This blog post was originally posted on December 23, 2015 and was updated on November 12, 2019.
Just before the holidays, Madrid is a flurry of hustle and bustle as crowds make their way to the stores to finish their shopping beneath the twinkle of Christmas lights.
Then, on Christmas Eve, seemingly all goes quiet. Families gather for a special meal at home complete with sweet treats like turrón, and the city essentially shuts down until December 26.
Then, a week later, the cycle repeats on New Year’s Eve and January 1. However, if you’ll be spending the holidays in Madrid, there are still plenty of ways to make the most of Christmas and New Year’s Day. These tips will ensure an unforgettable holiday in one of Europe’s most magical cities!
Eat like a local at Mercado San Miguel
Madrid’s most famous market, the iconic Mercado San Miguel, is so much more than an array of food stalls. It’s a hallowed gastronomic space where storied tradition meets glamorous modernity and locals and visitors come together to enjoy excellent food. Kick start your holidays in Madrid with a tapas crawl through this food and wine paradise just outside of Plaza Mayor on Christmas or New Year’s Eve. We recommend starting things off with an aperitif at La Hora del Vermut, then moving on to a delicious seafood dish at La Casa del Bacalao!
Stroll through Retiro Park
Madrid’s sunny yet cool winter days make for the perfect opportunity to get out and about. Grab your comfiest coat and get some fresh air by heading to Retiro Park. Despite being the city’s most popular green space, it tends to be much quieter during the holidays as local families come to enjoy the fresh air and walk off the excessive amounts of holiday food they’ve just enjoyed. It’s one of the most relaxing ways to spend the holidays in Madrid!
Indulge in chocolate and churros
There’s no bad time of year to enjoy churros and chocolate, but the sweet indulgence tastes even better as a way to warm up after a brisk walk in the cool winter air. Head to Chocolatería San Ginés to indulge in a Madrid classic: thick, piping hot churros and rich, soul-warming hot chocolate. For more than 120 years, San Ginés has been the reference point for churros in Madrid, and the ubiquitous line stretching out the door proves that (we promise it’s worth the wait!). Join locals and visitors alike as you tuck into one of the most delicious treats the city has to offer.
Want to learn the secrets of ordering churros con chocolate like a local? Check out the video below to step inside San Ginés with Devour Madrid expert guide Joy!
Explore the city
On Christmas and New Year’s Day, most madrileños stay at home to enjoy their time with family. That means, as a visitor, you’ll be able to explore Madrid and its diverse barrios with practically nobody else in the way! Check out colorful, international Lavapiés or picturesque, charming Alonso Martínez. Take advantage of the peaceful atmosphere to discover hidden plazas and gorgeous architecture (and get those once-in-a-lifetime pictures of Madrid’s most famous landmarks without the crowds!).
Go to the movies
Going to the movies on Christmas or New Year’s Day is a popular tradition no matter where you are in the world. Grab your palomitas (popcorn) and head to one of our favorite movie theaters in Madrid to catch the biggest Hollywood blockbusters of the moment—in English! It’s the perfect way to relax and chill out in between exploring the city and devouring an evening meal.
Insider’s tip: Spanish cinemas often have numbered seating for movies, so be sure to think ahead about where you’d like to sit.Want our insider’s guide to eating in Madrid? Just add your email address in the form below!
As the daughter of a barbecue master and a pseudo-vegetarian, Amy’s culinary obsessions run deep. She spent time in Galicia before settling down in Madrid, where you’ll usually find her browsing the bottles of a local bodega or ogling the produce at the weekend farmer’s market.