Christmas in Barcelona by

Christmas In Barcelona 2021: Churches, Markets and Spanish Christmas Traditions

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There are so many things that make Christmas in Barcelona spectacular! From the fabulous churches to historic Barcelona Christmas Markets to extremely odd Barcelona Christmas traditions, we jumped right in and celebrated the holiday Catalan style! Bon Nadal! (That’s Merry Christmas in Catalan!)


Christmas In Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona Christmas Lights

When we decided to spend Christmas in Barcelona we had so many questions! Are there things to do in Barcelona in December? Do they have Christmas trees in Spain? And, how is the weather in Barcelona in December? (The answers are: Yes, yes and spectacular!)

What we discovered is that there is so much to do in Barcelona at Christmas time! To help other holiday travelers planning to visit Barcelona over Christmas, we put together this useful guide of all things Christmas…Barcelona-style!


Barcelona Things To Do In December

Although many people worry about traveling in the winter season, there are many things to do in Barcelona in December – especially if you enjoy Christmas festivities! Visiting Barcelona over Christmas is an excellent time to see the city and celebrate the holiday.


Barcelona Christmas Lights and Decorations

We were dazzled by the Barcelona Christmas decorations that hung over the streets, which immediately got us in the holiday spirit. You don’t have to look very hard for them; Barcelona Christmas lights can be found everywhere in the city! Strolling the streets in the glow of holiday lights is one of the best things to do in Barcelona in December. The Christmas lights in Barcelona are turned on at the end of November and stay on through the first week of January. 

Use our free, Self-Guided Barcelona Walking Tour to route your way to top Barcelona sights!


Barcelona Nativity Scenes

In addition to Barcelona Christmas lights, visitors will find cheerful holiday markets (more on that in a minute!) and decorative Nativity scenes throughout the city. Nativity scenes, which are called Pessebre in Barcelona, are one of the traditional Christmas decorations in Spain. While all of the churches in Barcelona boast Nativity scenes, we think the best Nativity Scene is in Sant Jaume Square by the Town Hall. 


Barcelona Christmas Tree

A Christmas tree stands by Town Hall (on the above mentioned Sant Jaume Square), but be sure to check out the large Christmas Tree in Barcelona near Placa Catalunya on Portal del Angel Street.


Barcelona Churches At Christmas

It wouldn’t be a Barcelona, Spain Christmas without visiting the two most famous churches in Barcelona: La Catedral and La Sagrada Familia. The churches (like the rest of Barcelona) have two distinct styles of architecture: European Gothic (La Catedral) and Modernism (La Sagrada Familia, by Antoni Gaudi). 


La Catedral

La Catedral Cathedral church in Barcelona, Spain

La Catedral, or Barcelona Cathedral, is wedged into the crowded Barri Gotic district and has soaring spires and gargoyles on the heavily decorated facade. The spacious, wide interior is lit by grand chandeliers, with two main aisles on the sides along the chapels, rather than one down the middle of the church.  Stairs lead down, beneath the altar, to a crypt, which is the final resting place for Santa Eulalia, one of Barcelona’s patron saints.


La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

La Sagrada Familia, the still unfinished work of Gaudi started in 1883, looks more like a church from Candyland than most churches found in Europe. We marveled at the mishmash of classic religious symbols all with a Modernism flair. While it is a unique church, the fact that it remains unfinished is perplexing and slightly incomprehensible, but that is, perhaps, part of the draw. Get a better understanding of the church on one of the La Sagrada Familia tours – find out more.


Barcelona Christmas Mass

Both Barcelona churches offer Christmas day mass. Christmas Eve in Barcelona often culminates with the Midnight Mass at the Cathedral. Santa Maria del Mar, another one of the beautiful churches in Barcelona (La Ribera Quarter), also offers a Midnight Mass. 



Barcelona Christmas Market

The Christmas Market outside La Catedral

We were ecstatic to find Barcelona Christmas markets set up throughout the city. As we wandered the streets, we would stumble into quaint squares or city parks filled with huts selling holiday goods. For travelers who want to do a little Christmas shopping in Barcelona, markets are a great place to start!


Barcelona Christmas Shopping

The Christmas markets in Barcelona are an ideal place to pick up handmade goods, scarfs and the traditional staples of cured meat, cheese and bread. We also saw many different ornaments – and we think a Barcelona Christmas Ornament makes a perfect holiday gift or trip keepsake! Additionally, the markets are a meeting place for friends and families to enjoy sweet treats and drinks. 


The Best Christmas Markets Barcelona

We thought the best Christmas markets in Barcelona were at the churches: La Catedral and La Sagrada Familia. Both markets feature multiple booths and a festive atmosphere. 


Fira de Santa Llucia Christmas Market

The Barcelona Christmas market at La Catedral is the Fira de Santa Llucia, the city’s oldest Christmas fair. The vendors at Fira de Santa Llucia mostly sell pieces to create-your-own Nativity sets. Offerings range from small, simple moss-covered sets to more elaborate scenes with running water and flickering lights. Hundreds – maybe thousands – of different figurines are also for sale.

And, almost every vendor sells a version of the most famous (and still perplexing) Barcelona Christmas traditions: Caganer and Caga Tio (which we better explain next!).


Fira de Nadal de la Sagrada Familia

The La Sagrada Familia Christmas Market is “Fira de Nadal de la Sagrada Familia”. At this market, visitors will find an array of holiday items. Most popular goods for sale were Christmas trees, toys and Barcelona, Spain Christmas ornaments (although, we didn’t see a specific Sagrada Familia Christmas ornament…perhaps we just missed them, but they can be ordered online!). 

Find this year’s Barcelona Christmas Market Dates on the city’s tourism calendar!


Barcelona Christmas Traditions

One of the best things about traveling is learning about other culture’s unique traditions. What we learned is that Barcelona Christmas traditions are strongly connected with the city and people…and unlike anywhere else. The two notable Christmas traditions in Barcelona that most baffled us the most were the Caganer and El Caga Tio. Both holiday figures are rooted in fertility, heat and light, but somewhere along the way have taken on an odd twist.


Barcelona Caganer

The first time we saw the Caganer, we didn’t believe the figurines were seriously supposed to be included in Holy Nativity sets…but we were wrong. Literally meaning, ‘The Crapper,’ the squatting, dropped-drawers, defecating fellow is most often depicted as a pipe-smoking Barcelonian and, supposedly, symbolizes fertility.

Numerous versions of the Nativity crapper are available – including ones that resemble famous people, like the President of the United States and the Pope. At the holiday markets, entire booths are dedicated to the Caganer. We still don’t exactly get the bizarre tradition, but that didn’t keep us from buying one as a keepsake!


Caga Tio Barcelona

The Caga Tio is another Barcelona Christmas tradition that has had us shaking our heads. Originating as gifts of light and heat from burning wood, today Caga Tio Christmas logs are adorned with smiley faces and given legs and a Santa hat. But, that’s not the strange part. 

What makes the Caga Tio a mind-bending holiday tradition is what happens to them in the time leading up to December 25. The children in the home take care of smiling log, by ‘feeding’ it, then beating it with a stick so that it will crap out presents for them. 

Although we are far from comprehending this tradition, a small Caga tio made it’s way into our Airbnb apartment to sit next to our small Christmas tree. 

Pro Tip: Both the Cagner and the Caga Tio make great (or perhaps, odd) Barcelona Christmas gifts and can be purchased at either of the markets or online. Looking for travel-focused gifts? Check out our complete list of 65 Unique Travel Gifts

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Barcelona On Christmas Day

Christmas day in Barcelona is usually celebrated with a big lunch at home with family. Most attractions are closed (but not all), as are most restaurants, cafes and bars. 


What to do in Barcelona on Christmas Day

We worried that everything would be closed on Christmas Day in Barcelona, so we planned outdoor activities that are always open…and made sure we had enough food (and wine!) for the day. Rather than staying indoors, we took advantage of the nice Barcelona weather and spent the day hiking Montjuic. We enjoyed (and needed!) the exercise and loved the fresh air, quiet trails and scenic viewpoints. 

In the early evening, we wandered the L’Eixample neighborhood – and found quite a few bars and cafes open. After dark, we strolled the quiet streets under the glow of Christmas lights.  


Barcelona Christmas Swim – Copa Nadal

Another one of the fun Christmas in Barcelona traditions is watching (or participating!) in the Barcelona Christmas Day Swim event, called Copa Nadal. Established in 1907, the Christmas day swim takes place in the harbor near Rambla de Mar (near the Columbus Monument at the end of La Rambla). Nearly 500 swimmers – many decked out in Santa costumes – brave the chilly waters in the event. 


Christmas Dinner Barcelona

Unsure there would be any restaurants open on Christmas night, we pre-ordered special Christmas meals prepared by Mas Gourmets at the famous La Boqueria Market and celebrated with friends in our Airbnb apartment. However, visitors who want to enjoy a Christmas dinner out will find several restaurants that are open. It is recommended to book ahead of time to ensure a seating! 


Post-Christmas Barcelona Festivities

In Barcelona, the holiday celebrations don’t end on December 25, but continue until January 6. We left the day after Christmas to continue our Spain trip to Seville and then Madrid, so we missed out on the events – but visitors staying through the first week of January should mark their calendars for these celebrations. 


Dia de Sant Esteve – December 26

December 26 is a bank holiday in Catalonia – the Day of Saint Steve (Dia de Sant Esteve) – which is spent with family. Many places will be closed (just like on the 25th), so keep this in mind if you are staying in Barcelona between Christmas and New Year. 


Home dels Nassos – December 31

Another crazy Catalan tradition, Home dels Nassos, occurs just before the New Year on December 31. According to Catalan legend, there is a man who has 365 noses – and he loses one each day of the year. On the last day of the year, he can finally be seen and children are sent in search of him.


Barcelona New Year’s Eve

The Barcelona New Year celebration occurs in Placa d’Espanya where there are live performances, musical acts and a firework display. Don’t forget to bring your 12 Grapes to eat at midnight! Clubs will be open until dawn to celebrate the New Year. We spent New Year’s Eve in Madrid…find out how we got it all wrong in our Madrid New Year’s Eve post!


Three Kings Parade – 6 January

Throughout Europe, holiday celebrations don’t end on Christmas day, but rather just begin. The Ephiphany – also called the 12th day of Christmas – falls on the 6th January. This is the day that children receive gifts – not on Christmas Day.

One of the big events during the Christmas period is the Three Kings Parade, which is a parade for children that happens on the eve of the Ephiphany – January 5. Also called the 12th Night Procession – or La Cabalgata de Reyes Magos in Spanish or La Cavalcada de Reis Mags d’Orient in Catalan. 


Top Tips For Your Trip To Barcelona, Spain

Before your trip, we have a few more travel tips and packing hacks


Barcelona Weather

Winters in Barcelona are generally mild, but December ranks as the coldest month in the city. Barcelona temperatures in December are usually peak in the high 50s Fahrenheit. But lows can dip to the low 40s overnight. It is best to check Barcelona Weather December on before you go on your trip!


Where To Stay In Barcelona

The best places to stay in Barcelona is in – or close to – the city center. During the holidays, we stayed in an Airbnb apartment in L’Eixample, Barcelona’s northern neighborhood that was built as an expansion to the old city in the mid-1800s. The wide, tree-lined streets were lit up with holiday lights and Christmas displays decorated trendy shop windows. 

On a subsequent trip, we stayed in the Hotel Concordia Barcelona in the El Poble-sec district – which lies between Montjuic and the Old Town. The location was ideal for local transportation from the airport and within reasonable walking distance to the Old Town, Montjuic and the famous tapas street. The 4-Star hotel features modern rooms, an outdoor pool and a casual on-site restaurant and bar.

There are many Barcelona hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center – start your search now on or check out these top-rated hotels (based on guest reviews!): Catalonia Magdalenes | Hotel The Serras | Hotel Casa Camper


Barcelona Food and Drink

Part of experiencing Barcelona is indulging in the local fare! Visiting La Boqueria Market is a must – and tapas-hopping is highly recommended! Check out our top suggestions for the best Barcelona tapas.


Spain Itinerary Ideas

Need help planning your time in Spain? Check out our One-Week Spain Itinerary, that includes stops in Madrid and Seville, as well as an expanded trip that adds a visit to Lisbon, Portugal! Visiting Basque Country, Spain? Read our San Sebastian Itinerary!  

Plan Your Complete Trip To Barcelona!

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Before You Go To Barcelona, Spain

  • Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell.
  • We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel(which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures and is a slim and lightweight budget camera).
  • It’s easy to get turned around or lost in any new city! Be sure to have a good city map and/or guidebook prior to arriving.  
  • Whether you travel with a backpack or suitcase, you will certainly want a great day pack to organize and secure all of your essential travel items.
  • We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads

Start planning your trip to Spain! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing!  Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!


We want to know: Have you spent Christmas in Barcelona? What would you add to our list of things to do in Barcelona at Christmas? Where else have you spent Christmas in Europe? Tell us in the comments!


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5 thoughts on “Christmas In Barcelona 2021: Churches, Markets and Spanish Christmas Traditions

  1. Thomas Costa

    I love the Caganer tradition, I bought a few characters 🙂 Also, I saw this app with all the city events for New Year, check it out, it might help

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