Despite its lack of snow, fir trees, and reindeer, Barcelona still tries to put on a good show come Christmas time. The city government has hung elaborate lighting displays throughout the streets and, as a local here, I am excited for the evening to come when they will illuminate the city, inaugurating the holiday season.
With the lights twinkling, the Christmas Market is the next sign that Santa or The Kings are on their way. (King’s Day is more important in Spain than Christmas for children.) The Christmas Market is not as elaborate as those in northern Europe and Germany, but nevertheless is a fun, albeit crowded experience.
Picking up a tree
Set up in front of Barcelona’s Cathedral in the center of the city, the Christmas Market offers freshly cut trees ranging between €20 and €100, depending on size. You can also pick up a fake tree here, which is perhaps more eco-friendly, but does not have that delicious pine smell.
I bought a tree one year at the Christmas Market, and thought I was doing some good, as it still had its roots and was potted in a heavy mass of dirt. It was only much later, and after carrying the tree, pot, and dirt through the city, that I realized that my tree was nothing more than a cut stump shoved into dirt to look good. Such is the case with all the trees at the market–for some reason the tree stand does not exist here.
…and the trimmings
Besides trees, you can also pick up all the trimmings. Some of the decorations are straight from China and others are handmade from Spain—you’ll know which is which by the price.
My favorite part of the market are the stands selling houses, figures, animals, and mangers for nativity scenes. I don’t put up a nativity scene at home, but most people do. Many times the nativity scene is much more important in the Barcelona household than a tree. Many of the figures for the nativity scenes are finely carved and intricate, with fabulous expressions on their tiny faces. Stalls also sell all the extras for making your nativity scene a wower, like moss, mini trees, and fake rivers made of plastic.
Around the perimeter of the market and down side streets connected to the square, you will also find many stalls with artisans selling handmade gifts such as jewelry, soap, clothing, and games. This is the perfect place to buy a souvenir made in Catalonia or even wines and cheeses from local farmers. Prices vary but there are deals to be had. I have never walked away from the Christmas Market empty-handed!
When to visit
The Christmas Market, which is officially called “La Feria de Santa Lucia,” opened November 28, 2009 and closes the December 23. It’s open all day but really gets going in the evenings and on the weekends. In fact, it is so crowded on the weekends that it is almost unpleasant. It’s best to go midweek.
Feliz Navidad, or as they say in Barcelona, “Bon Nadal!”