How To Make The Most Of Winter in Madrid

This blog post was originally posted on November 7, 2013 and was updated on October 25, 2018.

Forget the mental image you may have of warm, summer days in Spain—it’s time to embrace the holiday spirit and winter festivities!

Yes, you’ll need a winter coat, but no worries—temperatures here are quite mild compared to northern Europe, and there’s still plenty of sunshine. Plus, December through March is tourist low season, meaning you’ll be able to immerse yourself in Spanish holiday traditions (including plenty of traditional Christmas sweets) without fighting off nearly as many crowds as you would in the warmer weather. Get ready to experience an unforgettable winter in Madrid!

Winter in Madrid is a beautiful, magical time of year. Here are our favorite cold-weather foods, things to do throughout the city, and ways to beat the cold! #Spain #Madrid #winter #beautifuldestinations #Christmas #Europe

Photo Credit: Daniel Lobo, Text Overlay: Devour Madrid Food Tours

What to do during the holiday season (November-January)

Wander around holiday markets

You can’t have Christmas in Europe without festive Christmas markets lining the streets, and Spain’s colorful capital is no exception. Usually in late November, all of our favorite Christmas markets in Madrid will start to set up shop around town, with the biggest and most famous taking place in Plaza Mayor. The vast majority stay open until after the new year, which means you’ll have plenty of time to browse stalls selling everything from nativity scene pieces to handcrafted toys.

Our favorite part of experiencing winter in Madrid: the festive Christmas markets!
Young and old will love a stroll through the festive stands in the Plaza Mayor. Photo credit: Manuel M.V.

Marvel at the Christmas lights

We can’t get enough of the magical twinkling holiday lights that line the streets. In fact, winter in Madrid wouldn’t be nearly the same without them! As dusk falls, the streets light up in a brilliant display of holiday cheer. Enjoy a festive walk beneath the lights as you make your way from Gran Vía to the Royal Palace, then duck into a cozy chocolatería to warm up with some churros.

Winter in Madrid is magical. Just look at those holiday lights!
Every major plaza and street in Madrid will be decked out with holiday cheer. Photo credit: Jose Manuel Mazintosh

Join the fun in the Puerta del Sol on New Year’s Eve

If your itinerary for winter in Madrid includes December 31, you’re in luck. We might be biased, but we like to think we have one of the most epic New Year’s Eve parties in Europe. Join the crowds in Puerta del Sol to watch the clock strike midnight and ring in the new year with thousands of new friends. And, of course, you can’t forget the essential 12 grapes!

The most important part of New Year's Eve in Madrid is the huge gathering in Puerta del Sol to watch the clock strike midnight and eat grapes!
Join the festivities in Puerta del Sol to start off an unforgettable night! Photo credit: rmtw

The holidays are over. Now what?

No worries. While the festive cheer may have left the air, you’ll still be able to experience a wonderful winter in Madrid as locals get back into the rhythm of everyday life. 

Keep warm in the museums

Any guidebook will tell you that Madrid is home to dozens of world-class, awe-inspiring museums. From the Golden Triangle of Art to the lesser-known yet equally fascinating museums scattered around town, you could easily spend a full day (and then some!) exploring these priceless treasures.

Stay warm while visiting Madrid in winter by checking out its wealth of world-class museums, like the Prado.
The Prado is an absolute must!

Enjoy a show

Madrid’s nightlife scene is unparalleled, and one of our favorite aspects of it is the unbeatable selection of live music venues here in the city. They also provide the perfect refuge from the cold on a chilly winter’s night. Make your way to the bar and order a cocktail, then, drink in hand, settle in and enjoy some great tunes.

Feed the soul with flamenco and tapas

Looking to experience something undeniably Spanish on your night out? You can’t get much better than flamenco! While it doesn’t have its roots here in the capital, flamenco still enjoys a thriving presence throughout Madrid. Check out an authentic flamenco show this winter in Madrid and get ready for a display of color, passion and music unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

Spending winter in Madrid? Duck into a cozy tablao and take in a passionate flamenco show to warm up on those chilly evenings.
Experience the vibrancy and passion of authentic flamenco.

Go to the movies

After spending the entire day experiencing winter in Madrid and checking the most iconic sights off your list, it might feel nice to sit and enjoy a movie for a few hours. Luckily, there are plenty of great theaters showing films in their original languages, which in many cases is English! Check out what’s showing at one of our favorite English-language cinemas in Madrid and take your pick—options range from the latest Hollywood blockbusters to niche independent films.

What to eat

Winter in Madrid calls for soul-warming, hearty plates of traditional food made from recipes that have been passed down through generations. We’re getting hungry just thinking about the delicious options available this time of year!

Cocido madrileño

By far, the most typical dish found during winter in Madrid is the city’s eponymous stew, cocido madrileño. It consists of warm broth, hearty chickpeas, and plenty of meat such as pork and chorizo. It simmers for hours, letting the flavors soak together perfectly. Order it for lunch and you’ll have all the energy you need to explore the city in the afternoon.

Winter in Madrid would be incomplete without a cozy meal of cocido madrileño.
We feel nice and cozy just looking at these warm little pots of cocido madrileño simmering on the stove!

Lentejas

We love tucking into a delicious bowl of lentils at any time of the year, but they taste even better during winter in Madrid. The piping hot dish usually includes plenty of vegetables and at least one type of meat, like chorizo, to make it a filling and delicious meal.

Carrillada

Tender, flavorful and all-around perfect, carrillada (also called carrillera) is a hearty dish of stewed pork or beef cheeks cooked to perfection in a delicious wine-based sauce. Here in Madrid, they usually serve it over homemade french fries or mashed potatoes for the ultimate comfort food perfection.

One of our favorite ways to warm up during winter in Madrid is by digging into cozy comfort food, like carrillada!
Carrillada is so tender that it will practically fall apart the second you stick your fork into it.

Roscón de Reyes

No matter where you find yourself in Spain this holiday season, you’re almost sure to find locals chowing down on this ring-shaped cake come January 6. Roscón de Reyes is Spain’s answer to kings’ cake, traditionally enjoyed for breakfast on Three Kings’ Day as children open presents left for them by the wise men. Pop into any pastry shop in Madrid to pick up your own!

Marzipan

Hailing from nearby Toledo, marzipan is available year round, but you’ll find it at its best around the holidays. The sweet treat takes on whimsical shapes to celebrate the season, making it a particularly delicious souvenir that’s almost too pretty to eat (but too delicious not to).

During winter in Madrid, i's typical to see stacks of marzipan in bakeries and pastry shops all through the city - a delicious winter treat!
Sweet homemade marzipan.

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3 Comment

  1. November 8, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    This post makes me so excited for Spain’s Christmas season!!! There’s a chance I’ll be in Madrid for New Years, so I’m really looking forward to downing 12 grapes at midnight 🙂 Soups, marzipan, tender meat…I want it all!

    Reply
  2. Jonny says
    December 19, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Somehow we missed carrillada when we were in Madrid the week after Christmas, but we made up for it with plenty of lentejas, cocido, turron and roscón! El belén navideño at the Palacio Real was pretty amazing at the end of the palace tour too.

    Reply
    1. Lauren Aloise says
      December 23, 2014 at 9:32 am

      You’ll have to make room for it next time! Sounds like you did a great job nonetheless!

      Reply

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