Semana Santa in Spain
Spain is completely transformed during Semana Santa as people from all over the world come to experience one of the country’s most traditional events to the full. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, thousands of people flock to attend the numerous processions that take place all over Spain. This year, Holy Week will be taking place from the 14th-21st April.
As more than half of Spain’s inhabitants are considered Roman Catholic, Semana Santa is one of the most significant religious celebrations in the country. This is why the rituals and ceremonies have become so great over the centuries. As with any cultural celebration, Spain's elaborate Semana Santa was for centuries a work-in-progress. The starting point for its extensive history is clearly the death of Christ, and during Holy Week Christians remember how he died on Good Friday in order to rise on Easter Sunday to give new life to those who are believers of him.
an example of one of the magnificent pasos
Truly one of Spain's most breath-taking celebrations, Easter is a one-of-a-kind display of tradition, music, culture, theatre and religion. While each city has its own unique Holy Week celebrations, the one element that is a focal point around the country are the stunning floats (known as ‘pasos’) and the elaborate processions. They are adorned with religious sculptures depicting Jesus or Mary, some even designed by renowned Spanish artists.
The floats are beautifully decorated with flowers and candles and are the main focus of the procession. The elaborate processions that take place throughout Holy Week are usually lead by associations known as cofradías or ‘brotherhoods'. They are a strong tradition in Spain, with many dating back to the Middle Ages and are responsible for carrying the float.
The ways in which Holy Week is celebrated depends on the particular region or city. Holy Week sees its most glamorous celebrations in the region of Andalusia, particularly in Granada, Málaga and Seville, while those of Castile and Leon see the more sombre and solemn processions, such as those Zamora and Valladolid.
a stunning procession moving throught the streets
Where to Celebrate
So, where is the best place to celebrate Holy Week in Spain? Easter week is celebrated in every city, town and village in the country. To see the most glamourous and lively parades, look no further than Andalucía.
Málaga: For more than 500 years of history, Holy Week in Malaga has been constantly present in the religious and popular feeling of locals. Here, Holy Week is spectacular event where religious devotion, art, colour and music combine in the commemorative acts of the death of Jesus Christ and attracts millions of visitors to the capital of the Costa del Sol.
Sevilla: The sunny city of Sevilla is arguably the best place in Spain to experience Semana Santa. Huge statues representing various images from the Passion of Jesus Christ take the streets in processions that last up to 12 hours. Thousands of pilgrims that gather here from all corners of the world to witness the city’s extravagant pasos and military parades accompanied by music, floral scents, lots of colour and cheer.
the extravgant parade which takes place in Sevilla
a brotherhood carrying the Semana Santa float
Castilla y Leon
For more traditional and historic celebrations, those Castile and León are often regarded as some of the most authentic, solemn, and austere in the entire country.
Zamora: Zamora has a very unique way of commemorating Holy Week. Here you will witness a silent procession, where the bells of the viaticum and the beating of the candles on the ground are the only sounds that break the silence in the impressive procession of the Yacente de Zamora, every Holy Thursday at night.
Valladolid: Valladolid transforms into an incredible open air-museum during Semana Santa, as every Good Friday a special parade passes through the streets, displaying the best Castilian imagery of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Churches in the town also stay open so visitors can come and admire their beautiful works of art.
Other places in Castilla y Leon which hold remarkable processions are León, Salamanca, Avila and Segovia, most of which have been declared Fiesta of International Tourist Interest of Spain.
a Holy Week ritual taking place in Zamora
The Big Cities
Even if you are not in one of the more traditional locations to celebrate Semana Santa, there is still plenty to see and do in Spain’s most important cities.
Madrid: Madrid commemorates Easter with a variety of religious and fun activities. Churches and basilicas schedule religious music concerts, whilst numerous brotherhoods take part in processions they have been preparing for all year long, and the city's best restaurants and cake shops serve and sell typical Easter dishes, such as torrijas.
Barcelona: there are numerous processions, masses and feasts to look out for when visiting the Catalan capital. One of the best places to observe this celebration is outside the Cathedral of Barcelona which sees the largest parades of its kind in the city.
Madrid's Semana Santa procession passing through the street
People from many different countries come to Spain to enjoy these incredible events, so if you are interested, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to learn more about our 2019 Holy Week packages!
a map locating each city