It’s been over a year since my first trip to Seville, and while this Semana Santa I’ll be walking the Camino de Santiago, no doubt I will be reminiscing fondly about the smells and bells of the pasos under the Andalucian sun as we trudge our muddy way to Santiago.
Although I did plenty of reading ahead of our trip last year, there were still –inevitably – things I wish I’d known or would have done differently. I loved Semana Santa in Seville but I’m not sure I’ll be doing it again any time soon – and maybe you feel the same: all the more reason to make sure the trip goes well, right? Here, for what they’re worth, are my words of Sevillana Semana Santa wisdom:
Taken from the Cathedral steps.
-Be prepared for crowds, and to wait around for a long time before seeing the processions, which move slowly. Streets will be shut off and it will be hard to navigate your way around the city centre – a normally short journey may actually take an hour or two. This experience can be both claustrophobic and difficult, but a few deep breaths (and perhaps a Cruzcampo beer in a nearby bar as you wait for the processions to pass and the street to open up again) will help.
-Book your accommodation near the cathedral. This is something I actually, for once, got gloriously right. It cost un ojo de la cara (an arm and a leg, basically) – but if you’re here to make the most of the processions you may as well pay to actually see them rather than the backs of a thousand heads. We found a cute-but-tiny Airbnb on the Calle Hernando Colón, and some of the pasos came down our street – the clue for us was when the music began to approach and incense flooded the bedroom from the balcony doors. It saved us from the crush and stress of the street, and made for some amazing photos from the balcony. We even witnessed a woman singing a saeta, a kind of holy flamenco song, from a balcony opposite. Magical.
Taken from the balcony of our Airbnb.
-Be prepared for cold as well as hot weather. That means take a jacket as well as sun cream and a hat. I actually had to buy a pair of leggings one chilly day during the trip, and while waiting for the Macarena to return back to her church at midday we witnessed an older lady swaying and nearly passing out in the crowd due to the crush and rising temperatures.
-Get a free paper guide or a Semana Santa app, or both. We were, embarrassingly, tricked into paying a euro by a street seller for a paper guide which was actually a free supermarket giveaway (Carlos especially kicked himself for this typically guiri error). Ask in your accommodation or in tourist information about where to get your hands on one.
-Know that the Semana Santa bars (that is, bars filled to the ceiling with Semana Santa photos, memorabilia, and other curiosities) are often closed during Semana Santa itself. I was determined to visit La Fresquita, but couldn’t, although I did finally manage it when we returned to Seville in December. Disappointing, but just another reason to come back!
The Real Alcázar.
-If the processions get too much (despite what devotees would have you believe, to most out-of-towners one paso will blend into another) then consider leaving the city for a while, or doing something different. We made a day trip to Cordoba and also wandered the streets of Triana and visited the magnificent Real Alcázar, the latter being a highlight of the trip.