One of my favorite things to do in Madrid in December is spending Christmas. This is a very special month everywhere but Madrid rewards you with some of the most magical moments of the year. The city sparkles with a million fairy lights, and dozens of decorated streets.
There is one downside though; the daily high temperatures fall gradually and the sun shines weakly. It regularly freezes at night. Fortunately, it doesn’t rain often.
My favorite things to do in Madrid in December
December 6th: Día de la Constitución. On Constitution Day you can visit the Parliament for free, something you can’t do any other day of the year.
December 24th: Christmas Day’s Eve. Until 30 years ago, kids got their present during the Día de los Reyes Magos but globalization introduced Santa Claus and now Madrileños offer presents on both days. Thus, on the 24th stress and hysteria to get the best present is all over the place. Try to avoid shopping on that day! In the evening families have dinner together.
December 25th: Christmas Day. Everything is closed, you can’t even buy newspapers. It’s a family day in which relatives gather to have lunch.
December 31st: New Year’s Eve. Spain has a unique tradition of eating 12 grapes on that night. This is a hundred years old ritual that is practiced today. People prepare 12 grapes for the occasion and eat them as soon the Puerta del Sol clock bells ring midnight. It is said that the 12 grapes represent the 12 months of the year and by eating the grapes on this day at midnight, you will attract good luck and good fortune for the rest of the year. In fact, thousands of people meet at the Puerta del Sol to eat there the grapes and celebrate the arrival of a new year.
Other things to do in Madrid in December
Additionally, you can run (or watch) the San Silvestre 10km race. Over 35,000 runners attend one of the most popular races of the year. Runners of both the amateur category and the professional one try to cross first the finish line. Some of the runners participate also in fancy dress!
Christmas Lights: At the end of November the major of Madrid inaugurates the Christmas lights to fill the city with a magical air. These beautiful illuminations are a sight to be seen and you shouldn’t miss some of the best decorations following a Christmas Lights walk. The lights are permanently turned off on January 7th so you have plenty of time to admire how spectacular is Madrid during that days.
Christmas Market: Christmas markets are installed in the main squares in the center of Madrid. However, the oldest, prettiest and larges is at the Plaza Mayor. The square is completely filled with stalls selling Christmas ornaments, lights, food, artisan products, crazy colored wigs and costumes for kid’s jewelry, candles, and gifts. This market is extremely popular and is completely packed during weekends so if you can go on a weekday.
Chocolate con churros: There are many spots in Madrid where you can have this typical delicacy, but if you are in the center go to San Ginés. It opens 24/7 (yes, you’ve read correctly, every single day of the year) and churros and hot chocolate are made on the spot. Perfect to warm you on a chilly Christmas day!
Christmas display at El Corte Inglés: This is probably a very freaky recommendation but El Corte Inglés on Calle Preciados install every year a huge Christmas display. The show starts every hour and hundreds of families gather in front of it so that children enjoy the show. I used to go when I was little and it has become a sort of tradition.
You should visit Madrid in December because
- You love Christmas.
- Belenes (Nativity scenes), a typical Spanish tradition, are everywhere.
On the contrary go to Madrid at some other time of the year if
- You hate Christmas.
- It can be (and feel) very cold outside.
- Airfares and lodging prices are very high.