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Things to do this Christmas and New Year in Barcelona

Tradition, concerts, family fun, fairs... everything you need to get into the Christmas and New Year spirit
By Time Out Barcelona |

Barcelona is bubbling with revellers at Christmastime. The city offers a variety of things to do, in the form of concerts, art exhibitions, dressed-up buildings, sporting events, markets, and of course the parties. And remember that the winter holidays in Barcelona go on until Kings' Day on January 6, so here are some suggestions to keep you entertained and having fun through Christmas and into the New Year.

Nadal al Poble Espanyol
© A. Creus
Things to do, Markets and fairs

Christmas at Poble Espanyol

Poble Espanyol is once again transformed into a sort of Christmas theme park for kids of all ages. Kids can visit Santa Claus's house and personally hand him their wish list, and they can do the same with the Three Kings before Kings' Day on January 6. You can stroll through the Enchanged Christmas Forest and the Tió Forest (Log Forest where you'll find the traditional Catalan 'pooping log' in a giant size), hang your wishes from the Wishing Tree, and the little ones getting ready to let go of their dummies can hang them from the special dummy tree and feel like big kids.

Until Dec 29

Things to do

Mapping: The light of Sant Pau

In addition to the show that pays tribute to the winter solstice, the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site offers other activities, like the Jingle Lied Christmas Concert on Sat 22 brought to you by ESMUC music school students, who play Shubert and Schuman compositions, among others. There's also 'The Nutcracker' ballet accompanied by a storyteller who takes you to a magical time. The Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site is also debuting a new family tour with kids in mind, where the little ones head into the former Hospital de Sant Pau, in order to discover the five principal characteristics of Catalan modernism.

Until Jan 6

Things to do

Fira de Santa Llúcia

This long-established Christmas fair takes over the square in front of Barcelona’s cathedral for the weeks leading up to the big day, with stalls selling seasonal accessories including mistletoe, tree decorations and small gifts. However, if you want to experience the fair as a local, grab the chance to buy some nativity figures, whether a 'caganer' (a Catalan peasant – or a celebrity, from Rafa Nadal to Donald Trump – who defecates in the corner of the stable) or a character who actually appeared in the original story.

Until Dec 23

Nadal, Barcelona, plaça de Catalunya
© Matthi
Things to do

La Ciutat dels Somriures

This Christmas season, Plaça Catalunya turns into The City of Smiles, full of activities, workshops and fun things to do. A giant puppet called Senyor Hivern (Mr Winter) is the star of the celebrations as well as the main show that's on throughout each day. Plus you'll find other activities, such as La Llibreria, where you can enjoy reading, music, and popular songs; El Teatre, with Christmas-themed puppet shows; La Botiga de Joguines, a space for children to experiment with sound; La Botiga d'Esports, where you can play a bit of basketball, indoor football and more; and El Ritme al Carrer, bringing urban culture artists and activities together.

Until Jan 4

Copa Nadal de Natació
© Ricard Cugat
Things to do

109th Christmas Cup for Swimming

At Christmas, the cold is no excuse not to get in some outdoor exercise. In fact, Christmas in Barcelona is a good time to get in shape. How, you ask? Swimming, of course. Every year on Christmas Day you'll find a swimming competition organised by the Club Natació, which involves swimming 200 metres in open water at the Barcelona Port. It can't be too bad out there, this event has been going on for over a century!

Dec 25

Gunnar Knechtel Photography, Barcelona, Fabra i Coats, 27.12.201
© Gunnar Knechtel, Fabra i Coats, 27.12.2013.

The Three Kings' factory

The Three Kings' factory opens its doors again this Christmas season so visitors can see part of the setup. You can visit the toy warehouse where the Three Kings have all the toys prepared and ready and waiting to be handed out the night of January 5 for kids to delight in on January 6. The factory will be working as normal as visitors look on through windows in the main façade to see the mechanisms, gears and cogs, tools and in-progress gifts, all working at full capacity to get everything out on time. You can even post in your own letter to the Three Kings in the Central Post Office to see how the workers organise all the information they get to transform children's wishes into presents.

Dec 27 – Jan 4

Music, Classical and opera

Banda Municipal de Barcelona: New Year Concert

Conducted by Salvador Brotons, who has been the band's director for the past decade, the Banda Municipal presents a festive concert, which features a performance of Tchaikovsky's 'The Nutcracker Suite'. The programme is rounded out with works by Franz von Suppé, Luigi Arditi and Franz Lehar. Soprano Rocío Martínez performs as guest vocalist. 

Dec 29 & 30

Things to do, Sport events

Cursa dels nassos

You may know that the Catalans ring in the new year by eating one grape with each chime of the clock at midnight, but did you know about the man with many noses ('l'home dels nassos')? Folklore has it that there's a man who has as many noses as there are days left in the year. He only goes out one day a year, December 31, and parades around throwing sweets to children who can find him. It being the last day, the sly old fox has only one nose, leaving him near impossible to identify. So to honour him, the city hosts one of its most iconic sporting events of the year, La Cursa dels Nassos (The Race of the Noses), a 10K that starts at Selva de Mar at 5.30pm.

Dec 31

Things to do

New Year's Eve party

Local tradition dictates that as the bells strike midnight on New Year's Eve, 12 grapes need to be eaten before the last dong is heard, to ensure good luck for the year to come. The biggest party of the night takes place at the Montjuïc Magic Fountain, starting at 9.30pm. French company Groupe F is in charge of the main show this year, and it's inspired by the very same traditional 12 grapes eaten at midnight. Expect plenty of light, colour and dance, where the dancers are the fireworks, the water and the aerial elements.

Dec 31

Things to do

Kings' Day Parade

Kids in Barcelona count the days until the Three Kings come to their house and leave gifts on the night of January 5. That same night there are parades in nearly every neighbourhood or district in town, but if you're in the centre of Barcelona, you'll enjoy the biggest Kings parade as Their Majesties – Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar – follow beautiful floats filled with lights, music and dancing on their route. The Kings first disembark their ship at the Moll de la Fusta at 4pm, where they are received by Barcelona mayor Ada Colau. They then start their long parade through the city streets, until they finally say good-bye to everyone for another year from Av Reina Maria Cristina at 9pm.

Jan 5

Things to do

Fira de Reis on Gran Via

The 'Three Kings' Fair' sets up its 273 stalls along Gran Via (between Muntaner and Rocafort), where you can find a wide range of quality products and 'almost' unique gifts for your last-minute Christmas or Kings' Day needs. You'll find the fair on from December 20 to January 6, every day from 10am to 9pm, except Saturdays and the night before holidays, when it's open until 10pm.

Until Jan 6

Pessebre de la plaça Sant Jaume
© Maria Dias
Things to do

Nativity Scene at Plaça Sant Jaume

The nativity scene in Plaça Sant Jaume is a Christmas classic in Barcelona. This year the installation is a work by set designer and illustrator Sebastià Brosa. It's a traditional family dinner scene, but in quite a different form. You'll find an enormous table covered with a tablecloth and set with candles, plates and glasses. The guests, who are traditional Catalan nativity characters, are represented by the chairs themselves. The huge chairs make grown-ups feel like kids again, and you won't see any 'Don't touch!' signs on them. On the contrary, you can climb up and have a seat, but remember to always be well-mannered, as these chairs have to go back to their original owners when the holidays come to an end.

Until Jan 6

Things to do

Classic crib on the Museu Frederic Marés patio

The Associació de Pessebristes de Barcelona (Association of Nativity Scene Makers) sets up a second nativity scene in the city in addition to the one they do every year in Plaça Sant Jaume. You can visit this more traditional crib until Candlemas (Feb 2) on the patio of the Frederic Marés museum.

Until Feb 2

More to explore