What to do in December in Barcelona?
The holiday season is here, and Barcelona will look more beautiful than ever, with Christmas lights covering the whole city center. December in Barcelona can be hectic but also lots of fun, as there are many holidays to be celebrated, with the main one of course being Christmas – and regardless of if you celebrate Christmas or not, there is plenty of holiday festivity to enjoy throughout the city!
December in Barcelona: actvities and events
Major Dates / Holidays in December in Barcelona
Dia de la Constitució
This national holiday on December 6th commemorates the 6th of December in 1978 when Spaniards voted in a favorable referendum on the Spanish Constitution that is currently in force. Regardless of the fact that this day is a national holiday and most people are off from work, stores in the city center will be open for Christmas shopping.
Dia de la Inmaculada Concepció
On December 8th, Catalans celebrate Mary’s immaculate conception, also known as the day when the Catholic church proclaimed that the Virgin Mary was free from sin by the grace of God. This day is also the moment when Catalan children place Tío de Nadal, a traditional log creature, in their living room. They then take care of this little Christmas log until Christmas night.
Nochebuena (Christmas Eve)
On Christmas Eve, families come together to cook a big meal and enjoy hours of sitting around the table, enjoying amazing Spanish food. Many Christians go to the church around midnight to attend the mass, also known as ‘Misa del Gallo’. Christmas Eve is also a memorable night for children because Tío de Nadal finally gives the children their presents by ‘’pooping’’ them out.
Navidad (Christmas Day)
The first day of Christmas is celebrated in a big way in Spain. On this day, all of the gifts from ‘Papa Noël’ are unwrapped, and families usually come together to enjoy an extensive family lunch. Almost everyone has a day off on Christmas Day and therefore gets to enjoy this precious time with their family and friends.
Sant Esteve (St Stephen’s Day)
The second day of Christmas is known in Catalonia as ‘Sant Esteve’. This day is celebrated similarly to the first day of Christmas. Many families and friends gather to have a nice, long meal together. Traditionally, ‘canelons’ are served as the main course. These are filled cannelloni and are usually made with ingredients that were left from the meal the day before. Many Catalans then enjoy the Christmas Concert that takes place in the extraordinary Palau de la Música Catalana.
Dia dels Sants Innocents
Celebrated on the 28th of December, Dia dels Sant Innocents is the day for Spaniards to share some more moments of laughter by making lots of jokes. It is similar to April Fool’s day. Not only can one enjoy all the jokes between friends and family on this day, but also in the media. So it might be a good idea to keep this date in mind so you don’t get fooled by any of your Spanish friends or colleagues.
Christmas Markets in December in Barcelona
Christmas in Barcelona is such a big occasion that it deserves an entire post itself! However, one of the main highlights has to be the Christmas markets – there are many, but some of the best include Fira de Santa Llúcia, Fira de Nadal de la Sagrada Familia, Fira de Nadal del Port Vell, and Fira de Reis! These markets are one of many things worth checking out this December in Barcelona!
Fira de Santa Llúcia
This Christmas market is one of the most popular ones in the city, as well as the oldest. The market has been located in front of the Barcelona Cathedral since 1786. One can find a wide range of craft products and Christmas items at the fair, amongst many other things. Over two hundred stalls are set up at the Plaça de la Seu and Avinguda de la Catedral until Christmas time. Visiting the fair is the perfect activity for those that are excited to get into the Christmas spirit.
Fira de Nadal de la Sagrada Familia
Since 1962, the Fira de Nadal has occurred at the Plaça de la Sagrada Família, and is generally known as the most traditional market for the Eixample district. This year it runs from the start of December through the 23rd. There are four major areas of stalls to check out: Christmas trees and plants, traditional figures and decorations, food, and gifts.
Fira de Nadal del Port Vell
Another excellent Christmas market to visit is the one at Port Vell. The fair opens on December 5th and closes its doors on January 6. One of the many reasons why this fair is loved by so many is because of the beautiful location with the contrast between the view of the sea and the Christmas atmosphere.
On the market’s opening day, there is always a music performance and the traditional lighting of the lights. There will most likely also be an ice skating rink and a carousel. There are many fun activities for children to participate in, such as learning how to row. Music entities and schools in the neighborhoods gather at the market to share their love for music with people.
Fira de Reis
For those looking for children’s gifts for the “Twelfth Day of Christmas”, more commonly known as Three Kings’ Day on January 6th, this is the perfect market to visit. Because Christmas celebrations technically last until Three Kings’ Day, there is still plenty of festivity to be had!
Therefore, many locals come to Fira de Reis to buy their Christmas and Twelfth Day presents since there is such a wide range of toys. It is a lovely market to visit for families. Make sure to get some freshly made churros from one of the ‘xurrerias’. A visit to this market without having some churros is simply unacceptable – it is part of the tradition, after all!
Other Sights and Events in December in Barcelona
The National Lottery, commonly known as El Gordo, takes place on the 22nd of December every year. It is broadcasted by all media channels. The children of the Colegio San Ildefonso (orphanage) from Madrid sing the year’s winning numbers and prizes, a unique tradition that is known to every Spaniard.
The announcement of the Grand Prize is a big celebratory moment for everyone. The National Lottery is a longstanding tradition, as the first edition took place in 1812 in Cádiz. The lottery has the largest prize pool in the world, with €2,24 billion. The lucky winner of the Grand Prize receives €4 million.
Cursa dels Nassos
The last day of the year starts off with a running race. The 10-kilometer race starts at Carrer de Selva de Mar and ends at Plaça Ramon Calsina. The race is part of the tradition of L’Home dels Nassos, a mythical figure that symbolizes the end of the year and is part of Catalan folklore. The mythical figure can be admired at the special parade where he is portrayed as a friendly ‘capgròs,’ a man with a giant head.
The race is open to anyone who wants to participate. One can register on the race’s official website and only have to pay a €16 registration fee. There isn’t a healthier way to end the year than to join in on this fantastic race!
Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve)
Like with many of the other celebrations throughout the year, New Year’s Eve is a moment when families come together to celebrate by having an extensive celebratory dinner. Traditionally everyone eats a grape with each of the twelve clock bells strikes at midnight on December 31 to welcome the New Year. This is known in Spain as ‘las doce uvas de la suerte’ which translates into ‘the twelve grapes of good luck’. Friends and families then gather on the streets to celebrate with neighbors and friends and enjoy the fireworks.
In Barcelona, many people gather at the Font Màgica in Montjuïc to enjoy the biggest New Year’s Eve party of the city and to enjoy the water and firework show. There are many different parties all around the city. Poble Espanyol is the place where some of the biggest NYE parties take place. The next day, those who can handle the cold can join a large number of people for a New Year’s dive at the Sant Sebastià beach.