Semana Santa, known as Holy Week in English, is an important celebration in Spain. It takes place in the week leading up to Easter Sunday and is a time for celebrations, parades, and spending time with family. No matter where you are based in Spain, you are sure to find a Semana Santa procession: they take place all over the country. But if you are hoping to see one of the biggest and best parades then there are some cities that you simply shouldn’t miss.
This year the Holy Week celebrations in Spain will take place from 2nd April to 9th April. Many celebrations are comprised of parades with elaborate religious floats, music and dancing. Holy Week processions tend to be upbeat family celebrations. Here are our favourite Semana Santa processions and celebrations in Spain:
The Best Semana Santa Processions in Spain
Celebrations in Andalusia
- Granada, Andalusia. Considered to be the best place in Spain to enjoy Semana Santa, you’ll find non-stop Holy Week parades in Granada. In 2009, the Semana Santa celebrations in Granada, Seville and Malaga were declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest. There is a different celebration every day during Holy Week in Granada, meaning you’ll always find something to see and do. Perhaps the best parade in the city is on Holy Wednesday. This unique parade will see the Christ of the Gypsies float carried through the streets of the gypsy district of Sacromonte. This is a vibrant and colourful festival filled with flamenco tableaus and cave homes. As well as being a visual treat, this parade is a treat for the ears too. That’s because the crowds that follow the floats will sing religious flamenco songs and recite poetry, creating a party atmosphere.
- Seville, Andalusia. The second of the three cities declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest, there is nowhere in Spain where the Semana Santa celebrations are as raucous as they are in Seville. The people of Seville are so committed to their Holy Week celebrations that, during lockdown, they made their own floats and passed them from balcony to balcony so tha their beloved processions could still take place. In Seville the Semana Santa processions begin on Palm Sunday and carry on every day throughout the week. There are around 60 brotherhoods that take part during the week, each bringing their own unique element to proceedings.
- Málaga, Andalusia. The third city in the Festival of International Tourist Interest club is Malaga. What makes the parades in Malaga so unique is the celebration that takes place on Holy Wednesday. On this day, one of the city’s prisoners is pardoned and released every year. This tradition is unique to Malaga, and takes place because in the time of Carlos III, the processions were cancelled due to an epidemic. In protest, the prisoners of the city opened the prison doors and carried the Jesús Nazareno statue through the streets on their shoulders, before returning to their cells. One prisoner is released each year as a reward for their bravery. Traditional processions take place on other days of the celebration.
- Córdoba, Andalusia. Cordoba is a beautiful ancient city comprised of a maze of narrow streets. This ancient city creates a beautiful and atmospheric setting for the Holy Week parades. There are 37 Brotherhoods in Cordoba, meaning that there are plenty of parades to enjoy. But what makes the celebrations here particularly unique is that many of the processions are held in complete silence. When paired with the accompanying candlelight and incense, this leads to an incredibly atmospheric and holy ambience.
Celebrations in Castilla y Leon
- Zamora, Castilla y León. Zamora is a small city that is located just north of Salamanca. This city is worth visiting because it its Semana Santa celebrations have been taking place since the 13th century. That means that the parades have an ancient and timeless feel. In this city the processions take place both during daytime and nightime, meaning you can choose the procession that best suits your mood. The night processions take place in complete silence, whilst the daytime ones are a riot of colour and music. This is the perfect city for music lovers, as the celebrations include plenty of choir singing and Gregorian chanting.
- Valladolid, Castilla y León. Valladolid is another small city, but it is one that boasts 21 unique brotherhoods. What makes this city worth visiting is that it is an ancient city and the oldest brotherhood here boasts back to the 15th century. Like in the other cities on this list, there are processions throughout Holy week, but the most important one here is on Good Friday. This is known as the General Procession of the Holy Passion of the Redeemer, and features statues by the famous baroque sculptor Gregorio Fernández. These statues attract art fans from across the country.
Celebrations Across the Rest of Spain
- Cuenca, Castilla-La Mancha. This is a Semana Santa procession that attracts a crowd, with more than 30,000 visitors attending the processions here each year. This is a hilltop city, and the parades have been taking place on its hills since the 17th century. The most impressive parade is on Good Friday, which begins at 5.30am but is well worth getting up for.
- Cáceres, Extremadura. If you’re not in the right part of the country to attend the processions in Andalusia or Castilla y Leon then the parade in Caceres is a great alternative. The city’s brotherhoods were founded in the 15th century and its Easter celebrations date back until this time. What makes the parade here so special is that it passes through the city centre, meaning that you can enjoy the atmosphere of the parade and the beauty of the ancient city at the same time.
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