Christmas in Marbella
Your trusted Marbella real estate agent and property specialist on the Golden Mile.
4th December 2023
By Michael Dolan
The Holiday season in Marbella.
December on the Costa del Sol is a dream. Glorious blue skies and moderate temperatures (averaging about 18-20 degrees) during the day, give way to cooler nights (it drops to about 10 degrees), where the streets in almost every town, village and urbanization are lit up with Christmas decorations.
There are Christmas markets, where you will find roasted chestnuts and local produce, as well as quirky and unique gifts. Churches ring with the sound of heavenly carol concerts and shopping centres, churches, and town halls display their belén (nativity scene).
Marbella is the perfect place to be at this time of year, and there is plenty happening. As I said above the temperatures do drop at night, and visitors are advised to bring warmer clothes for the evenings, but the days are beautiful and you will find people out walking on the paseos, playing padel and golf, having coffee with friends in outdoor cafes, cycling or hiking in the hills or up La Concha; it is a far cry from the freezing temperatures and wet weather most northern Europeans are experiencing.
Here are some more details about what to expect, and where to go in Marbella, and throughout the Costa del Sol during the fabulous, festive season.
Public holidays, special days, and festivals in Spain during December.
If you are new to Spain, the fact that there are three bank holidays in the month might shock you.
Starting the selection off, is Constitution Day, on the 6th of December.
Constitution Day (Día de la Constitución) is the date when the country's constitution was approved, via referendum, by the Spanish people on December 6th, 1978. Following the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, this was a key step in Spain's move to democracy.
For most it is a day off work, celebrated at home with family. In Madrid, the Parliamentary buildings are open to the public, and in the Lower House of Parliament, selected schools will take part in the reading of the Constitution.
The next holiday is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, on the 8th of December.
This is a religious holiday, the Day of the Immaculate Conception, (Dia de la Inmaculada Concepción) is celebrated by Catholics all over the world on 8th December and is a public holiday in Spain. It commemorates the 'miraculous conception' of the Virgin Mary.
Most people in Spain also take the 7th of December off work, called puente in Spanish. Puente is translated as ‘bridge’, and it is also slang for a long weekend. This puente often marks the start of ski season, and with Sierra Nevada only 147 km from Marbella (roughly 2.5 hours by car), you will see many people take off for a short vacation on the slopes.
These holidays really start the festive season off in Spain. Whilst shops are closed in most places, you will find families going to mass, walking on the paseos, looking at all the decorative light displays and generally enjoying being together.
Ahead of the next public holiday, (which is 25th of December, Christmas Day), comes Christmas Eve, called ‘Nochebuena’ (24th of December), is the night that Santa Claus, or ‘Papá Noel’, comes and delivers his presents, and when the Spanish traditionally celebrate with their families.
Some shops close early (and this year it is a Sunday) so it would be wise not to leave too much to do at the last minute, as you may be disappointed. Restaurants (if they are open) fill up quickly, so book early to avoid missing out, and whole families come together to eat, drink and dance. This is often followed by a trip to midnight mass or 'La Misa Del Gallo' (The Mass of the Rooster).
Christmas Day is again spent with the family. In Marbella every year on the evening of the 25th, Santa arrives into the port by boat, before touring the town.
Boxing Day (as the British understand it), isn’t celebrated in Spain. In most places you will find life goes back to normal. (Well, as normal as the time between Christmas and New Year ever is!) Lots of shops open. In some parts of Spain, the Balearic Islands and Catalonia, they do celebrate the feast of St Stephen on 26th, in those areas you will need to check what is open.
The next date to keep in mind is 28th of December. This is ‘Dia de Los Santos Inocentes’ (Holy Innocents Day). Its origin comes from the catholic feast day devoted to the children slain by King Herod, who became the church's first martyrs. However, rather than mourning, it is celebrated with a day of revelry for children. Which in Spain has become a day for pranks and absurd stories, rather like the UK’s April Fool’s Day (1st April). Even the media gets involved so don’t necessarily believe everything you hear on the TV and radio on this date.
For more details about New Years Eve and Three Kings in Marbella, Spain, keep an eye out for our next blog.……
Where to eat out this Christmas in Marbella.
Eating out at Christmas (or any other time of year) in Marbella is a joy. There is no end of restaurants to choose from, catering to every cuisine imaginable. Serving mouth-watering delicacies, gourmet foods, traditional Andalusian dishes; with a range of atmospheres, chilled and laid-back vibes, classical, modern, up-beat, live music, DJs, and entertainers. Here is just a small selection of some of our favourites.
The Harbour Bar & Restaurant, Marbella Port
The Harbour Bar & Restaurant is located on the first floor of the Real Club Maritimo, in the marina of Marbella. Stylish and welcoming, open 7 days a week, it specialises in fresh fish all year round. But don’t let this put you off if you’re not a fish lover, or you are after a more traditional Christmas fayre. It has several seasonal menus – the winter menu, Christmas lunch, dinner, and day menus, as well as a New Years Day special.
They cater for both small and big parties, and if you are looking for a restaurant with stunning views and a tasteful charm, this is the place for you.
La Sala, Puerto Banus
La Sala Puerto Banus has plenty going on. As a restaurant known for its live music, it is the place to go to be entertained, with well-known local musicians, singers, and DJs, 7 days a week, and on Sundays there is live music all day long.
Throughout December there are Michael Bublé, Britney, and Abba tribute acts. On the 12th of December they are showing a screening of “Love Actually” with dinner. Saturday mornings are Breakfast with Santa; plus, so much more. There are festive menus galore, for Christmas parties, Christmas Day & Boxing Day, plus a New Years Eve bash. Whether it is a small family gathering or a big bang to top off 2023, La Sala has lots to offer.
Coya, Cipriani, and the Sea Grill Restaurant @ Puente Romano Beach Resort, Marbella
At Puente Romano there is not one, but several restaurants: each with its own distinct, and unique experience, offering superb menus and varied atmospheres.
The following are offering menus or buffets over the Christmas period.
The Sea Grill Restaurant is serving Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day brunch, a selection of traditional treats (1pm-4pm).
Cipriani has a special Christmas menu on the 24th, 25th or 26th of December.
Coya is also serving a Christmas Day brunch (1pm-4pm).
Throughout December you will find festive menus for corporate lunches, or evenings out with friends, at the Sea Grill restaurant.
Coto Restaurante Benahavís
Located on the Ronda Road, opposite El Madronal, between the Zagaleta resort entrances, Coto Restaurant is 15 mins from Marbella. The food has typically rustic Andalusian undertones, with an Asian twist, and a gourmet finish. The venue has a roof terrace, a lower terrace, restaurant, and bar area, and is suitable for an intimate dinner for two, or a larger party. They have established themselves as one of the go-to eateries in the Marbella area, and reservations are recommended.
Coto are offering a festive Christmas menu, with Roast Turkey topping the list, but there are plenty of other dishes available. There is live music on Sundays, Mondays, and Fridays throughout December.
Zozoï, Marbella Old Town
Situated in the picturesque Plaza Altamirano, Old Town, Marbella, close to the main church square, is Zozoï. With a reputation for serving the best Mediterranean seasonal food, in a delightful Andalusian setting.
They have a deliciously festive menu, a beautiful courtyard, friendly staff and a fabulous atmosphere, a must for fans of Marbella Old Town.
BREATHE Marbella is an experience. There are several different sections, a rooftop cocktail bar, formal dining area including a terrace with panoramic views, an artisan café and bakery, chill-out zones, with an overall atmosphere of fun yet relaxed vibes.
The festive season at BREATHE Marbella really kicks-off on Wednesday, December 13th, with a party including a live DJ and mulled wine, to launch their magazine. Festive season menus are available through the whole of December, with special group menus for corporate get-togethers, work parties, or nights out with friends, from the 11th through to the 22nd. They then have dedicated menus on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
If you want to get out of Marbella slightly, yet not have to travel far, then located to the west is the municipality of Estepona (which is about 15 mins by car). Here you will find the world-renowned Kempinski Hotel, and the less well known Estepona Marina and Port.
Kempinski Hotel Bahia, Estepona
Christmas starts at the Kempinski with their Christmas Market. They host corporate parties throughout the season. Christmas Eve offering is a six-course menu at the Baltazár Bar & Grill, with festive live music.
On Christmas Day a traditional buffet is served in the Mirador Restaurant with a selection of starters and main courses; sushi and seafood; roast turkey, beef, and BBQ at the live cooking stations. There is free-flowing cava and live music. There will be an appearance by Papa Noel, plus plenty of fun and games in the kid’s club. If this is not to your taste, then they are also serving a lunch time à la carte menu in the Spiler Beach Club.
El Palangre, Estepona Port
El Palangre is just one of a selection of cafes, bars and restaurants located in Estepona port. It is a family restaurant that prides itself on high-quality, fresh ingredients, specialising in locally caught fish and seafood. It boasts stunning views of the Mediterranean, Gibraltar, and Africa.
Popular with locals and visitors all year round, it offers an impressive, unique atmosphere. A gorgeous place to celebrate Christmas with family or friends.
Fun things to do at Christmas in Marbella and throughout the Málaga province …
The Nativity Scene.
Until around 30 years ago Christmas trees were rare in Spain. Instead, a display of the traditional nativity scene would be the main centrepiece of decoration in homes, shops, town halls and churches throughout the country.
Called belén, which is the Spanish word for Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, you will still find at least one of the scenes on display in every village, town, or city, and usually many. A typical display will not only include the stable where baby Jesus was born, the animals, Mary and Joseph and the Three Wise Men, but the whole cityscape.
Also included in many belén’s are fun characters such as ‘the Caganer’ (the name literally means the pooper), and the figurine is depicted with a bare backside pooping. It is a typically Catalan tradition dating back to the 18th century, which has stretched to many other areas of the country. In some parts it is now called a ‘cagones’. Part of the fun is to try and find where the caganer figurine is hidden.
Traditionally they were portrayed as a Catalan peasant man, but in more modern times they have taken on the image of politicians, celebrities, royalty. In Andalucia many scenes will also contain flamenco dancers, to celebrate the rich culture that spawned the dance. You will find stalls (and whole markets) dedicated to the sale of belén figurines, as people continually add to their displays.
Another popular decoration are poinsettia plants. It is believed the shape of the flowers represent the ‘Star of Bethlehem’ and the vibrant red colour is the blood of Christ.
In Marbella you will find the municipal nativity scene in Plaza de la Alameda, the official start of the Christmas festivities begins with the opening of the nativity scene in the church square on 1st December. At the same time the lights are switched on, illuminating the streets, and Santa’s Grotto in Parque de la Alameda opens.
Málaga Christmas lights.
With Málaga only a 45-minute drive from Marbella, it is easy and very popular to take a trip into the district's capital city to see the world-renowned Christmas lights, and the fabulous displays. Almost every village and town on the Costa del Sol decorates its streets with lights during the festive season, but hands-down the best light show in Andalucia must be in the city.
Thousands of people make their way to Málaga every year just to see the daily light and sound show. Displayed from 24th November 2023 to 6th January 2024, from 6.30pm until midnight on weekdays, and until 2am on weekends and holidays.
The centre of the show is on Calle Larios, the main street of Málaga, but you will find decorations and light displays throughout the city that showcase the talent of local artists and designers. It is well worth a visit.
Marbella Christmas market.
As with the lights, every village and town in Andalucia will have at least one, if not several Christmas markets, with local produce and honey, sweets, chocolates and biscuits, roasted coffee and chestnuts, olive oils, wines, cheeses and handmade crafts, gorgeous jewellery, and plenty of unique items perfect for Christmas gifts.
Marbella is no exception and this year a Christmas market will take place on the terraces of the Marina of Marbella from the 21st of December until the 5th of January. In addition, there will be a Christmas bazaar held in aid of the charity Caritas which will take place from the 30th of November to the 3rd of December in the Palacio de Congresos, Marbella. It will be full of stalls with clothes, accessories, decorations, a raffle, and entertainment.
El Gordo, the big Christmas lottery.
What started as a way to raise money for Spanish troops, fighting against Napoleon’s armies, in the early 19th century (1812 to be exact, in Cadiz), has become one of the biggest Christmas traditions in Spain, with a top prize in the millions (€4 million in 2022).
Known as El Gordo (which literally means ‘the fat one’), it is drawn live on national TV at 9 am on the 22nd of December, by children from the local San Ildefonso School in Madrid.
Before you rush out and buy yourself a ticket, note a full ticket (billete) will set you back €200, and a decimo, which is one-tenth of a ticket, sells for €20. Many Spanish families, societies, and organisations will all go in together and purchase fractions, or participaciones of the same ticket.
El Gordo is a really big deal in Spain, sales start in July! Throughout December you will see people queuing to get their lottery tickets.
Dolan Property - Christmas opening times.
Whatever you decide to do this festive season, whether it is dining out at one of Marbella’s wonderful restaurants, visiting the light show in Málaga, or simply relaxing with the family, the whole team at Dolan Property would like to wish you and your loved ones,
a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Our opening times for the festive period are as follows:
Fri 22nd December: Normal business hours.
Sat 23rd December - Mon 1st January: Office closed.
Tuesday 2nd January: Normal business hours.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you, for all your business throughout the past 12 months. We would like to express our sincerest appreciation for the trust you have and continue to place in us. Sending you the very best wishes for the holidays.
We look forward to speaking with you in 2024.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year, from all the team at Dolan Property.
Dolan Property, real estate specialists based in the heart of Marbella.
We understand that choosing a new home is a big step, and for those of you buying or selling a property in a foreign country, it can be very stressful, Dolan Property is here to help. If you are looking for a professional real estate expert; we are based in the heart of Marbella’s Golden Mile and specialise in high quality, desirable properties in prime residential locations; Nagüeles, Sierra Blanca, Cascada de Camoján, East and West Marbella, Istan Road, Nueva Andalucia, and the new Golden Mile in Estepona.
Dolan Property specialists are committed to the highest levels of business and ethical standards, and we are proud members of the Leading Property Agents of Spain (LPA).