The city of Granada celebrates Christmas in style. Its historic quarter is filled with lights and displays the most beautiful and original nativity scenes, as well as its typical street market, where you can buy all kinds of toys and handmade products, and taste the most delicious turrones and mantecados. If you want to know what to see and do in Granada, this article is for you.
It is not only tourists who love this city, but also the Three Wise Men themselves, who ride through the centre in their imposing floats and have an official envoy at the Town Hall to collect their mail. All this and much more makes a visit to Granada at Christmas time an excellent plan.
1. Visit the Christmas Market
Definitely one of the most awaited events at this time of the year. This market takes place in two very important squares in Granada: Plaza Bib-Rambla and the Fuente de las Batallas.
Both are filled with artisans offering their Christmas-inspired works. In addition, you can find beautiful Christmas decorations, figures for your Nativity Scene, sweets and sweets typical of the season, and much more.
In addition to the craft market, this event includes children's shows and artistic performances for the whole family to enjoy, classic Christmas carols are sung and an ecological carousel is presented.
The latter is a classic merry-go-round with fourteen wooden figures, and boasts of being environmentally friendly, as its engine is a static bicycle that must be pedalled for the carousel to work.
Riding this merry-go-round is, without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Granada with children.
In general, the Christmas Market starts at the end of November or the beginning of December, and lasts until the 1st of January or until Epiphany.
2. Tour the Nativity Scenes and stroll among the lights of the city centre
In this time of peace and hope you cannot miss the so-called Route of the Nativity Scenes.
The different shops and institutions of all kinds set up their Nativity Scenes during these days. Most of them are located in the city centre, so you can enjoy visiting them while you enjoy the attractions of this part of the city.
You will be surprised by the creativity within the designs of the nativity scenes, which range from the most classic to versions with a humorous touch. In connection with this exhibition, the Granada Nativity Scene Competition is held, in which all the city's nativity scenes take part.
The competition has several categories: historical nativity scenes, traditional nativity scenes and children's nativity scenes.
And it is not only the nativity scenes that embellish the city of Granada at Christmas time, but also the streets of the centre of Granada are completely illuminated for this celebration. If you decide to take a night walk, you will be able to enjoy this picturesque decoration full of charm. As with the nativity scenes, a great deal of originality and creativity goes into setting up the brightest and most colourful lights.
Commercial streets such as Puentezuelas, Alhóndiga and Mesones, as well as the Puerta Real Recogida and Gran Vía axis, are decorated with special lights that are already the hallmark of Granada's Christmas atmosphere.
3. Stroll through the Alhambra under the winter light
If you are in Granada you cannot miss one of the most important monuments of the city: the inexhaustible Alhambra. Although it is true that you can visit it all year round, at Christmas and Christmas time the general atmosphere becomes much more emotional, and even the light that bathes its incredible gardens becomes particularly intense.
Christmas is an ideal time to visit the Alhambra with children. Of course, at this time of year there are more tourists in the city, so I recommend you book your tickets well in advance, as they sell out easily at this time of year.
A guided tour of the Alhambra is one of the most practical and organised ways to visit this iconic site during the busy Christmas season. These guided tours offer the possibility of themed tours to visit and learn about the Nasrid Palaces, the Almunia del Generalife, the Alcazaba and the Medina.
Some of these experiences also include workshops for the whole family, where children can design and paint their own Christmas cards.
4. Hand-deliver your Epiphany letter
The day of the Three Wise Men is an event eagerly awaited by children since the Christmas preparations begin, and the city of Granada has something very special for that date.
From mid-December you can find the Royal Postman himself in the courtyard of the Granada Town Hall. You can leave your letter for the Three Wise Men with this honourable character, and he will deliver it in person.
As is well known, all children are very excited about preparing their letters for the Three Wise Men, and having the possibility of hand-delivering them makes you think that Melchior, Gaspar and Baltazar have a certain predilection for Granada.
Needless to say, if you come with your little ones, they can even have their photo taken with the official messenger of the Three Wise Men. In addition, in the Town Hall you can also see the Nativity Scene that is set up there every year.
5. Live a gypsy experience in the Caves of Sacromonte and participate in a tambourine or a flamenco zambomba
Flamenco is part of the identity of Andalusia. This expression and way of life is present at all times in Granada, even during Christmas.
If you want to visit Sacromonte, the most gypsy quarter of Granada, I recommend you to sign up for a tour to visit one of the famous zambra caves.
The gypsy zambra is a mixture of song and dance inspired by Muslim culture, from the time when the Moors, being persecuted, joined the gypsies.
Thus, in this mixture of cultures and laments, flamenco was born, and it is one of the most typically Andalusian expressions.
The zambra, whose name comes from the Arabic word "zamra" (flute), or "zamara" (musicians), becomes the way in which the gypsy people express their joy at Christmas.
For this reason, during the Christmas period you can witness the best flamenco shows of the whole year, as in addition to the usual shows, tambourines and zambombas are performed and traditional Christmas carols are sung. This tradition has been celebrated since the 18th century.
One of the main places where you can enjoy these celebrations is the Auditorio Municipal Enrique Morente La Chumbera.
6. Three Kings Cavalcade, an event for children of all ages
This is another event with which the Three Wise Men are present in the city of Granada. On the 5th of January, the Three Wise Men depart in a royal caravan from Gran Capitán, ending their journey at the Town Hall, in the Plaza del Carmen.
Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar, together with their queens and their entire entourage, ride through the city in their floats while greeting the public and handing out sweets to the little ones. This spectacle stands out for its charming floats full of colour, its lights, and the joyful music that accompanies them along the route.
In case you didn't know, the Three Kings parade in Granada is the oldest in Spain, the first one was held in 1912, promoted by the city's Artistic Centre.
This colourful and joyful celebration, so enjoyed by children and adults alike, is the way in which the city of Granada brings the Christmas season to a close and bids farewell to it until next year.
7. The 12 grapes in the Plaza del Carmen
The Plaza del Carmen is located in the epicentre of the city, between the streets Reyes Católicos and Escudo del Carmen, and is the scene of various festivities.
On the last day of the year, hundreds of locals and tourists gather in this part of the city to welcome the new year by eating grapes at midnight.
At around 11pm, bags of grapes and confetti are handed out to all the locals and tourists present in the square to celebrate the arrival of the new year. After the classic midnight chimes, the sky lights up with a fireworks display.
In the meantime, an orchestra delights everyone with its music until almost 2 am. After that, if you want to continue partying, there are plenty of pubs, bars and discos to keep the party going until dawn.
Don't miss your New Year's Eve dinner before the grapes
If you're wondering whether you'll be able to find a place for New Year's Eve dinner, the answer is yes. Although tradition dictates that families get together for dinner, luckily in Granada you can make a reservation at one of the city's restaurants that are open that night.
This type of New Year's Eve dinner usually includes a special musical or comedy show.
You can dine in the heart of the Albaicín neighbourhood, just a few metres from the Mirador San Nicolás, at the Carmen de Aben Humeya restaurant. With a varied menu of Granadian dishes starting at 60 Euros, it's the ideal place to spend an incredible night in Granada's most traditional neighbourhood.
8. Warm up with a chocolate with churros (fritters)
The Christmas season in Granada is usually quite cold. That's why, after all that walking and sightseeing, it's perfect to find a place to stop and rest for a moment and recharge your energy to continue enjoying your visit to this city.
A classic Granadian treat to raise your body temperature and give yourself a treat is the delicious chocolate with churros.
There are two very popular places in Granada that stand out for their chocolate with churros:
- La Alhambra Cafeteria, located in Plaza Bib-Rambla, surrounded by an excellent setting and with an outdoor terrace that makes the experience that much more special.
- The other great specialist when it comes to chocolate and churros is the emblematic Café Futbol. This café, founded in 1922, is located in the Plaza de Mariana Pineda and throughout its history has earned a well-deserved reputation for offering some of the best chocolate with churros in all of Granada.
Keep in mind that these places are usually crowded, especially at this time of the year, so I recommend that you arm yourself with patience. I assure you that you won't regret it.
9. Buy convent sweets, a Christmas classic in Granada
One of the oldest and most beautiful traditions of Christmas is to buy the sweets offered in the monasteries at this time of the year.
In convents and monasteries, the nuns get down to work to offer the most delicious typical Christmas sweets. The handmade products made in the convents have always been characterised by their exquisite flavour, the high quality of their ingredients and the care with which they are made.
The variety of Christmas sweets that can be bought in the convents is truly extensive, from almond mantecados, aniseed doughnuts and coconut balls, to chestnuts or marzipan eels and perrunillas, among so many other exquisite options.
Many of the convents and monasteries that make sweets also do so during the rest of the year. You can easily come across them, as they are mostly located in the city centre and very close to each other.
You could even go on a convent sweets route, going from one to another to get the best sweets to share with your family. Of course, some of them are only available at this time of year, which is why many people in Granada look forward to Christmas so much.
Some of the religious convents where you can buy your sweets are: the Monasterio del Santísimo Corpus Christi, the Convento de Zafra, the Monasterio del Carmen and the Monasterio de San José (these two belong to the Discalced Carmelites), the Convento de las Comendadoras de Santiago, among others.
10. Go to the classic Christmas concerts
Every year the city organises a series of musical events for Christmas, ranging from classical music to more modern genres. But what you can never miss are the Christmas carols.
Every year the Orquesta Ciudad de Granada performs its now typical concert of Christmas carols from around the world. There is also the participatory Messiah and the New Year's concert. All these performances are traditionally held in the Manuel de Falla Auditorium.
Throughout December, Granada is full of musical shows and events of all kinds, not only in the streets, but also in bars and restaurants, where you can enjoy live music and dancing.
What should you pack for your Christmas visit to Granada?
Temperatures in Granada at this time of year hover around 15 degrees Celsius during the day, dropping to 4 or 5 degrees at night, so it wouldn't hurt to pack a light coat, a sweater and a light jacket.
If you're very cold, you'll need a warmer jacket.
As I always say, packing your suitcase is a very subjective matter, it will depend on how much you suffer from the cold.