Easter in Barcelona is a truly unforgettable experience. As a Catholic country, Spain begins Easter at the beginning of Lent, and when the holidays start the city really celebrates with processions, gifts and traditional ceremonies. The celebrations stretch over the whole week, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, and is known as Semana Santa – “The Holy Week”. Barcelona city breaks are a great way to see these traditional festivities amongst the city’s gothic churches and cathedrals and it’s an experience to remember whether you have a religious interest or not.
photo courtesy SuiteLife
Palm Sunday sees the holiday begin with a procession from the La Seu Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter. This consists of members from local parishes, coming together to carry palm leaves through the city before breaking off towards their own churches. Look out for the palm leaf sculptures outside many church doorways, some up to 12 feet high, with intricate designs, beautiful beading and tassels – these are created by local families and left as blessings. Each church holds a celebratory mass, in which palm leaves are handed out to the congregation as a traditional marker of the beginning of the Easter period.
Holy Thursday is a day of pilgrimage for Catholics, and you may find religious landmarks like the Sagrada Familia cathedral busier than usual. The tradition is to visit seven Catholic churches on this day, and while you may be waiting longer to visit these landmarks, you will be well rewarded, as church organisations tend to make special arrangements for visitors during this time. The churches of Barcelona are stunning works of architecture; no visit to the city can be complete without them.
On Good Friday there are two main processions through the street, making their way up La Rambla before again breaking off through the Gothic Quarter to their respective churches. Each procession consists of two floats, representing the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. The first, Nuestra Señora de las Angustias (“Our Lady of Sorrows”) begins at Sant Jaume church, while the other, Nuestro Padre Jesús del Gran Poder y María Santísima de la Esperanza Macarena (“Our Father Jesus of the Great Power and Holy Virgin of Macarena”) starts at the Sant Agusti. The processions are relatively solemn, yet fascinating, made up of robed, hooded monument-bearers, and marching drummers. Following the procession from behind allows you to absorb even more from the experience, and tour the city in a completely unique way.
In comparison, Easter Saturday and Sunday are relatively quiet. The Easter weekend is seen as a time to be with family, and events are focused on the Holy Thursday and Good Friday. However, there is still a lot to take in to get the full Barcelona Easter experience. Every evening large parades take place in the Hospitalet de Llobrigat suburb. These parades are separate from any secular church, and exist merely as a way to symbolise the story of the resurrection and to celebrate the event. These parades are followed by over a million visitors each year, and can be reached from central Barcelona easily via the Metro line.
If you have a sweet tooth, you will be in the right place at Easter with a break to Spain, on the Saturday, while the shops are still open, visit some of Las Ramblas’ confectionary shops and admire the incredible chocolate monuments, created for the holiday. Bakeries too will be specially producing traditional Catalan Easter cakes and sugary pastries.
Easter in Barcelona is exciting and eventful. Make sure you take advantage of the beautiful location you’re in, treat yourself to fresh seafood or tapas in the city’s world-famous restaurants, or just relax on the soft, sandy beaches, and enjoy the Easter break!