You may be wondering what my favorite things to do in Madrid at Christmas are.
Despite the crowds, visiting Madrid at this time of the year is a highly recommended option. In the last month of the year, lights illuminate the streets, trees appear in the squares and chestnut vendors are installed in the main corners of the center. At Christmas, the atmosphere is simply magical.
It’s going to be a busy season in Madrid, so I suggest you book as early as possible as events and activities sell out quickly!
Also be sure to check my favorite things to do in Madrid in December.
1. Enjoy the Christmas lights walk
Christmas is a very special time of the year and Madrid likes to celebrate it in grand style. Over 100 streets and squares are dressed in lights starting at the end of November. The whole city is lit up with pretty little twinkling Christmas lights!
With this Madrid Christmas lights walk you can see for yourself how gorgeous the city looks like.
Walk at your own pace around the main avenues to admire the best Christmas lights!
2. Tour the top Madrid museums
Cold temperatures make indoor activities more attractive, and visiting a museum is always a good plan.
In this sense, Madrid is home to several world-class museums where you can spend hours. There’s an area of the city known as the Golden Art Triangle, which is home to 3 of the best museums in the world – El Prado, the Reina Sofía, and the Thyssen.
- If you’re an art and history lover, you’ll enjoy this private 3-hour tour of the Prado Museum.
- You can visit Spain’s most important modern art gallery, the Reina Sofía Museum, in a 2-hour private tour which will allow you to see the most essential works of art.
- Add some culture to your Madrid Christmas visit during this 1.5-hour guided private tour of the amazing Thyssen Museum.
3. Explore the best Christmas markets in Madrid
During the winter months, cities across Europe come alive with Christmas markets. And Madrid is no different.
The Christmas markets in Madrid start to roll out in late November.
The biggest one is at Plaza Mayor, the main town square in Madrid. There, you’ll find dozens of stalls selling traditional Christmas handicrafts, Nativity scenes figurines, ornaments, toys, jewelry, and more. Occasionally, you can catch shows like live musical performances. And you can also buy typical Christmas sweet, as well as food and drinks.
Most Christmas markets in Madrid run until early January so you have plenty time to check them out.
4. Admire the Christmas lights from a tourist bus
What’s a better way to experience Christmas than enjoying the Christmas lights and decorations from a hop-on hop-off bus?
Taking the tourist bus you’ll be able to see the most emblematic streets of the city and enjoy the lights in a different way than the rest of the tourists and locals.
You’re going to love touring this picturesque Christmas route and as tickets can be purchased in advance online before you travel you can guarantee your spot!
5. Eat grapes at Puerta del Sol on New Year’s Eve
One of the most typical Christmas traditions in Spain is the eating of grapes on New Year’s Eve.
When the clock is hits midnight, thousands of Spaniards across the country eat 12 grapes over the course of 36 seconds (that’s 3 seconds per chime!). Each grape represents a month of the new year. This tradition is supposed to bring good luck to those who participate in it.
New Year’s Eve in Madrid is one of those things you simply have to experience at least once in your lifetime.
So if you plan to be in Madrid on December 31st, you can stop by Puerta del Sol to join thousands of people to countdown to the New Year and eat your 12 grapes.
6. Join a private Madrid photography tour
Why not give the gift of an authentic experience in a new city this Christmas?
This private Madrid photography workshop is available every day so you’re sure to find the perfect date, at the perfect time, for you!
During this unique 2-hour workshop, your host and photography expert will show you all the tips & tricks for you to create the best Madrid street photography. He will take you through the streets of the city, discovering Madrid through photography, getting a better understanding of your camera and returning home with amazing images that will be lifetime memories. All of these, of course, while having lots of fun and enjoying ourselves!
We all know that the best way to really experience a city is to explore it with local experts – and this photography workshop provides you with exactly that!
7. Enjoy one of Madrid’s ice skating rinks
Madrid is a wonderful place to take part in a spot of ice skating. So whether you’re a pro skater or look more like Bambi on ice, it’s always fun to spend time with your friends and family as you make your way around the rink.
You can enjoy skating in the following rinks located in:
- Plaza España (Nov 23 – Jan 7; open from 10:00 to 22:00). The Plaza de España once again hosts an outdoor natural ice rink of 450 m² within the enclosure called La Navideña, a project that includes a craft fair and first class gastronomic stalls.
- Palacio de Cibeles (Dec 16 – Jan 5; open from 11:00 to 21:00). During the Christmas season, the Galería de Cristal of the emblematic modernist building hosts an indoor rink. You’ll skate under a very suggestive glass vault, so this is one of the most popular rinks.
- Plaza Colón (Nov 27 – Jan 7; open from 11:00 to 22:00). The space in the center of the square pays homage to the world champion skater Javier Fernández. The rink is huge and next to it you will find a DJ set, a merry-go-round and a small Christmas market.
- Matadero (Dec 3 – Jan 8; from 11:00 to 21:00). Here you’ll find a rink located under the warehouses of this cultural space on the banks of the Manzanares. In addition to practicing free skating, you can enjoy free exhibitions of individual figure skating, in pairs and synchronized, by the Madrid Federation of Winter Sports.
- Palacio de Hielo (during Christmastime, public sessions from 12:30 to 21:30). This is the city’s Olympic rink. If skating is your passion, it’s worth getting away from the center since it’s located in a shopping center in the district of Hortaleza. For more information, have a look at the official website.
Choose the one you like the most! The schedules are quite extensive and the prices are affordable.
Most rinks also have bars, cafés or restaurants so you can warm up with some refreshments when you step off the ice.
8. Watch a flamenco show
When the nights begin to draw in and evenings can get a little chilly, there’s no better place to warm up than with a passionate flamenco show in the city. Madrid is famous for this fierce dance and the power and intensity of the dancers will be sure to get you hot under the collar!
Flamenco shows in Madrid are often accompanied by dinner and drinks, so it’s a lovely way to spend an evening with friends and family.
That’s not to mention the sweat you’ll work up if you take part in a flamenco dance lesson where the instructors will have you stomping, strutting and swaying your way around the room!
9. Go shopping in the Salamanca neighborhood
Once you’ve wandered around the Christmas markets of Madrid you may have been bitten by the shopping bug… So why don’t you explore some of the high-street shops or designer boutiques the city has to offer?
If that’s the case, head to the Salamanca district to get your fashion fix.
You’ll love shopping in Madrid because of the availability, variety and sheer number of shops selling items from Spanish and international brands. They range from small boutiques that you can find only in Spain to stores with a global presence.
Add to this the fact that store windows will aglow with colorful Christmas displays and you’ll be delighted!
10. Cycle the city on a bike tour
Madrid is a great city to explore on a bike and it’s even easier in winter when there are less tourists around to fill the streets. There are photo-worthy buildings, monuments and landscapes all over Madrid, which means that you’ll have plenty of opportunities to stop to catch your breath at the same time.
So if you’re looking to experience Madrid like a local, hop on two wheels and join one of the bike tours Madrid has to offer.
There are lots on offer and visitors can find it challenging to choose, that’s why I have selected my favorite bike tour in Madrid.
This article is part of a complete tutorial about Christmas in Madrid where you can read all the information you need to enjoy the best Christmas holidays in Madrid.
Here is a complete summary of all the guide:
1. Spend an unforgettable Christmas in Madrid
2. 10 things to do in Madrid at Christmas
3. 7 awesome things to do on New Year’s Eve in Madrid
4. How to celebrate Three Kings’ Day in Madrid
5. The best Christmas markets in Madrid
6. 10 unique Christmas present ideas from Madrid
7. My favorite 5 Spanish Christmas sweets in Madrid
8. Enjoy the Madrid Christmas lights walk