The city of Granada is one of the most visited corners of Andalusia both for its historical importance and for the existence of architectural treasures such as the Alhambra. At the same time, there is the fact that the best things to see and do in Granada change a bit during Holy Week, as religious traditions and the exploration of certain sites become the real protagonists of these dates.
To make it easier to make decisions that will help you organise a good trip, I have taken it upon myself to find out what are those activities that you can't miss during Holy Week in Granada. Therefore, I advise you to read on so that you don't miss out on the places you can't miss during your stay in this beautiful city.
1. Take part in the main processions
Processions are the most characteristic activity in most Spanish cities during Holy Week. The processions in Granada stand out from the rest of the country both for the traditions that form part of their route and also for the costumes worn by the Nazarenes of the different brotherhoods that make up these urban marches.
No matter what day you visit the city of Granada during Holy Week, you are sure to come across at least two different professions. Although specifically between the night of Maundy Thursday and the early hours of Good Friday there are different brotherhoods that group together to start the processions that commemorate the death of Jesus Christ.
Of all the processions , the procession of the brotherhood of El Silencio is distinguished by the fact that the whole city is in darkness while a single drum marks the march of this Catholic procession through the different streets of Granada. It takes place in the early hours of Good Friday morning, but there are other alternatives such as that of the Cristo de Los Gitanos brotherhood which takes place in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
You should know that all these processions are part of the plans to do in Granada with children because they are family events suitable for people of all ages. You should also know that the streets are usually full of people and therefore it would be advisable to take part in a private historical tour in the centre of Granada. Especially if you don't want to miss the main buildings and monuments before participating in these processions.
2. Visit the cathedral accompanied by a guide
The Cathedral of Granada is a Renaissance-era building that stands out for its stained-glass dome as well as for being a building that captures people's attention, which is no mean feat in a city with such interesting architecture as Granada. Clearly, this site is one of the best things to do during Holy Week because it is the main Catholic church in the city.
Visiting this site will be a bit tricky during Good Friday as well as Easter Sunday, as the many processions in the city make their way to this site at some point. Therefore, the best way to visit the cathedral of Granada with peace of mind is to opt for a guided tour during one of those times that are available during the less crowded days of Holy Week.
The morning of Maundy Thursday, Monday and Tuesday are likely to be the best dates to spend as much time as you wish in and around the cathedral, as it is located in an area that also has architectural wonders worth seeing, such as the Madraza Palace and the famous Calle Elvira.
3. Easter is a good time to visit the Alhambra
Another unsuspected and very beneficial aspect of Holy Week in Granada is the fact that these days are one of the best times of the year to visit the Alhambra. This is due to the fact that this complex of palaces and gardens dating from the time of the Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula is not part of the city's Catholic attractions.
You should know that the best way to visit this site is through a guided tour. Especially since it is a place of significant historical importance where each brick has a very specific meaning that you could be missing out on if you don't have the support of a specialist in this place.
You should also keep in mind that such guided tours of the Alhambra for a family group usually include a tour of the Generalife, which is another Muslim palace dating from the same period and has a large expanse of gardens that is just as important and beautiful as the Alhambra. As both sites are located next to each other, it is possible to complete this visit in less than 5 hours and return to your tour of the city's Catholic attractions.
4. Taste the typical dishes of Granada's Semana Santa (Holy Week)
Holy Week represents a reconfiguration of many people's eating habits because during Lent there is a tradition that the consumption of animal meat such as beef and pork is forbidden. Throughout history, this has allowed communities to develop specific recipes for this time of year and, for this reason, the typical dishes of Granada's gastronomy that you might find during Holy Week are not the same as those you will find during the rest of the year.
Easter stew with its base of cod, chickpeas and spinach; fried bread rolls with white sugar and lemon zest and cod with tomato are just some of the typical recipes of this time of the year that you cannot miss during your visit to Granada.
Anyway, you should keep in mind that the best tapas tours in Granada are a good way to enjoy this culinary exploration of the typical dishes of Granada's Holy Week. This is due to the fact that these types of tours tend to focus on typical Andalusian restaurants that are sure to have these types of preparations on their menu for Lent.
5. Take a tour of the Sacromonte caves on the night of Holy Wednesday
The Sacromonte quarter with its caves is one of the most visited places in Granada. It is a mountainous terrain where gypsy communities have been developing for centuries, since the 15th century to be more precise. The place is characterised by the style of its houses as well as having a direct link with the cultural origin of flamenco in Granada.
On the other hand, you should know that during Holy Wednesday one of the most interesting processions of the Catholic cultural agenda of Holy Week takes place. The procession of the Christ of the Gypsies arrives in this area on part of its route with the intention of lighting bonfires that illuminate the night in the places where the caves that have historically been occupied as dwellings by these Gypsy communities were located.
If for some reason you can't take part in this Wednesday night procession, a guided tour of the Albaicín and Sacromonte neighbourhoods is something you shouldn't miss. In fact, if you have the opportunity to take the tour at night then you should make the most of it, as you will be able to enjoy the true essence of this place. That while enjoying a flamenco show along the tour.
6. Stroll through the cemetery of Granada
Believe it or not, Granada's cemetery is one of the city's main attractions. During Holy Week it becomes a site worth visiting both because of its low tourist numbers and the direct connection it has with the history of Catholicism in this city. It is also influenced by the fact that there are more frequent guided tours that explain the importance behind some of the tombs of this site.
You have to take into account the fact that Granada is a city that throughout its extension has burial sites of extremely important people in Spanish history. Among them are the tombs of Isabel the Catholic and Juana la loca in the chapel of the Cathedral of Granada.
You should also bear in mind that the cemetery of Granada has played a significant role in other episodes of Spanish history and one of them was during the Franco dictatorship, as the truth is that the data published by the University of Granada indicate that there were about 5000 executions in this area. For this reason the cemetery is an asset of cultural interest to the city and forms part of its main tourist attractions, especially on reflective dates of a spiritual nature such as Holy Week.
7. Nightlife is a night-time entertainment option
Granada may be a tourist destination for those making Catholic pilgrimages during Holy Week, but at the same time it is a favourite area for those looking to escape their cities for some fun in a southern Spanish location. For exactly this reason, going out for a night of partying during Semana Santa is something you shouldn't miss if you are interested in this type of plans.
The area of Las Gabias and the area known as Zona de los Reyes Católicos are the favourite places to enjoy the terraces and the favourable climate that defines Semana Santa in Andalusia, although you should know that these are neighbourhoods for more adult and moderate plans. On the other hand, Calle Elvira and the Realejo neighbourhood are the epicentre of the hippest and most diverse nightlife when it comes to nightlife in Granada.
Likewise, no matter what kind of night you want to experience, you should know that going out for some after-dinner drinks is a recommended plan in Granada throughout Holy Week. This even includes Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
8. Excursions to the Sierra Nevada are a great success during this season
Getting out of Granada to enjoy the natural attractions close to the city is a popular plan among locals, as well as those who have enough time to explore all the attractions of this part of Andalusia. For this reason, an excursion to the Sierra Nevada is something you should take advantage of if you like the idea of spending an afternoon hiking while exploring one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the whole Iberian Peninsula.
Getting to this natural area from the centre of Granada is not something complex, as there are different transport alternatives, as well as different guided tours that will make it easier for you to plan the logistics of the experience. But the truth is that if you have no idea how to get to the Sierra Nevada from Granada and feel that you might get confused in the process, then it is preferable to go with a guide who is a specialist in the region.
This is advisable if you take into account that the price of these guided tours is usually quite similar to what you would spend paying for tickets on your own if you don't book well in advance.
9. Don't hesitate to take a trip to Seville
Seville is the true protagonist of Holy Week in Spain and this has to do with the number of people who come to this city to witness the magnificent processions, as well as the peculiar aesthetics of these centuries-old Catholic marches. It is easy to travel to Seville, as it is only a couple of hours away.
If your visit to Granada during Holy Week is long enough for you to set aside one of these days for an excursion to the outskirts of the city, then a visit to Seville is a must. Especially because it is a tourist destination that is part of the best excursions and guided tours from Granada all year round and at Easter it becomes a must because of the importance of its traditions.
This short trip could also be done on your own, but the problem is that you will have to deal with the public transport systems that will be very crowded. Mainly because Spanish and foreign tourists will be trying to get to both Granada and Seville to enjoy the events that form part of the cultural framework of Semana Santa.
10. Take the opportunity to see some flamenco if you can
Flamenco is as culturally significant in Granada as it is in Seville and other Andalusian towns. In fact, within this city, there is a totally unique musical and interpretative current of flamenco called La Zambra. It is a version with direct influences from the gypsy world and is characterised by barefoot dancing as well as long skirts accompanied by castanets.
For your convenience, Semana Santa is a very busy time for tourists in the city. For this reason, some of the best flamenco shows in Granada usually have several performances over several dates to attract as many visitors as possible.
The gypsy neighbourhood of Sacromonte is an ideal place to experience a night full of Granada-style flamenco. Although in the historic centre of the city there are plenty of nightclubs where this musical genre is the real protagonist.