THE BEST PLACES TO SPEND CHRISTMAS IN SPAIN AND FRANCE

Christmas only comes around once a year and, for many, it is the most anticipated and magical time of the entire year. Children dream eagerly about Santa shimmying down the chimney and reindeer flying across the sky with a sleigh in tow, and adults look forward to those precious days off and spending quality time with those they love. Which makes it so extremely important, when deciding to travel away for Christmas, to make sure those precious days are appreciated to the full, and to choose the absolute perfect destination.



Paris

Paris is a city full of wonder and charm any time of the year - and the Christmas spirit of this wonderful season only intensifies the charm and appeal of this place. It is not called the city of lights for nothing, and the streets of Paris are set ablaze with the light of thousands and thousands of fairy and other christmas lights, and streets are lined with magically decorated Christmas trees. Paris is bursting with winter season activities to make your visit more interesting, from Donkey rides in the Luxembourg Gardens, Christmas Carousels, or Christmas Services in historic and world renowned churches and cathedrals, such as the Notre Dame. And yet, on the tops of many lists, is the amazing Christmas market that stretches along Paris’ beloved Champs-Élysées. From around midday to midnight, this enchanting boulevard, often described as the world’s most beautiful avenue,  becomes lined with over 200 wooden booths and stalls with a great many activities and selling all kinds of wonderfully traditional French souvenirs and incredible Christmas treats. This year, the market will start on November 11th, and will continue all the way into the New Year, finishing on January 8th.

Champs-Élysées in Christmas


The Eiffel Tower, is, of course, on the very top of most people's “must-see” lists when visiting Paris, but if you time your visit during this wonderful winter season, you are in for a special surprise, one that will definitely make history in your travel tales. While going up to the top of the eiffel is fascinating, and yet a somewhat “typical” activity while in Paris, there a select few who can say that have actually been ice-skating on top of the Eiffel Tower. Yes, you read that right. For the past few years, the organizers of the Eiffel Tower have set up a 190 square meter ice rink on the 1st floor viewing point during the winter season, allowing visitors to have the absolute once in a lifetime experience of ice-skating 57 meters above ground, right in the heart of Paris, with 360º views over the city. Last year, the rink was open everyday from the 8th of December to mid-February, from 10am to 10pm, free of charge for visitors, providing skates and sleds for small children. There are few more magical ways to spend your Christmas in the City of Lights! Come across some rainy (or snowy!) days during your winter holidays?

Check out what to do on a rainy day!



Barcelona

While Barcelona does not have the best chances in offering you a white christmas, it most certainly will offer you a colorful one. Christmas markets are always an amazing way to spend christmas, especially to get to know a new place, their customs and culture. Catalonia has an extremely rich and unique culture any time of the year, and their Christmas-y customs are no exception. Barcelona’s exquisite Christmas markets, which can be found in all sizes all over the city, offer a unique and easy view into some of Catalonia and Barcelona’s most treasured habits, trinkets and food. One of the cities favorite Christmas market is the Fira de Santa Lucía, which takes place in front of Barcelona’s Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter, offering you a two in one package of some of Barcelona’s must-see activities. This market has been a yearly tradition since its start in 1786, from the end of November or beginning of December, until the 23rd of December, opening from around 11am to 8 or 9 in the evening. The market sells an entire array of different traditional products, including Christmas decorations, presents, and all but indescribably delicious treats.


Tió de Nadal


Among these adorable goodies, you will find one in particular which might seem a tad curious to those unfamiliar with Catalan customs. Do not be surprised to find many a Tió de Nadal, in short, a thick tree log, with short stubby legs, a happy, smiling face, a red hat and a red blanket draped over its back and sides. For Catalan children, this is a vital part of this holiday, and during the weeks leading up to Christmas, kids will feed the log that they have set up in their livingroom. The excitement and promise builds up until Christmas Day, when kids gather and sing and dance around the log, hitting it with sticks, until it releases the presents, which magically appear hidden underneath its red coat (inconspicuously placed there by the parents).
Be sure not to miss out on all of the fabulous christmas decorations, lights and trees spread throughout the city, making every street and square incredibly festive and enchanting. Barcelona’s main squares in particular, including Plaza Catalunya, Plaza de Espanya and Plaza de Sant Jaume simply jump to life, and are more than enough to bring out the Christmas cheer in any one who even passes near any of these beautiful Barcelonian locations. Or how about watching a cheerful Christmas movie? Here are Barcelona’s most charming movie theatres.


 

Madrid

Madrid, the big beautiful capital of the incredible country that is Spain, has a thousand and one different ways to keep you more than entertained over this amazing holiday season, and will make sure you never want to leave, no matter your age or interests. There are, of course, several Christmas markets you can find spread throughout the city, and although each and every one has its own atmosphere and charm, the one held at the Plaza Mayor is the largest of them all. Selling everything you will ever need to get yourself in the wintery, Christmas mood, from decorations, souvenirs and, of course, delicious christmas treats, and more than enough charming ideas to take back home as special Christmas present from abroad for all your family and friends. And if an awe-inspiring Christmas tree is what you need to kick off your holiday season, La Puerta del Sol is where you will want to go -  with Madrid’s most impressive Tree, decorated in gold and colors of all kinds, rising up 35 meters into the sky.


Plaza Mayor in Christmas


If you are looking for some activities that are slightly more unique to this city, however, fear not - you will not go disappointed! For the incredible price of 2€ per person, you and your travel partners get hop on board the Navibus - a specially themed Christmas bus that travels around the city of Madrid in the evenings, through a route that shows off the best and brightest of the city’s lights and decorations - conveniently passing by some of the most treasured monuments and sights at the same time.
Last but not least, if you happen to be travelling with children during this wonderful season, they too are sure to be delighted with the marvelous activities Madrid has for them. Be sure to take them to Cortylandia, one of the cities most iconic christmas symbols, which kids wait all year long to see. Held in the city’s very own department store, El Corte Inglés, Cortylandia is a fairly short show (lasting around a quarter of an hour), with ecstatic dancing puppets and christmas figurines singing christmas carols and, naturally, the Cortylandia song.



If Christmas cheer and a happy holiday is what you are looking for, there are few places you will find with more charm and atmosphere than these beautiful cities throughout Spain and France. So pack up your snowman sweaters and reindeer antlers, and book your Renfe-SNCF en Coopération train tickets today!

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