Spain, being a Catholic country, has few religious traditions as important as Semana Santa or ‘holy week’. Easter is a huge event in the religious calendar and holy week sees high-profile processions take place in towns and cities throughout the country.
Barcelona is a modern and cosmopolitan city and the Easter celebrations are not quite on the same scale as those of other Spanish cities like Seville. However Catholic traditions are still an important part of the city’s cultural fabric and if you spend Easter weekend in Barcelona, there will certainly be a lot going on.
Escape to the country
There’s also a more recent secular tradition that defines Easter in Barcelona – many Barcelonans make for the countryside to take advantage of the long weekend. The city becomes much quieter, as over half a million vehicles head out of town in an annual exodus known as ‘Operación Salida’ – literally, ‘operation exit’. The combination of quieter streets, colourful festivities and pleasant spring weather makes Easter one of the best times of year to visit Barcelona.
Easter Parades in Barcelona
Probably the most significant event in Barcelona during Semana Santa is Palm Sunday. A procession takes place in the Ciutat Vella known as La Burreta commemorating the arrival of Jesus in Bethlehem on a donkey. You’ll find palm stalls throughout the centre of Barcelona selling the distinctive bleached palm fronds carried by the devout.
This is just the start of a week of religious parades including Nuestra Señora de las Angustias, ‘Our Lady of Anguish’ and Nuestro Padre Jesús del Gran Poder. These are followed by María Santísima de la Esperanza Macarena, ‘Our almighty Lord Jesus and the blessed Mary of hope’, on Good Friday. Both of these processions centre on the Gótico and Las Ramblas, so keep an eye out if you’re around the city centre.
There’s a real timelessness to the Easter celebrations in this part of the world. You’ll see hooded penitents march around as if the Inquisition was still on the go, and of course the spectacular floats and effigies centering around the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. There’s a great deal of regional and local variation when it comes to celebrating Easter in Spain. Catalan traditions sit alongside those from southern Spain. If you happen to be in the suburb of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, you’ll see celebrations that echo those of Seville, thanks to the significant Andalusian population in this part of town.
Easter Cake and typical food
As the Christian tradition dictates, people tend to avoid eating meat on Good Friday, and Barcelona is a city where this duty becomes a real treat for the palate. Different forms of cod are the most traditional dish, including cod with chickpeas, cod with potatoes, and salted cod. An Easter cake known as ‘La Mona de Pascua’ is given out to children by godparents on Easter Sunday as well as chocolate eggs. There’s also a whole host of sweet delicacies on offer associated with Easter such as sugar dough morsels called pestiños.
Easter opening times
During festival days the majority of shops and museums are closed – especially on Friday 29 March, Sunday 31 March and Monday 1 April. Restaurants are less likely to close as many families celebrate this religious occasion by going out for a meal together.
Whether you’re particularly religious or not, the unique spectacle and atmosphere created by these celebrations means that a visit to Barcelona at Easter will be truly memorable. Why not take a look at our accommodation in Barcelona this Easter as well as our selection of over 50 discount vouchers across the city?
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