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Expat Exchange - Best Places to Visit in Spain for Christmas Cheer
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San Sebastian, Spain

Best Places to Visit in Spain for Christmas Cheer

By Betsy Burlingame


Summary: Plan a day trip or weekend getaway to get some holiday cheer. This article highlights the best places to visit in Spain for Christmas cheer.

Spain is a country that truly comes alive during the festive season, offering a unique blend of traditional Christmas charm and vibrant celebrations. For expats and digital nomads looking to immerse themselves in the holiday spirit, Spain has a plethora of destinations where the magic of Christmas can be experienced in full. From the sparkling lights of big cities to the quaint traditions of smaller towns, there's something for everyone. Here are some of the best places to visit in December to soak up the festive atmosphere.

Barcelona's Gothic Quarter

Barcelona's Gothic Quarter transforms into a winter wonderland during the holiday season. The narrow medieval streets are adorned with festive lights and decorations, creating a magical atmosphere. The Fira de Santa Llúcia, one of the oldest Christmas markets in Spain, is a highlight, dating back to 1786. Here, visitors can find handcrafted gifts, nativity figures, and traditional decorations. The market typically runs from late November to December 23rd. Additionally, the city hosts a spectacular Christmas light show, featuring projections on the facade of the Barcelona Cathedral, usually taking place in early December.

We Recommend: Don't miss the chance to try some 'turron', a traditional Spanish nougat, or 'churros con chocolate', a beloved treat that's especially popular during the festive season. Both can be found at the Fira de Santa Llúcia.

Madrid's Plaza Mayor

Madrid's iconic Plaza Mayor is a must-visit for anyone seeking the Christmas spirit. The plaza hosts an annual Christmas market, the Mercado de Navidad, where you can find everything from festive decorations to quirky gifts. The market usually runs from late November until the end of December. The city also offers a variety of Christmas lights tours, either on foot or by bus, showcasing the stunning holiday displays throughout the capital. The vibrant atmosphere is complemented by street performers and seasonal treats.

We Recommend: Be sure to sample some 'roscón de reyes', a traditional Spanish Christmas cake that's often filled with cream or chocolate and topped with candied fruit.

Granada's Albaicín Neighborhood

The historic Albaicín neighborhood in Granada, with its winding streets and Moorish architecture, provides a picturesque setting for Christmas festivities. The area is known for its intimate Christmas markets and artisan shops, perfect for finding unique gifts. Granada also celebrates with a special Christmas light display, and the view of the Alhambra Palace lit up at night is not to be missed. The city often hosts a New Year's Eve celebration in Plaza del Carmen, complete with fireworks and live music.

We Recommend: Enjoy a glass of 'vino caliente', the Spanish version of mulled wine, as you stroll through the markets and take in the stunning views of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains.

Seville's Historical Center

Seville's historical center is another fantastic spot to celebrate the holidays. The city is famous for its elaborate Christmas decorations and light displays, particularly along the Avenida de la Constitución and Plaza de San Francisco. The Feria del Belén, a traditional nativity scene market, is a highlight where artisans sell handcrafted figures and scenes. Seville also hosts festive concerts and performances throughout December, often featuring flamenco shows with a Christmas twist.

We Recommend: Try 'pestiños', a sweet, deep-fried pastry that's a holiday favorite in Seville, often flavored with sesame and honey.

Valencia's Central Market

Valencia's Central Market, one of the largest in Europe, is a culinary delight year-round but takes on a special charm during the Christmas season. The market is beautifully decorated, and vendors offer a variety of seasonal products and traditional sweets. Valencia also features a large Christmas tree and nativity scene in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, where you can enjoy holiday music and activities.

We Recommend: Don't leave without tasting 'buñuelos de calabaza', pumpkin fritters that are a typical treat in Valencia during the holiday season, often served with a cup of thick hot chocolate.

Bilbao's Casco Viejo

Bilbao's Casco Viejo, or Old Quarter, is known for its festive atmosphere during the Christmas season. The charming streets are lined with lights and decorations, and the Plaza Nueva hosts a delightful Christmas market. Here, you can find Basque handicrafts, local food products, and plenty of holiday cheer. Bilbao also offers a unique Christmas parade, known as the Olentzero parade, which is a traditional Basque event that takes place on December 23rd.

We Recommend: Sample 'marzipan', a sweet almond paste confection that is often shaped into fruits or figures and is a common Christmas treat in the Basque Country.

Zaragoza's Plaza del Pilar

Zaragoza's Plaza del Pilar is a hub of holiday activity, featuring one of the largest nativity scenes in Spain, which is usually on display from early December to early January. The plaza also hosts a Christmas market where you can find local crafts, food, and gifts. Zaragoza's Christmas lights are a sight to behold, and the city often organizes special events and workshops for children during the holiday season.

We Recommend: Indulge in 'mantecados' and 'polvorones', crumbly shortbread cookies that are a staple Spanish Christmas sweet, often dusted with powdered sugar.

Malaga's Calle Larios

Malaga's Calle Larios is famous for its spectacular Christmas light display, which typically features a different theme each year. The street becomes a focal point for holiday celebrations, with light shows set to music several times each evening. The nearby Atarazanas Market and surrounding streets are filled with holiday stalls selling everything from seasonal treats to handmade gifts. Malaga also boasts a floating nativity scene in the city's port, adding to the coastal city's unique Christmas charm.

We Recommend: Enjoy 'turrón de Malaga', a local variety of the traditional nougat made with almonds and honey, which is a must-try during the festive season.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.



San Sebastian, Spain

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