Barcelona Christmas Markets
When you think of Barcelona, you don’t usually think of Christmas markets. Paella, football, or tapas usually comes to mind first, not sparkling fairy lights and Christmas trees. It’s a destination that you should definitely add to your Christmas bucket list. Barcelona is beautiful at Christmas time, especially the Barcelona Christmas markets. The lights are all lit, the Christmas trees are sparkling, all under the usual Spanish sunshine and milder winter temperatures. Come enjoy Christmas in Barcelona, it’s quirky, sunny, and definitely full of seasonal charm. Here’s a list of Barcelona’s Christmas markets so you can enjoy some local Feliz Navidad.
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Barcelona Christmas Markets
La Fira de Santa Llucia – Barcelona Cathedral Christmas Market
This is the biggest and oldest Christmas Market in Barcelona. About 300 hundred stalls are set up in front of the Barcelona Cathedral. There are Christmas lights strung between the little stalls so the whole thing glitters beautifully in the cool night air. There are lots to see and do here, and it is close to other Barcelona attractions.
What To Buy
This Barcelona Christmas Market has been around for over 200 hundred years. There’s no food or drink here, which is one of the things that German Christmas markets usually do better than Spain, but it makes up for this with charm and glittering lights. Every stall is decked out in bright colours and sells some form of traditional Catalan Christmas present. Many of them sell equipment for the nativity scenes, which is a big tradition in Spain and Catalonia. The families usually get together and set up an elaborate nativity scene featuring windmills, farms, figurines, and even rivers. It’s fascinating to wander the shops and see all the intricate details that you can buy and add to the scene. You can even get tiny lights that work, and little sheep and loaves of bread.
Something that is purely Catalan is the adding of the Caganer to the nativity scene. Something to know about Catalans is that they find poo jokes hilarious, and some of their biggest traditions revolve around this. Enter the Caganer. The Caganer was originally a farmer manuring his fields by taking a dump on them. All traditional Catalan nativity scenes will have one. He’s supposed to bring prosperity and good luck. This has evolved into a popular Christmas present and you can buy all sorts of famous celebrities, politicians and Disney characters all taking a dump.
If you thought the above was weird just wait until you visit the shops selling Caga Tio. What is Caga Tio you might be wondering? It translates to Uncle Poo and is another Catalan tradition. What you have to do is find a log in the woods, or Christmas Markets, feed it every day, and then on Christmas Eve you beat it with a stick and it poops out presents. I’ve spoken to native Catalans, and as children, they believed in this poop log as much as I believed in Santa Claus in Australia. There’s even a song that you sing while beating Caga Tio with your stick. You can buy tiny little souvenirs or larger ones depending on your baggage.
The Giant Caga Tio
For the children’s entertainment, there is a Tio Gegant (Big Uncle) between the Cathedral and Christmas Market. You can line up with your child and then they all get given sticks. To keep it slightly civilised (you don’t want to encourage public bashing) there are logs around the Caga Tio that you hit with your stick. At the same time, they sing the Caga Tio song and then they receive a little present at the end. This is some really local Christmas fun and would be a great experience for your child to learn that other cultures can be different.
Artisan Christmas Market
If you’ve had enough of the Catalan Christmas poo traditions then other parts of the market sell handmade creations. You can buy beautifully painted mugs, tiny wood-burning stoves that are actually incense burners, and many creative toys. A lot of the Christmas stalls in the market sell the same things, but the artisan part of the market (which is usually closer towards the road) is always really different and creative. Find your last-minute Christmas presents here, or a unique souvenir to take home.
There’s always busking going on for some fun entertainment if you get tired of the shopping. Watch comedians and circus acts, or get a balloon animal from one of the buskers/beggars out the front of the cathedral. Behind the cathedral, there is always some unique, or beautiful music act. There are some truly talented opera singers to be found here, jazz music, or harpists. It’s always a moving experience to be surrounded by the ancient stone of the Gothic Quarter and the ringing tones of the Marriage of Figaro.
Fira de Nadal a la Sagrada Familia – Sagrada Familia Christmas Market
From the end of November, the park next to Sagrada Familia fills with lights and a tiny Christmas market. It’s a lovely place to wander around before or after a visit to the beautiful church. You can find the usual traditional Catalan Christmas presents here, all while having the most unique church towering above you.
The Sagrada Familia Christmas Market is much smaller than the main one near the Barcelona Cathedral, but it makes up for it with charm, and of course, a stunning location. The market stalls circle the tiny park, so you can start at one end and make your way around the whole area. There are some sweet stalls here, and a little bar in the park where you can order some food or drinks. Get your Caganers or Caga Tios here, or buy your Christmas tree and decorations.
Santa Claus comes to visit on the 21st and 22nd of December, and children can hand him letters about how good they’ve been. You can also get photos taken, which is a lovely souvenir from your trip to Barcelona and Sagrada Familia.
If you want to visit Sagrada Familia at the same time then make sure you pre-book tickets beforehand. There is no low season for this place, and you will be disappointed if you turn up to buy tickets on the day. You can attend sessions for free on Sundays, but turn up early for that, as they can’t let everyone in.
Alternative Barcelona Christmas Markets
All Those Christmas Market
All Those runs different food markets throughout the year, and this is their advertised Christmas Market. Held on the last weekend of November/first weekend of December, it’s a great way to get into the hipster holiday spirit. The entry is three euros and you get access to lots of different food trucks and stalls, different drinks and an epic sweet market and artisan crafts for your perfect hipster gift. For something unique to Barcelona they offer mulled wine. It’s fun to sit beneath the fairy lights and sip your hot wine and talk with friends and family. You can find this market at the entrance of the Teatre de Catalonia.
Palo Alto Christmas Market
Palo Alto operates on the first weekend of every month in Barcelona. It’s located in an old factory which has been turned into funky offices and the most picturesque hidden garden. There are always lights strung between trees and shops selling unique wares from food to things for children and pets. Everything is handmade and makes great gifts for something beautiful and different. The food here is always amazing and there are a lot of different choices. They always have live music from 1200 until 2100 and it varies from alternative electronic music to Jazz. It’s cheaper to buy tickets online and it means you skip any queues.
The Barcelona Christmas markets are beautiful, but always try and keep in mind that Barcelona does have a bit of a theft problem. These markets can get extremely busy, especially in the evening when the lights are so magical and the stalls are bright with colours. I’m not saying you have to worry all the time, but just be mindful of your belongings. Avoid putting important things in your pockets, as crowds are perfect for an accidental nudge or brush. I always wear my bag across my chest and put it in front with my hand against it. When there are buskers or something happening that draws the attention always be mindful of your possessions. This is a prime opportunity for pickpockets, and they will take advantage when your attention is focused on something else.