Celebrations vary throughout the country, but here’s how to celebrate Three Kings’ Day in Madrid!
Traditionally speaking, Spanish children don’t receive their Christmas gifts until the 6th of January (Day of the Epiphany), when The Three Kings (Los Reyes Magos) travel all over the country delivering presents. Nowadays, more and more families in Spain are welcoming Santa Claus to their houses and starting to exchange gifts on Christmas Day.
However, that doesn’t mean they’re forgetting about Three Kings’ Day (Día de Los Reyes Magos), and this day remains the traditional gift-giving day in Spain.
Tip: The Three Wise Men know that books are usual gifts that are left on the morning of January 6th next to the children’ shoes. That’s why they send their emissaries to the most literary place in Madrid. On January 3 and 4, around noon, they will be strolling along the Cuesta de Moyano to talk to booksellers and learn about the preferences of children in the city. It’s a good plan if you can’t make it on the January 5 for the cabalgata!
Go to the parade on Three Kings’ Day in Madrid
Spanish people love a good procession, and the central part of the Three Kings’ celebration in Madrid, and most other parts of Spain, is the huge parade that winds through the streets of the city on the 5th of January.
Los Reyes Magos announce their arrival by means of a 2.5-hour long journey through Madrid known as La Cabalgata de Los Reyes. This symbolizes the arrival of The Three Kings, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, to Jesus’ manger to present him with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
But the Three Wise Kings are not be alone: there are more than 2,000 people such as acrobats, musicians and dancers livening up this great celebration.
If you have the opportunity to see the end of the parade, at 20:45 approximately Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar pronounce their traditional message of peace for all and then you can enjoy a fireworks spectacle in front of the Palacio de Cibeles.
Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos parade route
The official parade is organized by the City Council, starting around 18:30 at Plaza San Juan de la Cruz (at Nuevos Ministerios far end), and finishing at Plaza de la Cibeles around 21:00.
Parade route (from 18:30 to 21:00 approximately):
- Paseo de la Castellana (Nuevos Ministerios, at the corner of Plaza San Juan de la Cruz).
- Paseo de la Castellana – Plaza del Doctor Gregorio Marañón.
- Paseo de la Castellana – Glorieta de Emilio Castelar.
- Paseo de la Castellana – Plaza de Colón.
- Paseo de Recoletos – Plaza de Cibeles (end of the Parade).
If you want to attend the parade, try to find a spot along the route at least 1 hour before it actually starts. This is a very popular event and the sidewalks get crowded very fast throughout the afternoon.
If you want to grab a seat at Plaza de Cibeles, you need to get there at least 2-3 hours before the parade starts.
How is the parade on Three Kings’ Day in Madrid
Some cities, such as Barcelona, welcome their guests of honor by boat, but here in Madrid, Los Reyes Magos arrive on huge floats. They’re accompanied by smiling locals, armed with unending bags of sweets to throw into the crowd.
Locals gather in huge numbers to see the parade and collect as many candies as possible. Be prepared to see people of all ages, both young and, shall we say, ‘not so young’, scrambling through the crowd adding to their candy harvest. Some even use upturned umbrellas to catch as many as possible!
So if you attend the parade with children, make sure to bring a plastic shopping bag to fill with candy.
While this lively celebration is certainly not for the faint-hearten, with dancers, musicians and all types of performers adding to the spectacle, seeing the Cabalgata de Los Reyes is something you can’t miss if you’re in Madrid in January!
Alternative Cabalgatas on Three Kings’ Day in Madrid
There are also be other Cabalgatas de los Reyes Magos parades organized by other districts in Madrid, far away from the city center but that you can easily reach by Metro. These alternative parades are a good option if you would like to watch a Cabalgata, but you don’t want to stand among a large crowd for too long.
Here are some of them.
Cabalgata de los Reyes de Chamartín
Day: January 3rd starting at 17:00.
Metro station: Pío XII (line 9).
Departure from Avenida de Pío XII (in front of Alcampo supermarket) towards Calle Príncipe de Vergara up to Calle López de Hoyos, then along Calle Nierenberg to reach Calle Marcenado to end at Parque de Berlín.
Cabalgata de los Reyes de Tetuán
Day: January 4th starting at 18:00.
Metro station: Cuatro Caminos (lines 1, 2 and 6).
Departure from Calle de Bravo Murillo from Plaza Nueva (at Bravo Murillo, 105-109) to the door of the headquarters of the Tetuán District Council at Bravo Murillo, 357.
Cabalgata de los Reyes de La Latina
Day: January 5th starting at 17:00.
Metro station: Puerta del Ángel (line 6).
Departure from Plaza de la Puerta del Angel, and then onto Alto de Extremadura, Calle Higueras, Calle Alhambra, Calle Duquesa de Parcent, Calle Camarena, Calle Ocaña, Intercambiador de Transportes de Aluche, Avenida de las Águilas, Calle José de Cadalso, Calle Rafael Finat, Calle Rafael Finat, to finish at Plaza Distrito Latina.
Cabalgata de los Reyes de Puente de Vallecas
Day: January 5th starting at 18:00.
Metro station: Alto del Arenal (line 1).
Departure from Jardín Campo de la Paloma, Calle Extremeños, Avenida Pablo Neruda, Avenida de Palomeras, Avenida de Buenos Aires, Avenida de la Albufera to end at the Puente de Vallecas District Council located on Avenida de la Albufera 42.
Time to go to sleep!
When all the excitement of the cabalgata has died down, families return home and prepare themselves for the arrival of The Three Kings. Children place a pair of shoes in an obvious spot in the house where the Kings can clearly see them.
Much like how a drink and some festive treats are left for Santa Claus, food and drink are set out for the Kings too. And instead of Rudolph’s carrot, some families leave milk and bread to help the camels complete their epic journey through Spain.
Kids finally settle down to a restless night’s sleep and when they just can’t bear the anticipation anymore, they rush to the spot where they left out their shoes to find the neatly wrapped presents from the Kings waiting for them!
Presents’ exchange to celebrate Three Kings’ Day in Madrid
Did you know that in Spain, Santa Claus isn’t the main figure for Christmas gift-giving?
While a few regions have adopted the practice of exchanging small gifts on December 24th, influenced by more ‘Americanized’ celebrations, the primary day for presents is January 6th – El día de los Reyes Magos, or Three Kings’ Day.
In Spain, a country with deep Catholic roots, these kings, also known as the Three Wise Men, are the biblical figures who brought gifts to baby Jesus. It’s fitting, then, that their representations bring gifts to Spanish kids. Similar to the tradition for Santa, it’s customary for children to leave out snacks or drinks for the Kings (and their camels too!) on the eve of Three Kings’ Day as a thank you for their presents.
In the past, gifts were typically small enough to fit inside shoes, which children would leave out on January 5th, hoping to find them filled the next morning. Meanwhile, children who haven’t been on their best behavior might find carbón, or coal, instead of presents.
Eat a roscón portion for breakfast
The 6th of January, Día de Los Reyes, would not be complete without the traditional breakfast of roscón de Reyes.
After unwrapping all the presents, the whole family gathers round to tuck into this circular cake filled with delicious cream and decorated with brightly colored candied fruit. The candied fruit is said to represent the jewels that were found on the Wise Men’s clothing when they arrived to Bethlehem.
However, there’s much more to this tradition than just enjoying the taste of the delicious roscón. Carefully hidden inside are two figurines, a faba bean and a king. The person who gets the slice with the small king inside it is the king or the queen of the breakfast and is said to have good luck all year round.
Unfortunately, it’s not such great news for the person who finds the faba bean, as she has to pay for the roscón!
These delicious treats are found in pastry shops all throughout the city and devouring your roscón with a nice cup of coffee or a hot chocolate is the perfect way to celebrate Three Kings’ Day in Madrid.
You can find my favorite ones at La Duquesita (Calle Fernando VI, 2) or at La Mallorquina (Puerta del Sol, 8 and Velázquez, 39).
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