The Christmas markets and shopping around Barcelona is an enjoyable and magical time of year. While it may not be the obvious choice for a festive trip, and there won’t be snow on the ground or a Santa Claus on every corner, Barcelona is a great choice for a Christmas trip. The weather outside isn’t frightful like the old song says; it’s very mild, usually the sun is shining, and there are lots of lovely things to see.
Important Dates in Catalonia
You will hear people complaining that Christmas seems to start earlier every year, but in Barcelona, it’s just part of the holiday season. The first official holiday in the festive calendar is La Immaculada, the Immaculate Conception, which is celebrated on December 8. Interestingly, December 6 is also a holiday and locals will often take the day off work if they can.
December 24 is when many people celebrate with a big meal and family get-together, while December 25 is also a public holiday. In Catalonia, Dec 26 is also a holiday but this is not the case in other parts of the country. The final day of the holiday calendar is January 6, known as Dia de los Reyes or the Epiphany, so it’s almost a month of celebrations.
The Best Christmas Markets in Barcelona
You can find delightful Christmas markets across the city during the whole of December, selling all manner of festive fare. Here are some highlights to get you into the spirit.
La Fira de Santa Llúcia
Arguably the most famous Christmas market in Barcelona, La Fira de Santa Llúcia from November 24 to December 23, 2023, is located directly in front of the Barcelona Cathedral. The square, Plaza Nova, has ample space for the stalls and is filled with twinkling Christmas lights.
The first historical mention of a fair being held in this location is 1786. And while it was originally a one-day event to honour Saint Lucia, whose day is celebrated on December 13, the fair gradually grew into the big, festive, souvenir-filled market that you will find there today.
They proudly announce in their literature that even in 1860, when Barcelona was beset with a terrible case of yellow fever, the Christmas fair went ahead.
- What to buy here: all things artisan and handmade! Nativity figurines, plants, jewellery, honey, cheese, candles, and other pretty gifts to take home for family and friends.
- Other activities: during the month there are various celebrations with music, dancing and activities for kids. Look out for the traditional parade of the “gegants”, or giants, which will be carried around the Gothic Quarter.
Fira de Nadal de la Sagrada Familia
The La Sagrada Familia Christmas market still maintains a local feel, despite its location, even selling Christmas trees to the residents of the area. Of course, we don’t recommend trying to take a tree back on the plane with you, but there are plenty of other treats and treasures to be picked up in this market.
Although this market started in 1962 and is much newer than La Fira de Santa Lucia, it still has lots to offer in terms of shopping. The traditional handmade figurines are here too, joined by a great selection of other handmade decorations. You will also find lots of delicious morsels to try, including local meats and cheeses, as well as candies and, the most traditional Christmas treat in Barcelona, turrón.
Nutty about Nougat
Turrón is a nougat-based confectionary, meaning its main ingredients are sugar, egg whites, and honey, usually combined with toasted nuts such as almonds and hazelnuts. However, like most traditional confectionaries, there are now many different varieties.
The most famous brand of turrón in Spain is made by Vicens, and can be purchased year round. Look out for turrón from Agramunt; this little town in Catalonia makes a turrón that has a protected geographical status, meaning this version of the treat can only be made here.
- What to buy here: sweet treats and traditional figures.
- Other activities: combine it with a visit to La Sagrada Familia, contact us for information about private tours and tickets.
Fira del Col·lectiu d’Artesans de l’Alimentació
The title of this one is a complete mouthful, which is appropriate as it is the food market! This market is usually open once or twice a month, but at Christmas, it has a special timetable so that everyone can have the chance to purchase something delicious from its stalls.
It’s the youngest market by a large margin, having been in operation for less than 20 years, but it offers high-quality and exciting treats that you won’t find in the other markets.
The translation of the name is simply “Artisanal Food Fair” (although we like to call it the fancy food fair), and that is exactly what you will find in the Placa del Pi, in front of the Santa Maria del Pi church in the Gothic quarter, over the festive period.
While you will be able to find turrón everywhere, this food fair has an extensive list of local goodies to choose from: cheeses, yoghurts, pâtés, cured meats, honey, beauty products, sweets, dried herbs, teas, spices, jams, marmalades, olives, conserved vegetables, biscuits, chocolate…have we missed anything? Oh yes, wine too!
- What to buy here: This market is a foodie paradise, and their selection of jams is amazing, I suggest looking out for the stall selling gin-infused marmalades and tomato conserves. For those who love to give edible gifts, look no further than the Fira del Col·lectiu d’Artesans de l’Alimentació.
- Other activities: Take a look inside the church. The Santa Maria del Pi has some of the oldest “gegants” in the city hidden just inside the door and you can read about how they were protected during the civil war.
“Caganers” The Ultimate Catalan Christmas gift
Something that you will see all over Barcelona all year round are little figurines of a gentleman (ahem), doing his business. These little guys are called “caganers” and are an important part of the Catalan Nativity scenes. That’s right: next to Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, there will be the caganer relieving himself in the background.
While the traditionally dressed caganer wears a white shirt, black pants and red hat, you will now see every character, real or fictional, represented. From Yoda to Obama, from Messi making a mess to Einstein working something out, these little figurines and the story behind them is sure to make everyone laugh when you present them on Christmas day.
You will find these in the markets of Santa Llúcia and la Sagrada Familia and we insist that you buy at least one. Then afterwards, number two. Sorry, toilet humour. We’ll stop now.
What Else Can I See?
Much like every other European city around the festive season, there are Christmas trees and Christmas lights to be seen. Take a stroll around the centre to be filled with the festive spirit. There are lots of lights to see and lots more shopping to be done on the Passeig de Gracia, so be sure to take a stroll down that fantastic avenue; you’ll find everything from Gucci and Cartier to H&M and Oysho.
If you want to add a competitive edge to the sightseeing and shopping, try our Photo Treasure Hunt – you’ll see all the pretty, festive sights of the Gothic quarter while answering questions and taking Polaroid photos.
For general ideas of what to do in December, check out our What to Do in December blog.
Published in October 2018, updated in December, 2023.