Although Barcelona is best known by many as a summer sun-sea-beach destination, it is certainly not a punishment to be in the city in the colder months of the year. The atmosphere is fantastic around the holidays and it is also a lot less crowded in terms of tourism. So are you going to Barcelona this winter? Then read on!
Christmas Eve, December 25 and 26
The most important Christmas moment for the Catalans is the evening of December 24, Christmas Eve. Most locals spend this day with their families and enjoy a sumptuous dinner. After dinner, many people attend Midnight Mass, which starts at midnight. The shops are open as usual the day before Christmas Eve, but they close a bit earlier than on normal days.
On Christmas Day, almost all Spaniards are free and the shops – except for some small supermarkets in the center – museums and other places of interest will be closed. Many restaurants also close their doors on this day, so check that in advance! Restaurants that are open often have a special Christmas menu, for which it is best to make reservations.
Although Boxing Day does not exist in Spain, December 26 is a day when most Catalans are free. The day after Christmas in the region is marked by the Day of Saint Steven, the first martyr of Christianity. Most shops are therefore not open on this day. Traditionally, the Catalans eat canelones on this day, filled with leftovers from Christmas dinner.
On New Year’s Eve, of course, there should be a party. Instead, according to tradition, one grape is eaten at midnight every time the clock strikes (and that seems easier than it is!). Packets of grapes are handed out in most bars, clubs and discos. If you want to go to a big party in one of the popular clubs, in most cases you have to be on the guest list and pay an entrance fee. This is arranged via the website. January 1, New Year’s Day, most shops are of course closed and the revelers sleep off their daze.
The Three Kings.
The party that Catalan children look forward to the three kings, on January 6. The three wise men from the East bring with them a lot of goodies and gifts. The night before unpacking all the treats, the three kings take a tour through the center of the city, where children can submit their wishes and where a lot of sweets are scattered around. This fairytale-like procession is not only special for little visitors, but also a whole experience for their parents and other adults.
The chic shopping street of Passeig de Gràcia is the evening of December 1 dominated by Barcelona Shopping Night. Indeed: where shops normally close their doors at 9 pm, you can now shop until 1 am! All kinds of activities are also organized around the event, such as music performances, parties and tastings.
Throughout the month of December you can visit various exhibitions and markets spread throughout the city. How about the Drap-Art Festival, for example? There, artists exhibit their creations made from recycled products. During the Drap-Art Market, every Saturday in December between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Placa Reial, you can score original Christmas gifts.
Of course there are also the traditional Christmas markets, such as the Santa Llucia on Placa Nova near the cathedral and around the Sagrada Família. There are also dozens of market stalls on the Gran Vía prior to Epiphany where all kinds of gifts and gadgets are sold.
As already mentioned, in Barcelona it is not always for shorts and flip flops. Although with luck you can still sit on the terrace in a shirt in December, it is often cold after sunset. So dress well and if you find it too cold, treat yourself to a nice cup of hot chocolate with a portion of delicious churros to warm up. You can do that on Plaça Nova, near the cathedral, where you can immediately visit the Christmas market.
Another great option to escape the cold is a visit to the sauna. In the El Born district you have the Arab baths Aire de Barcelona, where you can pamper yourself. Many luxury hotels in the city, such as Hotel Majestic, also have a sauna and steam room. You don’t necessarily have to stay at the hotel to be able to use it.
So don’t hesitate to go to Barcelona in winter. There are plenty of fun things to do!