With less than one month to go until Christmas, festive anticipation is starting to build in Valencia. The city has many fun-packed themed events, festivals and good, old-fashioned traditions on offer – here are ten to whet your appetite.
1. Nativity Scenes
Valencia plays host to many Nativity Scene models during the festive period. The main scene is displayed beside a towering Christmas tree in the Plaza de Ayuntamiento. You’ll find other nativities in Valencia Cathedral (famous for housing the Holy Grail), the Central Market, Colon Market and the Ceramics Museum.
2. Festive Street Fare
Roasted chestnuts, almonds and other goodies are made fresh at street stalls, filling the city with wonderful aromas. These delicious snacks are perhaps best enjoyed at the outdoor Christmas market that lines the streets surrounding the Mercado Central. It runs from 1 December to 6 January from 10 in the morning until 10 at night, with more than 300 stalls offering a variety of festive fare.
3. Traditional Eating
Alongside a host of traditional sweet treats including gingerbread, marzipan and Christmas cake, the city’s food markets are a popular place to buy special gourmet produce to feast on over the Christmas period. Some of the most delicious options include Jamón Serrano de Bellota, specialty mushrooms such as the black and white truffle, fresh seafood, the finest cuts of lamb and beef and cheeses from across the world.
Rosquillas de vino is a popular snack eaten throughout Spain, particularly during Christmas. The anise-flavour cookies are made with wine and deep-fried or oven baked. Even the New Year’s Eve celebrations are based around food, when it is customary to have a special family dinner at home or in a restaurant where seafood, lamb and beef are involved, with turron providing a sweet treat and cava and wine to wash it all down.
4. Christmas Carols
The Colon Market is an extra special place to be during the seasonal period, as children sing carols to create a wonderful celebratory atmosphere and the perfect accompaniment to a meal in the many different restaurants and terraces located around the market. Midnight Mass is widely observed on Christmas Eve, with the biggest event held in Valencia’s Cathedral where the choir sings traditional Christmas carols.
5. Festive Fashion
In recent times, the city has welcomed an underground shopping movement, where innovative designers and young entrepreneurs are creating events that redefine the whole shopping experience. In the historical centre, the Tapineria Market is another such location. Set within a huge creative space, the market hosts a number of different events with fashion, shopping, culture, music, antiques and craft workshops all thrown into the mix. From 13-15 November, a special mums and kids event offers up to 70% discount on clothing.
Just a few streets away, the Chic Market is a shopping centre set within an old mansion, where you can see remains of the old Arab walls that surrounded the city whilst browsing for bargains. Fashion fans should also head to the Ruzafa neighbourhood on 11 November, when Fashion Week kicks off and demonstrates the best of Spain’s homegrown design talent.
6. Handcrafted Gifts
The artisan market in the Plaza de la Reina is another popular event that offers a different way to enjoy shopping during the festive season. From the 2 December until 8 January, around 24 local artisans will display their handcrafted goods for all to see, with the cathedral providing a spectacular backdrop.
7. Musical Interludes
For a family activity that’s really memorable, the Palau de la Música will be holding a special festive concert on 22 December, where audiences can enjoy the music of Beethoven performed by the New York Chamber Orchestra. Be sure to check out the schedule at the Palau de les Arts, which is offering a fascinating events calendar packed with opera, theatre and ballet performances. A huge New Year’s concert on 29 December welcomes the Strauss Festival Orchestra for a performance that is sure to impress.
8. Festive Feasting
Christmas Eve, or Nochebuena, sees everyone in the family come together for a feast. After the main dish - traditionally roast lamb, stew or seafood - an assortment of sweets is enjoyed, including the famous turron – nougat with toasted sweet almonds - and polvorones (Spanish shortbread). Many people will also drink a glass of cava, as it is believed to bring good luck.
9. Family Fun
Valencia is a paradise for families and small children at Christmastime. The Christmas Fair in the Port of Valencia opens on 26 November, while the Colon Market has a dedicated children’s fair from 16 December with a real-life Santa Claus and spellbinding magic shows. The City of Arts and Sciences is also getting into the festive fun, with special workshops, an ice rink, plays, concerts and Christmas Markets all running throughout the seasonal period.
For more fun and games, the funfair by the sea in the Marina Real Juan Carlos I is sure to please, while the huge ice rink in the town hall square offers the opportunity to enjoy some skating in the shadows of the towering Christmas tree and bright lights.
From 26 December, Feria Valencia is hosting the 34th annual Expo Jove. Designed around the themes of magic, games and illusion, the expo will offer food stands, computer games and circus-themed shows. Should you wish to enjoy the fun from the sidelines, this time of year sees the city welcome clowns, acrobats, trapeze artists and other shenanigans with a number of travelling circuses.
10. Childish Pranks
There are more celebrations in store on December 28 with Holy Innocents’ Day - the Spanish equivalent of April Fools’. This festival honours the children slaughtered by King Herod around the time of Jesus’ birth although the modern-day celebrations are very light-hearted, providing the perfect excuse to allow children – and your inner child! – to play pranks, or inocentadas, on family members and friends.