Easter is a period of the year when most of the people take some days off to visit family or discover new places. In Portugal, during Easter, we are already enjoying Spring weather which means that you will most probably find here excellent temperatures and sunny weather all over the country.
Easter is, in definition, the most traditional moment of the Catholic Church and in Portugal, you'll find a lot of cities and regions that embrace this moment on maximum exponent. Perhaps one of the most famous ones is the in the Portuguese region of Minho, at the city of Braga.
Braga's Holy Week unites its modern image to the several public and private ceremonies loaded with Christian tradition. Their most relevant representations are processions, authentic recreations of the ceremonious Christian audience, with a remarkable mobilization and whose essence goes beyond the limits of belief, being a relevant tourist-cultural attraction. In addition to the processions, you are can attend liturgical nature ceremonies, which express the specificities of the Time of Lent and of the Easter Triduum, but also the rituals and traditions of Braga. The Cathedral is the most significant stage for these celebrations and a mandatory place for visitors while in Braga.
Braga's holy week is a great excuse to get to know Braga's historic centre, renowned for its baroque churches, splendid 18th-century manor houses and beautiful parks and gardens. Being in Braga and not going to the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary, considered one of the most beautiful sanctuaries in Portugal, is even more unforgivable than going to Rome and not seeing the Pope. The neoclassical church, surrounded by magnificent gardens, was designed by Carlos Amarante in the late 18th century. The famous and tiring Baroque staircase winds until it reaches the church, with charming fountains and statues along the way.
But if climbing 573 steps is not your cup of tea, don't worry, there is also a funicular, or you can drive to the top and enjoy the peaceful environment and splendid views. To replenish your energy, we recommend some of Braga's gastronomic specialties, and it is essential to mention Bacalhau à Braga, Narcisa or Minho. The roasted goat and the Pudim Abade de Priscos are also other must-haves.
Going down to the Center of Portugal, we find the medieval village of Óbidos, one of the most picturesque and best-preserved in Portugal. The Holy Week in Óbidos is one of the best posters of the village, which runs from the 5th to the 12th of April. Every year, religious and cultural ceremonies attract thousands of people at this time of year to the village of Óbidos. These ceremonies are among the oldest in the country, with the Passos procession having more than 400 years of existence. Among the various events that Obidos organizes throughout the year, Semana Santa is the highlight of the liturgical and cultural calendar of the Vila, being an important religious event for the local community, as well as for the several thousand pilgrims and tourists who attend the imposing ceremonies.
Every year the ceremonies have several classical music concerts, mainly of religious content, among other cultural activities. Close to the capital and situated on a high point, close to the Atlantic coast, Óbidos had strategic importance in the territory, since King D. Dinis offered it to his wife D. Isabel, in the XIII century.
Within walls, we find a well-kept castle and a maze of streets and white houses that enchant those who pass by. Among Manueline porches, flowered windows and small squares, there are several reasons to visit, good examples of the religious and civil architecture of the golden times of the village. Any time is a good time to visit Óbidos, not only at Easter but it is also an excellent suggestion for a romantic or peaceful weekend. And if you include an overnight stay in the castle, then the setting will be perfect. In terms of local gastronomy, the fish stew of Lagoa de Óbidos stands out, accompanied by wines from the Western Demarcated Region. Another attraction is the famous Ginjinha de Óbidos, which can be enjoyed in several places, preferably in a small glass of chocolate.
In addition to the Holy Week, a vast program of events brings animation to this village, the most popular being the International Chocolate Festival, the Medieval Market and the Christmas Fair. If you choose to spend Holy Week in Óbidos, discover the surroundings from the long sandy beach of Praia d'El Rey, passing through the city of Caldas da Rainha, and enjoy the sunset, by the sea, at Foz do Arelho beach.
If you are in the South, you can also celebrate the Easter season in the Algarve. In Loulé it is on Easter Sunday that the first moment of the Feast in honour of Nossa Senhora da Piedade takes place: the Festa Pequena da Mãe Soberana, the starting point of what is considered the most significant religious event south of Fátima. In the afternoon the celebrations begin from the small Chapel that welcomes this figure of worship and faith for the Louletanos – people of Loulé-, going down the hill with the image of Our Lady towards the Church of S. Francisco. On Easter Sunday, the descent of the Patroness follows an easy march of profane organization, the fast march leading the heavy walk to the Church of S. Francisco is just the beginning of the celebrations.
During the fifteen days of your stay, the novenas and sermons conducted by renowned sacred speakers make a religious vigil of great spiritual power. At the end of the 15 days, the Festa Grande da Mãe Soberana takes place, which attracts thousands of pilgrims to the city of Loulé, in a truly unique celebration in the national context. Very well known in Loulé is its Coast, the "Golden Triangle", an area that includes the luxurious resorts of Vale do Lobo, Quinta do Lago and Vilamoura, where the golden beaches, elegant hotels, renowned golf courses, and the endless leisure and entertainment options make this one of the best vacation destinations in Europe.
However, the city of Loulé also has a lot to offer. Located 12 km away from the Coast, the city of Loulé was able to retain the charm of other times while it developed and transformed into a commercial point of the region. The historic center deserves to be explored, as well as its 13th century walls that offer views over the roofs and cobbled streets full of artisans that have given Loulé the reputation of the capital of Algarve's handicrafts.
The city's landmark is also its market, an impressive Arab-inspired building from the early 20th century. Its colourful stalls full of fruit, vegetables, fish, cheese and regional sweets are an excellent sample of the region's products. Speaking of gastronomy in Loulé, the flavours of the sea and the mountain are combined, the succulent dishes of the region vary between the sardines and the various seafood in Quarteira, in addition to the rabbit and pork specialties typical of rural inland locations. Two other strong points on the Loulé's calendar are Carnival and the Annual Handicraft Fair in July. .