Spending Christmas in Madrid is the opportunity to see the capital shine with thousands of lights, to admire its illuminations and to marvel at the beautiful stores’ window displays.
It also means strolling through the Christmas markets to find the perfect gift or enjoying a magical parade with the family… Above all, it is the perfect opportunity to treat you to a relaxing break full of everlasting memories.
Discover Christmas the way Madrid does it walking along the best illuminated streets and avenues. In recent years Madrid has made an important effort to reduce electricity costs allowing the Council to increase the number of illuminated areas.
Moreover, some of the best architects, artists and designers have been recruited to create original and cutting edge displays. Enjoy the stroll and take lots of pictures of the city’s original festival lights.
Madrid is no short on Christmas markets (mercado de navidad). The most famous and popular is the one located at Plaza Mayor and attracts thousands of visitors every year. However, if Plaza Mayor is very crowded you can always go to Plaza de Santa Cruz or Plaza del Carmen located nearby.
And while you are there, buy your own Belén. It’s a lovely souvenir that will always remind you your special Christmas in Madrid.
The nativity scene or Belén (Spanish for Bethlehem) has special significance in Spain. Every family, shop and office has it’s own one. The size and complexity varies from a mere three figures fo the Crèche to a whole town with rivers, lights and hundreds of figures.
All of them are seasonal sweets and can only be found in Christmas. You can buy them in any pastry shop or at El Corte Inglés and bring them home as a gift for your friends and relatives.
Turrón is a homemade Spanish candy bar usually shaped into a rectangular tablet. My favorite is the crunchy sweet turrón duro that goes perfectly with your morning coffee or tea. Made with honey, egg whites and pine nuts or almonds, traditional turrón varieties are Jijona (popularly known as blando, soft) and duro (hard). Nowadays, the range of varieties is endless.
Mazapán (marzipan) are animal shaped sugary confections made mostly of sugar, honey and almond meal. Usually eaten to celebrate the New Year, mazapán is not a favorite among children. Its mild bitter taste puts a toothy grin on their faces.
Roscón de Reyes used to be prepared and serving only for breakfast January 6th, when the three kings bring Spanish children their presents. Nowadays bakers have extended the production and roscones are usually available from December 24th. However, the availability depends on each pastry shop.
Organizations, groups of co-workers, families and students across the country work together to elaborate re-creations of the scene of Jesus’ birth. Many public displays, contests and even “living nativities” are on everywhere during Christmas. Belenes are set are set throughout the city, in churches, shopping malls and other public venues.
Thousands of people converge in front of the clock in Puerta del Sol to eat the twelve grapes and see the arrival of a new year. The tradition consists of eating one grape with each bell strike just at midnight, about 15 seconds before the end of the year, if you do so a year of prosperity will be yours!
The idea is to eat them all in time, and then wash them down with a glass of cava – a Spanish sparkling wine similar to Champagne. The square turns into a great party with a fantastic atmosphere. Join the crowd and eat your grapes.
The traditional end to New Year’s Eve is to visit Chocolateria San Ginés (Calle San Ginés, 5) in order to calm the after party hunger pangs with some delicious chocolate con churros. This place is famous for serving their specialty all day long (and every day of the year!). A not to miss stop in Madrid during Christmas and at any time of the year.
The Cabalgata de los Magos is celebrated each year on the evening of January 5th. A massive parade weaves through Madrid and during that time children hurry to catch candy thrown from the floats. The centerpieces of the parade are three elaborately decorated floats carrying the Reyes Magos (Three Wise Men).
Spaniards believe that Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar are responsible for bringing Christmas presents instead of Santa Claus.
As many other cities around the world, Madrid has joined the iniciative of installing outdoor ice skating rinks in several squares across the center. All of them open early in the morning (usually around 10:00) and close late (between 10pm and midnight). Put on the ear puffs, gloves and skates, grab someone’s hand and have some fun this Christmas.
Ever since 1812, Spaniards have kept the ancient tradition of betting to win the Christmas lottery.
As measured by the total prize payout, the Spanish Christmas Lottery is considered the biggest lottery worldwide. According to different sources, just over 98% of the population hold at least one ticket for this particular draw, even if they don’t gamble during the rest of the year. If I were you I wouldn’t loose the chance to be a millionaire, I already have my ticket…
The San Silvestre Vallecana is a 10 km race in which both athletes and not so athletically runners participate. This event is truly unique because it combines athletic ability with holiday celebrations and spirit. Artificial snow, costumes and other Christmas-spirited accessories are always a nice touch to the festivities.
Join this fun competition even if it’s for a short stretch, it has no prerequisites or requirements for participating.