It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… the Lucas Fox Guide to celebrating the festive season in style in Catalunya and Spain’s Capital
The Shopping Night Barcelona
The Shopping Night Barcelona is one of the highlights of the city’s winter calendar, when the shops along Paseo de Gracia and the neighbouring streets of the Eixample throw open their doors for a soirée of fashion, food and friends. This year’s edition, on the 5 December from 8pm until the wee small hours, will adopt the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age, with Sofia Loren as the event’s poster girl.
Almost every shop along Spain’s most iconic shopping boulevard will offer incredible promotions (usually accompanied by a complementary glass of bubbles and a goodie bag!). Think Candy Floss at Mango, a glamorous photo booth at an art deco furniture store, endless Keihl’s samples, makeovers at Calvin Klein and much more.
One might consider Plaza Catalunya, at the intersection between the city’s atmospheric Old Town and the elegant Eixample, the beating heart of the city at this time of year. Linking the iconic Ramblas with the world-famous shopping street Paseo de Gracia, the plaza is never dull. However in December, this already-popular spot explodes in a burst of colour, twinkling lights and music as Europe’s largest covered festive ice rink appears almost overnight. Aptly titled BarGELona (geddit), this gargantuan rink is adored among locals and tourists alike, and is the perfect way to kick off the Christmas season. With a mini kiddie rink (complete with shuffling penguins to keep the little ones upright on the ice), and a handy dandy bar for the grown-ups, the ice rink is the perfect day out!
Christmas Market: Fira de Reis
Barcelona’s biggest, most bustling Christmas market, the “Fira dels Reis” runs from 20 December to 6 January along Gran Vía (from C/Muntaner to C/Calàbria). This is a perfect opportunity to enjoy the city’s festive atmosphere and indulge in some yummy local treats with friends and family. There is an impressive array of local crafts, foodie products, fashion and entertainment for last minute Christmas gifts.
“It’s Caga Tio Time”
One of Catalunya’s best-loved and more obscure festive traditions, the Caga Tio (literally “pooping log”) is a friendly wooden log with a smiling face and little stumpy legs, wearing a traditional red Catalan hat. Usually a star attraction at schools and Christmas fairs, children feed him raisins and other candied fruit to “fatten him up”. The log is then brusquely thwacked with a stick whilst the children sing, and presents appear (you guessed it), to the rear of the log. The official Caga Tio of the Ayuntamiento de Barcelona sits in the Plaza de la Catedral opposite the Catedral Gótico. Arrive early as he is incredibly popular! P.S. Whilst you’re at the Plaza de la Catedral, don’t miss the elaborate nativity scenes within the Cathedral itself – another very typical Spanish tradition at this time of year.
Plaza Mayor is home to the city’s longest running Christmas market but almost every square in the city, big or small, hosts some kind of pop-up market. Other famous markets include Plaza de España, Santo Domingo and a delightful food market in the Plaza de Opera. From elaborate handmade Christmas ornaments, to lights, artisan food, candles and gifts, there is a tremendous variety of products on offer.
Aperitivos in Mercado San Miguel
Though not strictly limited to the festive season, the Mercado San Miguel takes on a particularly special atmosphere at this indulgent time of year, with footsore Christmas shoppers taking advantage of the incredible array of gastronomy on offer. Just off Plaza Mayor (home to the largest Nativity figurines market in the world), the covered market of San Miguel is the ideal pit stop for a crisp glass of wine and some scrumptious posh nibbles. Go on, treat yourself to some cava and oysters at once!
The Navibus: Christmas Lights City Tour
A recent addition to the city’s Christmas repertoire is the “Navibus” (as in, Navidad), offering a tour of the spectacular Christmas lights to be found lighting up the city. The bus departs every 5 to 7 minutes from Calle Serrano, taking around 50 minutes to cover the centre of Madrid in its entirety and costs just €2 per person!
What could be lovelier than gliding under sparkling Christmas lights on an outdoor rink in the nation’s capital? There are several temporary ice rinks to choose from at Plaza del Callao and Plaza de la Luna. A super affordable activity, for just €5. Perfect for getting into the festive spirit! Make sure you don’t forget to take gloves, as most rinks will not let you on without!
Discover Madrid: Christmas Guided Tours
Throughout December, Discover Madrid are offering Christmas themed guided tours to help tourists and locals alike get better acquainted with local customs. Tours include a Christmas cycling tour, a tour tailored specifically for runners, a walking tour of historic nativity scenes, and a tour titled “Christmas Traditions”. Tickets cost €5-6 and children under 5 can join in for free. The full range of tours and timings can be consulted in their brochure.
Cortylandia at El Corte Inglés
The capital’s flagship department store El Corte Inglés is lit up with a five storey animatronic display, attracting families from miles around. The 15 minute show features animated dolls and puppets singing the signature “Cortylandia” anthem, and Spanish Christmas songs. This cheesy display is reminiscent of animatronics at Disneyland and is an integral part of the annual Madrid Christmas experience.