I just returned from a long weekend trip Seville, Spain. In addition to the perpetually sunny weather and gorgeous surroundings, one of our main motivations for visiting was Semana Santa or "Holy Week". The week long Easter celebration is observed in numerous Spanish cities, but none do it with the same passion, intensity and scale as the Andalusian capital of Seville.
Over the course of the week leading up to Easter, dozens of cofradías, religious brotherhoods, march from their local church to the Seville Cathedral and back. Each procession lasts up to 12 hours, as the participants slowly wind their way through the city's cobblestoned streets.
Visitors unfamiliar with the tradition may initially be shocked to see thousands of men and women dressed in robes and pointed hats (capirotes) reminiscent of the Klu Klux Klan's infamous wardrobe. Keep in mind that the tradition of Semana Santa dates back to the Middle Ages, far predating the KKK and their terrible, hooded costumes.
The highlight of each procession are pasos, ornate floats adorned with beautiful figures of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, saints and various biblical scenes. Unlike your standard parade float, pasos can weigh well over 2 tons and are laboriously carried by dozens of men. The job of the costalero is considered a deep honor for many involved in the procession. It's fascinating to watch the pasos slowly make their through the city. When you look down at the base, you see dozens of feet in near lock step navigating tricky alleyways and turns.
Considered by most to be the highlight of Semana Santa is La Madrugá. This series of processions begin at midnight on Thursday and continue well into the early morning of Good Friday. Thousands of people stay up throughout the night to catch a glimpse of the beautiful La Macerena, the Virgin of Hope. For the best views of the paso, make sure to grab a spot near the local church or the cathedral early in the evening.
if you are considering a trip to Seville, it's important to note that spring is arguably the most beautiful time of year to visit but also the busiest. Just 2 weeks after Semana Santa is the equally popular Feria de Abril ("April Festival"), which celebrates the city's rich history and local traditions. Expect hotels and flights to sky-rocket during these peak periods.