Easter in Seville is observed from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. For 7 days, crowds of people join the brotherhoods (hermandades and cofradías) with austerity, fervor and enthusiasm.
If you intend to see it in Seville, you’ll soon realize that it is one of the most original and genuine celebrations in the world.
To make it an unforgettable experience, follow some hints and rules that will help you understand its customs and make the most of your stay in Seville during Semana Santa!
The Cathedral and Giralda Tower are closed to visitors in the afternoon during Semana Santa.
Secure your visit getting your skip-the-line tickets in advance! You’ll access the Cathedral, the Giralda and the Iglesia del Salvador.
1. Should you even spend Easter in Seville?
This is capital and you should take it into consideration when deciding your travel dates and your itinerary…
If you don’t specifically want to see the Easter processions, avoid Seville during Semana Santa!
The population of the city multiplies, the main sights are difficult to access and hotel prices go through the roof, especially for the Easter weekend (from Thursday night to Saturday night).
You’ll enjoy the town a lot more in November or January – nice weather, no hordes of tourists and locals everywhere.
If you’re not sure about traveling to Seville but you do want to see Easter processions, go somewhere else in Spain. In the surrounding smaller towns (e.g. Utrera, Estepa, Marchena, Alcalá del Río, Écija, Osuna, or even Jerez) you can enjoy them without the crowds – and get real close!
But if you do want to spend Semana Santa in Seville, read my ultimate guide to live and experience the Semana Santa in Seville as locals do.
2. Is sightseeing possible during Easter in Seville?
Yes, but (there’s always one, you know that)…
Most monuments (including Alcázar and the Cathedral) are only open for part of the time or even closed on maundy Thursday or/and Good Friday, the lines can be incredibly long and the booking websites crash. That’s why it’s always better to book your Alcázar tickets or Cathedral tickets in advance).
That being said, there are no processions in the morning.
The best time to try and visit any sights would be from 9:00-10:00 to 14:00. Then things start to get a little crazy…
So if you want to go anywhere or want to see anything (other than a procession), get up early so you can be ready to visit the monument as soon as it opens (make sure you check the opening times during that week!).
3. Do your best to arrive and leave in the morning
During Easter in Seville, organize everything to arrive and leave in the morning.
There are processions in the afternoon, the evening and throughout the night (on average they start at 15:00 and end late in the morning – at 2:00 or 3:00) which means:
- You may have to walk it from Santa Justa train station to your accommodation.
- The airport shuttle will take hours and is not worth waiting for.
- A taxi or a private transfer from the airport won’t be able to drop you at your hotel in the city center.
- Taxis won’t be able to pick you up or drop you at your accommodation, only somewhere outside the city center (all processions will be in the center).
This is of course assuming that you’re staying in the oldest area of Seville and not at some of the most modern neighborhoods.
Make sure your luggage is easy to carry because you may have to cross some very crowded streets (or even processions) with it!
4. Allow lots of extra time to get anywhere
If you’re going anywhere on time, like that flamenco show I recommended you, allow lots and lots of time. And then allow a bit more time.
It can easily take you an hour or more to walk a distance that normally only takes 10 minutes.
Do you need to go to the airport to catch your plane home? In this case, be extra cautious and arrange your transfer with lots of time in advance!
5. Learn how to find the best spot to watch a procession
First and foremost, get a print out of the processional schedule.
Alternatively, you can have a look at this summary I update every year.
Unfortunately, as the day goes by the processions may be delayed for several reasons (rain is the most important one). So don’t expect Swiss punctuality here.
- If red banners hang from balconies in a street, chances are that a procession will head that way sooner or later. The more banners, the more likely this is.
- When groups of well-dressed people rapidly walk in the same direction, they are likely to be heading for an approaching procession. The larger the crowd and the faster they walk, the sooner the procession will arrive.
- Whether you’re trying to keep out of the way of the procession or to find it: listen out for the drums. You can hear them a long way off.
Whenever you can, look for a spot from where you can exit quickly once the procession has passed by. As soon as the paso passes, people start moving from one location to the next to watch another procession so you don’t want to be blocked for a long time in the middle of a crowd. In this sense, try to have a street on your back that you can use as an exit point.
6. Avoid narrow streets if you’re claustrophobic
The narrower streets get absolutely jam-packed – to the point that you can’t move at all.
The pasos are carried by men underneath (called costaleros) because they are incredibly big and very heavy.
Thus, in all the narrower streets you’ll have to literally flatten yourself against the wall to allow them to pass. The paso decorations might wobble past your face at the distance of a couple of centimeters!
7. Be respectful and silent
One of the most important rules that everyone enjoying the Semana Santa should apply is respect.
Again, the street will be absolutely crowed (you can’t imagine how much until you’re there for the first time). Therefore, some respect and common sense is mandatory, especially when it comes to positioning yourself to get a glimpse at the procession and the attitude you must have towards the pasos.
Usually, the sidewalk curb delimitates the space the procession has to go through the street. Therefore, if you’re standing in the street as the procesión approaches you’ll be pushed towards the curb by the diputados de tramo, and you’ll bother the people at the front.
Additionally, if you see people already standing at the curb, respect their position an don’t stand in front of them. Some of them might have been there for hours to get this spot… So, if you try to stay in front, you’ll be asked (probably not very kindly) to leave or move. And if you try to stay behind them and there is no room for you, people may refuse to let you stay there, or even let you through.
You may see people carrying ladders or climbing up trash containers to get a view over the rest.
Whenever the paso arrives and as long as it marching through the street, be quiet. Remember that you’re in the middle of a religious celebration involving mourning and penance.
And for obvious reasons, just as you don’t touch a painting in a museum, don’t touch the pasos as they pass by.
8. Deal patiently with the crowds (bullas)
As I’ve said before, during Semana Santa the streets are packed with people. You’ll see crowds everywhere and you need to learn how to deal with them.
Be patient as it will be very hard and long to get through a narrow street. You’ll also face people moving around you that will ask you to let them pass. Do if you can, and excuse yourself if you can’t.
You may even encounter people that will not let you pass despite asking politely. If this person has been there for a long time you might be the 50th or 100th person to ask.
Avoid the area surrounding the Carrera Oficial:
- The Calle Sierpes, La Campana, Plaza San Francisco, Avenida de la Constitución near the Cathedral, and Plaza Virgen de los Reyes all have sections with reserved seating. There are either bleachers erected or seats lined up along the street that prevent the way.
- If you try to get through you’ll encounter surveillants that control the access.
- Some junctions and the area around the cathedral are provided with pathways in both directions, as well as crossing points. These are manned by the police, who ensure a regular flow of pedestrian traffic. Make sure you’re walking in the right direction as it’s clearly signposted. And don’t stop to watch or take photos – the police will move you on.
You’re in a large crowd so hold on to children at all times.
In similar fashion, mind your valuables as crowds are ideal for thieves. I’ve never had a problem myself after many years seeing processions, but never take you eye off your belongings (particularly cameras and purses).
9. Go to the home churches if it rains
If the weather forecast announces rain (or serious menace of), brotherhoods may decide to cancel the procession. The pasos, imágenes and other items are usually ancient and vulnerable masterpieces that can be seriously damaged with even a little water.
The vast majority of brotherhoods open their doors of the home churches to visitors if they decide not to go out, so you can visit the pasos inside the temples as a consolation prize. Actually, you’ll see them in full bloom, including the floral arrangements, as everything was ready to parade on the streets.
Find out the brotherhoods that were supposed to procession that day, figure out their home churches and take an umbrella with you! While it’s not the same as seeing the floats in the street, you’ll have a lot of time to examine details, take pictures and admire the decorations.
If, on the other hand, rain interrupts a procession at any point of its journey, the brotherhood will seek refuge in a suitable nearby church. Sadly, interrupted processions are resumed only in very limited circumstances (and will only do so if the logistics permit it and other brotherhoods accept). Those that have definitely been called-off ones will not have a chance to exit until next year.
This article is part of a complete tutorial on Semana Santa in Seville where you can read all the information you need to organize your experience during this magical and unique week.
Here is a complete summary of all the guide:
1. Semana Santa dates in Seville
2. What are Seville’s Holy Week processions?
3. Easter activities: daily schedule of Semana Santa processions
4. Holy Week Seville: What to see each day
5. Live Semana Santa in Seville as locals do
6. 9 tips to make the most out of Easter in Seville
7. When to visit the home churches during Easter (Seville)
8. How to survive Holy Week in Seville with children
9. Semana Santa hermandades (brotherhoods)
10. Semana Santa glossary