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Easter 2023 in Spain - not religious, which city is best

We will be in Spain in March to April 2023 and are trying to work out where we should aim to be for Easter. We are not religious and would prefer to stay somewhere where life will go on as normal during Easter. We are tossing up between Madrid, Valencia or Barcelona for the week leading up to Easter and Easter itself.

Any suggestions?

Posted by
678 posts

Semana Santa or Holy Week is this year celebrated from Th 6 to Mon 10. Life goes on as usual, in fact it´s a major holidaying time for many Spaniards. Depending on where you go, shops may be closed those days (as it happens in the Basque Country, for example). Life will be "normal" but taking into account that in most places Th and Fri are public holidays, and in some others you have to add Mon 10. You will not notice much in Madrid (except that everyone is out on the streets, as usual) or Barcelona, not sure about Valencia. In any case, if you can watch a procession, it´s really worth it. Spain is not a very religious country any more...just 11% Sunday Mass attendance and 85% of weddings are civil marriages, but we do love our traditions, even if we do not have this religious belief.

Posted by
2267 posts

Just to add to Mikel's comments—while the traditional observations are concentrated in the south, and only Thursday and Friday are public holidays, the whole of easter week is a spring break for most (all?) schools, making for a busy travel week across the country. I wouldn't consider it an obstacle to visiting then, but you'd certainly want to have transportation, accommodation, and major attractions booked in advance that week.

Posted by
678 posts

Thanks for your comments, I should maybe add that Monday 10 is also a public holiday in many regions in Spain. And the school break is not the same all over Spain during Easter, neither are the public holidays (Thursday is not a public holiday in all regions, Friday is, and Monday in some). In any case, the real point is that it´s a time for vacation for many and i think it´d be wise to follow the good advice of making reservations well in advance. By the way, we have beautiful Easter celebrations in the north, too!

Posted by
873 posts

Wherever you are planning to stay - look for the local community celebrations to enjoy - even if you are not focused on the religious festivals. For example, we spent one Easter Weekend staying in Ronda in Andalucia and drove over to Argos just to see it on Easter Sunday. They had a running of the bulls (only several bulls over several hours down the main street) and street parties including paella prepared right in front of one restaurant. Interestingly since the chef did not speak English and we did not speak Spanish we discussed it with him in German... Which we all sort of spoke.

Posted by
3958 posts

Well to be honest, these days in Spain Semana Santa is less so about religious devotion and more a cultural celebration, Spain is one of the most non-religious countries in Europe actually.

Think of Semana Santa as a local festival of life, passion, color, music, community etc., if that's still a turn off for you I'd recommend Barcelona, whose Semana Santa festivities are almost non-existent compared to the rest of the country. However if you are curious about experiencing our local culture, you can always day trip to nearby Tarragona or Girona to enjoy their spectacular Semana Santa processions

Posted by
678 posts

As Carlos rightly says, Easter celebrations are really worth watching as an important cultural particularity of this country. Many foreigners still believe that Spain, being a "catholic" country (and all those repeated stories about the Spanish Inquisition, the only one with formal courts and that killed infinitely less persons than any of the Dutch, German and French Inquisitions, for example), is dominated by religion. In the past years, and mainly from the 80s onwards, the decline of the religiosity of the Spaniards has been constant and steady.

According to Wikipedia (OK, probably not the most accurate source of info...but in this case they use actual sources from Jan 2022), QUOTE According to the Spanish Center for Sociological Research, 57.6% of Spanish citizens self-identify as Catholics, (38.7% define themselves as not practising, while 18.9% as practising), 2.8% as followers of other faiths (including Islam, Protestant Christianity, Buddhism etc.), and 38.1% identify as atheists (13.9%), agnostics (10.6%) or non-believers (13.6%) as of January 2022.[20]
Most Spaniards do not participate regularly in weekly religious worship. A July 2021 study shows that of the Spaniards who identify themselves as religious, 36% never attend mass, 20.8% barely ever attend mass, 19% attend mass a few times a year, 6.8% two or three times per month, 13.4% every Sunday and holidays, and 2.9% multiple times per week.[21] According to a 2021 survey, those who go to church several times a year are 17.3% of the total population; those who go several times a month, 9.3%; those who go every Sunday and all holy days of obligation, 14.9%; and those who go several times a week, 4.3%

Young people´s religiosity is in very low figures, less than 10%. But, as the article says, we love our traditions!! Source, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Spain#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20Spanish%20Center,identify%20as%20atheists%20(13.9%25)%2C

I´d definitely try to enjoy this cultural diversity and attend any of the popular festivals and traditions during Holy Week in Spain, even if you´re not religious you´ll have a great experience.

Posted by
975 posts

Thanks everyone. We are happy to see an Easter procession as a cultural event. We just didn't want to end up choosing a place to stay at Easter where hotel prices rise astronomically because we have inadvertently chosen a place of acute religious fervour.