Wondering if Madrid works as a winter destination? To be honest, there isn’t really a wrong time to explore the Spanish capital, but there’s something surprisingly appealing about this Mediterranean gem in the winter months. Sitting pretty at a lofty 2,188 ft above sea level, Madrid enjoys (for the most part) crisp, sunny winter days and by night, the city center lights up with twinkling Christmas displays. Plus, if you’re willing to wrap up warm, you’ll find that the city streets, outdoor cafés, and alfresco restaurants are just as lively as they are during the summer. Intrigued? From fun festivities to foodie highlights, here are six reasons to visit Madrid this winter...
It’s ideal churros weather
Cool temperatures and blue skies mean winter is the ideal time to experience a quintessentially Spanish food fix: a big plate of freshly made churros with a side of wonderfully goopy hot chocolate. Grab a seat outside one of the city’s popular cafés and order a portion of churros con chocolate and a cup of cafe con leche (a strong, milky coffee). Undoubtedly the most popular spot in the city center is Chocolatería San Ginés and for good reason: they’ve been serving this fried-dough pastry to Madrileños since 1894. It’s safe to say they’ve got their recipe down to a fine art. Warm and filling, churros are the ultimate winter treat.
You can experience Spain’s Christmas traditions…
Spain does Christmas a little differently from the rest of us and it’s definitely worth experiencing it if you’re in Madrid over the holidays. The most important day of the festive period actually takes place after the new year: Three Kings, or Reyes Magos, take the role of Santa Claus in Spain and parade through the city on the evening of January 5, throwing candy to the families who gather on the streets to watch. Madrid’s Christmas markets are another must-see. The most popular is on the Plaza Mayor. From late November through to January, the square is packed with market stalls selling traditional Christmas candy, decorations, and nativity sets. Speaking of which, another Madrid tradition is to put on life-size nativity scenes, or Belénes. You’ll find one on the Plaza Mayor but they are dotted throughout the city.
...And take in the festive atmosphere
Like most cities at this time of year, Madrid goes all out on Christmas lights. The best way to see them all is by taking the Navibus - a double-decker that winds through the city’s most impressive festive displays. Timetables are announced around December and tickets must be booked in advance.
You can combine sightseeing with a ski break
Skiing may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of vacationing in Spain, but with Madrid’s proximity to the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, it’s surprisingly easy to add a day or two on the slopes to your travel itinerary. The ski resort of Puerta de Navacerrada can be reached by public transport or by car from Madrid, making it a popular day trip with locals. Good conditions, of course, fluctuate by year, but December to March tends to be the optimum time to strap into your ski boots.
It’s the best time to hit the shops
Pre-Christmas shopping followed by bargainous January sales - this has to be the best time of year for a bit of retail therapy. On Madrid’s main stretch - Gran Vía - you’ll find all the major Spanish brands, or if you’re on the hunt for a bargain, head to Las Rozas Village on the outskirts of the city. Styled to look like a Spanish town, this is not your usual outlet store. Handily, if you have a Go Madrid pass, you’ll be able to book onto Las Rozas Village Shopping Experience, which includes a guided tour and transport as part of the package.
It’s a great time to visit the museums
Madrid’s world-famous art galleries are worth a visit all year round, but with a new season comes new exhibitions, so there’s even more reason to get out of the cold and get your culture fix. El Prado and Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza are definite must-sees while visiting Madrid (both happen to be on the Go Madrid pass) for their impressive collections of European art. Visit the Thyssen-Bornemisza this winter and go to the temporary ‘Impressionists and Photography’ exhibition, or head to El Prado to see the works of female painters Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana, on display until January 2020. Ready to start planning your winter vacation to Madrid? Get started with a Go Madrid pass. Our flexible, money-saving passes are the easiest way to make sure you tick off Madrid’s top attractions and experiences.