We booked a city break to Barcelona for 3 nights from the 23-26th December 2021. At the time the Omicron variant of Coronavirus was spreading rapidly and some of the strictest Covid-19 restrictions in Spain were enforced in Catalunya. We flew with Vueling from Lanzarote to Madrid.
Our hotel was the H10 Madison in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, which stretches from the Plaça Catalunya to the Aquarium and Columbus Monument on the waterfront. On arrival we had a lovely warm welcome from Ruben, who was brought up in Tenerife and thought we were very lucky to be living in the Canary Islands. We had been given a high floor classic room as requested (709) and once unpacked we headed to the roof top on floor 8 to see the pool bar and terrace which is exclusive for hotel guests with panoramic views of the cathedral and city.
After a welcome house cocktail of gin fizz, we took a short walk (200m) to the Fira de Santa Llúcia Christmas market. This was the last night and stalls mainly consisted of nativity models to create your own scene at home. On our to do list was to buy a Caganer, the cheeky character that can be found having a poo in the Belén nativity scenes in Spain. The Caganer stalls had lots of famous characters caught with their trousers down, there were some UK references including Boris and a Queen’s Guard. We purchased a traditional Catalan figure in the end. These nativity scenes are known as Pessebres de Nadal in Catalunya. We needed to show our Covid Pass before being welcomed into the Italian restaurant La Perla Nera for traditional pizzas cooked in a wood fired oven.
For our first full day we caught up with work first before brunch at Citizen Cafe (500m from our hotel). We wandered around the Plaça Catalunya which is a main shopping area and busy with last minute shoppers on Christmas Eve. Next we walked along Gran Via to find La Feria de Reyes, this Christmas market is focussed on traditional toys and gifts. We found the Carbon de Azúcar traditional sweets here, plus more poop, this time in the candy form! We walked along some lovely narrower streets in the Gothic Quarter to the Mercat Santa Caterina, recommended by some local foodies as a better alternative to the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria.
After a short break at our hotel we set out again to visit the Palau Güell. We had booked the last tour of the day at 16:30, it’s only €5 entry which is great value for an attraction. We downloaded their App ahead of our visit to access the audio guide with our own headphones. Having walked past this property numerous times before on a visit to Barcelona, I really enjoyed discovering the history and architecture behind the facade.
Next stop was back to La Rambla to find Casa Bruno Cuadros, known locally as the Casa dels Paraigües (House of Umbrellas). This umbrella shop & building was renovated by Josep Vilaseca in 1883. If you find it, do pause for a minute to admire the Chinese dragon and umbrellas featured.
On to the political centre of Plaça Sant Jaume to see the large Christmas tree. We were expecting to find a pessebre de nadal and were initially disappointed as we couldn’t find a traditional Belén nativity scene. We later discovered the unusual character lighting around the balconies in the square was this year’s nativity!
Next on our to do list was the Barcelona Bus Turistic Christmas lights tour which departs from Plaça de Catalunya at 6pm and 8pm. We hadn’t pre-booked and after walking the length of La Rambla again we discovered the 3 buses due to depart had sold out for the evening.
Moving swiftly on, a drink and tapa was in order, we made our way back to Anduriña a traditional bar established in 1939 which we’d spotted earlier in the day, serving a menu del día. It was still early and the streets were starting to quieten down, so we also stopped for a Pintxo & cava at Tapa Fina by our hotel, and was tempted for a sweet take out from Pastisseria La Colmena before calling it a night.
19,001 steps (13.12km).
For Christmas Day we expected the shops to be closed, as well as many of the local restaurants, so we had planned to visit 2 Gaudí attractions. We started the day with a walk along the waterfront and spotted the funky Gambrinus prawn/lobster sculpture, the Circ Historic Raluy and some mega yachts in dock.
We had reserved The Benedict for breakfast, they have several eggs benedict options as you might expect by their name, and their brunch menu did not disappoint, we even had a cheeky cocktail! The rest of our day was devoted to expanding our Gaudí education, first destination being Park Güell.
It was a gorgeous day, with a wispy blue sky and warm sunshine. To get there we used the metro, it’s €2.40 for a single trip and saved us walking 4km. Alternatively you can purchase a T-casual card at €11.35 for 10 trips. It’s an uphill walk from the metro at Lesseps on the L3 line, we’d booked in advance so walked straight into the park on arrival. Wow! What a fabulous park, it’s such a lovely place to have a wander around even if you’re not into Gaudi or architecture. There’s a panoramic view over Barcelona at Plaça de la Natura which was full of visitors posing for selfies. This whole terrace area is supported by the columns underneath in the Sala Hipòstila (the Hypostyle Room). The octopus on the roof in the centre of the room is meant to represent the water system thats built into the roof. We really liked the stone wave Portico of the washerwoman and Passeig de les Palmeres walk ways. Entrance fee €10 per person.
We booked our visit to Casa Battló for 16:00 so we would be on the roof for sunset and outside in time for the 18:00 light show. This was our favourite of the Gaudí attractions in Barcelona that we have visited so far. The house is amazing, favourite sections included the main staircase which was like being inside a sea shell, then the stunning stained glass picture windows over looking Passeig de Gràcia, and the internal atrium which changed hues of blue as you ascended. We really felt that this was Gaudí’s masterpiece and liked the new tour additions including the Gaudí Dome to start, staircase descent by Kengo Kuma, and the first 6 sided LED Gaudí Cube light show by Refik Anadol. The audio guide was brilliant, it started automatically as you entered each room, and signalled when to move on allowing visitors to pass through the building at their own speed. The gold entrance fee, which included a mini bottle of cava each was €45 for two of us with Spanish resident’s discount.
20,786 steps (14.6km)
For Boxing Day our brunch was at Gabby’s which took us in a different direction, past the Arc de Triumf and Parc de la Ciutadella. I think we may have saved the best brunch until last, although we liked them all for various reasons. As we were catching the high speed train to Madrid at 13:38, we spent the rest of our morning walking off our breakfast along the waterfront covering the Port Olimpic, Platja del Somorrostro & Platja de la Barceloneta before returning to the hotel and heading to the estación de Barcelona Sants train station.
13,400 steps (9.49km)
Barcelona at Christmas Summary
In summary this trip proved that Barcelona is a fabulous city break whatever time of year. The weather was cool in the evenings, but reached 17 degrees in the daytime. The two Christmas markets we visited weren’t as festive in design as other European destinations we’ve visited. Despite having installed 100km of festive lights around the city, we weren’t wowed by them. We experienced a warm welcome where ever we went (despite Omicron) and a busy city vibe. Barcelona had met our requirements for a Christmas break, we are already looking forward to returning next year to depart on our Virgin Voyages cruise.