Christmas markets: where magic and tradition meet
Christmas is almost here, along with all its magical traditions. Like visiting a Christmas market, for example, to update your bauble selection, buy new nativity figurines or pick up a joke present to make a loved one smile. Spain has plenty of these wonderful festive markets to offer, some of which have been around for centuries. Magical, joyful spaces decked out with festive lights to really get you in the mood for Christmas. Wrap up warm and head to one of these:
Plaza Mayor, Madrid.
A Christmas classic, right in the city centre. Explore this iconic market's more than 100 colourful stalls where you can pick up anything from nativity scenes and Christmas decs to joke presents for loved ones. This market dates back to the 17th century; back then it was held in the nearby Plaza de Santa Cruz, selling fruit and veg as well as Christmas gifts and decorations. As the years went by and the market grew it expanded into Madrid's Plaza Mayor, which became its official home in the early 20th century and is where it still takes place today. Some remember it fondly as the place where little Chencho got lost in the classic Spanish comedy ‘La Gran Familia’ (1962). Others remember it as the place they'd meet their friends to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas holidays. And everyone knows it as a Madrid Christmas landmark.
Feria de Santa Lucía, Barcelona.
This market takes place in Plaza Nova, in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter, just a stone’s throw from the cathedral. According to documents from the time –including Rafael Amat's diaries – this market dates back to the 18th century. Its 280 stalls are laid out by theme: nativities and figurines, Christmas decorations, handicrafts, traditional "zambomba" drums and tambourines. It also hosts traditional Christmas performances like choirs, storytellers and parades. You'll also get to see a giant Tió de Nadal, a traditional Catalan Christmas log character, and pick up a cheeky "caganer", a bare-bottomed figurine which is a staple in every Catalan nativity scene. Originally, the caganer was a peasant, but nowadays you can find them with the faces and clothes of well-known public figures.
Christmas craft market, Seville.
In the Plaza Nueva, near the Cathedral and the Giralda, you'll find almost 80 little wooden stalls and stands selling sweets and handicrafts. This market's charm lies in the outstanding quality and design of the exquisite hand-crafted products on sale, which include ceramics, nativity figurines, wooden toys and local products.
Muelle de Ripa Christmas market, Bilbao.
At almost 20 stalls selling a broad range of products all made by local businesses, you'll find tasty treats, fashion, Christmas decorations, gifts and toys. Make sure you pop in to the Gabonart Christmas craft fair too, which is at the Muelle de El Arenal.
Plaza del Pilar Christmas market, Zaragoza.
This is one of the most beautiful Christmas markets around and is right next to a giant 1,000 sqm nativity scene. More than 40 stands and stalls offer a huge range of local products typical of the festive period. There are also rides for children to enjoy and a range of workshops, concerts and activities for the whole family.
Christmas craft fair, Valencia.
Set up by the craftspeople of Valencia, this market is held in the Plaza de la Reina and has almost 30 stalls. The Plaza is also home to a stunning life-sized nativity scene donated by the Valencian Association of Fallas Artists. If you're after something slightly more child-friendly, we recommend Valencia's Mercado de Colón, where little ones can meet Santa and the Three Kings and enjoy puppet shows, magic acts and theatre performances.