Christmas is coming, Barcelona is comingThe countdown is on for one of the city’s most special moments: Christmas. This year’s programme includes over three hundred performances, eighty groups, companies and cultural bodes, and over two hundred artists. The festive season gets under way with the ceremony to switch on the lights on Thursday, 23 November, at 6 pm. The stage for this year’s ceremony is at the junction where C/ Casp meets Pg. Gràcia, this year marking its 200th anniversary. The lights in all the city’s streets and squares will be switched on simultaneously.
This is the first time ever that Passeig de Sant Joan will be lit up in the section between Av. Vilanova and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes. The districts of Sants-Montjuïc, Les Corts, Sarrià – Sant Gervasi and Gràcia will all have their own ceremonies to switch on the lights.
The Christmas illuminations will be on from 23 November 2023 to 6 January 2024. From Sundays to Thursdays the lights will be on from 5.30 pm to 10 pm and on Fridays and Saturdays they will stay on until 11 pm, while on New Year’s Eve (31 December) and Twelfth Night (5 January) they will stay on until 1 am.
Barcelona Christmas Festival
Pl. Catalunya and Pl. Universitat will be hosting the Christmas Festival from 16 to 29 December, with a programme offering a diverse array of activities, with something for everybody.
Plaça de Catalunya will become a space to linger, observe and reflect through a stage set by the architect and scenographer Juli Sanjuan Palma, inspired by the idea of starting anew.
The mornings offer a family programme from 11 am to 2 pm, with literature, arts, learning and play providing the common thread. Music sessions are planned too, while visitors engage in the activities.
There’s a daily DJ session from 4.30 to 8 pm, along with concerts by artists and music formations. The sounds will combine with street dance shows, circus arts, tight-rope walking and parkour.
At 8 pm it’s time for the large-format show. This takes the form of a theatre, music and visual arts production by Agrupación Señor Serrano, entitled Una taula and raising questions about Christmas meals.
There’s a digital arts installation in Pl. Universitat, open daily from 11 am to 8 pm. Entitled Analema, the installation was conceived by the Sónar festival, which is thirty this year, and developed by Glasswork and Tarta Relena. Visitors will be able to use their own movements to generate an urban choreography to be shown every evening in a majestic tower of light, produced using the day’s interactions with pedestrians.
Nativity scenes and Christmas tree
The city will have three big municipal nativity scenes:
- Nativity scene in Plaça de Sant Jaume, from 1 December to 5 January: this year’s production sees the scenographer Ignasi Cristià pay homage to the Neapolitan nativity scene tradition through a 100% Barcelona birth, accompanied by a graphic display.
- Courtyard at the Museu Marès, from 25 November to 7 January: traditional nativity scene dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, inspired by period painters, particularly Giotto di Bondone.
- Reial Monestir de Pedralbes, from 16 December to 2 January 2024: this year’s traditional nativity scene centres on two large dioramas representing the symbology of the birth and the annunciation to the shepherds.
A large Christmas tree will be installed in Placa de Sant Jaume, made up of a series of small and medium-sized trees each between 2 and 4.5 metres tall, mounted on a metal structure and resulting in a perfect full-bodied tree 15 metres tall. The decorations for the tree are inspired by Tchaikovsky’s work The Nutcracker.
Christmas fairs are a classic activity in Barcelona over the festive season:
- Fira de Santa Llúcia, in Avinguda de la Catedral from 24 November to 23 December. The world’s oldest fair for nativity scenes and Christmas traditions has bene held since 1786. This year’s fair includes 200 stalls, with over 160 spaces selling strictly Christmas items and over 30 more selling gift items. The fair includes children’s and popular culture activities, plus fifteen illuminated Christmas trees.
- Fira de Nadal de la Sagrada Família in L’Eixample from 25 November to 23 December. This fair offer Christmas trees and decorations, nativity scenes and figures, gifts and craft food products such as turrons, cheeses and cured meats.
- Fira de Reis along the pavements in Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, between C/ Muntaner and C/ Rocafort, from 15 January to 6 January, offering traditional toys, gifts and craft products.
There’s also a big Christmas fair at the Moll de la Fusta wharf at Port Vell, from 5 December to 7 January. The decor here combines Christmas and the Mediterranean and features latest-generation tech with large-format LED screens and children’s activities. There will also be an area with an old merry-go-round and a little train giving rides, along with shows, an eco-friendly ice rink, a zone with stalls for major brands and small craft products, plus a gastronomy section.
Christmas activities in the districts
Christmas is also something to experience in all the city’s districts with a programme offering a hundred activities, the idea being to promote local commerce and add vitality to the different parts of the city thanks to joint work with retail associations. The activities in the programme offer itinerant music, dance and theatre, aimed at all types of family and adult audiences.
Sons de Nadal
The Christmas version of Sons de Ciutat, offering live music in streets, squares, shopping hubs and markets, reaches all the districts in the city from 9 December to 4 January, with 100 concerts by local music groups.
This year’s edition includes a special programme of concerts in Passeig de Gràcia, marking its 200th anniversary.
9th Responsible Consumption and Social and Solidarity Economy Fair
The 9th edition of the Responsible Consumption and Social and Solidarity Economy Fair is being held in the outer circle of Plaça de Catalunya from 15 to 30 December, between 11 am and 8.30 pm. The goal of the fair is to introduce and promote responsible consumption and the SSE, offering quality local items produced in conditions which respect people and the local environment.
This year’s fair again features an awareness space with activities for families, a section providing specialised information on responsible consumption options and the social and solidarity economy, plus specific spaces (connecting with the centre of the square) offering responsible textiles and sustainable and healthy foods.
Barcelona Christmas Tour
This is the fifth year running for the Barcelona Christmas Tour, which will be operating from 24 November to 4 January. The tour takes in the city’s most iconic streets, avenues and buildings, decorated and lit up for the festive season, including Passeig de Gràcia, Plaça de Catalunya and much more. The service consists of a route on a double-decker, offering a chance to enjoy the lights from the upper deck of a tourist bus and discover Catalan Christmas traditions through explanations from guides in Catalan, Spanish and English, in a tour lasting 80 minutes.
New Year’s Eve in Montjuïc
We’ll be seeing out 2023 and welcoming 2024 in Av. Maria Cristina with music, fireworks, a monumental set and the most spectacular tech innovation courtesy of the Groupe F company, directed by Christophe Berthonneau. Owing to the drought decree, the Magic Fountain in Montjuïc cannot be part of this year’s show.
Three Kings toy factory in Sant Andreu
The former yarn factory in Sant Andreu is set to be transformed into an authentic toy factory from 27 December to 4 January (except for 31 December and 1 January). This is a chance to experience the toy production route during the Christmas holidays and to speak with everybody who works there.
This year’s event opts for inclusion and accessibility, with various functions, oral communication measures, sign language, audio-description and a tactile visit, as well as two shows for families with children with ASD.
Royal camp and King Balthasar’s family
The Royal Camp will be in place from 2 to 4 January 2024, and this year features a single marquee for the three Royal Pages. The camp also includes theatre performances in the main square to make the wait more pleasant while people queue to get into the camp.
La Casa de l’Aigua, in Nou Barris, will be offering a new activity representing King Balthasar’s family during the afternoons of 28, 29 and 30 December. This large-format set combines tradition and new technologies, where dance, light and fire are used to explain the origins of this king.
Three Kings Parade 2024
The Three Kings will be arriving in the city on board the schooner Santa Eulàlia,a sign of Barcelona’s close link with the sea. This year, with the city hosting the America’s Cup in 2024, everybody is invited to come and greet them from the beach on 5 January, by the Espigó del Gas breakwater between 12 noon and 1 pm, where Their Majesties’ pages will be collecting letters from children expressing their wishes.
From 6 pm, Their Majesties Melchor, Gaspar and Balthasar will be arriving again at the Portal de la Pau on board the schooner Santa Eulàlia. They’ll be welcomed there by the Mayor, who will offer them bread and salt as a sign of hospitality and welcome, handing them the key that opens the doors of all the houses in the city.
After that the Three Kings and their entourage will be making their way around the city streets with their magnificent floats, in a festive procession with music, celebrations, shows and more…
Ice rink in Tibidabo
The Tibidabo Amusement Park is celebrating Christmas with an ice rink of 200 square metres, open to everybody and offering a capacity for forty people. The rink is in Plaça dels Somni and will be in operation whenever the park is open, from 25 November to 5 January 2024. Access to the ice rink is included in the admission price for Tibidabo, but members of the public can also access it without visiting the rest of the park, at a cost of 5 euros.
For sustainability reasons, the rink is made of a synthetic material that offers practically the same sensation as skating on real ice.
Children’s Festival in Montjuïc
The Children’s Festival is being held in Plaça de l’Univers and Hall 2 of the trade fair site in Montjuïc from 27 to 31 December. This year’s event has a new mini space for babies and toddlers up the age of 4, with games to match their needs. Inside there’s a garden for little ones, a play library designed for young children to enjoy play corners and learning experiences just for them.
The festival offers an inclusive space of fun and entertainment, with options to foster healthy living habits and values such as solidarity, social behaviour, creativity and a respect for diversity and the environment.