9 reasons to visit Madrid in winter

madrid in winter

Despite the days have gotten shorter, there are (at least) nine reasons to visit Madrid in winter. Not convinced?

Trust me, Madrid is the place to go if you are looking to chase away those winter blues!

From fairy tale Christmas decorations to picturesque parks and hearty cold-weather dishes, the city has a lot to offer people who choose to visit during the winter months. If you need another reason, I’ll just mention that hotel rates are at their lowest in January, and the sales are on too.

So wrap up warm and read on to discover why Madrid is the most gorgeous European city to visit in winter.

Enjoy the mild winter weather

Is the winter weather quite extreme where you’re from? Madrid’s scorching summers are perhaps what the city is most famous for, but its weather during the winter months is just as noteworthy. Yes, you’ll need a winter coat, but no worries — temperatures here are quite mild compared to the rest of the northern hemisphere, and there’s still plenty of sunshine.

During wintertime days are crisp but bright and sunny, which means Madrileños continue to sit out at street terraces throughout the winter months and the skies are, more often than not, a bright blue color.

Visit a Christmas market

No festive season would be complete without a stroll through the stalls of a Christmas market. Madrid has a number of wonderful markets located in various parts of the city, all selling beautiful, hand-crafted products – perfect for that unique Christmas gift.

With carols being sung in some of the central squares of the city, the smell of freshly roasted chestnuts wafting through the streets, and the flicker of the bright lights overhead, the atmosphere around the festive marketplaces is something truly special.

Go to some spectacular museums

Any guidebook will tell you that Madrid is home to dozens of world-class, awe-inspiring museums. From the Golden Age masters in the Prado Museum or in the Thyssen Museum to the modernist masterpieces in the Reina Sofía, Madrid’s biggest museums are a great place to warm up when you want to get out of the cold.

No to mention the lesser-known yet equally fascinating museums scattered around town… All in all, you could easily spend a full day (and then some!) exploring these priceless treasures.

Experience the Belén tradition

The majority of Spaniards still take the religion aspect of Christmas very seriously. So, there is no surprise that a pivotal part of the Christmas season is the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.

There are several locations around the city that set up large and beautifully detailed representations of the Nativity Scenes (Belén in Spanish) which feature entire cities. They are certainly something important to check out if you’re looking for a very traditional experience!

Some of the most impressive scenes can be found at places like CentroCentro Palacio de CibelesCasa de la Villa, and Museo de San Isidro. Los Orígenes de Madrid. All exhibits are open from 10:00 to 20:00, and are completely free to visit.

Taste some cocido madrileño

This heart-warming stew has all the ingredients you need for a cold winter’s day, including pork, chorizo, chickpeas, vegetables and some bones for flavoring. To really bring out the flavors, the stew is usually left to bubble away all day.

First they bring you a plate with noodles and pour the broth, which comes in a clay pitcher, over them. As a second course, they bring out the chickpeas, meat, bacon and vegetables that were used to make the previously served broth. The typical thing is to eat the soup with noodles first, adding chilies and chives.

It’s often served at lunchtime, giving you an energy boost for the rest of the day.

Eat 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve

If you haven’t the faintest idea what I’m talking about, be sure to read on…

This tradition dates back to the late 1800s. During those times, wealthy families would usually eat grapes and drink champagne to celebrate the New Year. In an effort to ridicule this snobby tradition, a group of working class Madrileños gathered at the Puerta del Sol square to eat their grapes and sip their champagne…

Nowadays, thousands of people meet at the Puerta del Sol to see in the New Year, singing, dancing and, of course, stuffing their 12 grapes in their mouths whilst as the bells of the main clock chimes (one for each of the 12 chimes). As the following day is a public holiday, people will stay out long into the night to ring in the New Year in style.

Enjoy the Cabalgata de los Reyes

In Spain, gifts are exchanged on the 6th of January as The Three Wise Men make their way to all the houses in the country bringing gifts to all the children.

In Madrid, this day is marked with a huge parade through the city where Los Reyes Magos throw sweets and small plastic toys to the people who have lined the streets in their thousands to see the spectacle. This huge celebration marks the end of the holidays as children go back to school the next day, and the festive season sure does go out with a bang!

See all of the Christmas lights

From the end of November to Three Kings Day (6th of January), Madrid Christmas lights twinkle with colorful lights, trees, nativity scenes and holiday magic. Each neighborhood will have it’s own unique displays that are lit up every day between 18:00 and 23:00, with longer hours on both Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

The creative Christmas-themed window displays in many of the major shops and department stores are also a magical sight. So wrap up warm and take to the streets of the city at night, admiring the impressive array of twinkling Christmas lights that illuminate the main plazas and streets around the city. And don’t forget your camera, of course!

Then, cozy up in one of the city’s countless cafes and warm yourself up with some chocolate con churros.

Take a day trip

Most people don’t usually associate Madrid with winter sports but the city is surrounded by snow-covered mountains that are ideal for skiing. The most popular resort is Valdesquí that’s around an hour’s drive northwest of the city (or 2.5 hours by train). The ski center features 27 tracks (three red, 15 blue and 9 green), snow making machines and a couple of cafés for a snack. If the snowfall isn’t up to par then you can fake it over at Snowzone in Madrid’s Xanadú shopping center instead.

Alternatively, you can adventure on a day trip. In under an hour, you can escape to peaceful mountains, charming historic towns, and monumental royal palaces in Castile – a beautiful and sometimes unknown region.

Start planning your upcoming trip to Madrid

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