Like many other European countries, Spain celebrates Christmas in fervor with elaborate belens (Nativity scene figurines), glittering lighting and massive Christmas markets. These markets feature rows upon rows of booths bursting with colorful candies, local produce, traditional sweets and gift items.
Although these markets are scattered acrossÂ Spanish cities and towns, you’ll be surprised to know that the items sold vary according to regions. Each city tends to sell more of local produce — for example, in Galicia you’ll find more walnuts and chestnuts while Andalusia will probably have more pomegranates on sale. Valencia has its oranges to pride on while Aragon is best known for its apples. In most markets, you’ll surely find flowers, mazapan candies, candles, decorations and hand-crafted Christmas gifts. Choirs entertain at the markets and the scents and sounds fill the air during the Advent season.
Whether you are in the land-locked mountains of Northern Spain or along the Southern coastline, there will most probably be a Christmas market in each town or village. The two most important markets in Spain are — as you can guess- in the two biggest cities: Madrid and Barcelona.
Christmas Markets in Madrid
The main Christmas market in Madrid can be found in Plaza Mayor, one of Madrid’s main public squares. It starts on 28th November each year with an official opening on 5th December. The market is open from 10 am until 9 pm every day right through until early January — remember that the Spanish Christmas only ends on the 6th January, the Day of Epiphany (Dia de los Reyes Magos). In fact, you’ll be surprised to find that the busiest times at this market is after the 25th December and right before 6th January.
Madrid’s Christmas market has been going since 1860 and many of the stall holders still sell the traditionalÂ BelÃ©n nativity figures alongside fancy dress costumes, joke items and tinsel wigs ready for Fools’ Day on 28 December. Another Christmas market worth visiting is the one located atÂ Plaza de EspaÃ±a. This handcraft market isÂ organised by the Community of Madrid and is smaller in scale but offers a distinctive myriad of goods on sale. There are more thanÂ 150 stalls from 60 different townsÂ and provinces. Ceramic, glass works, leather goods or imitation jewellery are sold here.
Christmas Markets in Barcelona
Barcelona’s Santa Lucia Christmas market begins on December 13th until Christmas Eve in the Plaza de la Catedral and spreads onto the Placa Nova. Along the way, you’ll find some impressive nativity scenes dotted around the square and hand-carved nativity figures on display. Another item often seen in Barcelona’s Christmas market are the piÃ±atas in the shape of yuletide logs filled with goodies like sweets and small presents. This is also the perfect place to buy your Christmas Caga Tio– a log with a friendly face that is an important part of Catalan Christmases. There is also a section of the market that sells artisan handicraft. Within this section there is a wide range of stalls selling various hand-made products such as jewelry, toys, leather goods and ornaments.
Other Christmas markets in Barcelona worth checking out is the Fira de Nadal a la Sagrada Familia that runs around the gardens outside the Sagrada Familia. Sitting at the foot of the Sagrada Familia it makes for an impressive setting and offers the opportunity to see the building and the market in one trip. At the Mercat GÃ³tic (Fira de Brocanters) Christmas Market off Plaza de Catalunya, there is a huge array of antiques and charming trinklets on offer. It takes place all year round on Thursdays in front of the market (from 10:00 – 21:00), but it is overtaken by the Fira de Santa LlÃºcia during the Christmas period.