Visiting Barcelona in December
Great weather, Catalan Christmas fun and fewer tourists…
By Duncan Rhodes
Winter sunshine, wacky Christmas traditions and a chance to see some of the city’s best attractions minus the tourists, make it well worth visiting Barcelona in December. Here’s everything you need to know…
Despite the winter season, the sun usually keeps his hat on, and during the day you could easily find yourself stripping down to a T-shirt and enjoying a cheeky caña (small beer) on of the city’s many romantic street terraces, whilst by night a half decent jacket should be enough to stave off the chills. No scarf required.
Weather in December
With only three days of rain, and an average temperature of 15 degrees Celsius by day (and 9 degrees by night), December is a pleasant month to visit Barcelona, and many travellers will prefer this time of year to the oppressive heat and crowds of the city’s annual summer meltdown.
Such mild winter weather means that it’s very unlikely to snow in Barcelona during December, however, so if you were hoping for a sprinkling of festive snowflakes, better to book your flights to Vienna, Berlin or Krakow instead.
Things to do in December
In terms of things to do, there are plenty of options, whatever the weather, and whatever your inclinations.
The nerdtastic Barcelona Games World congress, Messi and pals strutting their stuff on the hallowed Camp Nou turf, Gaudi’s mind-boggling attractions (considerably less busy this time of year) and a glut of great museums and cultural treasure vaults all await the winter explorer.
All that and we didn’t even mention the C-word… yet…
1. Christmas Markets & Traditions
Apologies to all Ebeneezer Scrooges out there, but it’s almost impossible to begin any December travel piece without mentioning JC’s birthday, and the ensuing
suffering merriment it brings. Whilst Barcelona can’t compete in terms of Christmas romance with the likes of Vienna, Prague and Krakow, the festival is celebrated with some pomp and style in Catalonia. Several markets will spring up around town (most notably the Santa Llucia Fair in front of the Gothic Cathedral), a life-size nativity scene will grace Plaça Sant Jaume, and the city’s larger streets will be decorated with surprisingly tasteful lights. There are also some bizarre Catalan festive traditions to look out for, such as the squatting peasant who does a plop in Jesus’ manger, and the log you have to beat with a stick before it sh*ts presents. More on this, and Christmas in general, right here.
2. Joan Miro Foundation
The local obsession with excrement is visible in the works of Catalonia’s most famous artist, Joan Miro. The Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Shit, is just one of the catchily-titled masterpieces you can see on display at the artist’s museum in Montjuic. If you like bold-coloured abstract art, steeped in Catalan life and spirit, then you’ll love this collection, which is housed in an award-building designed by Josep Lluis Sert.
3. Explore the rest of Montjuic
If you’re going up to Montjuic to pay your respects to Miro, then it would be worth combining your visit with one of the coastal mountain’s many other treasures. The hilltop fortress, Olympic Stadium, National Museum of Catalan Art, Caixa Forum and Poble Espanyol can all be found in this leafy, culturally-rich zone. In the evening many tourists like to gather at the Magic Fountain. Read up on show times here. You can see all of Montjuic’s attractions a map here.
4. Catch a Football Match
Around this time of the year La Liga is starting to hot up, and without fail, FC Barcelona will be one of the forerunners in the competition. There might be some Champions League action going on as well! Let’s face it Messi ain’t getting any younger, so if you want to see history’s best player, playing live in Europe’s biggest stadium, then buy tickets for a match.
5. Camp Nou Experience
If you’re not lucky enough to be passing by Barcelona on match day, then second best is taking a tour of the stadium. The Camp Nou Experience is a self-guided tour of the stadium, dressing rooms, player tunnels and a visit to the FC Barcelona Museum, with its trophy room and special zone dedicated to Lionel Messi. To avoid disappointment, I suggest you buy your tickets in advance.
6. Geek out at Games World
Taking place at the end of November, or start of December, each year, Barcelona Games World is an industry event that invites public participation. For the price of a day ticket (€16) you can explore over 52,000 square metres dedicated to video games, digital entertainment, e-sports, exhibitions and mobile gaming. With over 1500 games terminals your thumbs are sure to be busy. More info on www.barcelonagamesworld.com.
7. Learn How to Cook Catalan Cuisine
If you can’t stand the cold, step into the kitchen, and learn how to cook Catalan cuisine. And no, we’re not talking about paella, tapas and sangria (you tourists!), learn how to cook some of the real traditional dishes of the region. It’s no coincidence that some of the world’s very best restaurants, such as El Bulli, Sant Pau and Can Roca (all decorated with three Michelin stars in their heyday), were born in Catalonia, and you’ll finish the class with a fantastic understanding of why the region’s cuisine has wowed gastronomes around the planet.
8. Game of Thrones Tour
Winter is coming, so take a half day tour to Girona where much of seasons 5-8 of Game of Thrones was filmed. From scenes of Arya begging and fighting on the streets of Braavos, to Cersei’s walk of shame, this beautiful medieval city became one of GoT’s most important shooting locations in recent years. Book this tour via Get Your Guide and you’ll hop on a comfortable private coach that will take to Girona, which is 1.5 hours north of Barcelona, where you’ll get an expert guided tour of the town, including film sets. Or, if you prefer to be more independent, you can catch the train up there and book your Game of Thrones walking tour tickets separately.
9. Go Skiing
There’s not quite as much snow around here as north of the wall, but the powder in nearby Andorra is pretty reliable from December onwards. So if you’re based in Barcelona and fancy some winter sports, then sign up for this wild weekend on the slopes, which includes transport, accommodation and ski pass. If you can’t make that, then you can find more info on the best ski resorts within reach of Barcelona, here.
10. Enjoy a Flamenco Show
Synonymous with Spain is the art of flamenco, which reached as far north in Catalonia and is celebrated across the city’s many fine tablaos. The pick of the bunch is probably The Flamenco Palace (El Palacio del Flamenco), a refurbished theatre where you can enjoy a classic paella with a performance by some of the finest musicians and dancers in the country. Check our list of the best places to watch a flamenco show in Barcelona for more options.
11. Visit Park Guell
Probably you’ve bought your tickets to La Sagrada Familia already, but don’t skip Antoni Gaudi’s wonderful landscaped gardens either. This time of the year they shouldn’t be too crowded, and you’ll have more space to take the perfect photo of Barcelona from the park’s splendid viewing terrace, and maybe even get an obligatory selfie with the multi-hued lizard that stands guard on the grand staircase. Keep reading for more info on opening hours, and buying skip the line tickets. You might also want to check our article on the best Barcelona tourist cards, because several include entry to both La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell in the price.
12. Visit Gaudi’s Casa Mila at Night
A cool way to experience Gaudi’s Casa Mila differently, the La Pedrera Night Show includes a guided evening tour of the iconic building that finishes with an epic audiovisual display on its undulating rooftop. There’s even a free glass of Cava (sparkling Catalan white wine, made using the Champagne method) thrown in. You can book tickets via Get Your Guide.
13. Celebrate New Year’s Eve!
Still here on the 31st? Then get ready to see the New Year arrive in style in Barcelona. There’s a public fireworks display each year on Plaça Espanya, whilst the city’s famous nightlife will be in full swing, into the early hours of the morning. Check out our feature article for more info on New Year’s Eve traditions and parties.
Not fussed by Christmas… you may prefer to visit in January instead then! If so check out our list of mid-winter activities using the link provided.
About the Author
Duncan established Barcelona Life in 2009, whilst freelancing for the likes of Conde Nast, The Guardian, Easyjet Magazine, CNN Traveller and many more. From interviews with Ferran Adria to revealing the secrets of the city’s poetry brothels, he knows the city inside out… and shares all his best tips right here.