What is it like to spend Christmas in Barcelona?
Barcelona is gaining more attention by the day. From Sagrada Familia Catedral (Sacred Family Cathedral) to Parque Güell (Park Güell, based on Gaudi’s surrealistic imagination), without skipping Casa Museu Gaudí (Gaudí House Museum), Casa Batlló or the Gothic quarter, the city draws the attention because of its architecture and its preservation of ancient buildings. Nevertheless, there is more to the Catalonia metropolis for those who want to stay to have a different Christmas. Which are the main attractions for those who aim for a Spanish holiday break?
… White Christmas?
Leave aside the white Christmas postcard; though it is colder than in some places, it is unlikely it will snow. Take into account that temperature can vary between 14ª and 5ª and that locals will speak both Catalan, and Spanish, so if you are interested in having an authentic Barcelona experience, you can try a Spanish class Barcelona.
So put your jacket on and enjoy the perfect weather for walking around and for tourists to know the city under the Christmas lights. If you want to go a step further and submerge in the local language, you can click here.
Markets, which specialize primarily in Christmas decorations –tree balls and lights, mistletoe and figures, among many others–, open during the last days of November and throughout the holidays. They are part of an old tradition, for the first Christmas market opened in the 18th century. Ideal for those who want to bring home a Christmas present and a local souvenir from Barcelona. Here is a brief list of traditional markets:
- La Fira de Santa Llúcia: located in Avenida de la Catedral, which runs in front of Barcelona Cathedral, this market –Barcelona’s oldest– counts almost 300 stalls. Their most famous products are the nativity crib scenes, “figuritas de Belén” or “pessebres”. You may also find a local icon called the “caganer”, which translates to “Christmas crapper” or “Christmas Pooper”. As the name suggests, the image depicts a person with their pants down in a defecating position. It is believed that this charming figure brings good luck. It is similar to the Tio de Nadal (which means “Christmas Uncle”) or Caga Tió (“defecating log”). The Tio de Nadal consists of a wooden log with a smiling face. Each day before Christmas, children “feed” and give blankets to the record. Then, on Christmas Eve, they beat it while singing for it to “pop” gifts.
- Fira Nadal de la Sagrada Familia: named after the church it stands close to, this fair has a broader variety of products: not only Christmas decorations but jewelry and food are sold in its over 100 stalls.
- Fira de Reis de la Gran Via: while Christmas is significant in Spain, Three Kings Day does not fall behind. Located in the Gran Via, you can find toys –the largest Barcelona toy market– and handcrafted goods among its primary products. This market may open its doors a little later than others (mid-December) may. Still, it is open until January 6th (the Three Kings Day, Three Wise Men or dia dels Reis Mags) for those who want to spend a typical holiday celebration from beginning to end.
- Fira de Nadal del Port Vell: if you are walking around the Christopher Columbus statue, you do not want to miss this fair, the newest in the city yet one of the last ones to close (you can visit it from the first days of December to January the 6th), for you will not only find jewelry and handmade crafts, but you will also find some examples of the local cuisine. You can also jump onto the Ferris wheel.
Barcelona does not run low on night activities, and the Christmas light displays are something not to miss. Both beautiful and sustainable (the City Council is making efforts to install L.E.D. lightbulbs), the locals call them “Els llums de Nadal” and they run for kilometers long. Here are some locations to take into account:
- Plaça de Catalunya: people are drawn to this square because of its light settings and fountains. After you finish your walk, you can also peek at the stores in Portal de l’Angel.
- Montjuic Magic Fountain: located in Square Charles Buïgas, this mountain is known for its lights display, not only each Friday and Saturday before Christmas, but also for New Year’s Eve Chimes Festivity (in which chimes are utilized to point the transition from one year to another).
- Els llums de Sant Pau: a light display, a sensory experience, and includes screenings and music. As Christmas comes near, The Sant Pau Hospital is turned into a “Christmas garden”, the centerfold of The Universe of Light, consisting of over a kilometer of light decorations.
- Christmas trees: reach Plaça de Sant Jaume (the tree goes as high as 15 meters. It is also known for its statues of nativity scenes) or Avenida Portal de l’Angel (both located in the Gothic Quarter) to see some of Barcelona’s giant Christmas trees.
- Passeig de Gràcia, La Rambla, and Plaça Reial are also options to see this Christmas-time spectacle.
An extra: Christmas concerts
No matter where you are, it is that time of the year when Christmas Carols are heard and sung in all ages and formats. Catch a taste of Barcelona’s nightlife’s musical concerts at Palau De La Musica Catalana, located in Ribera Quarter. This building is an architectural landmark and where reputable orchestras join the holiday spirit. The Gran Teatre del Liceu, L’Auditori, and even some churches are also some locations to consider.
Being in Barcelona during the holiday means you will have both daytime and nighttime activities and delights. Remember to plan your trip, pack your jacket and make the most of this particular time of the year.