This blog post was originally posted on January 4, 2017 and was updated on December 4, 2019.
Here in Spain, the holiday season doesn’t end when January 1 rolls around.
In fact, there’s plenty of festive fun happening all month long! Spain’s gorgeous capital isn’t just one of the best places to celebrate the new year—it’s also a great place to spend the first month of 2020 as a whole. Here are our top picks for what to do in Madrid in January for a perfect start to your year.
Watch the Three Kings parade
Here in Spain, Santa Claus steps aside to make room for the real stars of the show: the Reyes Magos, or Three Kings. Every year on January 6, kids across the country jump out of bed, eager to see what gifts the kings have left for them.
The fun starts the day before, however, when the Cabalgata de Reyes (Three Kings Parade) takes to the streets of Madrid. The young and young-at-heart alike line up throughout the city to catch a glimpse of these magical Christmas icons.
You’ll be awestruck by the aerial acrobatics, colorful floats, intricate choreographed dances and whimsical giant puppets—and that’s not even mentioning the kings themselves! Without a doubt, this is one of our top picks for what to do in Madrid in January no matter how old you are.
Parade details: The parade route begins at Plaza de San Juan de la Cruz, runs along Paseo de la Castellana and ends at Plaza de Cibeles. The parade commences at 6:30 p.m. on January 5 and arrives to Cibeles at approximately 9 p.m. Admission is free.
Eat roscón de reyes
A fun and festive holiday wouldn’t be the same without its signature dish! In early January, madrileños go crazy for the special Three Kings cake, roscón de reyes.
The ring-shaped cake is a sweet bread (not unlike a brioche) decorated with candied fruit to make it look like a bejeweled crown. Inside, it’s usually filled with whipped or chocolate cream. The sweet confection makes for the perfect breakfast, snack or dessert on January 6!
Just be careful when you bite into it—there are two surprises inside. The person who gets the piece with the small king is the king or queen of the party and gets to wear the crown that most cakes come with. On the other hand, the person who gets the bean is the one who has to pay for the cake, according to tradition. This little bit of added fun helps make enjoying roscón one of the most delicious options for what to do in Madrid in January!
See snow in Navacerrada
The chances of a white Christmas—or white January, for that matter—here in Madrid proper are slim to none. However, if you can’t imagine winter without snow, don’t cross Madrid off your list just yet.
Take a day trip out to Puerto de Navacerrada, a ski resort tucked away in the scenic Guadarrama mountains less than an hour north of the city. It’s one of our favorite options for what to do in Madrid in January if you want to get moving and stay active!
Insider’s tip: We recommend making the trip by car if possible to best appreciate the views, but there are trains from the city if this is not possible. When you get hungry, stop for lunch in nearby Cercedilla to avoid crowds. The steaks with fried eggs and potatoes at La Maya are the perfect indulgence after a morning on the slopes!
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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.