Celebrating Christmas in Barcelona Like a Local
Thinking about spending Christmas in Barcelona? Keep reading for more on what to expect.
As the lights are up all around the city, and the Barcelona Christmas markets are out in full effect, there is no better time to visit the Catalan Capital! In this blog, let us introduce you to some of the best Christmas traditions in Barcelona that will surely put you in the festive mood.
Winter is a great time to visit Barcelona. Temperatures are pretty mild at around 15 degrees, and there is very little rain in the colder months. Winter is therefore a great time of year to get up to some sightseeing. There are smaller crowds at popular tourist destinations such as the Sagrada Familia and Las Ramblas, as well as less busy public transport, making it easier to get from point A to B.
With the mild weather, if you’re looking for somewhere to celebrate a white Christmas in Spain, Barcelona probably isn’t the place for you.
However, if you want to celebrate Christmas with blue skies, surrounded by carollers, inspiring religious buildings, and incredible Christmas markets, without feeling the need to shiver your way through it all, Barcelona is the place for you.
Celebrating Christmas in Barcelona like a local makes it all that much more exciting, so let’s talk you through everything you need to know how to celebrate Christmas like a local here in Barcelona.
See also: Guide to Experiencing the Best of Christmas Around the World
Local Christmas markets in Barcelona
A large part of spending Christmas in Barcelona is visiting the many Christmas markets.
See also: New Year in Barcelona
La Fira de Santa Llúcia
This is one of the largest, most well- known and oldest markets in the city, this year will be its 235th edition, filling the area outside of the famous Gothic Cathedral with over 283 stalls selling everything from figurines to plants, to crafts and even Simbombes.
At this incredible market you must be sure to keep a look out for the cheeky ‘caganer’ figure, which is a traditional catalan figurine with his trousers down, he is said to bring luck by fertilising the earth.
This place dates all the way back to 1786, taking place on the day of Santa Llúcia, December 13th, this is a historic and exciting place for you to check out this winter!
Opening dates: November 30th until December 23rd 10:00-21:00
La Fira de Nadal de la Sagrada Familia
These Christmas markets are slightly smaller than the Santa Llúcia markets, but they are positioned right outside the incredible Sagrada Familia, which you must visit if you haven’t before (it’s one of the top Barcelona attractions).
They have a little of everything here, but most importantly they serve incredible tasty christmas treats, such as roasted chestnuts, baked sweet potatoes and churros with thick hot chocolate!
Opening times: November 24th to December 22nd 10:00- 21:00
La Fira de Reis
This Christmas market in Barcelona surrounds the idea of the celebration of the three kings in Spain (don’t worry, this will be further explained shortly), the day in which the Spanish give out their main presents.
Stalls at the Fira de Reis sell mainly kid’s toys and presents, making it a pretty ideal place to go find a Reyes gift for everyone who you need to buy for.
Opening times: 21st December- 6th January 10:00- 21:00
Traditional Spanish Christmas Meals
Escudella is a traditional christmas warmer, a kind of stew which contains everything. It has chicken, beef, pork backbone, ham bone’s bouillon, veggies; carrots, potatoes, cabbage. It’s a pretty hypercaloric dish, but there’s nothing wrong with that when it’s cold outside!
The perfect dish to warm you up this winter.
Sopa de galets
Sopa de galets include huge pieces of pasta, with which one will fill your spoon. The galets are the large pieces of pasta which are filled with veggies or meats. The soup itself is a traditional soup made with bouillon, making it a very comforting cold winter dish.
This is usually eaten as a first course as part of Christmas day lunch, on the 25th of December.
Canelons, or Cannelloni, is one of Catalonia’s favourites, usually eaten on the day of Sant Esteve, celebrated on December 26th. This dish includes Cannelloni stuffed with either chicken or meat and bechamel sauce, the difference between this and your traditional Italian Cannelloni is that this dish does not use tomato sauce.
Traditional Spanish Christmas Treats
Turrón is one of the most well known Spanish Christmas foods that you will find in Barcelona, as well as being found in Italy and parts of South America. It dates back to the 16th century, and is enjoyed all over the Catalan capital during the holiday season. Turrón tastes almost similar to malteser chocolate, it is made with honey, sugar, egg white and toasted almonds or other nuts.
This chocolate is extremely tasty and can be found in just your average supermarket at any time during Christmas.
Mantecados and Polvorones
Mantecados and polvorones can be found all over supermarkets and department stores in the months leading up to Christmas. They are little baked and crumbly Christmas cookies served with “Moscatel”. The difference between mantecados and polvorones is the shape, polvorones are oval and mantecados are round. They are both similar to shortbread, but just tend to crumble much more easily.
These sweet treats are super popular throughout Catalonia, you’ll find them everywhere!
Crema Catalana is pretty much the Catalan recipe for a Crème brûlée, first found in Catalan books in the 14th century. The recipe includes the use of custard cream, over which sugar is poured and burnt with a hot iron rod to create the trademark burnt crust.
This differs from your average Crème brûlée through both its cooking method & consistency, as well as its cinnamon and lemon zest flavour as opposed to your usual French vanilla.
Traditional Christmas fun in Barcelona
Let us introduce you to some Catalonian Christmas traditions you may encounter on your travels.
As you wander around the city you will most likely come into contact with a small figurine, with a naughty side. El Caganer is a little boy who, in the middle of the nativity, pulls his trousers down and does a poo. Whilst this may seem odd at first to the average tourist, this funny character is hugely popular in Catalonia. In fact, he is seen as a symbol of prosperity, fertilising the soil of the land with his poop! In Catalonia, families often play games with El Caganer and hide him in the nativity scene for the others to find, kind of like a ‘Where’s Wally?’ of sorts.
You will find his presence all over the city, and certainly at every market you attend. Stalls often sell celebrity versions of the popular figurine, so be sure to look out for your favourite football players, and politicians doing their business this festive season!
Tió de Nadal
The Tió de Nadal is another ubiquitous symbol of Christmas time in Catalonia. This Christmas log, also known as Caga Tió, has a bright red nose, smiley face and an adorable red hat on its head. As tradition goes, the hollow log is brought out on the 8th of December and, from then on, fed daily until the 25th. When the day finally comes, the log is beaten by the children of the family until it poops (we’re sensing a theme here!). After the Tió de Nadal has pooped, the children will find gifts for them to open, rather like the Santa Claus stocking tradition.
As the log poops, the children sing a song translated as:
Caga tió, hazelnuts and nougat, if you don’t want to poop I’m going to hit you with a stick, very hard, very hard
This year there will be a large Tió de Nadal outside of Barcelona Cathedral from the 3-18th of December. So what are you waiting for? Go and see him for yourself!
Nativity scene at the Museu Mares
What better way to get you in Christmas mode than seeing the nativity scene up close and personal? This year, at the Museu Mares, visit the baby Jesus in a beautiful setting and completely free of charge. You can visit from 10am-7pm from Tuesday to Saturday and from 11am till 8pm on Sundays and holidays. What fun!
Consult the Council’s website for further information on timings and where to find the Museu.
La Fira de Santa Llúcia Market
Everyday from 10am till 9pm, visit Barcelona’s oldest and most popular Christmas market. The Fira de Santa Llúcia is the perfect place to soak up the Christmas atmosphere. With plenty of stalls selling handcrafted gifts, as well as food stands and live music, this is not one to miss! The market is such fun for all the family, with activities taking place to entertain visitors of all ages. Our tip? Buy come yummy churros and get stuck in! There is so much to see, from the art and jewellery, to the giant Tió de Nadal. What’s not to like?
Take a look at the market’s programme here to see what’s on.
Barcelona is home to some of the biggest shopping centres in Spain, and during Christmas there are a load of great sales and deals to get you in the Christmas mood. These places are also perfectly happy to wrap your gifts for you.
See also: Where to Find the Best Vintage Shops in Barcelona
The Diagonal Mar
A shopping centre split into three floors, to accommodate their 200 stores and 17 cinema screens, and even a bowling alley. This is one of the biggest in Barcelona, and is recognised as an environmental model due to their promoted values of environmental sustainability.
This is the perfect place for your Christmas shopping as everything is in one place, as well as this the shopping centre is just beside the Parc Diagonal Mar and Museu Blau, two very ideal locations for spending the day as a family.
Glòries Shopping Mall
The Glòries shopping mall is located in the Plaza de las Glorias Catalanes, surrounded by the incredible Torre Glòries (a huge skyscraper which changes colour day and night, it’s incredible!).
This place has 75 major stores, restaurants and cinemas, with plenty free parking, charging points, and they even have a kids club play area!
Las Arenas Shopping Centre
For shopping like a real local, why not go to a shopping centre that used to be a bullring! They have over six floors, 115 shops, a fitness centre, 12- screen cinema, events hall and several bars and restaurants. They even have a huge terrace in which you can get a 360° view over Montjuïc.
Celebrating the Three Kings like a Local in Barcelona
Towards the end of December most people around the world begin to relax and finalise their Christmas celebrations, however here in Spain, that is not the case. The first week of January is one of the most exciting times to visit Barcelona. People in Catalonia, in fact, will still be buying gifts and preparing their Christmas dinners, whilst you can still admire the beautiful Christmas lights across the city and prepare yourself for the arrival of The Three Kings or Los Reyes Magos.
These biblical characters come to Spain on the 5th and 6th of January to give gifts of presents and sweet treats to the children. On January 5th there is a parade dedicated to the three kings in which the Kings themselves arrive at the Av. Del Marquès de l’Argentera and travel 5km around the city, ending at the Montjuïc Magic Fountains.
Traditionally, locals in Barcelona will leave food out for the three kings and water for their camels, and a pair of shoes outside their doors or windows for the three kings to fill with gifts after the three kings parade. The morning of the 6th will provide for the children an array of gifts, as long as they’ve been well behaved!
Another fun way to celebrate Christmas in Europe…
Check out this wildly terrifying, yet incredibly fun Austrian tradition where Krampus’ (half-goat, half-demon) run through the streets of Graz during the Christmas season, punishing children who have misbehaved this year.