Granada Christmas festivities begin around the 1st of December and end on the 6th of January. According to Spanish tradition, the big celebration is actually Epiphany. The three kings bring gifts on January the 6th. So the Spanish Navidad has plenty to offer with a whole month of activities.
Timeless traditions, delicious food and lots of light and colour. In this guide I include things to do, local traditions, what to eat and key dates in the Spanish Festive Calendar. There are also opening times included too.
Hope you enjoy it and find it useful!
10 tips for Christmas in Granada
Granada Christmas Lights
On Friday 1st December 2023 the Christmas lights will be switched on. The event will be at 6pm at Granada Town Hall on Plaza del Carmen. This year some 2.251.312 led lightbulbs will light up the main streets around Granada. Puerta Real, Gran Via, Reyes Católicos and Calle Mesones in the city centre are where the most lights are visible. This years lighting ceremony, there will be choirs dotted around the city. Zacatín, Bib-Rambla, Fuente de las Batallas and Puerta Real.
Every day you can see the lights from 6.30pm until midnight. On weekends they are lit until 2am. On Christmas Eve and New Years Eve they will be on until 5am. Every day at 7.30pm, 8.30pm and 9.30pm there is a short musical show.
Nativity Scenes in Granada
In the UK and Nordic countries, the switching on of Christmas tree lights is usually an important event. Yet in Granada, the Nativity Scene is an equally important feature for many business and offices. Christmas trees are not as abundant as in other countries.
In the official Belen competition run by the local town hall around 40 organisations compete. However there are actually many more extra official displays around the city. Every year in Granada has a Ruta de Belenes so you can visit all the nativity scenes. All the scenes on the route are open from 10th December until the 5th January. (with their own timetables)
Ruta de Belenes
This list is of the most popular Belenes in Granada.
- Granada Town Hall. Set inside the inner patio of the Ayuntamiento at the Plaza del Carmen. Open from 11am-2pm & 5.30pm-9pm 16th Dec until 5th January.
- Condes de Gabía Palace on the Plaza de los Girones. Open from 11am-2pm & evenings 6pm-9pm
- Caja Rural at Avenida de Don Bosco (close to Granada Science Park Museum) Open weekdays 6pm- 9pm. Weekends 12h-2pm and 6pm-9pm until 6th January (closed on 24th, 31st Dec & 5th Jan)
- Angel Custodio at Calle San Anton 38 from 6pm-9pm. Holidays open from 11.30-2pm. At this Nativity display they also sell traditional Christmas bakes too.
- Casa Jaen at Calle Jardines 13 has a large nativity scene inside their courtyard.
- Bajo Albaicín Neighbours Association on Calle Zafra 10. This display even includes the Alhambra. Open from 11am-2pm
- Casa de los Pisa is just off Plaza Nueva at Calle Convalencía. Open from 10am to 2pm & 5pm-8pm daily. Open 10-2pm only on 24th, 31st Dec & 5th Jan
- San Rafael Church on Calle San Juan de Dios open from 12th Dec to 6th January from 10.30am to 1.30pm and 5.30pm to 8.30pm daily.
Do keep an eye out for signs that say Belen as some set up their own in a garage or small business.
Nativity in Granada province
- Alberto Sanchez Nativity Scene in Pinos Puente. Address: Calle Redonda 24. This amazing set up has been going more than 25 years. Open from 1st December until 6th January 11.30 until 1.30pm & 4.30pm until 8pm.
- Trevélez Alpujarra. This village has a Nativity scene based on local traditions. Find it on Calle Carcel next to San Antonio Hermitage. Open from 11am-10pm every day.
- Huétor Tajar has a nativity scene at Plaza Gregorio Peláez until 8th January. Open from 4pm-8pm daily.
There are lots of Flamenco concerts and typical Rociero choirs on over Christmas time. At the Teatro Isabel la Católica they have shows on usually around this time of year.
Tickets are available from the theatre kiosk. (Puerta Real/Fuente de las Batallas) The Palacio de Congresos de Granada have concerts and activities on over Christmas. Find out more information here: Palacio de Congresos Granada
Granada Christmas markets
The traditional Christmas Markets in Granada will be spread out over the entire festive period. I will update any information that I have on this article about Christmas markets in the city
Main locations for Christmas markets are at Isabel la Catolica Square, Plaza Bib Rambla, Puerta Real, Carrera de la Virgen and Plaza Romanilla.
Christmas with Children
Each year on Paseo del Salon (next to the river) there is a slide or merry go round installed. Each year it changes, these attractions are working from the beginning of December. In this space there are other attractions for children.
On Plaza Bib Rambla an outdoor ice rink has been set up and will be operative throught December.
(Find them just outside the Library on Paseo del Salon, next to the river Genil)
Towards the end of December, little ones may enjoy visiting the Cartero Real. This is usually set up at Granada Town Hall. (Plaza del Carmen) Its the Spanish equivalent to Santa´s Grotto. One of the three kings is ready to accept your Christmas List from 20th December until around 4th January
What to eat in Granada Spain Christmas
The Spanish celebrate Christmas eating lots of Shellfish. The main meal on Christmas Eve is often turkey or lamb. Chocolate and Churros of course are the best Christmas breakfast for an indulgent start to the day.
Sweets are typical too, particularly Marzipan figures and lots of almond nougat which they call turron. Polvorones and mantecados are popular as well. Please note that mantecados are made with flour and LARD. So not OK for vegetarians or vegans.
Restaurants and bars will be open over the Christmas period. It is recommendable to book ahead due to limitations on capacity this season.
Festive Opening Hours
Usually Opening Times over the Festive Season are as follows:
- Christmas Eve: On December 24th bars and restaurants are open all day until 5pm-6pm. (no evening opening)
- Christmas Day: Some Bars and Restaurants open all day as normal. Others reduce their timetable so it is worh booking ahead on this date.
- 31st December – Bars & restaurants are open all day until 5pm-6pm. New Years Eve, For evening meals, only available when pre booked. Many places will be closed.
- 1st January – New Years Day many will be closed at midday.
- 2nd January – In Granada this is a local holiday, food shops are closed yet most bars and restaurants are open as normal.
- 5th January – Many restaurants will be closed on the evening of 5th
- 6th January – Many places will be closed at midday but reopen in the evening.
For information about New Year and Reyes. See my New Year Guide to Granada
Visit the Alhambra Palace at Christmas
Opening times in wintertime are Monday to Sunday from 8.30am to 2pm and 2pm to 6pm. The ticket office is open from 8am to 5pm.
The Alhambra is closed on 25th December and 1st January. Tickets to visit the Alhambra palace are already sold out on some of the days near the Christmas holidays. If you would like to visit around this time, book NOW.
More details here: Get Alhambra tickets
Ski in Spain
Over the Christmas Holidays the Sierra Nevada Ski Station is open. Choose to stay there or just head up on a day trip from the city. If you choose to drive up check road conditions. Some parts of the road may need chains depending on the weather. The official website Cetursa has information in English. You can also check AEMET is the Spanish weather service or DGT the traffic information.
A typical Granada Christmas in the mountains is quite cosy and festive being surrounded by snow.
Plan Christmas in Granada
- Friday 1st December 2023 Christmas lights and decorations around the city come on. They will be on until 6th January 2024.
- 6th December until 5th January The most typical thing for a Granada Christmas is taking a walk around the Nativity Scenes in Granada in Spanish it´s called the Ruta de Belenes. You can see lots of them all around the city.
- There will be some Christmas markets in squares and open spaces around the city.
- Last Friday before Christmas. (Fri 22nd December 2023) There is a Night time fun run through the streets of Granada. Carrera Nocturna Solidaria.The runners wear costumes. The race begins at 9pm. Many roads in and around the edge of the city are closed to traffic from 8pm. Bus routes are affected too.
- Spanish Christmas Lottery. El Gordo. Sold throughout the months before Christmas across Spain. At 20 euros per ticket it´s not a cheap bet but there are lots of prizes. The Draw is on 22nd December. In 2020 the big prize was won in Granada at the administration on Calle Principe.
- 24th December See the Cartero Real from Christmas Eve until 4th of January at Granada Town Hall. This is the important person that passes the children´s Christmas letters to the three kings (similar to Santa´s Elves)
- On Christmas Eve Spanish families have a special dinner together at home.
- 25th Christmas Day The Alhambra and other Museums are closed. Bars and Restaurante may open in the evening.
- 26th December Every year at the Virgen de las Angustias church (close to El Corte Ingles) they hold a special service. This service at 11.45 am is a blessing to thank the Patron of Granada, the Virgen de las Angustias for her protection against earthquakes in Granada.
New Years in Granada
- 31st December New Years Eve It is typical to eat 12 grapes at midnight at Granada town hall. The city puts on a firework or laser show at midnight in Plaza del Carmen. It is usually quite busy. If you go along make sure you wrap up warm. After the New Year has been welcomed in the bars nearby open, usually it will be around 1.30 am.
- The locals eat with their family and celebrates the chimes at midnight at home. Afterwards they meet their friends to have a drink or party through the night. If you want to eat out on 31st December book ahead. Some set menus are quite extravagant on the final day of the year. Look around at what´s on offer a ahead of time and book something you are happy with.
- At Sierra Nevada ski resort there is a great atmosphere at New Year. Pradallano usually has plenty going on.
- 1st January is a national holiday in Spain. Take note if you need to get bread, milk etc. Also hardly any restaurants are open on that day. You may find a few open in the evening.
- 2nd January The second of January is a local holiday in Granada. For some, a controversial event. Known in Spanish as El dia de la Toma. Granada commemorates the handing over of the city to the monarchs Isabel and Ferdinand. After the surrender of Boabdil. There is a religious celebration at the Capilla Real, resting place of the Catholic Monarchs. Afterwards at Granada Town Hall another part of the celebration takes place. A councillor waves a banner or flag three times. They shout “Spain, Castille, Granada, for the illustrious Kings, Doña Isabella and Don Ferdinand” (Usually around 11am to noon. They close off the main roads in city centre too.
Reyes Magos in Granada
- 5th January The 3 Kings arrive to Granada and parade through the streets. The route in Granada usually leaves San Juan de Dios around 5.30pm and winds along the whole of Gran Via. The Cabalgata of course is popular with Children and adults alike. As the parade goes by they throw sweets (last year over 10,000kgs of them) out to the crowds. If you intend to fill your pockets with sweets, beware of people next to you with umbrellas and stepladders ; ) as they may have the upper hand.
- On 5th January 2023 the Three Kings Parade will be arranged with special protocol to avoid large crowds. Details coming soon.
- The route is Gran Capitan, San Juan de Dios, Gran Vía de Colón, down along Reyes Católicos past the Town Hall, along to Puerta Real then down to Acera del Darro and onto Carrera de la Virgen. The parade moves onto Plaza del Campillo along Angel Ganivet and concludes on Reyes Católicos.
- At the end of the Cabalgata at Plaza del Carmen the Spritely figure of Duende Fermin appears. He addresses children with a short speech. Afterwards fireworks are set off from the Town Hall building.
- Shops are open until midnight on 5th January for last minute purchases. This adds to the hustle and bustle. I love the atmosphere and often buy a Roscón de Reyes after seeing the parade so I can have cake for breakfast on the 6th January.
- 6th January As soon as you wake up open your pressies. The three Kings will have left you gifts during the night of course. Although you may have been left sweet black coal if you were naughty this year.
Roscón de Reyes
- At lunchtime have food fit for a King followed by the typical dessert, Roscón de Reyes. This is one of my favourite festival foods of the whole of the Spanish calendar.
- A light brioche style mix baked into a ring shape. Covered with candied fruit and sugar. They come filled with White cream (nata) or yellow crème pâtissière (crema). Modern variations are truffle or chocolate flavoured fillings. Hidden inside the dough you need to keep an eye out for the Spanish answer to the sixpence or threepenny bit in the Christmas pudding. Inside is a King and a Dry Bean (haba).
Broad Bean Tradition
- A dried broad bean carefully hidden inside the Roscon. If you get this in your portion you´ll have to pay for the whole cake. There is a King inside the cake too. The person who gets the King can wear the Golden Crown. They are named the King for the day. Some families ask the baker to pop more than one King into the Roscon to avoid squabbles at the table.
January Sales in Spain
- 7th January Things get back to normal again. The January sales begin on the 7th January in stores.
- It is the first working day after the Christmas holidays.
Festive words in Spanish
Brush up on your Spanish while enjoying a Granada Christmas
- Zambomba – a typical instrument made from a flower pot and hide lid (pig skin) that only comes out at Christmastime
- Pandereta – Tambourine, very often used to sing Spanish Christmas carols
- Portal de Belen o belén – Nativity scenes
- Pesebre – Manger or crib, part of the Nativity scene
- Villancico – Christmas Carol
- Polverones y mantecados – Typical Christmas sweets. Mantecados made from lard (manteca). Polverones main ingredient is ground almonds. Warning make sure you have a drink of some sort nearby when tasting these, polvorones are powdery and can be dry.
- Nochebuena – Christmas Eve
- Nochevieja – New Year´s Eve
- Campanadas – Chimes of bell, refers to 12 chimes at midnight on New Years Eve
- Cabalgata – The 3 kings parade held on 5th January.
- Regalo – Gift
- Detalle – Stocking filler