Ten traditional delights that make a real Spanish Christmas feast

Spain has its own traditions when it comes to sweet and savoury festive fare. The Local explores ten of the most delicious.

Ten traditional delights that make a real Spanish Christmas feast
Spain has its own Christmas traditional fare.


Photo: Lablascovegmenu / Flickr Creative Commons.

This sweet nougat made of honey, sugar and toasted almonds is a popular Christmas treat across the Iberian peninsula. From the hard Alicante style to the softer version from Jijona.


Photo: emivel2003 / Flickr Creative Commons.

Mariscos are likely to be served for Noche Buena -Christmas Eve and the focus of festivites. Expect anything from fish soup, lobster, prawns to langostinos, as pictured above.

This year, Spain's health authorities have issued a warning in an attempt to discourage diners from sucking out the juices from the heads.

READ MORE:  'Don’t suck prawn heads': Spain issues health warning over Christmas dinner delicacy

Suckling pig / Milk-fed lamb

Photo: Leslie / Flickr
Either cochinillo (roast suckling pig) or cordero lechal asado (roast milk-fed lamb) are likely to make an appearance on traditional Spanish tables over Christmas. Cooked slowly until the skin is transformed into delicious crackling and usually served with potatoes, it's a favourite in Castilla y Leon.
4. Roscón de Reyes

Photo: Secret Tenerife / Flickr Creative Commons.

This “king cake” in Spanish-speaking countries is traditionally eaten on January 6th to celebrate Epiphany when the three kings brought gifts to baby Jesus. The ring-shaped cake typically has a hidden figure inside and whoever gets the slice with the figure inside “wins” – though some make the winner buy next year's cake.

READ MORE: #Navidad: Spain's festive cake brings the promise of big prizes

5. Polvorones and mantecados

Mantecados. Photo: Javier Lastras / Flickr Creative Commons.

These crumbly cakes are another traditional Christmas shortbread dessert. Mantecados are distinct in that they are prepared with pig fat – manteca – while polvorones are named because they crumble into powder – polvo.

6. Yema

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

These little cakes, a specialty of Ávila, are made of mainly egg yolk and often covered in sugar or icing. 

7. Marzipan

Photo: Chris / Flickr

Yet more treats for those with a sweet tooth, the best marzapan – as it is known in Spanish – can be found in the region of Toledo where the almond flavoured delicacies are crafted into intricate shapes.

8. Jamón 

Photo: Boca Dorada / Wikimedia Commons.

Because when is it NOT the right time of year for jamón? In Spain, it's always time for jamón. But especially at Christmas when many families receive an entire ham leg as a Christmas gift.

READ MORE: The ultimate guide to buying a leg of 'jamón' in Spain at Christmas

9 Galets

Photo: FrikJan / Flickr

Galets soup is a stable at Christmas in Catalonia which is comprised of large pasta shells stuffed with mince meat floating in a rich tasty broth. 

10. Cava

Photo by Maria Petersson on Unsplash

No celebration over Christmas and New Year would be complete without lashings of cava, Spain's go to alternative to champagne, the majority of which is produced in the vineyards of Catalonia.


READ ALSO Festive cheer: Seven great Spanish tipples to enjoy over the holidays 

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Six Barcelona bars serving delicious free tapas

The Local's Esme Fox, a long-term Barcelona resident, shares some of her favourite city bars that serve free tapas when you buy a drink.

Six Barcelona bars serving delicious free tapas

Spain is of course celebrated for its tapas, small plates of food, designed for sharing and consisting of favourites such as patatas bravas (fried potatoes topped with spicy sauce), pimientos de padrón (fried green peppers) and croquetas (croquettes of different varieties such as ham or mushrooms). 

One theory is that tapas were invented in order to cover your wine or beer glass, so that flies and other bugs wouldn’t fly in. The barman would give customers a piece of bread topped with jamón (ham) or queso (cheese) in order to act as a lid or in Spanish ‘tapa’, hence the name tapas.

Although most cities in Spain no longer serve free tapas when you buy a drink, there are still some cities where you are guaranteed a free snack. This is still true in the southern cities of Granada, Almería and Jaén, in León and Segovia, as well as a few others dotted around the country.

Despite this, you can still find the odd bar serving the old-fashioned free tapa in some of Spain’s largest and most expensive cities, including Madrid and Barcelona.

So, next time you’re in the Catalan capital, save some money by visiting one of these bars, where you’ll still get served a free tapa along with your drink.  

READ ALSO: Top ten Madrid bars serving free tapas, one for each barrio

Keep in mind, you won’t be served a free drink if you just order a coffee and sometimes not with a soft drink either, it’s usually when you buy a glass of beer or wine.

Ca’l Chusco

This small traditional bar in the old fisherman’s neighbourhood of Barceloneta offers one free tapa every time you order a drink. It’s usually something small and simple, but if you’re still hungry then you can always order one of their delicious paellas or plates or seafood too. 

This cute and contemporary little tapas joint, situated on the edge of Gracia, is so popular that it often gets very crowded, so get here early if you want a spot at the bar. It costs around €2-4 for a drink and a small tapas dish, which you can choose from a large selection. There’s everything from croquetas and hummus to small sausages.

Pappa e Citti

It’s not just authentic Spanish bars offering free tapas in Barcleona, at traditional Sardinian restaurant Pappa e Citti in the barrio of Gracia, they offer it too. Be aware that free tapas with your drink is only served between 6-9pm. Small tapas offerings may have an Italian twist or maybe something simple like a piece of bread topped with cream cheese and caramelised onions.

La Xula Taperia

In the heart of the Gracia neighbourhood, this modern and stylish bar offers the closest thing to a Granadino-style free plate of tapas. Rather than just a small piece of bread topped with an ingredient, their free offerings include meatballs, anchovies or even ensaladilla rusa (Russian potato salad).

Casa Arana

Located in the heart of the Sant Andreu neighbourhood, not far from the metro stop of the same name, Casa Arana is a small local barrio bar. As well as the regular drinks on offer, they make their own beer in either tostada (toasted) or rubia (pale) varieties, which is served in a tall glass and looks like an ice cream sundae. The free tapa served with your drink is typically a piece of baguette topped with a simple ingredient such as jamón, chistorra (cured sausage) or cheese.

Cassette Bar

This tapas and cocktail bar located in the heart of Raval has a decidedly 80s themed vibe and name to match. They have been serving free tapas for the past 14 years – something typical like piece of bread and tomato topped with a slice of tortilla (Spanish omelette).