You’re in Barcelona, and you want Christmas. And that warm, toasty feeling of seeing your kids giggle when they get candy from the caga tió. Or when they squeal when they hand their handwritten letter to the Three Kings.
And while we’re officially in December, I’m thrilled that holiday celebrations run until January 6, Three Kings’ Day. So let’s get our Christmas on — and make holiday some memories with our kids, for pete’s sake.
1. Check out the Santa Llúcia Christmas market.
The best and largest Christmas market in Barcelona, the Santa Llúcia market is the place to get you drunk on holiday spirit. You’ll find rows and rows of holiday-laden stalls in Plaça de La Seu, the plaza of the Barcelona Cathedral.
Kids will love looking at the nativity scenes with miniature utensils and chairs, dazzling ball ornaments, and Christmas trees and hand-weaved wreaths. And who can’t not chuckle when we see the caganers and caga tiós?
Come early – because by 12pm, this place gets crowded on weekends!
Santa Llúcia Fair website. Weekdays: 10:30am – 8:30pm. Weekends and holidays: 10:30am – 9:30pm. November 24-December 23, 2017.
Check out more photos of the Santa Llúcia fair here.
2. See the Carassa de Nadal procession.
One of my favorite activities is to check out the Carassa de Nadal procession on the weekends. This “big head” on wheels parades around the Santa Llúcia market, followed by a music band and some friends throwing confetti. And watch kids run to the floor when he spits out candy. If you don’t see him around the market, he also glides around the streets in El Gotic district. The website’s not clear where he’ll show up exactly!
La Carassa de Nadal. 12noon to 3pm. December 2: Esbart; December 3 Raval; December 9 Casc Antic; December 10 Trabucaires; December 16 Falcons; December 17 Sant Pere
3. Beat up a giant Tió de Nadal.
At the Santa Llúcia Fair, kids can beat the huge tió de Nadal, or caga tió. If you don’t know who he is, he’s a traditional Catalan figure — a log perched on two sticks with a happy face on it. And he poops presents for kids on Christmas Eve.
To find the tió gegant, climb the steps that lead up to the cathedral — on Santa Llúcia fair side. You’ll see a line of kids waiting to get their stick so they can “beat” the tió while singing a traditional caga tió song. Here, they beat a piece of wood instead of the log himself (probably to prevent wear and tear on the tió year after year).
At the end of the song, someone pulls sweets and other goodies from under the blanket. It’s a sponsored event. Two years ago, my kids got some candy and a sample package of ham from La Selva brand. *scratching head*
Tió gegant website. November 25 – December 10; December 16-17 10:30am – 1:30 pm; 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm on holidays, 10:30am – 1:30pm on weekdays
Saturdays, holidays, and December 7: 10:30am to 1:30pm and 4:30pm to 7:30pm
4. Go to the Sagrada Familia Christmas market.
Visit 100 stalls at the Christmas fair at the Sagrada Familia. Not a bad backdrop for your holiday shopping, right? It’s similar to the Santa Lllucia fair, where they sell nativity scenes, Christmas trees and decorations, and handmade gifts like jewelry or warm slippers. Or try warm crepes or sugar-covered nuts.
Read more about the Sagrada Familiar market in this post!
Official website. November 25 – December 23, 10am – 9pm, 10am-10pm weekends.
5. Go ice skating at Pedralbes Centre.
It doesn’t snow in Barcelona. But that doesn’t mean we can’t channel our inner Oksana Baiul.
The Pista de Gel is a 266-square-meter open-air skating rink right outside the Pedrables Shopping Centre. (Kill two birds — convince your husband to take the kids skating while you go shopping. 🙂 )
Children must be at least 3 years old to to skate. For novices and younger kids, they can skate with a small penguin to guide them around and avoid falls. Now you’re in, right?
Pedralbes Centre website. November 28 – January 10. Monday – Friday, 5pm – 9pm. Weekends 11am – 9pm. Closed on December 24, 31, and January 5.
8 euros. Special “low-cost” price at 4 euros 11-12pm, 2pm – 4pm on special days. Check out the calendar.
6. Take a photo with Santa at El Corte Ingles.
When it comes to gift-giving in Catalonia, Santa Claus comes in second place, right after the Three Kings. (No fair. I just had Santa growing up.)
At El Corte Ingles, Papa Noel sets up a little house with some helpers. You can drop off a letter and sit on his lap. And you get a free professional photo with him. You just have to come back and pick it up 4-5 days later.
There’s also usually a friendly Santa Claus standing outside the department store on weekends. He greets the small kids and hands out candy. I’ve seen him at El Corte Ingles at Plaça Catalunya and El Corte Ingles at Plaça del Ángel. (And come to think of it, I’ve never heard a Papa Noel in Spain say “ho ho ho”.)
7. Check out the Nativity scene in Plaça Sant Jaume.
Every year, a huge Nativity Scene is set up in the Plaça de Sant Jaume by the Barcelona City Council. And every year, they mix up it up from traditional to modern interpretations of the Nativity.
This year (2017), minimalism is the way to go. I mean, really minimalist. OK, I hate it. The figures – Baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the manger, the works – are made of methacrylate, a reflective material that enhances the color of the plaza. At night, it illuminates. But judge for yourself, friends.
If you want to see a traditional Nativity Scene, go to Frederic Mares Museum, where you can see it at the museum terrace. November 24 – February 2. 10am – 9pm. Museu Frederic Mares official website here.
Plaça Sant Jaume pessebre website. November 27 – January 7.
8. Hit up the multiple events at Plaça Catalunya.
This year, Plaça Catalunya is the central place for activities. Check out the website for a more detailed look.
- An advent calendar with dioramas
- A place to write down your fears and hang it on a washing line. You make space for dreams!
- Theater performances by Teatre Nu company’s El Patufet, Gromic’s Maaagia and Mumusic Circus‘s Amigoo. December 22, 23, 24, and 27.
- Sports days! Freestyle Football, Freestyle Street Basketball, Leti&Fer and Joan Català’s show Pelat. December 28 and 29, 11am – 6pm.
- Teenagers can enjoy too with break-dancing, hip-hop and sketchbooking workshops and performances. December 30-31.
- Have your kids write their letter to Los Reyes. Then give it to the pages Estel and Omar. They’re very official looking! Jan 2, 3, 4. 11:00h a 14:00h with Estel; 4-8:30pm with Omar
9. Visit the Three Kings Workshop at Fabra i Coats.
We all know that Santa has a workshop in the North Pole. Well, the Three Kings have their factory and warehouse right here at Fabra i Coats.
Go inside the Fabra i Coats building, and see the workers prepare the gifts to be delivered on the Twelfth Night. From the outside, three floors will be decorated with colorful lights. And you can see the presents move across a conveyer built, ready to be shipped and delivered come the Eve of Three Kings’ Day.
Now someone help me explain. “Mommy, why does my toy say ‘Made in China’?”.
Fabra i Coats website. December 27-31, January 2-4. 6pm – 9pm.
10. See a living Nativity scene, join the workshops, or visit Santa or the Three Kings at Poble Espanyol.
If you’ve never been to Poble Espanyol, you’ll love seeing a small world of the villages of Spain. But for Christmas, they’ve got events throughout the holiday season.
December 6-10: Food trucks, magic shows, market, animation, music, and workshops.
It also has a living Nativity scene. Real people dress up in character as Joseph, Mary, Jesus, and the usual cast of the three Kings, shepherds, and even goats and donkeys. And it’s all set in a realistic agrarian backdrop, stable and blocks of hay included. Check out the 5-day festivities here.
Want to give your wish list to Pare Noel o los Reis? Santa Claus is there December 21-24. Three Kings, December 26 – January 5.
Poble Espanyol official website. The website is confusing.
If you’re a resident of Catalunya your tickets on this page, and pay 5.50 online. 6.50 at the door. Depending on which day you go, either buy “Christmas at Poble Espanyol: Santa Claus” (December 6-10) or Christmas at Poble Espanyol: Three Kings” (December 21-Jan 5)
If you’re a non-resident of Catalunya, you have to pay the regular admission price. Buy online here. Sorry. 🙁
Free for kids ages 4 and under.
11. Celebrate the Three Kings’ Parade.
At this highly anticipated event, the Three Kings and their entourage will arrive on January 5 at 4:30pm at the Moll de La Fusta. They’ll get on a large, elaborate float and wave to the crowds of excited children. Before them, we’re greeted by hundreds of assistants, magical creatures, and everyday citizens who’ve signed up to join in the festivities.
Expect lots of rowdy crowds, hoping paraders will throw candy their way while yelling out the Kings by name. The parade starts at Avenida Marquès de l’Argentera at 6pm. Check out the full route on the website.
If you don’t fancy doing the main city parade, every neighborhood has their own (Shhhh…)
Three Kings’ Parade. January 5, 6pm – 9pm.
Think you’ll be doing any of these activities in Barcelona? Have you been to Barcelona during Christmas?