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Drumming during one of Bilbao's Holy Week processions
Drumming during one of Bilbao's Holy Week processions | © Misko / Flickr
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How to Celebrate Easter in Bilbao

Picture of Esme Fox
Updated: 14 March 2018
Holy Week is known as Semana Santa in Spain and is a somber time for honouring Christ and the Virgin Mary. Forget chocolate Easter egg hunts; here, it’s all about processions by religious brotherhoods. The city of Bilbao takes Semana Santa pretty seriously, and although its Holy Week processions may not be as famous as the ones in Granada or Seville, it’s still a great place to watch them, with lots of events taking place.

Holy Week celebrations have taken place in Bilbao since 1554, when it is said that a splinter from Jesus’ cross arrived in the city and the Santa Cruz brotherhood was formed. Here’s are details of all the events that will be happening during Bilbao’s Holy Week in 2018, including everything you need to know about when and where the processions will be taking place.

March 23: Friday of Sorrows

The procession of Our Lady of Sorrows will take place at 8.30pm, starting from the Church of San Vicente de Abando on Plaza Done Bikendi. The procession will feature two main floats: Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Father Jesus of Sorrows.

March 24: Passion Saturday

On Passion Saturday, the Procession of Our Lady of Bitterness will begin at 7pm from the Colegio Jesuita Indautxu. This parade features many of the religious brotherhoods, and is characterised by the beating of drums through the streets, as well as floats.

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Drumming during one of Bilbao’s Holy Week processions | © Misko / Flickr

March 25: Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday, as well as the masses and palm fronds being carried through the streets, the Procession of the Little Donkey will take place at midday. It will leave from the Church of San Vicente de Abando and feature a number of floats, including Our Lady of the Palm. This one is a favourite with the local children.

In the evening, the Procession of Our Lady of Charity will be taking place at 6.30pm, starting from the Church of Santa Cruz. This is the only procession in the city where people will be carrying two floats on their shoulders, uphill towards the Begoña district.

March 26: Holy Monday

The Procession of the Nazarene takes place on Holy Monday at 8.30pm, from the Church of San Francisco de Asís. It is one of the most popular processions during Holy Week because it is so colourful and displays the city’s multicultural side.

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A float during Bilbao’s Holy Week celebrations | © Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / Flickr

March 27: Holy Tuesday

On Holy Tuesday, one of the highlights of the Bilbao Holy Week will take place with the Procession of Piety. Starting at 8.30pm from the Church of San Nicolás Bari, it features some of the most beautiful and artistic floats of the week.

March 28: Holy Wednesday

Wednesday sees the Procession of Our Lady of Solitude setting off at 8.30pm from the Church of Santos Juanes. This is another of the most popular processions, featuring a number of stunning floats.

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Watch one of Bilbao’s fascinating Holy Week processions | © Mindaugas Danys / Flickr

March 29: Maundy Thursday

On Maundy Thursday, the Procession of the Holy Supper will be held at 7.15pm, also from the Church of Santos Juanes. This is one of the biggest processions of Bilbao’s Holy Week and features a great number of floats, including depicting the Last Supper itself.

March 30: Good Friday

One of the most interesting parades is the Procession of Silence, which happens on Good Friday from 5.30am in the morning, if you can get up early enough. It starts at the Church of San Nicolás Bari and takes place in complete silence, with many people meditating or praying as they go. Another procession starts at 7.30am from the Church of Santos Juanes, when the Brotherhood of Santa Vera Cruz will carry their holy treasure through the streets.

If you can’t get up for either of those two, there are two other processions taking place on Good Friday, including one at 12.30pm from the Church of Nuestra Señora del Pilar and one at 7.15pm from the Church of Santos Juanes. The latter is the oldest procession in the city, dating back to 1554, and is one of the most important.

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Watch a Holy Week procession if you’re in Bilbao for Easter | @ Misko / Flickr

Saturday March 31: Holy Saturday

On Holy Saturday, the Procession of Hope will parade through the centre of the city from the Church of San José.

Monday April 1: Resurrection Sunday or Easter Sunday

The last procession to take place will be on Easter Sunday itself, with the Procession of Light and the Resurrection, which will depart at 1pm from the Santiago Cathedral.

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The Resurrection of Christ procession during Bilbao’s Semana Santa | © Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / Flickr