Very Best Christmas Activities: Bilbao


Christmas is just around the corner and many of the festivities have already begun. So put on your ugly christmas sweater and hug a hot chocolate and let's explore the best Christmas activities in Bilbao has to offer this Christmas. Tis' the season.

Walk Under the Christmas Lights

The City of Bilbao is one of the best places in Spain to enjoy Christmas decorations, especially when it comes to Christmas lights. The city lights up over 1.3 million LED lights, to bring the festivities to life. There are many areas where you can enjoy this experience. Two very popular areas are in front of the city hall and the seven streets  of Casco Viejo (Old Town).

The one street that you absolutely must walk down is Gran Via. This main street is all dressed up like it's going to the Met Gala. Each tree that is lit up builds on the one before it to bring that holiday romanticism to its apex. Casually stroll down this wide festive way and be immersed in the beauty of Chrstmas.

Keep in mind that due to the energy crisis in Europe the lights will only be lit up between 6:00-10:00pm.

The Christmas Market

The Christmas Market is a holiday tradition in Bilbao. Wooden kiosks line the river on the Guggenheim side of the river near Casco Viejo. They offer a variety of food, delicatessens, artisan gifts and more. It is a perfect place to have a stroll and a warm beverage while taking in the Basque Christmas culture.

The market is open from 12:30-9:30pm from December 2, 2022 to January 5, 2023.

Olentzero Parade

If this is your first time exploring Basque Christmas then you probably have no idea who Olentzero and Mari Domingi are. These two mythical figures are essentially the Basque cousins of Mr. and Ms. Claus.

Olentzero comes with his wife from Mungia to Bilbao each year. This chuddy, bearded, pipe smoking, coal miner blesses the children who have behaved well with gifts.

The Olentzero Parade will be held on December 23, 2022 at 6:00pm. The parade will begin at the Hotel Carlton in Moyua Plaza and end at the plaza in front of the Arriaga Theatre. If you've never seen the Olentzero Parade it is one of the most enjoyable and unique experiences you can have here over the holidays.

At the conclusion of the parade there will be a Christmas concert. Olentzero and Mari Domingi will spend the night in the theater and on the morning of the 24th will welcome children who are eager to meet these mythical Basque Christmas figures.

Swan Lake & The Nutcracker Ballets

Something about Christmas sings theater and ballet. This year the The Ballet of Ukraine is putting on two performances of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and one of The Nutcracker. These productions are sure to deliver on the drama and beauty of these classical ballets.

The two performances of Swan Lake take place on December 7, 2022 and January 6, 2023.

The Ballet of Ukraine's production of The Nutcracker will be performed on December 13, 2022.

The Ballet of Ukraine's productions will take place at the Campos Eliseos Theatre. Shows start at 8:00pm with tickets starting from €37. You can follow the links for more information and to buy tickets to Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

Ice Skating and Sledding

What could be more Christmassy than going skating and sledding? This winter wonderland is located across the street from the Arriaga Theatre, in Areatza Park.

The ice rink is 800 square meters (8,600 square feet). Nestled between the river and the Christmas decorations in Areatza Park, it is a great activity to do on a date or with the family

Both the ice rink and sledding installations are in place November 25, 2022 to January 5, 2023. Hours of operation are 11:00-14:00pm and 4:00-9:00pm.

Sledding costs €2.50 for three rides and €3.50 to go skating for 30 minutes. You can find more information and purchase tickets here.

Nativity Scenes

There are several locations around Bilbao to enjoy traditional nativity scenes. Organized by the non-profit Asociación Belenista de Bizkaia these nativity scenes are another Basque tradition in Bilbao.

The nativity scenes vary in form, materials and size. If you're interested in art, culture, history, and traditional exposes then this is definitely for you. Most of the nativity scenes are free to view but there are a couple that have a small entrance fee.

To find out locations, costs and hours of operation click the link to the Asociación Belenista de Bizkaia. The calendar is at the bottom of the page. Currently it is only available in Spanish and Basque.

The Children's Christmas Park (Parque Infantil de Navidad)

The Children's Christmas Park opens on December 17, 2022 and runs until January 8, 2023. It is located at the Bilbao Exhibition Centre (BEC) in Barakaldo.

General admission is €9 per person, with free admission for children under 2. This must see event is open between 11:00am to 8:00pm. There is plenty of paid parking around the BEC or you can take the Bilbao Metro Line 2 and get off at the Ansio Station.

The Children's Christmas Park is essentially a winter themed carnival with a target audience of children aged 2-14 but can be enjoyed by all. You'll find a variety of carnival rides like the swinging ship and the carousel. There are also go-karts, a bouncy castle, a trampoline park, a jungle adventure, and much more.

If your kid doesn't come home exhausted by the end of the night you've done something wrong, or they've had too much sugar. Tap the link to learn more about the Children's Christmas Park at the Bilbao Exhibition Centre. Unfortunately, there is no English version of the site you'll have to make due with your web browser translator.

There are a ton of other festivities and events that we didn't touch on. If you are interested in learning what else is out there, check out the Bilbao Family Events Guide and Bilbao Events Guide. Sorry, no English version is available at this time.

Bilbao is a beautiful city to spend the holidays. It's festive, lit up beautifully, and brings a holiday season flair that is wonderfully distinct from other cultures. Happy holidays, Zorionak, Merry Christmas.

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