Madrid is known for many things: its art galleries, its nighlife, its football teams. It is not, however, known for its Semana Santa. While parts of the rest of the country spend this week gripped by procession-watching fever, Madrid carries on doing its own thing.
If you're in Madrid this week and hoping to catch a paso or two though, fear not: a few processions do pass through the city centre. And if you're enjoying a week's holiday in the capital, there are plenty of other things going on to keep you amused.
Staying in the city
See a procession
|The paparazzi couldn't get enough of Mary|
If you've never experienced Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Spain before, it's worth making the effort to see a procession. It's also worth securing a spot early: make as the Spanish do and stock up on drinks and snacks. During the week, there are 13 processions in Madrid's city centre, most notably on Thursday (Jueves Santo) and Friday (Viernes Santo) evenings. Note that processions move very slowly and take several hours: this website has maps of the routes of each one so you can try to calculate the best time to arrive at your chosen spot. To find out more about Semana Santa in general, read this post. The Madrid Town Hall has set up a website specifically for Semana Santa, so if you fancy trying any more traditional activities such as concerts and exhibitions, check it out (Spanish only).
During Semana Santa, it's traditional to eat torrijas, a sugar-high inducing dessert that marks the end of Lent (cuaresma). Made with bread, milk, eggs, cinnamon, honey and plenty of azúcar, this recipe came about as a way to use up hardening bread. Nowadays, you'll find torrijas on offer in cafés, pastelerias and restaurants all over the city during Semana Santa. The most famous place to tuck into torrijas is La Casa de las Torrijas (Calle Paz 4), which has been cooking up these treats since 1904. They're hearty and delicious – perfect procession-watching fuel. Other typical Semana Santa sweets include pastry flores and pestiños, although these are more common in Andalucía.