Why not do things differently this year and spend Christmas in Barcelona? From its crazy and unique Christmas traditions to shops with gifts for all the family. Every time of the year is special and December in Barcelona is no exception, read on to find out why we love this time of the year in our magical city.
The typical christmas stamps, of cold and lots of snow, are not the ones you can expect in Barcelona. Here in the mediterranean city is very rare to see snow, maybe once every 10 years, also the climate is very temperate and we have been enjoying some sunny days during the month of December, averaging 15 degrees. So if you want to run away from the usual cold days of winter, december in Barcelona is really a good choice.
You can enjoy a sunny day walk in the streets of Barcelona, while still being able to breathe in the christmas spirit at night admiring the christmas lights.
When you arrive to Barcelona you will need to learn how to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in spanish, Feliz Navidad and Feliz Año Nuevo respectively.
Barcelona lives vividly the christmas spirit… its traditions, festivities, shopping line, live nativities, markets, etc. have each year their place in the festive panorama of these dates.
In the same way, Christmas is a very special occasion for the lovers of tourism, because they have the chance of visiting this wonderful city and getting to know a big part of its culture from closer. In our opinion, the month of december in Barcelona is a great way to learn about catalan traditions.
Christmas Traditions in Barcelona
The city government decorates its streets, plazas, and boulevards with Christmas style lighting, that leave all the attractions with a very colorful ambience, well designed and super decorated.
From the end of the month of november (and sometimes even sooner) until 3 kings´day (in january) we can appreciate these great decorations, they are seen mostly in the main commercial streets of Barcelona.
You can find the main Christmas tree at Port Vell, the newest christmas market in Barcelona, opening this 2019, which also has a huge ferris wheel and a small floating nativity. The main nativity scene is located at Plaza de Sant Jaume, this nativity has a new theme every year and tend to be quite impressive.
The caganer (popular Catalan custom)
It is a custom in many countries of the world to represent the birth of Jesus scenically with characters and plastic or clay figurines. But the popular catalan nativity, besides those typical well known figures, incorporates its very own and unique character, that tends to surprise more than one unaware traveler, we refer to the caganer (whose origins date back to century XVIII).
This character appears hidden in a corner of the nativity, showing its back part naked, and commonly with a pipe in his lips. Traditionally, he wore a white shirt, dark pants and a catalan beret.
The caganer is year after year reinterpreted by several figures, showing in such character, many of the current political, economical, social and sports figures of the country and the world. Seeing represented in such unusual and funny posture many worldknown athletes, politicians of the world, and several artists. This figure is widely bought as a great souvenir to bring home from Christmas in Barcelona to spark an unusual reaction from friends and family.
The Caga Tió (Catalan version of Santa Claus)
The origin of this custom is really the wood log that would burn in the houses giving light and warmth to the family in such special moments, and that in a symbolic way would also bring candy and chocolate to the household members.
With the years, and also imitating the most popular traditions in the rest of the world (such as the Christmas tree and Santa Claus), the Caga tió has become now the character that brings the gifts to the kids on christmas eve. Together with traditional songs and games, while the children hit the log strongly, the Caga tió makes its magic and “expells” all the gifts.
On Christmas Eve, after our large dinner, dessert comes courtesy of Caga tió. The children are given their sticks with which they hit the Caga tió and sing a special song:
“Caga Tio avellanes I torró
Si no vols cagar
Et donanem un cop de pal.”
“Caga Tio hazelnuts and turron
If you don’t want to poo
We will hit you with a stick.”
The children then reach inside the Caga tió’s blanket and find sweets and small toys. Similar to the sorts of treats that children receive in their stockings from Santa Claus.
Christmas Markets in Barcelona
As you wonder around the streets of Barcelona during this time of the year it is clear that the city has a lot to offer for the festive season. The historic buildings and narrow streets of the old town, together with the friendly atmosphere, make Barcelona a perfect destination for Christmas Holidays.
The beautiful and plentiful squares and plazas of the city are generally filled with small christmas markets, offering interesting places to stroll around as well as to find some unique Christmas presents.
The Santa Llucia Fair in Barcelona
The Barcelona christmas market of Santa Llucia is one of the oldest and most historic in the city. This traditional market has over 230 years of existence. With over 300 stands that sell typical food and artisan works of the region, such us the before mentioned Caganer and Caga tió. This market is located in the plaza in front of the Gothic Cathedral, giving it a special magic with its environment, making it a great place to buy a traditional artisan souvenir from Christmas in Barcelona. The opening times of this market are from 10:30am to 22:30pm.
Christmas market at Sagrada Familia
Another traditional christmas market in Barcelona is located in the Plaza in front of the emblematic Sagrada Familia. Here you will find plenty of stands selling the traditional figures for nativity scenes, gifts and artisan products.
Where do we recommend to go shopping in Barcelona
Passeig de Gracia – Known for its designer shops, you can find Zara, Mango, Guess, Gucci, and many more. This is a very well known shopping boulevard in Barcelona.
Avinguda del Portal de l’Angel – Massive selection of shops from sports, to kids, toys, underwear, high street and unique gifts. You can find something for everyone here.
Joaquin Costa Street – Located in the up and coming area of Barcelona, this street is surrounded by different blends of people and cultures, with unique fashionable gift shops, cool skater and furniture shops. This area is a must to explore.
Carrer del Rec – Street in the quaint area of El Borne, a great spot for those who appreciate design and originality.
Commercial Centers – Maremagnum, Arenas de Barcelona, Diagonal Mar, La Maquinista.
Vintage stores in Barcelona – Check out our special article here.
Christmas Shopping during festivities
As during many other public holidays, most shops will be closed on christmas day in Barcelona.
If you want to do some late shopping, on the day before christmas, you should note that most shops are only open half the day. So make sure you do your shopping in the morning, to avoid stores closing down or very long queues.
If you will be visiting Barcelona during christmas, and you will be staying in a private apartment, we recommend you take care of your grocery shopping before the 24th if possible, this will save you time you will be thankful for.
Christmas Lights in Barcelona
Everywhere you go in Barcelona you can feel the Christmas spirit in the atmosphere. Christmas lights in Barcelona are a main attraction and something you should not miss.
The most popular and impressive light decorations are found among the main shopping streets such as La Rambla, Portal de l’Angel, and Passeig de Gracia.
During this time of the year, the magic fountain at Plaza Espanya also offers a special Christmas light and music show every friday and saturday from 19hrs to 21hrs. This show is a must visit all year long, but you should definitely check out its special for Christmas. Hop on the metro and get off at Plaza Espanya and you will reach the magic fountain.
Gastronomy for Christmas in Barcelona
As with any other culture around the world, during main festive seasons, a main event and unique attraction is the typical food of the region.
Christmas eve dinner consists of a lavish meal, starting with a soup called “Carn d’Olla” made with a large piece of meat that has been cooked in stock for hours to ensure its thickness and richness. The meat is then removed and large pieces of snail shell shaped pasta called “galets” are added. The meat that was cooked in the soup is ten eaten as a main course, with various other tapa dishes like langoustines, ham, and eels.
The most traditional christmas food in Barcelona consists of dishes made with fish or shellfish, lamb, and spanish ham or chorizo. A very popular dessert during holiday season in Barcelona and spain in general is Turrón (spanish almond candy).
Other activities for christmas and december in Barcelona
The christmas spirit can be lived in all of the city of Barcelona, although each district and neighborhood has its own ways of celebrating.
For the smaller ones at the house we have the Infants Festival http://www.festivalinfancia.com/, with games, workshops, sports, music and much more. A great occassion to spend special moments with the whole family. Another great event for children is Christmas at Poble Espanyol with workshops, dance, magic, music, and games.
The New Year Celebration in Barcelona
This New Year, and New Year´s Eve, we will have “The Great End of the Year Party”, a spectacular show of fireworks at Avenue Maria Cristina, in front of Plaza Espanya. The show begins at 9:30pm, make sure to arrive well before because this is a show for the whole family and it tends to be quiet busy.
Ultimately, the city of Barcelona during christmas and new years prepares itself to receive and offer, to its own citizens and travelers from all over the world, a very interesting agenda full of typical activities for the festivities.
If you want to go party on New Years make sure to ask our Sweet BCN Guest Experience team to recommend you the best parties happening on NYE, or you can also check out our article for nightlife in Barcelona here.
King´s Parade in Barcelona
Christmas Kings´parades happen in many different districts around Barcelona on january 5th.
Every year, around 500 000 people go to see the biggest parade, the “Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos” in Barcelona, which is a 3 hour parade along the old city and most famous streets in Barcelona.
The Kings parade is a spectacular show designed and performed by professional artists from the world of theater, music, dance, and circus, alongside many enthusiastic volunteers.
Would you like to have different style Christmas in Barcelona?
If your answer is yes, do not hesitate to contact us, we can help you plan your trip better and enjoy the comfort of our Sweet Accommodations in Barcelona.
Merry Christmas to all!