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spanish people love to celebrate and christmas is no exception in that regard! the festive period that proceeds christmas covers a large part of the december month and is build up by many national bank holidays. if you come to barcelona during the month of december, you should definitely have the following special dates in mind in order to fully experience the catalonian christmas vibe:

• 6 December – constitution day (bank holiday)
• 8 December – day of the immaculate conception (bank holiday)
• 25 December – christmas day (bank holiday)
• 26 December – boxing day (bank holiday in catalonia)
• 1 January – new year’s day (bank holiday)
• 5 January – parade of the three kings
• 6 January – three wise kings’ day (bank holiday)

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christmas lights in barcelona

christmas celebrations in spain basically implies many colourful christmas lights spread out over the city´s main streets and boulevards, extensively decorated nativity scenes and many food stalls selling sweet almonds or roasted chestnuts. all of this creates a lovely festive atmosphere that forms a warm welcome for all the tourists visiting spain at this time. for spanish people this time is characterized by many family gatherings and local customs as spain is a country with comprehensive cultural roots. below we will discuss the some of the most important events, main traditions and must-see sights in barcelona.

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hotel majestic 5* fully decorated for christmas

the real christmas holiday season in spain kicks off on december 8th with dia de la inmaculada concepcion (day of the immaculate cnception). this is a religious celebration and catholics around the country rejoice the magical “conception” of virgin mary in the local churches, but it’s also the time when the proper christmas preparations can start and all the stores in barcelona come to life with all kind of perky holiday decorations and music to cheer up the shoppers.

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el corte ingles, all lit up for christmas

to continue on the shopping note, christmas markets are probably the most common feature that pops to mind when talking about the christmas time for many people. barcelona is a city that upholds a strong christmas market tradition and every year both inhabitants and tourists can enjoy the beauty of the lit up stalls and the many special decorations and attributes that can be found there. the two most famous markets are the fira de santa llúcia christmas market and the fira de nadal at the sagrada familia.

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fira de santa llúcia

the fira de santa llúcia was first set up in 1786 and has since been one of the most important christmas fairs in town. its location, in front of the cathedral, and the fact is it is one of the oldest fairs in town contribute its importance as well. as is deeply rooted into the catalan christmas traditions, the market brings many stall that sell candles, scarves, sweets and of course nativity scenes, do not expect mulled wine here but enjoy over 270 stalls and live music instead. a very popular and traditional figure is “el caganer” (the pooper), to be found hidden in catalan nativity scenes and to be bought at all christmas markets. another special creature is the christmas “caga tio” (a smiley face log) from which the children receive their presents.

the market is open every day from the 28th of november till the 23rd of december from 10h30 until 20h30.

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many “caga tio” atributes are sold at the christmas markets in barcelona

the christmas market fira de nadal which is takes place in front of the sagrada familia every year and even tough it is much smaller than the fira de santa llucia yet very impressive due to its magical setting. It also focusses more on attributes that can be used to create a nice nativity scene. among others, one can find a wide selection of honey, sweets and candles.

this market is open every day from the 29th of november till the 23rd of december from 10h00 until 22h00.

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torre agbar during the month of december

when talking about christmas, the real city decorations can of course not be overlooked! here in barcelona the emblematic christmas lights were switched on by the mayor of barcelona, last friday and can be enjoyed in more than 300 locations and streets of the city. in catalan they are called “els llums de nadal”. the famous magic fountain of montjuic is part of the christmas lights as well and a special christmas water and music show can be enjoyed here in the december month. this show is always free and can be watched on fridays and saturdays in december and on 25th december and 1st january between 19:00 to 21:00. please keep in mind to dress warmly! another part of barcelona’s christmas lights is the torre agbar tower in the sant marti district, which lights up and shows a special christmas lights show displaying animated designs including christmas tree decorations.

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the montjuic fountain christmas-style

the three wise men parade on the 5th january is called the night of the three kings and marks more or less the end of the holiday season. here in spain, the christmas tradition is that the three kings bring the presents for the children instead of santa claus like in many other countries around the world. this night there is a big parade celebrating that the three kings have arrived and then, the day after the parade, on the 6th january, the children get their presents.

enjoy the most wonderful time of the year in barcelona!

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catalonia as a region is famous for many things, its beautiful beaches, is great modernista architecture, its passionate football mentality  and also for its delicious cava. the latter is  called the ´´champagne of spain´´ and is produced in one of the oldest viticultural regions in europe. this region, the penedès, is located a little south-west of barcelona and definitely worth a trip if you are visiting the capital of catalonia. its bubbles and culinary traditions have been attracting tourists and sparkling wine-lovers for decades and that is not for nothing!

a small historical recap shows us that this wine producing region finds its origin back in the days of the roman empire. the specific attributes that we were used by the romans then can now be found in the wine museum of vilafranca del penedes, one of the area´s most important wine towns. then, during the time of the moorish occupation, the wine produced here was exported to countries all over europe and even beyond, to south america (we are talking about the 18th century here!).

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endless vineyards in el penedés

then, things took a very interesting turn as the phylloxera plague occurred. this plague changed the course of growth and the type of the grapes as they were now slowly changed into white ones instead of red ones. the latter resulted in the start of the production of cava around the 1870s. the white grapes are currently the most dominant ones in the region as the red wine production only plays a small role in the landscape of the vineyards in the penedès region.

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white grapes now prevail in the region

the penedès area is currently seen as one of the most modern and innovative spanish wine regions. their grapes have been widely researched by wine pioneer miguel torres and he is the one who provided the region the fame it enjoys today. 95 % of all the cava produced in spain finds in origin in the penedès region and in 1991 the region got recognized as a DO region, in catalan: a denominació d’origen region. this means that the wine produced here is officially recognized and it is even seen as one of the best of spain after the rioja area.

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the famous codorniu caves in the penedes area

cava is produced using grapes from different regions and blending them into a perfect mix of delicious bubbles. if you get bored by just drinking the ´´normal´´ plain cava, you should definitely try the rosé version that consists of 3 different types of grapes, the xarel.lo, macabeo and parellada. moreover, there are many young wines produced in this region, white ones that are very fruity and crisp whereas the red one are more full-bodied and aromatic, characterized by an intense red color. although, the is apparently some choice in other wines, cava stays our favorite!

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cava label

we recommend to visit the penedès as it is the centre of one of the most fascinating wine regions in spain, full of history and culture. the spanish rail system is a very handy way to travel down the penedès and from barcelona, it’s just 90 minutes to tarragona. this trip takes you along the a catalonian coast where you will find some beautiful small towns such as cadaqués, a colourful fishing village was the birthplace of salvador dali. you can stop at several wine cellars along the trip and do a winetasting while your at it! another options is to stop in the beautiful beach town sitges (check our earlier post about this famous town) and enjoy a day at the beach and a night full of partying. all in all, we can state that this regions has an overwhelming amount of choice when it comes to leisure combined with the typical catalonian culture.

please contact us for more information or requests!

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the stunning landscape of the penedian vineyards

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is there a spot where you can enjoy the wide variety of spanish architecture all in one place? the answer is yes, at the poble espanyol in barcelona. this emblematic village houses 117 buildings reflecting the typical spanish architecture coming from all fifteen autonomous communities in spain. this special town was built in 1929 by the modernist architect puig I cadafalch for that year´s Barcelona international exposition (as was the national palace of montjuïc that was mentioned in one of our earlier posts). the poble is located close to the fontana magica on the montjuïc mountain.

hearing a conversation that goes like ´´pardon me but how do I get to andalucia?´´ and ´´that is easy, you just go to mallorca and that it is the first street on the left!´´ is not unusual when visiting el poble espanyol. entertainment is key in the 5th most popular tourist attraction in barcelona because there is something to do for everybody.

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el poble espanyol from a bird´s-eye view

lovers of modern art & nature can enjoy the fundación fran daurel, which is a permanent collection of over 300 artefacts from spain´s most famous artists among which picasso, dalí, miró and barceló. moreover, visitors can see the famous sculpture Entorn-Contorn from josep guinovart and the beautiful sculptural gardens that offer stunning views over barcelona. this green oasis on the high up the hill is large enough (5000m2) to spend a whole afternoon strolling around and enjoying nature.

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the sculpture gardens on the montjuïc mountain

shopping & craft lovers can enjoy themselves in el poble espanyol as well since there are 22 shops that are open every day, some of them offer workshops while others sell ceramics, paintings or jewellery. other activities include, music instrument building, espadrille making and glass crafts. consequently, you can spend a whole day strolling around the village visiting all the different shops and trying out different typical spanish activities.

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traditional shopping street in el poble

families can spend the day doing a treasure hunt, which is available in english, spanish, french and catalan. this activity is perfect for kids that are between 3 and 12 who are in for a little game. while unveiling the mysteries of el poble espanyol kids can walk around the ´´town´´ and get to know the most significant spanish monuments in one afternoon. additionally, on sunday a special programme for families is offered and even though it is in catelan, the experience is supposed to be nice due to the many visual aspects, including puppets, music and even magic.

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activities for kids at the main square of the village

flamenco lovers can eat their heart out at tablao de carmen which is located in the andaluz area of the village because this type of dancing originally comes from the south of spain, from andalucia. some say that the best flamenco show in town is performed here so that would be another reason to make the trip uphill to enjoy music, dance and spanish songs. shows are performed two times a night, there is one show at 19.30pm and other one at 21.30pm. there is a possibility to enjoy some tapas while watching the show. finally, a ticket for this show includes a short visit to el poble espanyol so visitors can experience both attractions.

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a tablao del carmen show

as stated before there is something for everybody this statement also relates to the many options visitors have to eat out in the ´´village´´ because there are plenty of restaurants and bars.  all restaurants offer a range of regional specialties in a very rustic admosphere. in summer visitors can sit outside on one terraces on plazas while eating a delicious paella accompanied by a glas of nice catalunian wine.

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terrace on one of the plazas in el poble

then, to fully capture the spanish experience, there is a possibility to rent an audio guide, which is available in english, catalan, french, italian and german. walking around with the audio guide will make this visit a very informative one when walking around plaza mayor, the nerve center of poble espanyol, approaching a magical andalusian patio, visiting a typical spanish house, resting up in a “pazo gallego” (galician country house) or when discovering a catalan monastery.

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el poble´s church

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the national museum of catalan art (mnac of barcelona) is, along with the museu d’art contemporani de barcelona (macba), one of the most important museums of the city of barcelona. it is a museum with an extensive collection of romanesque artefacts. this collection is considered to be the most complete one in the world.  it is therefore, seen as the biggest attraction of this beautiful museum.

if one looks at the history of the museum itself, one will find out that it was solely established in 1990. the current state is a result of the merge of the collections from the former museum of modern art, of which the establishment dates back to 1945, and the museum of catalan art, built in 1934. the building of the mnac consists of several separate buildings however, most famous is the stunning main building, the national palace of montjuïc, that was built for the international expo of 1929.

palace of montjuïc and oval hall

palace of montjuïc and oval hall

exhibition-wise, the mnac the museum shows the general history of catalan art from the romanesque period up until the mid-twentieth century. the owner´s discourse of the romaneque as well as the gothic collections stands out particularly since their provenance (the chronological line of previous owners) has been mostly catelan, which is unusual when compared to the other artefacts exhibited in the museum. the renaissance and the baroque collections are indeed, mostly characterized by a more international discourse of owners as the most famous painters in this field are e.g. el greco, velázquez and rubens.

without a doubt, the most famous artefact exhibited at the national museum of catalan art is the pantocrator climent de taüll, stemming from the romantic era. this painting attracts many visitors. of all the works displayed in the mnac romanesque works of art are the most prominent.

mnac dome and the pantocrator climent de taüll

mnac dome and the pantocrator climent de taüll

when planning your visit to the mnac in barcelona, we suggest to take the following aspects into account:

opening hours
• summer opening hours (may 2 to september 30): tuesday to saturday 10 am to 8 pm sundays and holidays from 10 to 3 pm.

• winter opening hours (october 1 to april 20): tuesday to saturday 10 am to 6 pm sundays and holidays from 10 to 3 pm.

• on monday the national art museum of catalunya remains closed. the same goes for january 1, may 1 and january 25.

interior of the mnac

dome and interior of the mnac

tours and special events
to fully explore the notable works of the museum different audio tours are offered. moreover, previous to your visit you can do a virtual tour on the museum´s website in order to have an idea of what to expect and plan your trip.

we recommend the exhibitions:

the graphic work of a forerunner by the painter antoni viladomat i manalt (1678-1755). this exhibition runs from 10/05/2014 until 02/11/2014.

this exhibition is an ambitious project that is simultaneously held in various venues around the country. it relates to the year 1714 with regards to the artistic activity of that time. the project consists of a total of five exhibitions and shows, for the first time in history, the complete oeuvre of this artist.

pearl oysters-maker and oval-maker. baroque avant-garde and agrarian. based on works from inter alia: joan brossa, salvador dalí, pablo picasso, antoni tàpies and jacint verdaguer. this exhibition runs from: 09/10/2014 until 11/01/2015.

This exhibition will be set up in the context of the celebration of the tricentenary of 1714. the artist, perejaume, has prepared a project for the museu nacional that focusses on the connections between artistic tradition and avant-gardism in catalan art. it takes a cross-cutting look at catalan artistic creation.

works from the 2 featured exhibitions

works from the 2 featured exhibitions

a very nice event to attend is the special dance event ´´come to dance?´´ that takes place once a month on a saturday afternoon and is combined with free admission to the museum. on those days everybody is invited for some jazz dancing in the beautiful oval room of the museum. the upcoming dates for an afternoon out are:

• 13th september , from 17 to 19 pm. on stage: flat floot floogie boys

• 4th october, from 16 t0 17.45 pm. on stage: stradixie’s

• 15th november, from 16 t0 17.45 pm. on stage: juli aymi’swing

• 13 december, from 16 to 17.45 pm. on stage: saphie wells & swing cats

during and after the visit
if you are tired, we suggest to have a bite to eat or enjoy a nice glass of wine on the rooftop of the museum or in its café/restaurant. the rooftop charge is 3€ but definitely worth the money because of the stunning views over the city that can be enjoyed from here.

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if you are visiting the museum during the weekend, consider to go see the beautiful fontana magica in front of the mnac after your visit. at night a spectacular water show accompanied by beautiful music is presented and many tourists make the trip uphill to enjoy this magical happening.

as part of your trip to barcelona, we definitely recommend to visit this special museum with afterwards some time to relax and enjoy the beautiful watershow and the stunning views from the top of the montjuïc mountain!

fontana magica and the come to dance event

fontana magica and the come to dance event

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now that the sun is back on track it is time to enjoy a well-deserved break by the sea. and where better to hit the beach than in the charming town of sitges, located 35 km southwest of barcelona. this worldwide renowned city is most famous for its many beaches (there are 17!) and its vibrant nightlife. especially the waterfront with the numerous ´playas´ (beaches) is the perfect place to enjoy a delicious paella, play some volleyball with your friends or have a picnic while watching the magnificent sunset.

however, if working on your tan is not captivating enough, there is always the possibility to go and check out the fashionable crowd that strolls over Sitges´ endless boulevard. no doubt that you will encounter some interesting characters as many of Sitges´ visitors and inhabitants are gay. this aspect gives the city a special touch and contributes to the great variety of people and activities that create the open and friendly atmosphere. all caracteristic for this small town.

Sitges Boulevard

sitges´ boulevard

Sitges beach

sitges´ beach 

many people say that sitges has something for everyone and that is hard to deny! with its many festivals and local fiestas during the whole year, the cultural heritage of the city is celebrated and everybody is welcome to join the festivities. this past weekend was dedicated to the celebration of festa major and next in line is the international movie festival in october. 

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sitges´s old town

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festa major 

sitges is the perfect destination for a weekend break or a short getaway from busy barcelona. trains take you from barcelona to sitges in approximately 35 minutes and run every 20 min from barcelona’s main stations. below some more pictures of the stunning beaches, the beautiful old town and the endless boulevard of sitges. 

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catedral de sitges

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sitges´ harbour and boulevard

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