Christmas on the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula might be slightly or a lot different from what Christmas is like in your country. Where I come from, there’s always a lot of snow and it’s freezing cold so that’s why sometimes I find it kind of difficult to enter into that festive spirit while living in Spain. However, I definitely prefer sunny and warm winter and having slightly different traditions for Christmas is even more exciting and enriching! Here you have some tips of what to do in Valencia at Christmas time that will definitely turn your holidays into best experience ever!
Buy a lottery ticket
The Spanish National Lottery is a very important thing to do before Christmas. On 22nd of December everyone is waiting for the announcement of that year’s lucky numbers that are sung by schoolchildren on live TV. The lottery even has a special name El Gordo which means ‘The Fat One’ because of the huge amount of money you can win. Once the winners are announced, the holidays are officially started and everybody can continue getting ready for Christmas.
Belenes: a must-see at Christmas
Belenes or nativity scenes is a very special and significant Valencian Christmas tradition. You can find many of them displayed in the City Center, full of beautiful handcrafted figurines of different sizes, colors and styles. The main nativity scene is located next to the Cathedral of Valencia in Plaza de la Virgen but you may discover many others while wandering the beautiful streets of Valencia.
Go ice skating
Even though it’s not cold in Valencia and there’s no snow, you have a perfect opportunity to ice skate and feel a little bit of a winter frost there. Apart from having an open air skating rink, it is located in Plaza de Ayuntamiento which is one of the most spectacular places in Valencia at Christmas. It’s full of beautiful lights, happy people and cheerful Christmas spirit.
The more turrón the merrier!
Turrón is a Spanish almond Christmas candy invented by Arabs. There are two main types of this sweet: a smooth one (turrón blando) which has the consistency of peanut butter and the hard one (turrón duro) which is like a thick almond nougat candy. It is made from almonds, honey and egg whites and is extremely tasty! Make sure to try it and remember, the more turrón, the merrier!
Get lost in the Christmas markets
You’ll bump into many Christmas markets while walking around the city. These are full of candies, traditional food, typical decorations and souvenirs! Whether you are looking for last-minute gifts or just want to look around and have a nice walk, Christmas markets in Valencia is always a good idea. The main one is right next to the Central Market which is a traditional Christmas market of Valencia. The Tapinería Market is located in the heart of the Old Town where culture, tradition and entertainment come together. Last but not least, if you’re looking for some crafts, go to the precious Colón Market! By the way, there’s an incredibly beautiful Christmas tree inside which creates a perfect Christmas atmosphere.
Eat 12 lucky grapes for the good luck
Make sure to buy some grapes (choose the small ones) on 31st of December! During the last 12 seconds of the year everyone eats 12 grapes so that the next year would bring happiness and success. Usually Spaniards go outside and gather in the main squares of the cities to share this special moment with each other. The most famous place to count down the last 12 seconds of the year is Puerta del Sol in Madrid. However, many people stay at home with their family and friends watching the live broadcast from Madrid. Once it’s done, the real celebration begins!
Dear Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar…
Even though Spaniards celebrate Christmas, Santa Claus is not the one who brings children their gifts. It’s Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar who leave the presents on 6th of January. The arrival of the Three Wise Men (Los Reyes Magos) is a spectacular parade with sweets and treats and lots of people so you should definitely join it! It’s also a perfect time to taste Roscón de Reyes, a circular pastry filled with cream and covered with colourful candied fruit which is a traditional Spanish sweet eaten during these days.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Have fun!