So you’re planning a Barcelona Christmas.
First of all – great choice! The Catalan capital has a lot to offer, not to mention a brief weather respite from the cold of most parts of English speaking countries.
But how the heck can we plan the perfect holiday with the limited hours, massive crowds, and even a few creepy local traditions?
Checklist Before You Arrive
- Grab yourself a discount tourist pass to save money and skip lines.
- Ensure you buy attraction tickets in advance online.
- Pick the right area to stay to minimize walking and noise.
- Read my Barcelona tourist guide for budgeting and attraction info.
- Get your airport transport figured out in advance.
Barcelona Christmas Weather
If you’re coming from the upper half of the United States, the UK, Canada, or Ireland it won’t be cold. Temperatures rarely drop below freezing but if you’re expecting beach days you’re out of luck.
December brings highs of 14°C (60°F) and lows of 5°C (41°F).
The average temperature on Christmas day in Barcelona is 11°C (52°F).
You’re going to need to pack a winter coat, a scarf, and even a beanie. That said, I’ve never had to put on gloves or do any crazy wrapping up. There is low cloud cover and plenty of sunshine and you should expect light rain one day in four.
Still not sure before departure? Check this Spanish forecast website in advance.
Visiting Barcelona Over Christmas
You’ll find the main shopping district Portal del’Angel completely illuminated. The most impressive Christmas lights are at the Corte Ingles department store in Plaça de Catalunya.
The lights are turned on the last Friday in November and turned off on January 6th.
Consumer culture over Christmas in Barcelona isn’t as pronounced as English speaking countries, in fact the main gift giving period isn’t on Christmas Day: it’s King’s Day (“Los Reyes”) on January 6th.
If you’re looking for some great shopping deals remember then that the post-Christmas sales push back to January 7th onward. You’ll know this by all the signs saying ‘rebajas’ (‘discounts’) in shop windows.
To know where to go check out my shopping in Barcelona article.
Cagatio and Caganer
Santa Claus here is actually substituted for an anthropomorphic log named Cagatio (‘Uncle Shit’). Cagatio is put out much like a Christmas tree on December the 8th.
Kids must leave things to eat for the log every night before bed. The parents then slowly replace the log with bigger versions to simulate it getting fat on the treats.
After 17 days the very large version of the log is covered with a cloth (to hide the gifts) and beaten by the children. The parents then take the cloth away to reveal a treasure trove of gifts which have been ‘shit out’.
There’s also Caganer (literally ‘the shitter’). Well, this popular Catalan Christmas character is typically a peasant with a red hat who is placed in nativity scenes. Doing a number two.
I’ll let you read about Caganer on Wikipedia to make up your own mind.
Barcelona Christmas Markets
El Mercado de Santa Lucia
Christmas markets have been held in this bustling square (Pla Seu) in the historic Gothic Quarter since at least 1786. Today it’s a great place to pick up nativity scene figures, Christmas trees and ornaments, crafts, and sweets.
This is a great place to buy your own Cagatio or even a Caganer (both traditional ones or ones based on popular figures like Trump, Obama, Messi etc.)
Dates: from the 24th of November until December 23rd.
Hours: 11:00 am to 8:30 pm (weekdays) and 10:30 am to 9:30 pm (weekends and holidays). In 2017 the weekend and holiday days are November 25 & 26, and December 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 16, 17, and 23.
Mercado de la Sagrada Familia
The smallest of Christmas markets in Barcelona is on Avenida Gaudi just a few steps from the famous Sagrada Familia basilica. Here you’ll stock up on ornaments, trees, plants, food (most of all candies) and other crafts.
Dates: December 1st to December 24th.
Hours: from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm (weekdays) and until 10:00 pm (weekend and holidays).
Mercado de Los Reyes Magicos
You’ll find this Barcelona Christmas market on the famous Gran Via, between Muntaner and Calabria streets. To access this market get off the metro at Universitar, Urgell, or Rocafort.
Here you’ll be able to get all the Christmas market classics like ornaments, wreaths, and even cagatios. What stands out about this market is the abundance of ‘xurrerie’ – little stands making churros con chocolate.
Dates: 19th of December to the 6th of January.
Hours: 11:00 am to 10:00 pm.
December Shopping Hours
First off let me say there are always exceptions so please double check with retailers.
As a rule however the majority of shopping in the centre is done between 9:30 am and 9:30 pm from Monday to Saturday. Shops and supermarkets are closed on Sunday so keep this in mind.
Over the holidays all shops close on December 25th and 26th as well as January 6th (King’s Day). On Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve shops typically close early around 8:00 pm.
What to Eat in Barcelona over Christmas
Many attractions remain closed on Christmas Day but restaurants do some of their best trade on these days, so eat up! If you’re spending Christmas in Barcelona some traditional dishes to try are:
- La Escudella – a hearty Christmas stew from a broth made of chicken, vegetables, garbanzo beans, and botifarra sausage. With spicy meatballs called pilotas and large pasta shells. It is traditionally served in two parts: the soup and also a meat course.
- Canelones de Carne – usually made with the meat from Christmas Day, you’ll find these stuffed pasta sleeves very similar to their Italian cousins but with less tomato and more bechamel sauce.
- Turrones d’Agramunt – these local and handmade nougat pieces stuffed with chocolate, almond, hazelnut and more are a staple Catalan dessert at Christmas time.
- Cava – this sparkling white wine that rivals champagne in everything but price is the drink of choice.
I’ve compiled a list of the best restaurants in Barcelona for your reading pleasure. If you’re stuck write me in the comments below with any special requests or dietary needs like gluten-free – I’ll find it!
In the meantime I recommend the following:
An airy, modern open-plan restaurant that prides itself on seasonal, local ingredients.
What allows them to do this? The market fresh produce they get from being situated in El Ninot Market. Though it’s hard to predict their winter menu there’s a consistency and tasty elegance in their revamped tapas dishes that has you in good hands.
The multi-course lunch menu with drink is great value at €14.00.
€€ | Area: Sants | Premia 20 baixos | Metro: Hostafrancs (red line L1) | Website
This restaurant packed with locals is a great place to get escudella stew.
What stands out here is no-nonsense Catalan food that has an air of authenticity not found in a lot of other restaurants of the same ilk. The pilota meatballs here are top notch as is the roast beef. If you’re not into red meat the fideua noodles with shellfish is top notch.
The weekday lunch menu (3 courses + drink) is €10.50.
Christmas Transport Hours
On December 24th the metro closes at 11:00 pm while on New Year’s Eve it runs all night.
Because it falls on a Friday, January 5th 2018 sees the metro open until 2:00 am. On all other days during the Christmas holiday period the metro runs as normal.
All public buses on the Barcelona transport network do not change their schedules.
Standard single zone 1 tickets cost €2.15 every day.
The Bus Touristic
Barelona’s hop on hop off bus service doesn’t run on December 25th and January 1st.
For other dates remember that in winter bus frequency is cut to about every 20-25 minutes. The last bus departure from Plaça de Catalunya is at 7 pm – make sure to check at each individual stop for more specific times.
FYI: the green line does not run between November 5th and March 31st.
The premier airport connection option in the city thankfully doesn’t change its schedule. In December it runs between 5:00 am and 12:30 am every 5-10 minutes from Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 to the centre and vice versa.
Total travel time takes 35 minutes.
Tickets are €5.90 (€10.20 return) and are best bought online.
Barcelona Christmas Attraction Hours 2017
The Barcelona Tourism office
If you arrive in Barcelona on Christmas Eve you’ll need to get there before 7:30 pm. On the 31st you’ll have to arrive before 8:00 pm.
December brings limited hours to Barcelona’s biggest tourist attraction.
On December 25th and 26th as well as the 1st and 6th of January the church is open between 9:00 am and 2:00 pm. Also, on December 14th/16th/30th 2017 the Basilica closes at 2 pm (last guided tour at 12:30 pm) due to special mass services.
Due to limited openings it is suggested to book general admission tickets in advance online to ensure spots. In regards to the fantastic English guided tour it doesn’t run on the 25th and 26th of December or January 1st and 6th.
Regular winter hours excluding the days above are 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Barcelona’s amazing urban park with a view is also subject to limited winter hours.
You’ll be able to visit between 8:30 am and 6:15 pm on Christmas Day (last entrance at 5:30 pm). Again, with less hours it is highly recommend to book your time slot in advance to save €1.00 per ticket and skip massive lines.
Not feeling the walk up hill in the cold? Try ride-share service Cabify and get €6.00 off your first ride. Update 21/10/17: Cabify has suspended this offer while they plan a new first rider discount, but I still suggest signing up for the convenience without the discount.
During Christmas it’s business as usual at this marine-inspired mansion. You’ll be able to visit between 9:00 am and 9:00 pm (last entrance at 8:00 pm). During this busy tourist season you’ll need to book your tickets online in advance to avoid lining up.
A favourite winter past time is passing by to see the building dressed up like a Christmas tree.
Unfortunately the Casa Batllo Magic Nights concert series is closed during winter.
The wobbling jell-o apartment block on Barcelona’s famous Passeig de Gracia is closed on Christmas. On New Year’s Day you’ll be able to visit between 11:00 am and 8:30 pm.
During the holiday season there are extended winter hours between December 26th and January 3rd from 9:00 am to 8:30 pm (last entrance 8:00 pm). After the 3rd La Pedrera closes at 6:30 pm (last admission 6:00 pm).
The Origins night tour doesn’t run on the 24th, 25th, and 31st of December and 6th of January.
The world’s second largest association football stadium and home of Barcelona FC is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Extended holiday hours are 10:00 am to 7:30 pm between December 18th and January 8th. Keep in mind the stadium portion of tours are is not available on match days – check Barcelona FC’s schedule to avoid problems.
It is strongly suggested to buy your tickets in advance online to avoid holiday line ups.
The Magic Fountain
This year the Magic Fountain show is unfortunately not running on Christmas Day.
On the 31st of December however you’ll find special New Year’s presentations. While the theme hasn’t been chosen yet the show is scheduled to start at 11:30 pm. Check the Magic Fountain Facebook page for updates.
The hours for December through January 5th are 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm (Thursday, Friday, Saturday).
The fountain is closed between January 6th and February 16th for maintenance works.
If you’re looking to see architecture from all of Spain’s 15 regions in one spot you’ll be happy to know you’re at a place where the hours don’t change.
On December 25th and January 1st (Mondays) it’s open from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm. On Sunday December 31st it’s open from 9:00 am to midnight.
The crafts workshops and stores in the village are open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm in December.
La Boqueria Market
The place CNN called the best food market in the world is closed every Sunday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and the 1st and 6th of January.
During the rest of the holiday season it’s normal business hours from 8:00 am to 8:30 pm.
A tip? Grab some hearty blood sausage and beans for a winter pick me up at Bar Pinotxo.
The Picasso Museum
The world’s biggest Picasso museum by number of works is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve there are reduced hours from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.
If you’re looking to get in free over the holidays you can do so on Thursdays (December 28th and January 4th) but these tickets must be reserved in advance.
Temporary exhibitions in December include: 1917: Picasso in Barcelona, 27 Meetings with Picasso, and Arthur Cravan: Maintenent.
Get More Info by Writing Me
If you’re spending Christmas in Barcelona and still short on information please ask me in the comments below. Any question, no matter how strange, will be answered within 24 hours.
Fire away 🙂