April is an ideal time of year to visit Spain. The weather is warm and sunny, but not too hot to enjoy the many outdoor activities that cities across the country have to offer. When the weather warms up, it's only natural that Spaniards celebrate the beautiful spring days with a month full of festivals.
Among the annual events and traditions in Spain, Holy Week, or Semana Santa, is one of the largest celebrations of the year. The celebrations are at their best in Andalusian cities such as Seville, Malaga, and Cordoba, taking place throughout the entire week leading up to Easter Sunday. Barcelona, on the other hand, always celebrates its Sant Jordi Festival—the Catalan version of Valentine's Day—on April 23, while Madrid's lively arts and culture scene truly starts to come to life as the weather warms up.
In 2021, some festivals and gatherings may be canceled so check with the official organizers for the latest details.
Seville's version of Easter during Semana Santa is perhaps the most lavish in the country, with magnificent floats parading through the city in daily processionals and awe-inspiring performances. Events culminate with Easter Sunday processionals to the city's central cathedral and an Easter Mass. The event is deeply religious, but since it takes over the entire city, virtually everyone is involved. If you're in Seville during this time, you won't be able to miss it.
Seville may be most known for its Holy Week events, but the Feria de Abril (April Fair) takes place only two weeks later and is the next-biggest event in the city, bringing in over 5 million attendees over the course of the fair. You'll definitely want to check out this colorful cultural event where flamenco flair, sherry wine, and elegant horses abound.
While playing tourist in Seville itself, be sure to visit Barrio Santa Cruz, one of the Andalusian capital's most beautiful and historic neighborhoods. Next, make your way to the cathedral and climb the Giralda tower, once a minaret of a mosque that now forms part of the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Finally, don't forget to check out the Alcazar, which has been made (even more) famous by its appearance in the HBO series "Game of Thrones."
The southern coastal region and city of Malaga are also known for its Semana Santa celebrations, but you can expect some smaller music, food, and literary events in April as well. April is the perfect time for exploring the local attractions of this region.
If you're up for climbing its 200 steps, Malaga's cathedral provides panoramic views of the city and the coast. Additionally, La Térmica, a modernist building that has served as an orphanage and military hospital, is a fantastic concert and exhibition center that hosts fascinating cultural events nearly every day.
Visitors to the Costa del Sol capital will definitely want to put the Museo Picasso Malaga, a museum dedicated to the works of hometown hero Pablo Picasso, on the itinerary. There are more than 200 of the prolific painter's works in its permanent collection, including paintings of his children and family.
If you're looking to get away from the city, Paseo de Malaga is a tree-lined park with exotic plants in its gardens that provides a quiet respite. Malaga also serves as a great jumping-off point for visitors who want to visit other nearby locales, such as Torremolinos and Marbella.
Spain's capital city is bustling with events throughout the month of April, as locals are finally emerging from the cold of winter and are ready to enjoy Madrid's terrace bars and open parks. Music lovers especially will want to keep an eye out for the Festimad Music Festival, which typically holds nightly concerts, but has not yet been rescheduled for 2021.
For a truly authentic Madrid experience, visit the Reina Sofia Museum to view Picasso's massive painting "Guernica." After a long day of sightseeing, head to the happening Malasaña neighborhood for a taste of Madrid's iconic nightlife, starting with some of the best tapas in Spain at the centuries-old tavern Casa Labra.
If you're looking for a more off-the-beaten-path experience, visit the Convento de las Descalzas, a former royal residence that's now a convent and a museum. One of the exhibits includes pieces of wood believed to be from Jesus' crucifix.
One of Barcelona's most romantic events is the Sant Jordi Festival, a hybrid event similar to Valentine's Day held on April 23. The man of the hour, Sant Jordi (St. George in English), is the patron saint of Catalonia, the region where Barcelona is located. April 23 also happens to be the date that celebrated writers Cervantes and Shakespeare died, and this literary coincidence plays a big role in the festivities as well. Men traditionally show their affection for loved ones on this day by buying them a book as a gift.
Another Barcelona event in April is the La Passió performance of the Passion of Christ in the nearby town of Esparraguera. Barcelona also features some of the most stunning architecture in the country, along with a number of historic attractions you won't want to miss. No trip to Barcelona would not be complete without a visit to some of Gaudi's signature buildings, including his unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia.
Often relegated to a simple day trip from Madrid or Seville, the Andalusian city of Cordoba has so much more to offer than its famous Mezquita, the iconic mosque-cathedral. Yes, you should absolutely make room in your schedule for a trip to Spain's most iconic mosque, but the city is truly at its best in the spring and deserves to be savored.
Just like its counterparts in Seville and Malaga, Cordoba's Semana Santa processions have all the flair and passion you can come to expect from Andalusian Easter celebrations. After Holy Week, don't miss out on the Cata de Vinos Montilla-Moriles from April 21–25, 2021. This massive wine tasting festival perfectly encapsulates the magical essence of Cordoba in springtime.
If you have time, be sure to leave room on your itinerary for a half-day trip out to Medina Azahara. The ruins of a spectacular Muslim palace-city left over from Spain's Moorish days, the complex is a breathtaking journey back in time that allows you to step into Cordoba's gilded past. In 2018, it rightfully earned the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, giving Cordoba a record-breaking total of four.