Days get shorter and shorter and you’re noticing that the temperatures are dropping significantly. With a real nostalgia of last summer and against your will, you’re re-organising your wardrobe for the coming winter. A bit sad, you’re trying to cheer yourself up by thinking “how could life get a bit more exciting now?”. And suddenly you remember that the most cheerful event of the year is arriving: Christmas! Have you ever thought about celebrating Christmas in Barcelona?
Like in the rest of the country, the period of Christmas in Barcelona isn’t only limited to a few days or a week. It starts from the St Nicholas’s day on 6 December until the moment the Nativity scene is removed on 2 February. Various celebrations – both religious and pagan – occur during this time.
Like in many other places in the world, it is an occasion for families and friends to gather. Although customs vary from one family to another, some elements that we’re going to present you remain a tradition in most of the homes.
For making the most of Christmas in Barcelona during your visit at this moment of the year, keep reading
Let there be street light
The first proper sign indicating that Christmas in Barcelona has started is when the streets lights are on. Starting on 22 November it’ll last until 6 January, day of the Three Wise Kings.
The district of Sant Martí will be first at getting illuminated at 7.00 PM. Lights will be on until 11.00 PM, except on Fridays and Saturday until 12.00 PM. There will be another exception for 24, 25 and 31 December and 06 January during which lights will remain on until 1 AM.
For Passeig de Gràcia, you’ll have to be a bit more patient. The new LED lights that will flood the magnificent avenue will be on on 28 November. From the top in Jardines de Gràcia to the bottom in Plaça Catalunya vertical strips and around 150 bright butterflies will decorate it.
Shopping night Paseo de Gracia
Two elements make the Shopping Night Barcelona different this year: the name and the date. Indeed, the event entitled La Nit del Passeig de Gràcia (Night of Passeig de Gràcia in Catalan), will occur on 19 December instead of November.
A special ambiance created with thousands of LED lights and music will accompany you in this shopping spree. On top of that be ready for more surprises with five spots spread between Carrer de Casp to the Jardinets de Gràcia.
Not only shops will open until midnight with discounts and surprises but you’ll also find concerts and recreational activities.
You’ll definitely need to recharge the batteries after the effort. Thankfully, several hotels and restaurants will propose a gastronomic route from 19 to 22 December proposing special dishes and offers. For Christmas dishes, you’ll have to head to Palau Robert and for more casual dishes, food trucks will settle on Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes and Carrer de Casp.
Special events around Christmas in Barcelona
Various landmarks around Barcelona also get into the Christmas spirit. For this occasion, they’ll be presenting special events that will get you in the festive mood too.
Music and light show at the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc
The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc has prepared a special light and sound show accompanied by Christmas melodies.
These choreographies will operate in the ordinary way of the fountain. However, there will be unique shows for the New Year’s eve and on January 5 for the Three Kings Parade.
During this period, the show takes place every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 08.00 PM to 09.00 PM.
Poble Espanyol welcomes Christmas
Poble Espanyol will welcome Christmas in advance from 6 to 8 December with activities for the whole family from 10.00 AM to 08.00 PM.
The Christmas gastronomy fair will delight adults with local products, wine tastings, craft beers and vermouth in Plaça Major.
A myriad of activities around the site will entertain the young ones. They’ll discover the tió (more information below), watch Christmas films, walk around a live nativity scene and take pictures in a giant snowball.
Performing art will be present too with live music. There’ll also be shows like Euphoria that combines drama, dance, acrobatics with girls taking the centre stage. Don’t forget your rollers if you want to enjoy the roller disco.
General admission: € 7
Advance Online: 6 €
Children under 4 years old: free
– 2 adults + 2 children at the box office: 26€ (advance online: 22€)
– 2 adults + 1 child ticket for 19.50€ (advance online: 16.50€)
– 1 adult + 1 child: 13€ ticket (advance online 11€)
Show time in Plaza Catalunya
The central spot of Barcelona becomes even more lively than it usually is. A magic forest filled with huge inflatable rabbits with lights will make the show this year. Light shows in the fountains illuminate the square and turn it into a festive mood.
Many activities for people of all ages will take place. From 20 to 31 December Plaça Catalunya will turn into a stage for live performances for you to enjoy the magic of Christmas in Barcelona and discover the talent of local acting companies. In the form of magical characters, they’ll present stories, fables and poems. A small orchestra will join them to play Christmas carols from around the world.
Responsible Consumption and Social and Solidarity Economy Fair
Once again this year, one of the priorities is also to promote responsible consumption and a social and solidarity economy fair.
This fair aims at showing how responsible and sustainable consumption is possible all year round and that the local, social and solidarity economy already exists in Barcelona in every district.
As in previous editions, the organisations taking part in the fair schedule activities to expose their hard work to reach a social and cooperative return for the city.
Christmas at the Hospital de Sant Pau
The wonderful art nouveau building will welcome winter with another light and music show. And its already colourful façade will be used as a temporary canvas for a fascinating mapping.
The first projection of La Llum de Sant Pau ( Sant Pau’s light in Catalan) will be on 22 December to mark winter solstice. The show will go on every night from 6.00 PM to 10.30 PM with a repetition every 30 minutes until 26 December. It’ll start again from 29 to 31 December and again on 1, 5 and 6 January.
In addition, the hospital includes some novelties to its programme of activities. For example, the Christmas concert on 22 December, the children’s show “El Trencanous” on 23 and the family visit.
It seems obvious that the most emblematic landmark of Barcelona would organise something magic for Christmas. And you”re right to think that. Three keys events should appear in your visit programme.
- Christmas concert
On 30 November at 05.00 PM, the Basilica hosts its traditional concert celebrating the Christmas season. This year, the concert involves the National Classical Orchestra of Andorra (ONCA) and the Cor de Cambra of the Palau de la Música Catalana, both led by conductor Xavier Puig with violinist Gerard Claret. The groups will perform traditional Catalan Christmas carols and Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden and Arvo Pärt’s Te Deum.
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- Light show
On 19, 20, 21 and 22 December, the Nativity façade will get some new colours. It’ll be with a musical narration of the story of arrival of Jesus and the symbolism behind each of scenes as told in the Gospels.
There will be three sessions of around fifteen minutes at 07.00 PM, 07.30 PM and 08.00 pm on 19, 20 and 22. On 21 December, there will be only one session at 07:00 PM.
The event is free and the capacity is limited, however you will be able to enjoy it from the street. After each session, you will be able to enjoy some hot chocolate.
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- Midnight Mass
On Christmas Eve (24 December), you could attend the Midnight Mass celebrating the birth of Jesus.
The ceremony will start at 7.00 PM. After the Eucharist the ceremony will carry on with the adoration of the baby Jesus, both inside the Basilica and outside, with people gathering outside opposite the Nativity façade.
The entrance is free of charge but capacity is limited. Due to great popularity we recommend you to be there in advance.
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The Nutcracker at Basilica Santa María del Pi
On 03 January the Basilica Santa María del Pi will be the scene of another Candlelight special Christmas edition. Tchaikovsky and his distinguishing piece “The Nutcracker” will enchant the audience for an hour with the deem and intimate atmosphere of the candlelight. The concert will start at 08.30 PM.
You can your ticket for this event here.
The Nativity scene is one of the most common elements you can find during Christmas. And Barcelona and Catalonia has a very long tradition that goes back a long way and culture of this art.
Called a pessebre in Catalan, its first evidence in the region dates back to the 14th century. It is thought that it was due to the influence of the Franciscans.
By the late 16th century family nativity scene existed and by 1786 the Fira de Santa Llúcia – a Christmas market still active nowadays – would already sell everything to make one.
Two of the main Nativity scenes are in Plaça Sant Jaume and in the patio of Frederic Marès museum. You can find others all around the city (see map).
Info (see map below for locations):
- Plaça Sant Jaume: 29/11/2019 – 06/01/2020 – open every day from 10.00 AM to 10.00 PM.
- Frederic Marès museum: 30/11/2019 – 02/02/2020.
30/11 – 23/12/2019: Tues-Sat – 10.00 AM to 07.00 PM / Sun & Bank holidays – 11.00 AM to 08.00 PM
24/12/2019 – 06/01/2020: Tues-Sun (except 25/12 and 01/01) – 10.00 AM to 09.00 PM
07/01 – 02/02/2020: Tues-Sat – 10.00 AM to 07.00 PM / Sun & Bank holidays – 11.00 AM to 08.00 PM
- Mercat de Santa Caterina: 30/11/2019 – 11/01/2020 – Mon, Wed, Sat from 07.30 AM to 03.30 PM and Tues, Thurs, Fri from 07.30 AM to 08.30 PM.
- Creu Coberta: 14/12/2019 – 05/01/2020 – every day from 11.00 AM to 02.00 PM and 05.00 PM to 08.30.
- Old Town: every day from 08.30 AM to 02.30 PM except Thursday until 06.30 PM (closed on 24 and 31/12 and 01/01).
- Mercat de la Concepció: 25/11/2019 to 11/01/2020 – Tues-Fri – 08.00 AM to 08.00 PM / Mon and Sat – 08.00 AM to 03.00 PM.
- Espai Albert Musons: 09/12/2019 to 02/02/2020 – Mon-Thurs – 05.00 PM to 09.00 PM / Fri – 10.00AM to 01.00 PM (except Bank Holidays).
- Casa dels Entremesos: 28/11/2019 to 02/02/2020 – Tues-Sat – 10.00 AM to 01.00 PM and 04.00 PM to 07.00 PM / Sunday and Bank Holidays – 11.00 AM to 02.00 PM.
Live Nativity scene
The pessebre vivent, or live nativity scene, is one of the latest incorporations. The first occurrence in Catalonia was in 1959 in Castell d’Aro and in 1993 in Barcelona.
Like in a more traditional one it represents the Christ’s birth but through different scenes. For example, it could take place in the old quarter of a village, a riverbed, the surroundings of a property, or a forest.
Every locality has its ways to present the scene. Some prefer a more biblical staging when others give more importance to ancient professions or buildings of the towns. In some cases, performers have a script and sometimes they don’t.
In Barcelona you can find three of them: in Casal de Barri Pirineu in the Can Baró district, Jardí dels Drets Humans in Sants-Montjuïc and in Centre Ocupacional Taller Escola Sant Camil (see map).
Info (see map below for locations):
- Live Nativity of La Marina – 14/12 – 06.00 PM to 08.30 PM.
- In Espai Via Barcino – Centre Cívic Trinitat Vella – 20/12 – 06.00 PM to 07.00 PM
A Christmas without Christmas songs isn’t a successful one. And it’s without saying that Catalonia also has an extensive repertoire of Christmas carols as part of the local folklore.
Some of the oldest documented melodies date back to 15th century. Their origin might come from the performances that shepherds would make before the churches’ portals during Christmas night.
During Christmas time, you can find them in choral concerts, schools and in homes. There’ll be a Christmas concert sung by elderly people in l’Auditori on 09 December at 06.15 PM.
Like every year, a choral carol concert performed by the Orfeó Català will occur on the Tinell stairs in Plaça del Rei. This Christmas classic in Barcelona is on Friday 3 January at 07.30 PM. Other great news, the concerts is free!
Christmas fairs and markets
A number of fairs and markets based on Christmas traditions occur around Barcelona.
Fires de Santa Llúcia
One of the most popular ones is the Fires de Santa Llúcia in Plaça de la Catedral and Plaça Nova. It’s famous for selling all kinds of figures and accessories for nativity scenes, and elements for Christmas parties. This market is held from 29 November to 22 December (Mon-Fri: 11.00 AM to 08.30 PM / Sat-Sun: 10.00 AM to 09.30 PM).
Attendees will also enjoy shows and activities related to Christmas customs such as a giant tió, musical performances and the parade of the traditional Carassa de Nadal (Christmas Big Face). The latter is a representation of a Saracen with a long beard that spits sweets from his mouth.
Fira de Sant Tomàs
Also known as Fira dels Reis (Three Kings Fair) this market’s star products are craft toys and gifts like jewelry, decoration, clothing and ceramic items. Stretching along Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes between Muntaner and Calàbria streets it lasts from 21 December to 5 January. The market opens from 10 AM to 09 AM, except for Saturdays and the evenings before festive days, when it closes at 10 PM.
Going there is also an excuse for stuffing yourself with all sorts of sweets and churros with chocolate. Don’t be ashamed, there’s no age limit for that.
Christmas market on Sagrada Familia
The Fira de Nadal is held in Plaça de la Sagrada Família in front the basilica starting from 23 November to 23 December (Mon-Fri & Bank Holidays: 10.00AM to 09.00 PM / Sat-Sun: 10.00 AM to 10.00PM).
The numerous stalls are divided into four sectors: Christmas trees and plants; nativity scenes, traditional figures and Christmas decorations. Some stalls sell food and others the gift such as craft products, jewellery and clothes.
A new Christmas market by the sea
For the first edition of this Christmas market in Port Vell, the city of Barcelona has seen big and decided to roll the red carpet for the attendees. This is also the occasion to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Port of Barcelona.
Open from 5 December to 5 January in the Plaza del Portal de la Paz, near the Columbus monument, the fair will cover an area of 5,000 m2. LED lights, the wooden stalls and garlands will guarantee the jolly atmosphere of Christmas of traditional markets. You’ll be able to find decorations for your home, crafts and gifts to offer for the occasion and a carousel for entertaining your little ones.
A Christmas without with no food isn’t complete, right? This detail is sorted, don’t worry. The gastronomic area will provide delicacies for the foodies. On top of that, a stage will be set up with a complete entertainment programme.
The icing of the cake will be the light and music show projected on the façade of the Port of Barcelona’s headquarter. While you’re there, try to spot the crib floating in the harbour when strolling around the Rambla de Mar.
- 05-08/12 – 10.00 AM to 10.00 PM
- 09-12/12 – 06.00 PM to 10.00 PM
- 13-15/12 – 10.00 AM to 10.00 PM
- 16-19/12 – 06.00 PM to 10.00 PM
- 25/12 – 06.00 PM to 10.00 PM
- 20/12-05/01 (except 25/12 and 01/01) – 10.00 AM to 10.00 PM
Pastorets (little shepherds in Catalan) are a typical performing art deeply rooted into the Catalan folklore originating from the medieval time and was part of the Christmas Eve service.
Usually staged by amateur actors from civic and cultural centres, theatres and parish, the plays present the birth of the Christ. The difference with the Nativity scene is that the shepherds are the main focus.
The plot is built around three stories. The first one is about the betrothal of Joseph and Mary presenting them looking for lodging and including the dramatization of the birth of baby Jesus. The second one focuses on the battle between the angels and demons. The last one recreates the adventures of the shepherds in a humorous way.
List (see map below for locations):
- Lluïsos d’Horta – Saturday 21/12, 06.00 PM and Sunday 22/12, 12.00 PM and 06.00 PM (8€ children / 10€ adults).
- Teatre de Sarrià – 22 and 29/12, and 4, 11 and 12/01, 05.30 PM (10€ / 15€).
- Orfeó Martinenc – 22/12 06:00 PM and 29/12, 11:30 PM and 06:00 PM (5€ / 8€).
- Jove Calassanç Teatre
- Sala Poblenou – Centre Moral i Cultural
- Centre Moral i Instructiu de Gràcia – 14, 15, 21, 22, 23, 26 to 30/12, and 2, 3 and 4/01/20. At 06.00 PM, except 26/12 is at 07.30 PM.
- Centre Sant Pere Apòstol – 21, 22, 28, 29/12 at 06.00 PM (5€ / 10€).
- Casal de Barri Font d’en Fargues – 5, 21, 22 and 28/12. Every day at 06.00 PM, except 21/12 at 05.00 PM (6€).
- Teatre Tantarantana – 14, 15, 21, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30/12 and 2, 3, 4 and 5/01/20 at 06.00 PM and Sundays at 12.00 PM. (9€).
- La Casa dels Entremesos – 21/12 at 11:30 PM (4€)
Every 8 December, on Inmaculate Conception Day, Catalan families set Tió de Nadal or better known as Caga Tió (literally meaning “poo log”). What is it exactly? Well, it’s a log decorated with a smile, a red hat and a pair of legs. The tradition is to take great care of it covering it with a blanket for not getting cold and “feed” it every day until Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, the children beat it with a stick and ask it to defecate presents and sweet treats while singing. Here is an example of a song:
Caga, tió / almonds and nougat / Do not poo herring / they are too salty/ poo nougats / they are better / Caga, tió / almonds and nougat / if you do not want to poo / I will give you the cane / Caga, tió!
Head to Avinguda de la Catedral near the gothic cathedral to see a giant one.
Catalans have a peculiar fascination with faeces and you might have already noticed it with the previous tradition. Well, hold tight as there’s more on the way with the “Caganer”! The tradition of the shitting one (literal translation, sorry…) dates back from the 17th or 18th century and comes under various appearances now. The figurine is hidden in the Nativity Scene and children have to find it.
It usually consists of a porcelain figurine of a man with a traditional peasant outfit (see picture). The character has its bum out and enjoys a pure relaxing natural moment (defecating in case you weren’t sure). You can now found politicians, football players or many famous real and fiction characters as the Caganer. News ones have been recently release and represent famous characters such as Rosalía, Greta Thunberg or Boris Johnson.
The Caganer has a symbolic meaning of bringing prosperity and good fortune along the year. It’s in no way seen as offensive, although it may be shocking when you see it for the first time in a shop window.
Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day
Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (26 December) are three key dates to celebrate in family. People usually get together, mostly at home, and savour a copious traditional meals accompanied by Christmas carols.
Food wise, Catalonia has various specialities that will make you gain some kilos – only good of course! On Christmas Eve, Catalans eat typical food that most families would also eat around the country such as seafood, canapés, turkey, ham, cheese, paté, etc.
On Christmas Day you could try sopa de galets amb pilota which is a vegetable and meat broth with large snail-shaped pasta with meatballs. It’s served with carn d’olla which is the other types meat and vegetables that were used for the broth.
For the sweet tooth, you must try the torrons. They’re kind of nougats made with various ingredients such as roasted almonds, pine nuts, hazelnuts or walnuts and mixed with honey or eggs, candied fruit, chocolate, or other ingredients.
Neules are long, thin and crunchy pastry sheets rolled in tubes and made of flour, sugar, and egg white. Sometimes they can have a chocolate layer and be stuffed with torró. You can eat them with turron and a glass of Cava or ice cream, sorbet or crema catalana.
On Boxing Day, Catalans usually eat cannelloni. They are tube pasta stuffed with the meat leftovers from the day before. They come with a succulent béchamel sauce.
For more Catalan cuisine read this article: Authentic Catalan food specialities you must try
Christmas in music
We’d like to accompany you for Christmas and bring more warmth into your dwelling with this selection of Christmas songs. Whether you like or not you’ll start humming these tunes sooner than you think. Don’t hesitate to press the play button several times.
Els Sants Innocents
This is the Catalan for the Holy Innocents. It’s celebrated on 28 December and is the equivalent of April Fool’s day. People play practical jokes and tricks to each other. The most common joke, especially among children, is to stick a llufa in the back of an “innocent” person. A llufa is a paper doll usually cut from a newspaper page.
Before the year ends
The whole New Year’s Eve – day and night – is a great moment of festivities. There’ll be so much to start the new year with happiness and magic.
During the day
On the last day of the year, St Sylvester’s Day, quirky local traditions are celebrated. For instance, you could see big-headed figures called capgròs, early in the morning, parading around Barcelona in a cercavila (musical parade). The event ends with the handing over of the keys for the New Year to the municipal authorities in Plaça de Sant Jaume.
Another tradition is the one of l’home dels nassos (the noses man) that goes out for a walk around the city. The legend says that this man has as many noses as the year has days. Children are launched in their search, imagining a quirky character with 365 noses in his face without thinking that on December 31 and only one left. To continue with the joke, adults say they have just seen him go through a nearby street loaded with mocadors (handkerchiefs), with the intention of upsetting the children.
In Barcelona the tradition was to find the man at midday on December 31st in Plaza del Palau, in front of the Llotja. It would stand on a platform so that everyone could see him covering with dozens of sheets the 365 noses it was supposed to have all over the body, since they don’t fit on the face.
New Year’s eve night is a popular event all around Catalonia. People celebrate either with friends or family and share a lavish dinner.
In Barcelona, the party also happens in the streets. For the biggest event, we recommend you to head to Av. Reina Maria Cristina and around the fountains in Montjuïc.
The show will begin at 11.48 PM until 12.12 AM. For twelve minutes, there will be a tour of the twelve months with a trip through different places of the world where 2020 has already settled. With the arrival of the last twelve tolls, fireworks and flames will illuminate the new year. At the end, we’ll say goodbye to 2019 with twelve wishes for each month of 2020 with a poetic show and images of the natural world.
The show will feature electroacoustic music, 125 flame and pyrotechnic generators, a large 15-meter high cylinder as a screen and light characters walking upside down through zip lines over the Magic Fountain.
This is also the occasion to observe popular Catalan folklore with human towers called castellers.
To complete the party and mark the entrance in the new year, you’ll have to get 12 grapes per person. This is starting to puzzle you, isn’t it? Let us explain you. At midnight, a bell strikes every second twelves times. Every time it happens you’ll have to put one grape in your mouth and eat them. If you succeed without choking you should experience some prosperity in the coming year.
The Three Kings procession
Since the 1960s, a major event has been organised for the arrival of the Three Wise Kings. It occurs on the evening of 5 January and consists of the giant parade through the streets of Barcelona.
At around 4.00 PM, the Three Kings arrive by ship and are greeted by the mayor of the city on the harbour dock of Moll de la Fusta. There, they collect the last present lists from children. After that, the mayor welcomes them with bread and salt as a mark of hospitality, as well as the key of the city. The latter is actually magic and give them access to every home of Barcelona for them to leave presents over the night.
This ceremony is followed by a massive procession of floats going through Barcelona starting at 6.00 PM from Ciutadella Park (see route in map below). The Three Kings are accompanied by royal pages such as Gregori and Estel who tell them whether children have been misbehaving throughout the year. If they’ve been good they’ll receive presents, if otherwise they’ll get coal. Groups of artists and dancers, big-headed figures and anybody from organisations willing to take part into it complete the parade. With the streets full of excited children, it feels like Christmas has started again.
N.B: Finally, on 2, 3 and 4 January, the Three Wise Kings’ pages and postmen and women will receive letters from children in Plaça Jaume (from 11.30 AM to 01.30 PM and 05.00 PM to 07.30 PM) and Moll de la Fusta (11.00 AM to 02.00 PM and 04.00 PM to 07.00 PM).
Where to stay
At ChicRoom Barcelona, we always think about providing the cosiest holiday accommodation in Barcelona for this period. Located at a short distance from all the events of Christmas in Barcelona and popular landmarks, you’ll be totally enchanted by their premium style and homey atmosphere. Click here for selecting your ideal short-term apartment in Barcelona with us. You will definitely make the right choice!
Where to go
This map pins all the main spots where the magic of Christmas in Barcelona occurs.