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How Long Does Spain/Portugal 'Shut Down' during Easter?

Hello - Considering a trip to Spain/Portugal with Husband and 17 yo DD during our 'Easter-Passover' break 2022 which starts on Good Friday 4/15/22 and ends 4/24/22. Would there be any challenges in terms of closures during the week following Easter Sunday?

Posted by
4677 posts

I have been in Portugal over Easter. Little was closed in the major towns, but restaurants etc could be closed in the smaller villages on Easter Sunday. Some places such as Seville have major scale Easter parades, so accommodation prices rocket. It’s also school holiday time, so places are busier and consequently more expensive everywhere.

The Easter parades have been cancelled again this year, so 2022 is likely to be busier as people have missed out for 2 years.

Posted by
68 posts

Just to clarify: Are you saying the week leading up to Easter is the 'school holiday' or the week after Easter Sunday? Or both?

Posted by
18700 posts

Cynthia, have you decided on the cities you'll visit yet? The situation varies from place to place, at least in Spain. It's my impression that Semana Santa, the week leading up to Easter, is celebrated more intensely in Andalucia than in other areas of Spain. Even within Andalucia, there's considerable variation in the impact of the holiday. You'll get more specific guidance if you lay out your planned itinerary.

I've only been to Spain once during Semana Santa (2019), and there are others on the forum with more experience than I have. My view is that it's a great opportunity to observe culturally-rich local celebrations, but you need to allow extra time at the high-impact destinations, because it will take longer than usual to accomplish your regular sightseeing goals for these reasons:

  • You will want to spend some of your time observing processions.
  • Many sights have limited hours or are closed for one or more days, often because they are inaccessible when processions flow near them. This may require multiple trips to the same part of town, since nearby sites may have different hours.
  • Massive crowds in the streets along processional routes will slow you down as you try to move from Sight A to Sight B. I experienced that especially in Seville, but I've also run into it during processions at other times of the year in Toledo and in a small town in the north. A procession through a medieval district blocks foot traffic as well as vehicles.

A measure of how different sightseeing access is during Holy Week: In 2019 the tourist offices in major Andalucian cities updated their one-page lists of hours by sight just for that one week.

The more seriously the city treats Semana Santa, the more impact there is likely to be on hotel rates. In my experience, rates for budget-level lodgings more than double in Seville. I have no idea what happens at more upscale places.

It sounds as if at least part of your trip may fall after Easter. That should be somewhat less crowded in the more celebratory cities, but it's possible that will be when the summer sightseeing schedule kicks in. I can't be sure, because the date of Easter floats, and it may be the case that the summer schedule always begins on May 1. Under the summer sightseeing schedule, there is likely to be a much longer afternoon closure period at the many sights not working straight through the day. There will still be at least as many sightseeing hours available as usual (and generally more than during Semana Santa), just at different times of the day.

Posted by
4677 posts

In much of Europe, schools have 2-3 weeks holiday for Easter, straddling Easter Sunday, so both weeks.

Posted by
68 posts

We are thinking of leaving NY on Saturday (4/16 day before Easter Sunday) arriving Barcelona. Other destinations: Madrid, Seville and then Lisbon (departing Lisbon to NY on Monday 4/25).

This is all just a work in progress. Our daughter has been begging us to take her and this is the only week we can travel.

Any further advice is appreciated.

Posted by
2167 posts

Semana Santa (Holy Week), is the week culminating to Easter Sunday. As you will arrive on the last day and in Barcelona it will have minimal impact on your trip. Unfortunately there is nothing really spectacular going on in Barcelona in relation to Holy Week. We just do not have the same intensity of Holy Week traditions as one would find in other parts of Spain. However, April 18th (Easter Monday) is a national holiday in Spain so the majority of shops and restaurants will be closed on that day. Hope this helps :)

PS: If I am counting correctly you are planning on visiting 4 major cities in only 8 nights? That appears to be more of a problem than Semana Santa. I'd stick with only Barcelona + Madrid or Sevilla + Madrid, best leave Portugal for another time.

Posted by
139 posts

Spain is very heterogeneous and each "state" or "autonomous community" has also its own vacation days. For example, in the Basque Country all public services are closed on Holy Thursday, Friday and Monday, which is not the case for many other communities. All bars and restaurants are open, banks will be closed, as well as most big supermarkets. Spain is no longer a religious country, it´s now a question of traditions, which we absolutely love to follow. Semana Santa is also quite different in the north compared to the south (more solemn in the north), but equally amazing to see. For instance, in Bilbao we have over 60 processions, very colourful, one of them runs over the red light district and "ladies of reputable moral" and the owners of the establishments sing to the passing images or "pasos" (some from the XVII century), at night. Zamora and León offer beautiful processions, too.

And also not to be missed, the living reenaction with hundreds of participants of the Passion of Christ, as is the case of Balmaseda and many other places.

Posted by
68 posts

Thank you all very much for your feedback....My primary concern was not being able to do anything of value if everything was closed during our trip but it doesn't seem like that is the case if we begin 'touring' after Easter Sunday. Hopefully we will be able to find something to eat if all the restaurants are closed on Easter and Easter Monday in Barcelona.

Posted by
2167 posts

Hopefully we will be able to find something to eat if all the restaurants are closed on Easter and Easter Monday in Barcelona.

I'm sure you will find some places along las Ramblas or in the Barrio Gótico, but maybe not outside the touristy centre of the city.

Posted by
18700 posts

I agree with Carlos that you are spreading yourselves too thin. You only have eight full days to see four world-class cities. You will lose a chunk of the day every time you switch cities, so you will really have only five full days not requiring flights or train trips. My usual recommendation for Barcelona is a minimum of four days (five nights).

If you've already purchased your flights, I'd stick to just Barcelona and Lisbon. If you have not, pick any two. Tastes vary, but if you aren't big art fans, I'd suggest skipping Madrid on this trip, though it is the simplest to combine with Barcelona, logistically.

I think you'll find a lot of the Gaudi sites in Barcelona will be open even if government-run sites are closed.

Posted by
68 posts

Yes it does seem like a lot to do on one trip. I am going to discuss with the family and maybe we can trim it down. We are also considering a trip to Italy or Greece same timeframe (arriving Easter weekend). I'm trying to figure out which destination would work best....

Posted by
7388 posts

In choosing between Italy and Greece, be aware Easter in Greece in 2022 is April 24. .

Posted by
18700 posts

Greece has perhaps more logistical challenges than your other options. It wouldn't be my choice for just eight days, though you could of course choose Athens and either one island or two that are in the same island group. It would be a shame to spend a lot of your time on multiple long ferry rides.

Posted by
68 posts

I am, of course, open to any other 9-10 day Europe destination suggestions during the week after Easter Sunday. Having already done an extensive 2-week trip in 2018 (Netherlands, Belgium, France), this one would be quite minimal and include a bit of R&R. Sorry if I’m posting too much in the Spain Forum - I can move it over?

Posted by
18700 posts

The weather in southern Spain can be very, very nice at that time of year. I don't have the nerve to tell you it "should be", but I would be very happy to return to Andalucia in April. Andalucia includes three absolutely top-notch destinations (Seville, Cordoba and Granada) as well as a lot of other very worthwhile cities and towns--far more than you'd have time to visit. I spent April 10 - May 7, 2019, in that area. I had two chilly, rainy days right at the beginning (April 10 and 11), but I was in the northern part of the region (Ubeda/Baeza/Jaen) at the time. Otherwise, the weather was really nice, though Granada is at altitude and tends to cool off a lot at night--something to keep in mind if you want to see the Alhambra at night.

Posted by
65 posts

Cynthia,
We were in Portugal during Easter 2019. It was our second trip so we knew the area. A lot of restaurants were closed around the holiday and Porto had a holiday we had never heard of our first night and we had to scramble to find a place to eat dinner (btw, when I asked for a glass of port after dinner; they were out. In Porto?!)
Nothing above should dissuade you from visiting that lovely country. Just be prepared for a few extra challenges.
Dennis

Posted by
14267 posts

Hopefully we will be able to find something to eat if all the restaurants are closed on Easter and Easter Monday in Barcelona. I was in Andalucia for Easter. The difficulty getting a meal was that for a lot of restaurants you had to book in advance, none were closed. Monday after Easter was regular weekday, except for the intense clean-up after a week of processions.

You mentioned Greece as an alternative. Orthodox Easter is April 24.

Posted by
68 posts

Thanks Chani - Joe mentioned same....All of this is extremely helpful thank you so much. We are considering trying to travel on a different week. That is, if I can take our daughter out of school. Thanks again everyone!