It's no secret that Europe is the place to be to get in the Christmas spirit. During December many European cities are loaded with Christmas markets, craft fairs, concerts, and activities for children and adults. Barcelona is no exception. Though Barcelona in December is far from the winter wonderland you picture for places like Strasbourg, Vienna, and Munich, it is not lacking in spirit nor traditions. In November Christmas lights started popping up all over the city. For a country that doesn't do much of anything early, all we wanted to know was when these lights were going to turn on. We learned the answer the last weekend of November, which is apparently when Christmas celebrations can begin (falling right in line with Black Friday Weekend which is heavily celebrated in Barcelona).
Wandering around admiring all of the lights is one December activity, but there are many, many more. Here are the highlights:
La Fira de Santa Llúcia
La Feria de Santa Lucia (Spanish) or Santa Lucia Market is the largest and oldest Christmas market in Barcelona (it started in 1786). Located in the Gothic area in front of the Barcelona Cathedral in the Plaza de la Seu, this market specializes in the traditional Christmas gifts. Stand after stand will happily provide you with Caga Tíos, Caganers, and intricately designed nativity scenes.
Children can even beat on a massive Caga Tío during specific hours of the fair to make sure they're prepared for Christmas morning. Head to this market early in the season to avoid the insane crowds that come later in December. The fair is open the last weekend of November until December 23rd. While at the fair you won't find many unique gifts. To do so, head to the nearby artisan fair on Portal de l'Àngel by Plaza Catalunya (Nov. 23 - Dec. 6).
If you're headed to the Sagrada Familia anyway, there's a similar market outside of this church around the same time frame.
3 Kings of Orient
Christmas Day is celebrated in Barcelona, but the real party is January 6th, the day that the 3 Kings arrived in Bethlehem. This is the 12th day of Christmas, the day gifts are given, and another day off of work (are you surprised?).
On January 5th there is a massive parade for the Kings arriving to the city. From 6PM-9:30PM they parade throughout the city ending at the Magic Fountain just in time for its Christmas display.
The Magic Fountain, located near Plaza España, has shows throughout much of the year, but there are special Christmas displays during December and the beginning of January. Shows begin around 7, 7:30, 8, and 8:30PM on Fridays and Saturdays and they each last about 15 minutes. It's a pretty incredibly display of water, light, and sound and shouldn't be missed (especially since it's free!). That said, don't expect to only hear Christmas music and know that you might leave wondering why they say it's a Christmas specific display ;).
Christmas shopping is kicked off on Black Friday when many stores have special discounts Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and the shopping season continues through January 6th. Did anyone catch that? Black Friday Weekend, shops are open Sunday. While almost every retail store is closed on Sundays throughout the year, during December stores will be open "normal" weekend hours for everyone's shopping pleasure. Rest assured, Americans, we're not the only ones possessed by consumer culture.
If getting to shop on Sunday isn't enough for you, Passeig de Gracia, a large central artery running through the neighborhood of Gracia, organizes “The Shopping Night Barcelona” once per season. During this weekday evening, shops stay open until 1AM and the street is filled with performers, DJs, and special guests. Yep, this city really enjoys their nightlife.
In short, if you're in Barcelona during the month of December, make sure to do the following:
- Visit the Santa Lucia Christmas Market
- Wander through the streets and admire the many and varying Chrismas light displays
- Attend the Magic Fountain show
- Shop till you drop
Ready for more? Read about The Three Kings of Orient festivities in January.
For now, Adéu.