Spending Christmas in a warm country is something that you certainly need to get adjusted to.
This is my second Christmas in Spain and I already got the basics figured out – no need to pull out winter clothing, but stock up with blankets, warm slippers and heaters for the apartment.
The lack of snow and temperatures around 18C can make it hard to get into the festive spirit, but Fuengirola makes up for it with beautiful (and sometimes tacky) Christmas decorations and activities.
This year, I also had a family visiting for Christmas, so it made out to be a much more cheerful occasion compared to the last year when many of the health and travel restrictions were still in place.
I thought it would be useful to write a short practical guide on everything that’s involved in Christmas celebrations in Fuengirola, should you want to consider spending the next Christmas somewhere warm!
Regulations in Place
Masks were not compulsory outdoors for some time now in Andalusia, but the restrictions came back in place just in time for Christmas and New Year.
The Andalusian government also wanted to avoid further spikes in infection rates by limited access to restaurants to only those that have a valid covid pass, something that’s still valid until the end of January. If you don’t have the pass, you can still sit and eat out on terraces in restaurants, but it may be a bit tricky with the weather in January. Some places are more strict at controlling it than others, so it also depends on the restaurant you go to.
You still have to wear masks in shops etc, but other than that, life feels almost as normal as it should be.
My family arrived with a valid covid pass, but were asked to take a test at the airport anyway. The airport controls seem a lot more streamlined and there’s less confusion about what’s needed and what not.
We’re expecting some further changes to be announced at the end of January, hopefully bringing back the no mask outdoor rule and a few other changes – fingers crossed!
Christmas Celebrations in Fuengirola
Despite some event limitations, much of the Christmas celebrations were carried out as usual.
This year I actually found out that Spanish people celebrate Christmas on the 6th January, instead of the 24/25th December as it’s the custom in most of Europe. The three kings celebrations are the main event to look forward to every year.
The Christmas festivities started already on the last weekend of November when it’s customary to turn on the Christmas lights – and Fuengirola certainly goes overboard with those.
If you fancy a bit more of a show, you can head to Malaga for the last Friday in November when they light up the lights at Lazario Street, quite the spectacle. This year, it looked like business as usual as huge crowds gathered to watch the light show.
Fuengirola also hosts an annual Christmas market at the Plaza de la Constitution, but don’t expect anything big or visit-worthy. It’s just a handful of stalls selling fairly random items with zero festive spirit (see photos below). It also starts on the last Friday of November and lasts till January.
Last year we were blessed with really good weather, sunshine and pleasantly warm temperatures, but this year our luck has turned and the Christmas time was grey, windy and very cold.
A lot of restaurants in the city offer a special Christmas menu if you want to book yourself a table for Christmas Eve (covid pass was required).
25th is also a bank holiday in here, so all the major supermarkets and shops are closed. Shops don’t start with after Christmas sales until after the 6th of January, so don’t expect to find some bargains on the 26th/27th Dec as it’s the custom in the UK.
Finally, the main event – the arrival of the Three Kings – is celebrated by a procession through the city and the Kings arrive at the town hall. While they pass the city, they’re supposed to throw sweets at kids standing on the streets, but I’m yet to witness this myself.
The schedule of their journey is normally posted ahead of time on the website of Fuengirola town hall.
New Year Celebrations in Fuengirola
As in the last year, the fireworks were cancelled and thanks to heavy fog around the city, we couldn’t really see anything from the small privately organized ones either.
I don’t think anyone minded though, as we were all happy to see the back of 2021, hoping that 2022 will signal the return to normality!
Making the Most of Your Christmas Holiday
If you’re thinking of spending Christmas in Fuengirola, or at Costa del Sol, there are a few things I would suggest considering, to make the most out of your time here:
- Consider a day or weekend trip to Sierra Nevada where you will get to enjoy some snow at least!
- December is a very quiet month tourist-wise, so its the perfect time to explore some of the usually crowded destinations like Alhambra in Granada, or the Royal Alcazar in Seville – both an easy drive from Fuengirola or accessible via direct train from Malaga.
- When looking for accomodation, check that your apartment or house has an aircon unit in the bedroom to ensure you don’t freeze there overnight – or at least the owners provide winter heaters. Spanish homes are notoriously badly insulated, so even though the winter is short and relatively mild, you really freeze when you’re inside.
- Surprisingly, even though we had Christmas markets here for a month, I have not seen mulled wine offered anywhere. The closest you get to the winter comforts are roasted chestnuts that they sell on the streets.
- Even at the low tourist season, be mentally prepared that you will be bugged by street sellers. Sitting inside restaurant instead of terrace will help to keep them at bay and out of your way.
- If you want to stock up on some festive supplies, get your own Christmas tree or decorations, create an account on amazon.es – they have free prime delivery and can get you anything you need! I usually search what I need in English and use browser translate function to complete the order.