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10 Things to Do in Madrid at Holy Week

Easter is a tourist season in most Spanish cities and Madrid is no exception to this rule. I invite you to familiarize yourself with excellent plans that will help you enjoy these dates.

Keyvis Montilva

Keyvis Montilva

11 min read

10 Things to Do in Madrid at Holy Week

Holy Week Procession | ©Graham and Sheila

The first thing you need to know for a trip during Semana Santa in the Spanish capital is that the best things to see and do in Madrid are constantly changing both by the season of the year and the festivities that are celebrated. As Semana Santa is a Catholic celebration, many of the events have to do with religiosity, while others lean towards the multicultural and diverse character that defines Madrid's 21st century society.

So to provide you with an itinerary that allows you to get to know all the facets of this city, I have put together in this publication the traditions and activities that the locals enjoy every year during Semana Santa (Holy Week). This way you can be sure that these events will be available to you and that they are an appropriate choice for the type of trip you wish to make.

1. Take the opportunity to take a tour of the most important churches

Almudena Cathedral| ©manuel m. v.
Almudena Cathedral| ©manuel m. v.

Churches are something that abound in Madrid. So one of the best ways to appreciate the city at a time as specific as Easter is to start a tour to know from inside and outside some of the most important churches in the city.

The crypt of the Almudena Cathedral is one of the most representative within the wide variety of churches that exist in the city. In addition, its strategic location next to the Royal Palace makes a guided visit to these two sites an excellent way to start your day if your day is focused on exploring the other treasures of Catholicism in Madrid.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha located less than 5 minutes away from the famous train station and the Church of San Jerónimo el Real are other sites that cannot be missed in this touristic tour focused on the constructions that are the protagonists of Holy Week. There is also the issue that if you are going to make a 5 day trip to Madrid then you will have enough time to visit a couple each day, which will also allow you to manage to coincide with a mass in any of them if this is something that catches your attention.

Book a guided tour of the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral

2. Go out and party in one of the best weeks of the year for it

Barceló Theater| ©Fred Romero
Barceló Theater| ©Fred Romero

Holy Week for some is synonymous with religiosity while for other Madrilenians it is the perfect time to party while preparing the mind and body for the arrival of summer. And an indisputable reality is the fact that the Spanish capital has become one of the most important destinations when it comes to nightlife, both within Europe and worldwide.

The Barceló Theater is a perfect example of the cultural importance of nightclubs when thinking about going out at night in Madrid. However, during Easter the most recommended plan is that you propose to visit different bars in the best style of the Madrilenians in neighborhoods that have become the favorite destinations when it comes to the nightlife of the city and the best things to do in Madrid at night.

Malasaña, Moncloa and Calle Huertas are indisputable references of what the Madrid night can offer you during Easter. That while Chueca is the place you need to go if you are betting on getting to know the diversity that defines Madrid in the 21st century in the most iconic LGBT neighborhood in the whole city.

Either way, taking part in an urban tour that tells you a bit about the history of old Madrid while you enjoy the tradition of Madrid's tapas is a great way to kick off your nights during Semana Santa. At least before deciding on the style of partying you want to experience in one of the busiest seasons for nightlife in this city.

Book a gastronomic night tour in Madrid

3. Participate in the procession of the Christ of Medinaceli

Procession of the Christ of Medinaceli| ©Comunidad de Madrid
Procession of the Christ of Medinaceli| ©Comunidad de Madrid

In Madrid takes place one of the largest processions of Catholicism worldwide and it is the procession of the Christ of Medinaceli. This event begins and ends in the basilica that bears the same name of this Christ and usually lasts approximately 4 hours and an average participation of about 800,000 people.

As for the route that follows the procession you have to know that it meets different iconic places in the center of the city which are usually part of the itinerary of the best tours of Madrid. Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Cibeles, Plaza de las Cortes and Paseo del Pardo are just some of the stretches of this historic and elemental route that is a basic event that you can not miss of the Catholic traditions of Madrid during Holy Week.

This procession takes place during the night of Good Friday, but if for some reason this time is busy and you do not want to miss the experience of a Catholic procession during Holy Week in Madrid, do not worry. And you have to know that from Monday until Easter Sunday will be organizing such events throughout the city.

The Procession of the Holy Burial, the Procession of Santa Catalina de Siena, the Procession of Resurrection 'Jesus the Poor' and the Station of Penitence Santísimo Cristo de las Tres Caídas are just some of the activities that are part of the schedule of Catholic processions in Madrid this week of the year.

4. Don't miss the classic drum parade on Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday Tamborrada| ©koukat
Easter Sunday Tamborrada| ©koukat

With the arrival of Easter Sunday also comes the chance to enjoy another of Madrid's Holy Week traditions. This is the tamborrada that is organized in the center of the city. Basically, it is another procession that goes from the Convento de las Carboneras to the Plaza Mayor where thousands of participants gather to listen to the drums, bass drums, timbales and cornets sounding at full volume as a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In short, it is a recommended activity to do during Holy Week because it is an important tradition for the people of Madrid. At the same time because it is an approach to a Catholic celebration that differs from the leisurely and even mournful character that usually occurs in most of the processions of this week.

In fact, it is usually an essential stop for some people who are looking for plans to see and do in Madrid in a single day knowing that they want to spend their Easter Sunday in the Spanish capital. It all looks even more convenient when you consider that this tamborrada ends in the Plaza Mayor and that allows you to be directly in the center of the city to explore other historical buildings and monuments of importance.

5. Join some of the artistic exhibitions of the season

Works from the Prado Museum| ©Angel de los Rios
Works from the Prado Museum| ©Angel de los Rios

Easter is also a season full of cultural events in Madrid and this has to do with the fact that there is a small school vacation that runs from Wednesday until Easter Sunday. Also due to the fact that Friday is usually a non-working holiday which makes it easier for families to spend their time touring entertaining activities.

For your convenience, there is the issue that different convention centers usually have special exhibitions during this week knowing that this is a very important time for tourism as well as for the same entertainment of the people of Madrid. However, the real protagonist of the cultural agenda of Holy Week is visiting the Prado Museum as well as the Reina Sofia Museum.

That has to do with the fact that these two institutions usually organize exhibitions oriented to specific aspects of Catholic art during this week. All for the simple fact that religion represents one of the most solid and constant themes within Spanish art as well as within Western art in general. It is also possible that special exhibitions on more contemporary artists will be organized knowing that the tourist influx during this week is quite high.

So buying a ticket that offers you a combined visit to these two museums is an excellent decision. Especially if you are interested in the idea of being accompanied by a guide who can explain the importance of both the special exhibitions and the permanent exhibitions.

Book a guided visit to the Prado and Reina Sofia Museums

6. Enjoy some delicious torrijas as a seasonal dessert

Torrijas| ©Tamara Barragán
Torrijas| ©Tamara Barragán

If the people of Madrid had the challenge to sit down and think about what is the most representative food of Easter in this city , then the torrijas would be the winner. And is that this sweet that consists of slices of bread soaked in milk, syrup or wine that are coated in sugar and egg and fried in oil is a staple of restaurants and taverns at this time of year.

Actually over the years they have become a very traditional element of what is Holy Week in Madrid. Therefore, there are those who are dedicated to visit as many restaurants of Spanish gastronomy with the intention of discovering what are their favorite torrijas madrileñas before your visit to the city is over

At the same time, this is an activity that can be complemented with other types of plans that allow you to explore the Spanish capital. And is that some of the best tapas and wine tours in Madrid usually incorporate the possibility of enjoying this dessert knowing that you will visit locals that focus on the traditional food of the city.

Book a tapas and wine tour of Madrid

7. Visit Warner Park as a children's entertainment alternative

Warner Park| ©Jordi, Mons i Víctor
Warner Park| ©Jordi, Mons i Víctor

On the other hand, the tradition preferred by many families in Madrid for Easter may surprise you, and it is a decision that has nothing to do with celebrating the local cuisine or the traditions of Catholicism in the most important dates for this religion. It is about visiting the Warner Park at a time when children can have fun knowing that the next day will have no classes.

Undoubtedly this is one of the best things to do in Madrid with children and specifically during Easter is a good way to balance the plans that have focused on religious traditions to feel that the trip is also made thinking of them.

You have to keep in mind that this park also has water rides and fortunately Easter is one of the first times of the year that has good enough weather for kids to enjoy them. At least outside of the summer tourist calendar.

You have to know that this park is not exactly in my city center, as it is in the southern outskirts of Madrid. That means it would be a good idea to buy tickets that include a transfer from your accommodation or at least find transportation alternatives that guarantee you a return as insurance for when you have finished your tour of the park.

8. Tour El Retiro and Plaza de España at this peculiar time of the year

Plaza de España| ©Mathieu Marquer
Plaza de España| ©Mathieu Marquer

Touring the Retiro Park and visiting the surroundings of the Plaza de España is something that can be recommended for all times of the year. The differentiating factor that makes these two places ideal to visit during Holy Week is the fact that Madrileños take advantage of these public spaces during their free time to enjoy themselves as if they were on vacation outside the city.

This means that in these places you will find musicians playing live shows, plastic and performing arts artists and also many Madrileños who gather to sunbathe and enjoy the afternoon as they rarely have the opportunity to do during the year.

In fact, another time of the year when it is highly recommended to visit these two corners of Madrid is during December. For the truth is that they are considered one of the best things to do in Madrid during Christmas because the same inhabitants occupy these public spaces to enjoy a few rays of sunshine.

In addition, you also have to take into account the fact that these sites are not so close to each other and walking from the Puerta de Alcalá in the Retiro Park to the Plaza de España, which brings you closer to the Sabatini Gardens, is an excellent opportunity to tour the center of Madrid in one day. All this in a week when this is the most vibrant district of all for its historical connection to the world of Catholicism.

Book a Retiro and tapas tour in Madrid

9. Take a trip to the Royal Palace of Aranjuez

Royal Palace of Aranjuez| ©Jocelyn Kinghorn
Royal Palace of Aranjuez| ©Jocelyn Kinghorn

Getting out of the city is also another favorite thing for locals during Easter and if your trip to the capital is long enough for this to be a recommended idea, then you can't miss the opportunity to go to the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. This is a royal residence that was built during the 18th century and, for many specialists, it is one of the best historical constructions in all of Europe.

This is usually a tourist destination chosen by Madrileños during Easter Week due to the fact that it is also an excellent opportunity to visit the famous church of San Antonio de Padua, a baroque style construction that also dates back to the 18th century and that stands out for its circular shaped chapel as well as for its portico.

In addition, an excursion like this is also a good opportunity to visit the ponds of the Prince's Garden in a season when the weather is favorable for it. So this idea is a plan you can't miss if during Holy Week you feel like participating in one of the best day trips from Madrid, which can help you escape a little of the traffic generated by the constant processions.

10. Go shopping at the Rastro

At the flea market| ©Pier Paolo Zini
At the flea market| ©Pier Paolo Zini

Finally, this is another of Madrid's great Easter traditions and it is about going shopping at the El Rastro street market to take the opportunity to get small treasures in one of the most sought after weekends for resellers and buyers of antiques and second hand clothes.

This market takes place along the street Ribera de curtidores and this is in the heart of the neighborhood of Embajadores. Visiting this market during Holy Week and specifically on Easter Sunday is a good idea due to the fact that there is a transition between the sale of products that are geared towards winter and the sale of products ideal for the summer season that is just around the corner.

In addition, true fans of decorative objects believe that this date is particularly special due to the fact that many vendors include among their merchandise items related to Catholic aesthetics. This is because it is a season that is full of tourists who come to make pilgrimages in the Spanish capital.

Anyway, no matter what type of product you are looking for, this is a place you can not miss in the cultural schedule of Holy Week in Madrid and at the same time can be an ideal place to visit before proposing an afternoon of drinks in the iconic neighborhood of La Latina.