. There is the party at night, the party by day, the party of the bulls and the party on horseback. Each one has its own choice, they know how they want to enjoy it.
It is about this last one that I want to talk to you, those who decide to take a horse out, to give that Andalusian equine touch to the fairground, must know very well if they are going to enjoy it, with the intention of having a good time on the back of a horse at any time, the opposite can happen. The noble beast has its reactions, – like all animals – riders share around the transit of many people. Therefore, I recommend that before embarking on this adventure through the fair, the new riders should take some previous classes and train to ride more safely.
To ride a horse at the Real de la Feria you have to keep very strict rules:
- In principle, it is forbidden to rent horses for rides inside the Real de la Feria and in the vicinity of it.
- It is not allowed to enter the fair to those who are not dressed in traditional Andalusian clothes.
- It is forbidden to tie up any kind of animal (including dogs, cats and any kind of pet) in huts, street lights, trees, traffic signs, litter bins, etc.
- Horses on their ride must advance at the pace or trot assembled. It is totally forbidden to gallop.
- Riders who are minors must be accompanied by an adult and have parental permission.
- Riders and riders may not leave or abandon, in any of the possible demonstrations their horses.
- And other conduct and general compliance.
As all these rules will be observed in their compliance by local police officers in Seville.
Visitors and tourists, all those who have ever dreamed of going to the fair on horseback and do not own one, can also do so. Horses are rented out at the different riding clubs, riding schools and even to private individuals who are encouraged by the different media in Seville and its surroundings.
The only requirement is to show the level you have as a rider to be able to assign the horse to them.
The demand for horses is high at the moment, but it is not difficult to obtain.
The price of renting a horse
For the days of the Fair, prices may vary depending on the place where you rent and the type of horse, be it Carthusian, Andalusian, Arabian, Spanish-Arabic, Spanish, Anglo-Spanish, in short.
These can range from about 200 euros to about 3000 euros, depending on the horse.
The saddle is included in this price.But you have to add additional expenses, between 60 and 100 euros for the daily transfer of the horse from the riding school
– the place of rent
– to the fairground or renting a stable in the vicinity of the Royal, which usually costs between 375 and 1200 euros only for the days of the fair.
There are not all, fundamental requirement, to dress in a traditional way and this is a little more difficult, because I do not know in Seville where you can rent them. We could buy it in the city centre, between Cuna or Plaza del Pan street and Plaza del Salvador, or in Alfarería street where there are several shops. Buying the short or traditional Andalusian costume.
It could cost us between 850 and 2600 euros, consisting of jacket, trousers, shirt, suspenders, spray boots or leggings, Cordovan hat, cufflinks and caps.
There are mainly two types of suits called short, which differ only in the calzona -pants- one has a lap in the low, dressed with spray buttons, the other has the low open and closes with cárieles. The man in the traditional dress is very classic, while in the woman is different that in addition to being able to dress short is allowed to dress amazon.
These would not be the only options, it could also be in the Goyesque or Ronda style, which would involve decorating the horse. This would be very expensive.
We are already fully equipped to be part of the Real de la Feria show. A way to enjoy them with their advantages and disadvantages, at least the one that they do not allow us to enter the stands, most of them private, because we were not invited.
How is the experience of going to the April Fair?
Location of the fairground:
It is located in the area of Los Remedios, between Carrero Blanco and Tablada. A large area that has three well-differentiated parts:
- First one, the parking area.
- The second zone would be the “street of hell” where we can observe the typical bumper cars, the mountain of terror, the waterwheels, the roller coaster…and many more attractions.
- The third zone clearly is the zone destined to the booths, most of these are of partners who pay all the year for the assembly of this one with what they are in the habit of being private and this is one of the problems for the people who come from out.
In them they meet to eat, drink and dance. The most frequent drinks are camomile and rebujito which the latter mixed with sprite and a little bit of mint. The different stands, each one bigger, smaller, associations… what they all have in common is the joy, the fried fish that is not missing together with the prawns, the ham and the potato omelette. Really delicious!
On Monday, the fair begins with two events:
The lighting of the fair and the typical pescaíto. Many are those who go every year to welcome the event, next to the arch, waiting for the first lighting to be given to go later to eat the pescaito at the stands. The arch of the fair is something characteristic that changes every year. They are usually representations of buildings in the city.
Once inside we can walk through the streets of Albero and see the lighting and the typical decoration of colored lanterns that give so much joy to the event. Little by little we are walking and we will be able to see people dancing in the streets, chatting, all without haste enjoying the fair.
Another characteristic feature that gives colour to the fair is the traditional flamenco costumes. Each year they are different in terms of fashion, with large and small polka dots, with flowers, plain, with more, less flounces….many trends that in the end leave the polka dots as the costume that lasts and never goes out of fashion.
At the end of the night, after so much dancing, jumping and drinking, the groups of young people usually go to the streets of hell with fewer crowds. One the typical thing related to the Andalusian fairs is to eat a chocolate waffle with cream on top, and it´s really delicious! If you hold the party until very late in the night, you can eat the traditional breakfast: “chocolate con churros” before going home to sleep that it is already time to take the bed.
Getting back home or to the Hotel at 8-10 in the morning is very usual during april fair. At that time the fair is empty and there are many workers who have to work to leave the enclosure intact for the next day. A good job of garbage men and sweepers that without these as other workers could not get an event of such magnitude to take place.
It is a very popular party where we can enjoy all the assistants of any age. From the youngest to the oldest.
The last days we go to the “real” (fairground) in the morning or at noon we can see the traditional horse rides. With this I indicate to you that the fair is not only the nights, from noon to the dawn in order that they could enjoy it all.
There is nothing better to finish the fair, than to see the fireworks from the bridge “de las delicias”, next to the river.
And to say in silence “until next year”