There are so many incredible things to do in Valencia at Christmas, I simply had to put together a guide of the best things see, do, and eat. Will you be smitten with a festive nativity scene? Drink your body weight in hot chocolate? Meet the Three Wise Men? Whatever you choose to do, Valencia is a magical place to spend the holiday season.
Yes, Netflix might have dozens of Christmas movies worth binge watching on, but Valencia does its best to tempt people outdoors during the festive season. Every year, Valencianos are presented with two options – stay home for a session of manta y peli (literally “blanket and movie”) or go out and enjoy the festively decorated city. Judging by the crowds of people that hit the streets every December, the city always wins.
So what is there to do in Valencia at Christmas? Here are 12 fun activities you cannot miss.
In This Article
Wander around Valencia’s Christmas markets
Valencia doesn’t have a long standing tradition of organizing Christmas markets the same way German cities have, but it really tries to do its best.
A short few years ago, the handful of Christmas markets organized around the city were rather mercadillos de Reyes. This means they were opening towards the end of December, sometimes even after Christmas.
These days, however, Christmas markets pop up around the city from early December until the 6th of January.
Organized either outdoors or indoors, Valencia’s Christmas markets are great for buying handmade gifts. But don’t expect mugfuls or mulled wine or mountains of sausages. Valencia does Christmas markets in its own way.
Best Christmas markets in Valencia:
- The City of Arts and Sciences – the closes you’ll find to a German Christmas market in Valencia
- Plaza de la Reina – a craft fair set up just next to Valencia’s grandiose cathedral
- Mercado de Tapineria – an small indoor Chrismas artisan fair
See all Chrismas markets in Valencia.
Marvel at the craftsmanship of the nativity scenes
The tradition of creating nativity scenes to commemorate the birth of Jesus originated in Italy, back in the 13th century. It didn’t take long for this tradition to arrived to Spain. Now every Spanish city, town and village has its own nativity scene called belén. What’s more, many households set up a small nativity scene as well.
In Valencia, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to nativity scenes. From tiny figurines to life size characters to living nativity scenes, the craftsmanship and utmost attention that goes into creating each belén is truly amazing.
Pretty much every church in Valencia displays its own nativity scene. But museums and markets don’t get left behind either. The nativity scenes are free to visit and most of them are in the city center.
Best nativity scenes in Valencia:
- Mercado Central – a large belén created by the vendors and set up in the center of the market
- Iglesia de San Nicolás – a vertical belén, unique in Valencia
- Centro de Artesanía de la Comunitat Valenciana – an impressive nativity scene modelled in clay that doesn’t get the attention it deserves
- Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados – a large belén set up at the first floor behind the altar
Show off your skating skills on the ice rink
Among all the things to do in Valencia at Christmas, gliding around an atmospheric ice rink is perhaps the most fun. Whether you’re weaving in and out of crowds or clutching at the barriers, nothing can beat the experience of ice skating in your T-shirt in the middle of winter.
The best and largest ice rink in Valencia is the one in front of the Town Hall. Skating here can be quite magical, especially after nightfall when the Christmas tree and all the glittering Christmas lights switch on.
One thing to take into consideration is that this ice rink is also at its busiest in the evening, so if you want to show off your skills without bumping into people, a daytime ice skating session is your best bet.
There are other ice skating rinks around Valencia, such as the one in Nuevo Centro and Aqua shopping centers. But these are considerably smaller.
Be enchanted by all the Christmas trees
Christmas in Valencia means dozens of festive trees pop up around the city as early as the 1st of December.
Most of these Christmas trees are either fake or made of LED lights. So if you’re a die hard fir tree fan, you might be a bit disappointed.
I know it took me a while to get used to these LED trees, but eventually I learned to love them just the same. Plus I feel good knowing they are somewhat more environmentally friendly. And no real fir trees are harmed in the making of a Valencian Christmas.
The Christmas tree everyone wants to see is the one in the City Hall square. But there are two Christmas trees that stand out from the rest – the one in Mercado de Colón and the one in Aqua shopping center.
Marvel at the amazing Christmas light displays
Come Christmas, the streets of Valencia get lit up by dazzling light displays. The Christmas spirit fills the streets of Valencia in early December and lasts until the 6th of January.
The best place to chase the Christmas cheer is the Old Town. Here, you will find several beautifully decorated streets. The Town Hall and other public buildings also get decked out for Christmas. And the small Jardín de la Generalitat is one of the most magical places to be during the holiday season.
In recent years, more and more independent shops and restaurants are giving in the festive spirit and decorate their windows. Besides the twinkling light strings covering the El Corte Inglés building on Calle Colón, many other small shops are putting in an effort to lure in last-minute shoppers.
Discover your favorite turrón flavors
Turrón is one of the most famous Spanish sweet treats. This simple nougat confectionary is traditionally made of almonds, honey, sugar, and egg white. In recent years, however, an infinity of flavors took the market by storm.
Each Spanish region has its own turrón recipes resulting in different flavors, consistencies and appearances. From chocolate with puffed rice to marzipan, candied fruits, coconut, or liqueur flavored, turrón can take many forms.
In Valencia, the most popular turrón types are turrón duro (hard) and turrón blando (soft).
The first one originated in Alicante, a city south of Valencia and part of the region of Valencia. It consists of a rigid piece of nougat made with whole almonds.
Turrón blando, on the other hand, comes from the city of Jijona, also in the Valencia region, and it is made with almond paste.
You will be hard pressed to find a supermarket that doesn’t carry turrón during the Christmas season in Valencia. For the largest turrón variety, head to El Corte Inglés. For the best quality turrón, go to a specialist shop, such as Turrones Galiana or Turrones Ramos.
Treat yourself to polvorones and mantecados
Mantecados and polvorones are a variety of Spanish shortbread. They are typical Christmas sweets and you’ll find them in supermarkets and pastry shops throughout Valencia.
Mantecados are traditionally made with lard (hence the name, manteca means lard in Spanish). Polvorones are a type of very crumbly mantecado.
Hence, all polvorones are mantecados but not all mantecados are polvorones.
These days, you can occasionally find vegetarian and vegan mantecados made with butter or olive oil instead of lard. Unfortunately, they are not all that common yet.
Supermarkets tend to sell mountains of mantecados this time of the year. However, for homemade mantecados and polvorones, stop by a pastry shop, such as El Pan de Estellés. Mercado Central is another good place where you can buy delicious pastries during Christmas in Valencia.
Brave the crowds for some last-minute holiday shopping
If you’ve missed the Black Friday sales and online shopping is not your thing, Christmas shopping in Valencia can mean braving the crowds.
While many Valencianos do their holiday gift shopping way in advance, many others leave things for the last-minute. This means shopping centers, department stores and the streets of the Old Town are swamped with people pretty much the whole month of December and the first week of January.
Of course, browsing the shops has its appeal. Besides blasting Christmas carols, many shops go above and beyond to lure customers in.
As mentioned above, in recent years, more and more shops are investing in beautiful window displays. Plus, Christmas shopping in Valencia always provides a good excuse to sit down on a terrace and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate with churros.
Welcome the New Year in the City Hall Square
Thousands of people in Valencia welcome the New Year in Plaza del Ayuntamiento. This is one of the largest squares in the city and a terrific place to start the year.
In Valencia, it is typical for people to finish eating dinner in the old year. Therefore, most restaurants close before midnight.
The party then moves to the City Hall square where people bring their own 12 grapes (to eat as the clock strikes at midnight), plastic glasses and bottles of cava (Spanish sparking wine). For those who don’t like the taste of cava, sweet cider (cidra dulce) is also a popular option.
The new year is welcome with fireworks. The show lasts only a couple of minutes, but it’s fun and festive.
Following the fireworks, Plaza del Ayuntamiento becomes the epicenter of the first street party of the year. DJs take over the City Hall balcony and the party lasts until the wee small hours of the morning.
Meet the Three Kings in a magical parade
Christmas celebrations in Valencia don’t end on Christmas Day, nor on New Year’s Eve. In fact, there’s almost one week left of festive cheer. On the 5th of January in the afternoon, the Three Kings or the Three Wise Men arrive in Valencia bringing candies and toys to kids during a fabulous parade.
The festivities start with the disembarkment of the Three Kings in the port of Valencia around 4:30 pm. From there, the Three Kings head to the city center, where the parade, called Cabalgata de Los Reyes Magos, brings good cheer to the streets of Valencia.
Expect a big crowd, but also a magical atmosphere. This is a parade kids of any age will enjoy. Just pay attention to the hard candy. They tend to throw handfuls of them into the crowd.
Try a festive slice of roscón de Reyes
Roscón de Reyes is the most typical pastry enjoyed on the 6th of January and the preceding days in Valencia. It is a type of sweet, ring-shaped bread and can be enjoyed plane or filled with cream.
A roscón can come in many flavors, from whipped cream and custard cream to truffle, pumpkin or chocolate. It is usually topped with candied fruits, especially candied orange slices.
This delicious pastry has one peculiarity – it hides a broad bean and a plastic figure. I advise you pay attention to what you’re biting into so you don’t hurt your teeth.
When I first tried roscón, it was the supermarket kind and I was not impressed. What’s more, I didn’t know it had hard objects hidden in it and I bit into the bean, which was quite an unpleasant surprise.
It took me years to give roscón another try, this time from a pastry shop. I’m a convert now! Although I got the bean again, this time I knew better. Also, this means I’ll have to pay for the next roscón.
A roscón is usually meant to be shared among 4 to 8 people. Most places only sell the whole thing, but some pastry shops, such as Dulce de Leche, also sell it by the slice.
Have the time of your life at Valencia’s Fun Fair
Out of all the things to do in Valencia at Christmas, none will give you an adrenaline rush more than the Fun Fair. Situated near the marina, this traditional Fun Fair has dozens of attractions to choose from.
The Fun Fair opens on the 1st of December and lasts until the 22nd of January (San Vicente Mártir Day). It is a great place to spend a couple of hours and it can be great fun for the whole family.
Here you’ll also find several food stalls, selling anything from churros to grilled sausages. Access to the Fun Fair is free and you only pay for individual rides.