Ten festive activities in Barcelona

18 Dec 2018 Maria Di Mario no responses

Spending Christmas away from home can be difficult, especially when social media is there to remind you of everything you’re missing! But some of the most fun Christmases are the ones where you’re doing something new, so if you’re staying in Barcelona over the festive season, check out our guide to what’s on for some inspiration and make your Barcelona Christmas a memorable one! 

  • Fira de Santa Llúcia

This Christmas market, held in front of the cathedral, is in its 232nd consecutive year. It’s the place to go for Christmas decorations – they sell Tiós de Nadal and all the figurines for nativity scenes, but there are also more universal Christmas decorations on sale, like wreaths, mistletoe, Christmas trees and baubles, and browsing the stalls is sure to get you in the festive spirit!

Every day until Christmas Eve, 11am – 8.30pm
Plaça de la Catedral

  • Pessebre de Plaça Sant Jaume 1

Every year the nativity scene displayed by Barcelona city council is designed by a different artist, so head along to Plaça Sant Jaume to see this year’s interpretation! You’ll also get to see the enormous Christmas tree displayed in the corner of the plaça. 

Every day until the 6th of January
Plaça Sant Jaume 1

  • Circ Raluy

This traditional circus features firebreathers, acrobats, unicyclists, magicians, jugglers, clowns – everything you could want from a day at the circus! They set up camp every year at Port Vell, and performances are daily from the 20th of December, with deals on tickets if you buy in advance. 

Every day from the 20th of December, at 5pm or 7.30pm
Port Vell

  • Mostra de Pessebres 

Nativity scenes are a big deal in Barcelona, so much so that there’s an association of pessebristes – the artists behind nativity scenes. There’s a small but very sweet exhibition on at the association, which is tucked down a side street behind Plaça Sant Jaume 1, where you can see examples of their work. It’s a lovely antidote to the more consumerist side of Christmas, and the entry fee of 1.50€ goes towards the efforts of the association.

Every day until Christmas, 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm
Carrer dels Lledó, 11

  • Cant de la Sibil·la (Song of the Sibyl) 

Once widespread throughout Europe, this piece of religious theatre was banned in the 17th century, only surviving in Mallorca. It began to recover its popularity in Catalunya in the 19th century. You can see it performed at four churches in Barcelona, but the gothic surroundings of Santa Maria del Mar suit it particularly well. 

Christmas Eve, 11pm
Plaça de Santa Maria  

  • Christmas Day Santa Swim 

This 200m race is organised by the Club Natació Barcelona, and it’s in its 109th year! Head down to Moll de la Fusta on Christmas morning to cheer on the competitors – that water is cold! If you want to compete for a truly memorable Barcelona Christmas, you have to register, but you can find all the information you need here in English. 

Christmas Day, 11am
Moll de la Fusta

  • Dia dels Sants Innocents 

This feast day has macabre origins – the innocents are the babies killed by King Herod – but the tricks that parents used to disguise or hide their children from Herod’s soldiers are the inspiration for this Catalan version of April Fools Day. The most common trick to play on someone, especially children, is to stick a paper figure to their back, but newspapers also publish fake stories, people pour detergent into fountains to make them foam and social media is full of practical jokes. 

28th of December

  • Cap d’Any

Head along to Plaça Espanya to see the official New Year’s city celebrations. The show starts around 11pm, with a big firework display at midnight. Don’t forget to bring a bag of grapes – if you eat a grape on each stroke of midnight’s bells, you’ll have a very successful 2019! 

31st of December, 11pm to 12.30am
Plaça Espanya

  • Primer Bany de l’Any

If you were inspired by the swimming Santas on Christmas Day, then head down to the Sant Sebastià beach on New Year’s Day to take part in the first swim of the year along with hundreds of other intrepid swimmers. Bring along warm clothes and maybe even a hip flask for a warm-up afterwards! 

1st of January, midday
Platja de Sant Sebastià

  • La Cavalcada de Reis

In Catalunya, Santa isn’t such a big deal… the kings are the ones who bring the presents on the 6th of January, which explains why there’s such a big fuss made of them! On the afternoon of the 5th of January they sail into the port in all their pomp and finery, accompanied by their court, and are welcomed by the mayor, Ada Colau along with crowds of excited children, and then proceed to parade through the city, showering the crowds with sweets. 

5th of January
Moll de la Fusta and then around town