Christmas Mass at the Sagrada Familia Basilica Christmas Mass at the Sagrada Familia Basilica

Barcelona's top Christmas markets

Thought Spain was lagging in the Christmas market tradition, think again. We've found three of the best to get you in the festive spirit

What Barcelona’s winter markets lack in mulled wine they make up for in local artisan fervour. Here are three locations where you are sure to find the quirkiest, most traditional of Catalan trinkets, along with food and drink recommendations to help pad out your day.

Fira de Santa Llúcia

firasantalluciabarcelonaFira de Santa Llúcia

Nowhere loves a nativity scene more than Spain. There are entire shops dedicated to selling biblical figurines, and sheep, shepherds and the like can sell for well into the hundreds of euros per porcelain. You’ll find all character of handmade nativity figurines for less extreme prices, and a whole lot more on offer too, at the Fira de Santa Llúcia.

It is Barcelona’s Christmas market supremo, and has some serious heritage, having begun in 1786. This year it has been snowballing along since late November, and the market-stall sellers will only put down their tools on 23rd December, just in time for Barcelona’s curious Christmas Eve traditions such as the smashing of a smiley-faced, beret clad log, the Caga Tió (of which there are plenty to observe at said market).

There are, it must be said, a lot of marketers pitching variations on the same theme at this market but the offerings are all top quality and extremely traditional. The miniature nativity scenes are made with such finesse that many incorporate tiny water features and exhibit impressive mechanical prowess – a moving Mary or shuffling shepherd is not uncommon. Aside from such fair, you can expect to see a lot of green (mistletoe, Christmas trees...), as well as artisan gifts in the form of jewellery, clothing and home decorations.

El-cercle-terraceEl Cercle Terrace

A perfect pit stop within 5 minutes is the heated outdoor raised terrace at El Cercle restaurant, where you can watch the christmas crowds go by from a breathing space up high to the tune of a glass of Cava. There is a sleek Japanese restaurant indoors if you get hungry. How to get there: The market is opposite the entrance to Barcelona Cathedral on Avenida de la Catedral. Enjoy the fifteen-minute saunter there, down Avenida Puerta del Angel from Plaza Catalunya metro area. The market direct is not a good area to get a cab into, owing to pedestrian streets and Christmas crowds.

Open Mon to Thurs, 10.30am to 8.30pm; Fri to Sun, 10.30am to 9.30pm. www.en.firadesantallucia.cat

Feria de Navidad de la Sagrada Familia

feria-de-la-navidad-de-la-sagrada-familiaFeria de Navidad de la Sagrada Familia

Since 1962. This is another classic market, bustling away in the smart upper Eixample neighbourhood. There are over 150 stalls here, focussing on home decorations for Christmas. If you happen to have a child in tow, be aware that there are children’s workshops attached to the event too. The market runs until 23 December and is famous for its handmade plaster Caganers; figurines of famous people on the toilet, no more no less. A truly errant entrant into the Catalan nativity scene, they line the city’s Christmas markets in their thousands.

If you’ve yet to visit the Sagrada Familia Cathedral which forms the lit-up, adjacent backdrop to this market, do so now. Usually visitors to the cathedral focus their energies on getting up to the rooftop where Gaudí’s weird and wonderful mosaic terrace can be enjoyed, but this time of year you should instead cruise underground to the Basilica, for there you can enjoy listening to choral practices and let your eyes soak up the lesser-known underground structure to the famously unfinished edifice. How to get there: Take a taxi to Avenida Gaudí at Placa Sagrada Familia. Sagrada Familia metro is at the heart of the action too (purple line).

Open 10am to 9pm daily.

Feria de Reyes de la Gran Via

CHurros-doughnuts-at-the-Feria-de-Reyes-de-la-Gran-ViaChurros doughnuts at the Feria de Reyes de la Gran Via

This market has less atmosphere than the aforementioned but stands in a great central location. It is also possibly the best market for Christmas gifts per se, with an offering ranging from silverwear, soaps and lighting to ceramics and clothing with many a children’s toy in between. Go hungry to the venue, as xurrerias are a main feature; stalls where market vendors peddle the Catalan incarnation of Spanish “churros”, those wonderfully indulgent tubular doughnuts typically enjoyed with coffee or hot chocolate, in utter defiance of cholesterol. How to get there: Take a taxi to Gran Via between the streets Calabria and Muntaner.

Runs until 6 January 2016. Open 11am to 2pm and then 5pm to 9pm daily. www.firareisgranviabcn.com

1 Feria de Reyes de la Gran Via
2 Feria de Navidad de la Sagrada Familia
3 Fira de Santa Llúcia
4 El Cercle