Discover How To Spend Winter in Madrid
The winter months are a great time to be in Madrid. The Christmas season ushers in a spirit of celebration and lots of festivities to take part in. This post breaks down some of the best things to do in Madrid during the winter to make the most of your visit.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links
This post is part of the Madrid Travel series. Here’s a full list of posts in the series.
Walking tour: A Self-Guided Walking Tour of Madrid
Day Trips: The 10 Best Day Trips From Madrid
Tourist Mistakes: 6 Common Tourist Mistakes To Avoid in Madrid
From the months of December to February, the temperature drops to the 50s (Fahrenheit) during the day and the 30s at night. Snow is rare in the city, but it happens. There’s some wind chill that makes the temperature feel colder, at least in my experience. Then again, I have a low tolerance for cold weather.
What to pack
You’ll need to pack a winter jacket or coat to stay warm. When I was living in Madrid, I wore a puffy jacket over a cardigan and a regular t-shirt during the winter. That was enough to keep me warm. It’s best to wear layers so pack t-shirts, long sleeve shirts, and cardigans to wear under your jacket. Also, pack a scarf and sturdy boots.
You may also like: What To Pack for Spain the Fall
Where to stay
I always recommend staying in the city center because it’s within walking distance from the top attractions. The neighborhoods of La Latina, Malasaña, Lavapies, and Chueca are some great options. During my most recent trip to Madrid, I stayed at L&H Latina, a fully furnished apartment property. It was a nice, cozy place to stay for a solo traveler and within walking distance from Madrid’s top attractions. You can check out properties in the La Latina area below.
Indulge in Churros con Chocolate
The winter months are an even better time to indulge in Churros con Chocolate, a staple breakfast dish in Spain. The warm churros dipped in hot chocolate are just what you need on a cold morning. Chocolateria San Gines is one of the best places to get some churros in Madrid. This tiny spot, located near the Sol metro stop, has been around since 1894 and is open 24/7. In addition to churros, I also recommend you try the porras, which are bigger and fluffier.
Take advantage of the massive sales
Sales, or rebajas, happen all over Spain two times a year: from June to August and from January to February. During the sales period, retailers, from small boutiques to chain stores, discount their clothing by 20%, 30%, 40% or higher. The stores on Madrid’s main street, Gran Via, like Mango, Zara, and Sfera, are packed with shoppers looking for deals. There are also many shopping discounts to take advantage of all around the city. When I lived in Madrid, I went shopping a lot at Sfera on Gran Via as well as boutique shops on neighboring streets. I took advantage of the sales to stock up on winter clothing.
Explore the Christmas markets
During the winter months, cities across Europe come alive with Christmas markets. Madrid is no different. In Madrid, the Christmas markets 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 handicrafts, ornaments, toys, jewelry, and more. Occasionally, you can catch shows like live musical performances. You can also buy food and drinks. The Christmas markets run until early January so you have some time to check them out.
Eat grapes at Puerta del Sol on Christmas Eve
One of the holiday traditions in Spain is the eating of grapes on New Year’s Eve. When the clock is 12 seconds away from midnight, thousands of Spaniards across the country eat 12 grapes over the course of 12 seconds. Each grape represents a month of the new year. This tradition is supposed to bring good luck to those who participate in it.
If you’re 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 some grapes. I haven’t personally participated in this tradition yet, but friends who have done it have had lots of amazing things to say about it.
Admire the Christmas lights
During the Christmas season, the streets of Madrid light up with beautiful lights and ornaments. The pretty lights are a delight to see and create a cheerful atmosphere. You can find some of the best lights in the city around Gran Via, the Royal Palace, and the neighborhood of Salamanca.
Tour the museums
Cold temperatures make indoor activities more attractive. 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 three of the best museums – El Prado, La Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen. I’ve been to the first two museums but have yet to make a stop at the Thyssen. That said, my friends who have been to the Thyssen have had lots of great things to say about it.
Take a day trip
Madrid is not the only place that lights up in the winter. The surrounding areas and cities also have a lot to offer during the Christmas season. That’s why it’s a great idea to take a day trip from Madrid to places like El Escorial Monastery, Toledo, or Segovia. You can get to these places within 30 minutes to 2 hours, and they are well worth a visit.
Travel Products I Recommend
Tep Wireless Pocket WIFI Device – With portable WiFi, you can say goodbye to ridiculous roaming charges and SIM cards for good. I’ve been using the Tep Wireless Pocket WIFI device, called a Teppy, for a while and love the peace of mind it gives me. The Teppy provides 3G-4G WiFi for at least 6 hours and works in 100+ countries. In my experience, it lasts 9 hours. It also works in a variety of landscapes and terrains. I even filmed a Facebook Live from a boat in the Atlantic Ocean using my Teppy. I can also use Google Maps, request an Uber, call my mom, and do tons of other things I couldn’t do before. A quick tip: turn off the device when you’re not using it so that the battery can last longer. Use code SOMTOSEEKS to get 10% off your order.
Booking.com – Booking.com is my go-to website for booking discounted accommodations around the world. What I love most about Booking.com is the variety of properties you can find, from luxury apartments to treehouses to university housing. It’s hard to beat the insanely low prices. The website also has a flexible cancellation policy, which is great if things come up or you change your mind.
Skyscanner – Skyscanner.com is my go-to website to search for flights. It’s hard to beat the prices! I’ve snagged a $24 direct flight to Milan, a $30 flight to Berlin, a $400 roundtrip ticket to Colombia, and a $500 roundtrip ticket to Japan. I’ve been using Skyscanner since I studied abroad in Spain back in 2012. I check the website along with the Hopper app to determine the best time to buy tickets.