On this page we will introduce you to how Christmas, New Year's Eve and Epiphany are celebrated in Barcelona. We will tell you how the locals celebrate and what you can do in Barcelona during the holidays. We inform you on the business hours of restaurants, shops and museums, on hotels, English-speaking services and much more.
Christmas is a special holiday also in Barcelona, even if it is not as important as it is in other parts of Europe.
English-speaking services in Barcelona
A lot of (secular) presents are exchanged on Christmas and especially on Epiphany, but at least as important as those is the Christian and ecclesiastical background of the feast – in Barcelona combined with Catalan traditions. The Christmas atmosphere which often ends so abruptly after the 26th of December can be enjoyed for longer in Barcelona: here the Christmas lighting is not taken down before Epiphany on January 6th. Epiphany is more important – especially for the kids – than Christmas Day itself.
Around Christmas, the streets in Barcelona are brightly illuminated, Christmas trees are lavishly decorated and you can buy presents and festive delicacies.
How to spend the holidays in Barcelona
Christmas in Barcelona
The pre-Christmas season begins on December 8th with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is now that Barcelona is adorned with Christmas decoration. Especially important are nativity scenes, depictions of the Bethlehem stable in which baby Jesus was born. With moss and small utensils, such as tiny stoneware jugs, the depiction is to look as authentic as possible. A typical symbol of Catalonia is the "caganer" (Catalan for "shitter"), a figure depicted in the act of defecation that stands close to the nativity scene. He is no parody of any clerical traditions but a symbol of a healthy body that fertilizes the ground and thereby provides a good harvest.
Ideas for Christmas presents
You need ideas for Christmas present? Find recommendations here:
Another Catalan tradition is the "Tió de Nadal" or "Caga tió" ("shitting log" in Catalan), a log with two legs, a red hut and a smiling face. He is gently covered with a blanket and fed every day. On Christmas Eve, the tió "shits" little presents for kids.
As opposed to the rest of Europe, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Spain are not regarded as an important day for the handing out of presents. After a lush meal with the whole family only little presents are exchanged. Christmas Day is celebrated with the family and another opulent meal, then with a visit to friends or relatives or simply going to a bar or restaurant.
The actual and much more important handing out of presents takes place on Epiphany, the day the Three Kings brought their valuable gifts such as gold and herbs to Jesus. Already on January 5th there are processions. The children place their shoes in front of the door, water for the camels of the Three Kings and letters with wishes for Father Christmas. The eagerly awaited handing out of presents takes place after an opulent dinner with Roscón de Reyes, a special Christmas cake, served as dessert.
January 6th is the climax and end of the Christmas time –the next day kids go back to school and grown-ups back to work.
New Year's Eve and New Year in Barcelona
You might think that all inhabitants of Barcelona gather on the streets and places in order to await the turn of the year. A very important tradition: At 12pm sharp the church bells ring 12 times and with each chime you are supposed to eat a grape – at best on one of Barcelona's many places. This will bring you luck for the new year.
Don't look for fireworks. Except for the odd New Year rocket or firecracker there will be no action, so there is no need to climb on a hill to admire the fireworks.
Instead, a good dinner before going out is recommended. People like to go to discos, bars and clubs; little pubs are popular as well.
The old buildings and narrow streets of the old city, brightly illuminated in the evening and at night, are an ideal background for pre-Christmas action. Not only shops, but also Christmas Markets invite locals and guests to linger. On Barcelona's Christmas Markets you won't find mulled wine or bratwurst, so don't be disappointed. Two especially large markets are typical for pre-Christmas Barcelona:
Other Christmas Markets
Fira de Plaça de Sants
Venue: Plaça de Sants
Metro: L1, L5, Plaça de Sants
Opening hours: December 1st to December 23rd from 10.00–20.00
Fira de Reyes
Venue: Gran Via between Carrer Muntaner and Carrer Entença
Opening hours: December 26th to January 5th
The weather in Barcelona during the holidays
The climate is mostly mild with sun and not too cold days. There might be a little rain as well. It is unlikely to snow in the time before Christmas and during the holidays.
Day temperatures are between 10 and 15° C. In many restaurants and pubs you can even eat or have a drink outside. The evenings get chilly, so it is recommended to bring light winter clothes.
Events and services
English-speaking service in Barcelona
There are both an English-speaking protestant and catholic community with English-speaking services. You find the exact dates on the websites of the church communities.
Opening hours of restaurants on Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year
Many Restaurants in Barcelona are open on Christmas, New Year's Eve, New Year and Epiphany. Especially the restaurants of top-end hotels (4 stars and more) are open and offer special Christmas menus and events on New Years' Eve.
Please find recommendations sorted by districts including address, phone number and web address on our restaurant webpage. English is spoken in most of the places.
Events and sights
Most sights are closed on December 25th and January 1st, but you can still admire them from the outside. You might for example take your time to look at the Sagrada Familia's façade of the birth of Christ: You can stand in front of it for hours and always discover new elements you have not seen before. Or you stroll up the Montjuïc.
Many hotels and restaurants offer a special program on New year's Eve for their clients. If you don't fancy a set program, you might also walk up the Ramblas and browse the brochures given out there. You will surely find something to do last minute.
Business hours on holidays
Business hours of the shops and sights
Most shops and sights are regularly open on December 24th, some shops however only before midday. On December 25th most museums, other sights and shops are closed. Only little supermarkets that cater to the daily needs are open. On December 26th most museums open again, some of them with slightly different business hours. Please find the details on the sights webpages.
On New Year, most sights and shops are closed.
When you live in an apartment you should better go shopping beforehand. Between Christmas and New Year shops open with regular business hours. January 6th is another holiday but the sights are open.
Public transport during the holidays
The metro and busses run during the holidays but have a different schedule. On Christmas for example they run until 23.00. Please find details posted in the stations. If needed, you will always find taxis around Christmas.