6 Lent Traditions Not to Miss if You’re Visiting Seville in Spring

As the mesmerizing scent of orange blossoms fills the air, drums start beating, and Semana Santa is on everyone’s lips, there’s no denying it—the countdown to Seville’s most awaited week has begun! 

The impressive Holy Week festivities held in Seville in spring are an unforgettable spectacle that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world. But for many sevillanos, the preparations that take place throughout Cuaresma (Lent) are often as exciting as the event itself. During the days preceding Easter, the emotion and anticipation are palpable and the Andalusian capital comes alive with tradition.

If you’re planning to stay in the city before the start of Semana Santa, here are a few ways you can experience the buzzing energy of Lent, engage all of your senses, and make your time in Seville in spring extra special no matter your beliefs!

Holy Week and other things to do in Seville in spring

Photo Credit: Sophie Picard, Text Overlay: Devour Seville Food Tours

1. Visit churches and admire the pasos

The main “attractions” of all the religious processions held during Holy Week, the pasos are the floats that will be carried around the city for up to 14 hours. 

Men carrying a Holy Week float in Seville, Spain
You don’t have to be religious to admire the beautiful Semana Santa floats. Photo credit: Sophie Picard

Over several weeks, members of all 60 different brotherhoods work hard getting them ready for their big day. From polishing silver and applying gold leaf to ornate canopies, to setting up candles and arranging lifelike wooden sculptures on the float, everything is taken care of to the smallest detail.

If you happen to be in Seville during Cuaresma, don’t hesitate to enter churches to admire the pasos and check out the progress. The sculptures—some of which date back as far as the 16th century—and both the grandeur of the floats and the intricate decorations are sure to leave you speechless.

Holy Week float at a church in Seville
The pasos live in Seville’s churches while they’re not being paraded around town. If you’re visiting before Holy Week itself, stop by and check one out! Photo credit: Sophie Picard

2. Watch a rehearsal or a Via Crucis

If you’ll miss the main processions this year, you can still get an idea of the dedication involved in carrying the floats by checking out a rehearsal. 

Several times before the big event, typically on weekday evenings or Sunday mornings, proud teams of costaleros—the men involved in all the heavy lifting—practice the route by taking the heavy float structure around the neighborhood. 

Watching them carry the weight on their cervicals, move to the beat of the music, negotiate narrow street corners, or lift the paso at exactly the same time is an image that’s likely to stick for a long time!

At some point before the start of the Holy Week, each brotherhood will also organize a solemn procession known as Via Crucis or Stations of the Cross. It consists of members carrying an image of Jesus Christ—this time on their shoulders—while stopping several times to recite prayers. The float is usually accompanied by chapel music.

Find the agenda for all Via Crucis and costalero rehearsals (ensayos) here.

Costaleros rehearsing a Holy Week procession in Seville.
Costaleros rehearsing for the main event. Photo credit: Sophie Picard

3. Get your sweet fix at a local convent

Practicing Catholics may abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Cuaresma, but in Seville, there’s no rule against treating yourself to something sweet—quite the contrary! In fact, during Lent, many cloistered nuns around the city will bake confections just for the occasion. So why not satisfy your sweet craving, try out seasonal specialties and support a local convent all at once?

Traditional Lenten desserts include torrijas (sliced bread soaked in egg and wine, fried, then dipped in honey and cinnamon), pestiños (crunchy dough fried in olive oil, bathed in honey and flavored with anis or sesame seeds), or roscos fritos (Spanish donuts sprinkled with sugar). All of them, obviously, are divine!

Scroll down to the bottom of this page for a list and a map of the convents where these special treats are available.

Torrijas (Spanish-style French toast)
A delicious portion of torrijas! Photo credit: Sophie Picard

4. Vibrate to the music

For many locals, an essential part of Holy Week processions is the music that brass and wind bands play as they march behind the floats. In the lead-up to Easter, musicians regularly rehearse outdoors, many concerts are held at churches, and on the weekends, musical ensembles from different parts of the city or region gather for contests known as certámenes de bandas

Find an event during your stay by checking out this page, search the agenda on this one for “concierto” or “certamen” or simply enjoy a walk around the center and let the sound of beating drums guide you to those vibrant reunions.

Marching band in a Holy Week procession in Seville
You’ll never forget the distinctive sound of Semana Santa music. Photo credit: Sophie Picard

5. Kiss a revered statue

To witness the devotion that sevillanos have for their favorite sacred images, there’s nothing quite like going to see a besapiés or besamanos. Literally meaning “foot-kissing” and “hand-kissing” respectively, these ceremonies are often held during Cuaresma. Watch in awe as many locals line up—sometimes for over an hour—to pay their respect to a wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary. 

If you stop by churches on weekends during Lent, you’re more than likely to catch a glimpse of this intriguing tradition. Otherwise, you can find besamanos and besapiés scrolling through the agenda here.

Kissing the hands of the Virgin Mary during Lent
Devout sevillanos line up to take part in the besamanos. Photo credit: Sophie Picard

6. Devour some traditional tapas

Last but not least, your Seville experience won’t be complete until you try some (or all) of the traditional recipes that make Lent such a special time of year. As meat takes a back seat, the following dishes are commonly eaten throughout Cuaresma and you’ll have no problem ordering them in most everyday bars:

  • Tortillitas de camarones: these tasty shrimp fritters made from both wheat and chickpea flour hail from nearby Cádiz, but many bars around Seville will make them especially for Lent.
Tortillitas de camarones (fried shrimp fritters from southern Spain)
Tortillitas de camarones are a staple food this time of year! Photo credit: Sophie Picard
  • Espinacas con garbanzos: a flavorful stew of spinach, chickpeas and cumin. Be sure to try some of our favorite ones here!
Spanish spinach and chickpea stew
Spinach and chickpeas is proof that Spain really does have incredible vegan options if you know what they are. Photo credit: Sophie Picard
  • Anything with codfish: bacalao is king during Lent, so it’s more than common to see it make an appearance on daily special boards. Don’t miss bacalao con tomate (cod in tomato sauce), pavia de bacalao (battered cod), garbanzos con bacalao (a simple but hearty chickpea and cod stew), or buñuelos de bacalao (delicious, fluffy salt cod fritters).

Are you coming to Seville after Cuaresma? Fortunately, there’s still a lot to look forward to, with Seville’s colorful Feria de Abril kicking off less than two weeks after Easter Sunday. So don’t hold back and start planning your trip to Seville in spring today!

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4 Comment

  1. Marie says
    April 8, 2020 at 11:13 am

    Thanks Sophie to this precious advices!

    Reply
    1. Devour Tours says
      April 14, 2020 at 9:17 am

      Thanks for reading, Marie!

      Reply
  2. Enrique Zejalbo Martín says
    April 10, 2020 at 9:55 pm

    Sophie
    Ya eres una “capillita” total que vives más las vísperas de la Semana Santa que la la Semana Santa en sí.
    Hay “capillitas” sevillanos que el Domingo de Ramos sienten que ya está terminando la Semana Santa.
    Lo de vivir las “vísperas” de una fiesta, como de un viaje, a veces es tan intenso o más como la propia fiesta o viaje.
    Para un extranjero que venga anticipadamente a la Semana Santa es una guía intensamente trabajada por una persona que sabe lo que pueda interesarle. Y en este año , habría tenido la fortuna de haber vivido lo único posible.
    Les das pistas de todos los lugares: Iglesias donde se preparan los pasos, ensayos de las cuadrillas de costaleros, gastronomía (curiosa asociación Cuaresma-Vegetarianismo), pero también los cultos de Hermandad, etc..
    Se ve la intención de no explicar la Semana Santa, sino de dar pistas al viajero para que la descubra.
    Todo muy de calle, de andar por la ciudad, lo que es necesario para el turista. Que descubra.
    Lo único que me ha chocado es la traducción de “pasos” al inglés por “floats” -carrozas-, pero es que no hay palabra para lo que no existe. Quizás añadir una descripción como de “esculturas religiosas sobre plataforma transportadas sobre las espaldas…” Pero es mucha palabra. Pero carroza nos suena a otra cosa: carnavales, cabalgata de reyes magos, etc..
    Me atrevo a sugerirte que pongas alguna breve bibliografía que pueda existir publicada en lengua extranjera. A mí, cuando viajo, o mejor, después de haber viajado, me gusta leer sobre el lugar donde he estado.

    Reply
    1. Devour Tours says
      April 14, 2020 at 9:16 am

      Muchas gracias por tu comentario, Enrique! Nos alegramos de que hayas disfrutado del artículo y esperamos que hayas pasado una buena Semana Santa (aunque sí ha sido bastante diferente para todos este año!).

      Reply

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