Barcelona is beautiful during Christmas. The lights are lit, the chestnuts are roasting on street corners and the mood is cheerful and jolly. Over the holiday period, there really is a lot to do, especially if you are visiting Barcelona at Christmas with kids. From markets to funfairs to parades, there is plenty to entertain the young ones. My family and I love this time of the year in the city and can’t wait! If you are here at this magical time, read on to find out what to do with kids in Barcelona for Christmas.
Things to do with kids in Barcelona at Christmas (2019-2020)
Three Kings Parade
Presents are given in Spain by the Three Kings, not Father Christmas or Santa Claus. The traditional letter is written and posted to the Kings in advance. However, if you miss the post, don’t worry, your kids can personally hand it to one of the Kings’ eighty assistants in the parade. Phew! This happens to me every year.
La Cabalgata de Reyes is the name of this magical parade held on the night of January 5th. Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior arrive in considerable style at the Port of Barcelona amidst lights, music and fireworks. They then begin their slow procession through part of central Barcelona. Aside from the Kings, there are the pages and helpers who throw sweets out to the waiting crowds lining the entire route. The parade includes professional artists and volunteers that bring it to a total of 12 floats and well over 1,000 participants! This is an absolute MUST for all children while in Barcelona.
There are a number of Kings Parades around the city in the different barrios but the biggest one will take place in the centre, starting at Ciutadella Park at 6pm.
Outside the Cathedral is the famous Fira de Santa LLúcia. Thought to have started as far back as 1786, this is a wonderful place to take the kids and really start to get into the Christmas spirit. If you are lucky, you might come across La Carassa de Barcelona, a big head depicting a Turkish warrior spitting candy out of his mouth. I am sure your children will love that.
The newer Feria de Navidad de la Sagrada Familia started up in the 1960s is located in front of Sagrada Familia. It feels special walking around this market with the imposing basilica as the backdrop!
Giant nativity scene
Every year at Placa de Sant Jaume you can find a giant Nativity scene or “pesebre”. In 2019, Paula Bosch is the artist in charge of the decoration and it has two sides to it. North, you will see a cityscape, nicer to see at night time when lit. South, is where the actual nativity scene is. A deconstructed one if you like, with each of the traditional characters and Catalan Christmas classics still stored in boxes and ready to unpack.
You can see it on display from November 29th to January 6th. Each year is a different modern take on a traditional theme. There are always people who love it and people who hate it so let us know what you think.
Circ Raluy is a lovely tradition in Barcelona and they visit every year with a new show. Get taken back in time with this historic travelling human circus and museum of old caravans. Fancy spending the night? That’s an option too! The circus will stay in the city way past Christmas, from November 29th to February 16th.
El Tió de Nadal
If you have taken a Gothic Quarter Free Walking Tour with us, you’ll be familiar with the Catalan Christmas tradition of El Tió de Nadal. There’s no getting away from it, this is an odd custom! A log that poops presents?! Of course. And the kids LOVE it!
This giant smiling log, covered with a red blanket so he stays warm, is put on display in front of the Cathedral and all children under the age of 12 are encouraged to approach him. They then wallop him with a stick and wait to see what treats he… delivers! You can have a wack most mornings from 10.30am to 1.30pm until December 19th. We took a video of the children beating El Tió so you can see it in action.
Head out of the centre to La Farga Centre d’Activitats or L’Illa Diagonal Shopping Centre At these temporary ice rinks you can skate and toboggan as well as book to see music shows and circus workshops.
Plaça Catalunya activities
Every year Plaça Catalunya hosts the Responsible Consumption and Social and Solidarity Economy Fair. In 2019, the 5th edition of this fair will bring 60 social and solidarity economy projects to the centre of Barcelona. A great way for kids to learn about responsible consumption.
The little ones will definitely love what the City Council has prepared in 2019 to celebrate Christmas in Plaça Catalunya. The square will transform into a magical forest with giant luminous rabbits. The traditional Christmas carols will be sung there too accompanied by a small orchestra. And all over the place, different eccentric characters will roam and also do a show involving storytelling. My favourite one has to be the “Catalan Christmas log trainer”. Looking forward to seeing what they have prepared this year.
The activities take place from December 20th to December 31st, except on Christmas Day. If you are here after New Year’s Eve, from the 2nd to the 4th of January, the little ones will have the opportunity to give their wish-list to the pages of The Three Kings. A great photo op and… who knows? maybe your kids can receive new presents this year all the way from the Orient.
Happy Christmas and New Year everyone! I hope you have a fantastic time here in Barcelona. And, if you want something special for your kids, don’t miss our Kids & Family Private Tour around the Gothic Quarter. A very unique way of learning in a fun way for all the family.
Post originally published in November 2017. Updated in November 2019
Main photograph: Children in Barcelona beating El Tió by Valerie Hinojosa