The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, or the Dia de la Inmaculada Concepcion, as it is known in Spain, is a feast of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a national holiday and has a distinct feel of being the start of the Christmas period in Barcelona. It is the day when Catholics celebrate the 'miraculous conception' of the Virgin Mary. A large percentage of the Spanish population are Roman Catholics, so for many people, it is considered to be an important day.
As there are no specific events or activities that take place on this day, I took the opportunity to wander around the streets of the centre of Barcelona to get a sense of what the day is all about. Despite being warned that there was little to do, I was delighted at the electric atmosphere in the streets- the Christmas lights were switched on, the narrow streets were crowded, and passers-by were friendly. I felt Christmas feeling genuinely for the first time this year.
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There is a buzz in the air because the streets are thronging with families and friends, taking strolls, enjoying the Christmas lights and making the most of a day off. There is a similar feel to Sundays in Barcelona but with double the number of people hitting the streets.
|A child at a toy stall|
It is refreshing to witness a day in the run-up to Christmas when, in general, the shops are closed (see below for more details). There are no frantic shoppers, hunting for last minute gifts. Instead the activity is focused around the Christmas markets, restaurants and churches.
As with many Christmas celebrations, children are central to the day. Excited girls and boys are everywhere, carrying sweets, decorations and small toys that have been purchased from the Christmas markets (see below). Although the toys shops are closed, parents are dragged to their windows and shown exactly what is on the Christmas wish list this year.
|Fira De Santa Llúcia|
|Children hitting the Caga Tio|
Just as children may visit Santa Claus in the UK or America, a large Caga Tio is on display for long queues of youngsters eagerly awaiting small toys and lollipops. For details of this please see our guide to Family Activities at Christmas.
As night falls, the lights twinkle throughout stalls and the narrow passageways through the market are full to the brim with people making Christmas purchases.
Details for the markets can be found in our guide to Christmas markets.
|A shepherd in the nativity|
This feast day is also an opportunity for families to visit the impressive nativity scene outside the Town Hall in Plaça Sant Jaume. This is the largest nativity scene that I have ever seen and traditionally changes the theme from year to year. The square is packed with people waiting patiently in a long (but fast-moving) queue to walk through the large figures and scenery.
This is the only Nativity scene in the centre of Barcelona that is open to the public this early in December.
For more details please see our Guide to Christmas Nativity Scenes.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is an important day for Catholics. It is, therefore, a wonderful day to visit the Cathedral (Santa Església Catedral Basílica de Barcelona) in El Gotico. It is a large and looming Gothic building. Although works are currently being carried out on the façade, the interior of the building is available to view. With high ceilings and ornate stonework, it is atmospheric and awe-inspiring.
There is a small chapel within the church devoted to the Immaculate Conception (Capella de Inmaculada Concepcion) on your right as you enter the building. This is open to the public for this special day and worshippers can be seen kneeling in prayer before a statue of the Virgin Mary.
|Capella de Immaculada Concepcion|
Many of the activities listed above are available throughout the entire Christmas period. However, they have a particular buzz about them today, as many locals and tourists are in the area, enjoying the public holiday.
Opening Hours For Shops, Attractions and Restaurants and More
Officially, shops are closed on this feast day, as they are on Sundays. However, on wandering through the streets of Raval, Gotico and El Born, I noted that there were a number of the smaller, independent shops that had opened to make the most of the Christmas period. However, the larger stores are closed. Most of the shopping on this date takes place in the markets, detailed above and in our guide to Christmas markets.
Museums, in general, have Sunday opening hours on this public holiday. A few of the smaller museums are closed and a lot of them only open in the morning. It is worth checking the websites for more information.
Restaurants, for the most part, are open, making the most of the increased trade, with many families dining out on this occasion. If you plan on attending a small or local restaurant, it may help to telephone ahead to ensure that they are open.
Churches, in general, have Sunday opening times as it is an important day of worship. See below for the opening times of Barcelona Cathedral.
Many Markets are open for long hours on this feast day. Please see our guide to Christmas markets for more details.
Location map showing the walking routes to the Barcelona Cathedral from the nearest metro stops.
La Rambla, 91
Carrer Palau de la Musica, 4 - 6
Plaça de Santa Maria, 1
Plaça del Pi, 7
La Rambla, 51 - 59
Plaça del Rei
Plaça de la Seu, 3
Santa Esglesia Catedral Basilica de Barcelona
Plaza de la Seu
08002 Barcelona, España.
Tel: +34 93 342 8262
How to get to Santa Esglesia Catedral Basilica de Barcelona
Metro: Jaume I (Yellow Line, L4)
Hop on hop off sightseeing tourist bus stop
Nearest stop for Santa Esglesia Catedral Basilica de Barcelona is "Catedral - Gòtic"with the "hop on hop off" sightseeing bus
Via Laietana / Plaça Ramon Berenguer: 45, V15, V17
|January - December||Monday - Friday||08:30 - 12:30 and 17:45 - 19:30|
|Saturday||08:30 - 12:30 and 17:15 - 20:00|
|Sunday and Public Holiday||08:30 - 13:45 and 17:15 - 20:00|
Entrance with a guide: €6.00
Tuesday - Sunday: 11:00 - 13:00