Among the most anticipated Christmas events are, without a doubt, the magnificent nativity scenes that can be visited in many cities in Spain. From those that exhibit figures of great historical and artistic value to those of monumental size, or the most creative, built with materials as unthinkable as sand or... chocolate! Another option is to attend one of the popular live nativity scenes that are scheduled during this time.Below we bring together some of the most spectacular nativity scenes, although you will have multiple options to see this very Spanish Christmas tradition almost anywhere in the country.
Neapolitan nativity scenes (Madrid, Murcia and Valladolid)
Spain has true gems belonging to the style of Neapolitan nativity scenes framed in baroque art. The Royal Palace in Madrid exhibits nearly 200 Neapolitan, Genoese and Spanish figures (from between the 18th and 21st centuries) to which new elements and settings are added annually that make each visit different. At the Salzillo Museum in Murcia you can see one of the most important Neapolitan nativity scenes in the world, with intricately sculpted pieces of terracotta, painted wood and clay. It is also recommended to visit the Spanish-style Salzillo Nativity Scene, which is part of the permanent collection. Although it can be seen all year round, Christmas is a really special time to go to the National Sculpture Museum in Valladolid and admire this fantastic representation of 18th century Neapolitan society through more than 600 detailed figures that make up one of the most important nativity scenes in Europe.
Sand Nativity Scene (Gran Canaria)
Every year, since 2006, a group of eight prominent international sand sculptors get to work to shape this impressive nativity scene on the Las Canteras beach in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Canary Islands). An authentic open-air show that, in addition to its religious and artistic motive, has a charitable objective, since all donations go to social projects.
Monumental nativity scenes (Zaragoza, Valencia and Alicante)
The monumental nativity scene in Zaragoza, with about 1,500 square metres of surface area in its busy Plaza del Pilar square, has a hundred life-size figures and spectacular night lighting of its Basilica in the background. Other large nativity scenes are those inspired by the Valencian fallero style. Standing at 17 meters high, the giant nativity scene in Alicante was entered in the Guinness Book of Records in 2019. It is composed of the figures of Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the three Wise Men. Another good example is the monumental nativity scene of Xátiva, in Valencia, with life-size figures, live animals, fresh vegetables and small ponds. and wells to increase the realism of the recreated scenes.
Chocolate Nativity Scene in Rute (Córdoba)
Around 1,600 kilos of chocolate and about six months of work result in a nativity scene that attracts more and more visitors every year. For almost a century, a family business from a small town in the Sierras Subbéticas Nature Reserve, in Córdoba, has the idea of making the chocolate nativity scene that is now the largest in the world. You can check it out between 9 October 2023 and 5 January 2024.
Living nativity scenes in rural environments (Catalonia)
Some towns are unbeatable settings to enjoy the theatricality of a living nativity scene. Often, its own inhabitants are part of the cast of actors and actresses. Some of the proposals in one of the regions with the most tradition, Catalonia, are Cobrera de Llobregat -from 2 December to 13 January-, with a 700 metre route guided by a narrative between forests and rivers; that of Santa Pau, a medieval town with cobbled streets in the heart of the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Nature Reserve and Castell d Aro, next to the tourist municipality of Platja d Aro, in Costa Brava, which has been held since 1959.
Bethlehem Fair (Seville)
Finally, a place of inspiration and shopping for those who dare to design their own nativity scene next Christmas is the Nativity Fair next to the Cathedral and the Archive of the Indies in Seville. It is a true national reference for merchants and artisans specialised in the creation of all types of figures, objects and popular accessories for these Christmas recreations. Around twenty stalls where, between 28 October and 23 December 2023, you can purchase tiny pieces of craftsmanship to compose your most personal nativity scene or make a special gift.