Has anyone been in Seville during La Feria? Are shops, restaurants and tourist attractions open as usual?
Yes, yes and yes.
Does anyone have any personal experiences or advice to add? Suggestions on specific locations, etc? Is it crowded? Thanks!
'Does anyone have any personal experiences or advice to add?'
Yes, again - advice as a suggestion - dress smartly and look interested and you could be invited into a private caseta. Otherwise there are, I think, six municipal casetas where all are welcome.
'Suggestions on specific locations, etc?'
La Feria is held in a specific large area. There is a parade to the grounds, I believe, but I have not seen it and perhaps a happening in the Plaza Espana. See what your accommodation or the tourist office has to say. What do you want from 'etc'?
A google of La Feria Seville will give large amounts of information. Look to the images and yes, certainly, it will be crowded at times.
Yes, everything's open. The biggest change is the transit buses run through the night.
We wore nice casual clothes and felt underdressed. The locals dress very nicely, either in traditional garb or suits and dresses. There are at least a couple of public casetas you can visit without an invite. They are essentially bars, where there is always a long line for drinks, plus a public area and toilets, another long line.
We were invited into three private casetas:
The first was run, I'm pretty sure, by the local Anarchist club. They looked normal but there were lots of Anarchist slogans on the walls. Nice enough people who seemed to run their caseta like a fundraiser to sell food and drinks. They invited us in as we walked past.
The second was run by a group of business partners. This was primarily families associated with the owners (owners is probably the best way to describe the people who sponsor each caseta) and was a ton of fun - although there was rarely more than one English speaker there at any given time. One of the owners was out front, yelled at us in a friendly way and waved us in as we walked past. He did pick us out specifically rather than wave everyone in like the Anarchists were doing.
The third caseta we visited was after meeting one of the owners at the bus stop about 4 am on opening night. She invited us to visit her caseta the next time we visited the fair. Her group was more like a small group of people from the Chamber of Commerce who went in together on their own caseta. We found ourselves walking back and forth from #2 to #3 caseta until we were ready to call it a day or night.
Each caseta has a public space up front and a bar (and toilets) in back where you can get food or drink without waiting in line. Once you are invited into a caseta, remember the address (each has a number and street) so you can find it again. Each caseta also has a security guard. Once the guard knows you have been invited in, they will let you back anytime you want to visit - you may have to mention the owner who invited you if it's a different security guard.
Plan at least one daytime visit, to see the horses and carriages, and a nighttime visit, to experience the parties.
Hope that helps.
Please note that the Feria de Abril is in May this year. I imagine that finding a hotel might be one problem. One thing about the Fair that I found fascinating is the continuous parade of mounted horses with the caballero and his lady behind him, she rides sideways and without saddle. Besides the horsemen there are also carriages with the horses colorfully decorated and most of the passengers dressed in Feria garb. The Feria will begin on May 6 with nightly bullfights at the bullring. You will also find the find a lot of dancing(Sevillanas) in the private and public casetas. Besides the casetas there will be on the grounds an area for carnival rides for the youngsters.
I've never been to Seville during La Feria, but I do have one piece of advice. Be sure to check hotel availability and prices now, and make sure this will work for you. I remember that my Seville hotel had three prices: low season, high season, and bonus season (Holy Week and April Fair). Bonus season rates, as you can imagine, are ...not low.
We were fortunate finding a hotel. Normally we stay at hostals, small hotels, but I found a great deal at Hotel Silken al Andalus, four nights for a little under 400 euro total. It's a large luxury hotel a little outside of downtown. When we arrived, the regular rate for a room was 300 euro per night. Behind the hotel was free and safe parking (we didn't know, so used the hotel's underground lot) and a bus stop that takes you walking distance from the fair or past that into the old center. The buses run at least through 4 am (the latest one we caught) so we never had trouble getting back to the hotel.