This blog post was originally posted on December 6, 2016 and was updated on November 6, 2019.
Bundle up and get ready to indulge in plenty of seasonal treats. The holiday season has officially arrived in Madrid, and we couldn’t be more excited.
There are plenty of fun activities in store when it comes to what to do in Madrid in December. If your holiday itinerary includes the Spanish capital, here’s how to make the most of your trip during this magical time of year.
Marvel at the holiday lights
First on our agenda of what to do in Madrid in December is simple: check out the Christmas lights!
All over the city, festive lights twinkle in the streets, bringing a visible sense of holiday cheer that’s impossible to resist. If walking around in the cold doesn’t sound too appealing but you want to enjoy the holiday magic, hop on board the Navibus, the city’s famous Christmas-themed bus!
The double-decker bus makes its way regularly through Madrid’s city center, allowing breathtaking views of the holiday lights along with live holiday-themed performances. If you’re wondering what to do in Madrid in December with your family, this option will easily be at the top of your list.
Riding the Navibus: The route begins in Plaza de Oriente at the tour bus stop. From 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., the bus runs every 20 minutes, and the ride lasts approximately one hour. Ticket prices start at €9 for adults and €6 for children ages 2 to 15, but prices rise as Christmas gets closer.
2019–2020 dates: November 28–January 4 (no service December 31)
Discover the Christmas market
Before you hop on board the Navibus, it’s time to take part in a cherished European holiday tradition: the fairytale Christmas markets.
Madrid’s largest and most famous market takes place in Plaza Mayor, and locals and visitors alike look forward to it every year. Here, you’ll be able to find anything and everything you could possibly want, from crazy hats to traditional handmade decorations to remarkable details for your home nativity scene.
It’s impossible not to feel the holiday spirit as you make your way through the stalls and browse the traditional products. No wonder this is often at the top of everyone’s list of what to do in Madrid in December!
Snack on churros
Between wandering around the Christmas markets and taking a stroll to see the holiday lights, you’ll probably start to feel a bit chilly after a while. Warm up by ducking into a cozy churrería for our favorite cold-weather snack: churros con chocolate!
Churros aren’t exclusively a holiday treat, but they taste even more perfect on a cold winter day. Enjoy them for breakfast, or later in the day for merienda (the mid-afternoon snack, traditionally eaten around 6 p.m.) for the full madrileño experience.
If you’re coming from the Plaza Mayor Christmas market, your closest churros stop is the iconic Chocolateria San Ginés. This legendary local favorite is open 24 hours a day and has been serving up some of the city’s best churros and hot chocolate since 1894! Indulge your sweet tooth with a virtual visit to San Ginés in the video below.
Race into the holiday season
It may be tempting to turn into a couch potato as the weather gets colder, but try to resist—instead, get up and get moving this holiday season by running the Santa Claus Race (Sunday, December 8, 2019). Join thousands of fellow Santas (your €10.60 entry fee includes a costume!) for a five-kilometer race down Paseo del Prado, all for a good cause: the money raised helps fund childhood cancer research.
The fun doesn’t end there. Later in the month, it’s time for the St. Sylvester Race, which has taken to the streets of the capital every New Year’s Eve since 1964. Upwards of 40,000 participants, ranging from amateur runners to professional athletes, take part in the 10-kilometer evening race, sending the old year out with a bang. Take things to the next level by wearing a festive costume, whether you plan on running the race yourself or would rather cheer on the runners from the sidelines.
See a spectacular show
Performing arts lovers, this one’s for you. The 34th edition of the Madrid en Danza dance festival promises to be one of the most breathtaking spectacles of the holiday season. Performances take place at venues throughout the city and focus on showcasing the best and most innovative techniques and choreography from companies around the world.
2019 dates: December 3–29
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Alex’s first taste of Spain was Basque Country, and it was love at first sip…of txakoli! Too obsessed with tapas to even consider returning to the States, Alex moved to Madrid and continued exploring Spain. Read more about her travels and expat adventures on her blog: Backpacking Brunette.