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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Espinacas con garbanzos: a flavorful stew of spinach, chickpeas and cumin. Be sure to try some of our favorite ones here!
- 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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In 2012, Sophie happily left the grey skies of the French capital for a life of late-night dining in gorgeous Seville. When she’s not guiding and sharing her love for tapas and flamenco, you’ll find her reading in pretty plazas, dancing Sevillanas at local ferias, or planning hiking trips around Spain and the world.