10 Best Things to do in Madrid in Winter (including Christmas and NYE)
Are you traveling to Madrid in Winter?
Madrid is Europe’s most gorgeous city in winter! And if you keep reading, you will discover why.
At this time of the year, Madrid fills with lights, festivals, and delicious hot foods. It’s magical!
Just because it’s cold outside in Madrid doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors.
Here you have the best things to do in Madrid in winter, from exploring the Christmas market to enjoying the typical roasted chestnuts, cocido madrileño or churros with chocolate (the perfect treat to keep you warm).
Table of contents
- Tips for visiting Madrid during winter
- Best things to do in Madrid in Winter
- Mercado de San Miguel, one of the best things to do in Madrid during winter
- Going out (or how to make the most of winter in Madrid)
- Cozy Cafes in Madrid to keep you warm
- Malasaña, one of the coolest neighborhoods in Madrid
- Celebrating Christmas and New Year in Madrid
- Go Skiing, one of the best things to do in Madrid in January
- Visit the best Museums in Madrid
- Indoor Markets, a great plan in Madrid winter weather
- Faro de Moncloa, a must thing to do if visiting Madrid in winter
- Vegan Tapas Tour in Madrid
Tips for visiting Madrid during winter
Winter in Madrid is generally defined as December to February, but months such as November and March can experience winter weather in Madrid as well.
How cold is Madrid in winter?
The weather during winter in Madrid will be a bit cold, but not extreme. Besides, most days are sunny and the thermal sensation goes up with the daylight.
The average Madrid winter weather is 40°F. It’s only during January that travelers may get a glimpse of -4 ºC / 25 ºF nights.
While snowfall is a magical event in Madrid, it is not frequent, especially in the city center.
What to wear in Madrid in winter?
It’s a question I get asked so much.
In my post about the best time to visit Madrid, you have more info about Madrid’s weather, but I will say that the best way to dress in winter in Madrid is with a coat, warm hat, thin long sleeve thermal tops and comfy shoes.
If you are heading to Madrid in the winter, dressing in layers is key!
Day trips from Madrid in winter
There are lots of amazing day trips from Madrid to enjoy, from historic cities like Segovia, Toledo or Avila, to wine regions like Rioja, or coastal getaways like Barcelona or Cadiz or Valencia.
Best things to do in Madrid in Winter
Here you have everything you need to know to plan your perfect winter break to Madrid.
I (Sara) have asked travel experts to spill what to do in Madrid during winter to help you plan your trip to Spain’s capital.
Mercado de San Miguel, one of the best things to do in Madrid during winter
Visiting Madrid in December expects the temperatures to be cooler, so a scarf, hat, gloves, and a warm coat are needed.
And when you need a break from sightseeing to warm your body, the Mercado de San Miguel is the perfect spot.
The San Miguel Market has a mixed history.
It is one of the oldest food markets in Madrid.
This beautiful iron and glass building, known as Regionalist Architecture, was built in 1916 and renovated in 2003. The broad planes of glass sparkle in winter, making it so appealing to see inside.
Around lunchtime San Miguel Market is busy.
People come to enjoy their glass of wine or beer with a selection of food and drink from at least 20 stands of Spanish cuisine. You’ll find a range of foods from all over Spain to try while you stand or sit at one of the large bench tables.
We loved the ensalada de pato, a duck salad served on a piece of bread. The flavors were amazing.
San Miguel Market is one of the best things to do in Madrid in winter and it’s one of the free entrance markets in Madrid. Here you can keep warm while you soak up the vibrant atmosphere, enjoying gastronomic delights.
Maura McKenna I TravelKiwis
Going out (or how to make the most of winter in Madrid)
Since I was a child, Madrid in winter – especially during Christmas and New Year – amazed me.
So bright, so full of life even if the days are short, if there’s rain or snow and if temperatures are close to 0ºC.
Somehow it has something special, as the French say a ‘je ne sais quoi‘ that makes it unique and unmatched. Also, something that takes it directly to the list of cities to visit during the colder months.
But let’s get to the point.
If when I was little, my parents would take me and my brothers to Juvenalia (a fair for children) and for a fun afternoon ice-skating in the Majadahonda Ice Palace – very fun and family-friendly activities – I now see Madrid in winter as an excellent place to go out and socialize.
The city maintains a high profile with events of all kinds and concerts in many classic venues, unlike other areas of the country where you have to wait for the summer for the fun to come back.
And, above all, the bars and clubs of the Spanish capital continue to offer those who visit them until the wee hours of the morning, party in abundance for those looking for it.
Finally, if Madrid is on your plans for NYE, get ready to dance until dawn after taking the 12 grapes with the crowds of Puerta del Sol. You’ve been warned!
Inma Gregorio I A World to Travel
Cozy Cafes in Madrid to keep you warm
What better way to escape the cold weather and rain than a cup of coffee and some freshly baked pastries or a nice little brunch?
From traditional to modern, Madrid is filled with incredible cafes that are a perfect hideaway on a winter day.
A classic option and a major institution in Madrid is La Mallorquina. It’s impossible to miss when strolling around Puerta del Sol, and its window displays are irresistible.
With your coffee, you have to try the famous Napolitana de Crema – a pastry filled with vanilla cream. When hot out of the oven, it’s just like eating a little piece of heaven.
For a more modern cafe, head to the neighborhood of Malasaña, where there are countless cozy places to satisfy your need for breakfast or brunch.
Toma Cafe, Ojala, and HanSo Cafe are some of the most popular ones, but you can find so many other cute cafes literally around every corner.
Or Amir I My Path in The World
Malasaña, one of the coolest neighborhoods in Madrid
When traveling to Madrid during the winter and looking to get in on the local action, one place I love to go to is the Malasaña neighborhood.
In just a few minutes’ walk from Sol, you’ll find yourself amongst a haven of bars and inviting restaurants.
Popular with tourists, the Malasaña neighborhood is a known hotspot for nightlife as well as its bustling lunchtime scene, meaning you can wine and dine in style during both the daytime and evening hours.
It is worth brushing up on your Spanish conversation before arriving, but in most cases, you’ll find that people can communicate in English.
Many of the roads in the Malasaña neighborhood are lined with colorful street art.
So, after a day of shopping for gifts and taking photos, you can join the lively atmosphere as most of the bars and discos are open late.
Whether spending a day or evening of fun here during the winter, you can be certain you’ll find some of the trendiest coffee shops and restaurants in Madrid with no effort.
Daniel James I Layer Culture
Celebrating Christmas and New Year in Madrid
If you’re heading to Madrid in winter, you can adjust the dates, so you celebrate the New Year in Madrid as well.
The main celebration starts at the Puerta del Sol, one of the most beautiful squares of Madrid, which is already a great attraction on its own.
The square is usually decorated and a large screen is installed there, where you can watch the famous Spanish TV hosts talking about how has the year been and plans for the new year.
Don’t forget to bring 12 grapes or “uvas” in Spanish with you, however, you can also buy them on the square – there will be a lot of street vendors. You need to eat a grape for each of the bell strikes at midnight.
Eating grapes is a Spanish tradition and even though nobody will force you to eat them, you will feel strange, when everybody around you has a small pack of grapes.
Overall, celebrating New Year in Madrid is fun and it’s also something special and unusual to experience in the Spanish capital.
Liza Skripka I Tripsget Travel Blog
Go Skiing, one of the best things to do in Madrid in January
Who would associate the capital of Spain with skiing? Spain is always and all about sun, right?
Well, you couldn’t be more wrong!
There are several skiing slopes that are waiting for you in the mountains near Madrid.
The most famous ski resorts near Madrid are Valdesqui and Puerto de Navacerrada. They are located at 1h bus drive from the very city center and it’s a great idea if you’re looking for a day trip from Madrid in winter.
Thus even if you have only 1 day in Madrid, you can go skiing! At the stations, you can rent your equipment and also have a warm drink after skiing.
And if you don’t want to ski in the cold, I recommend having a look at Xanadu shopping mall where you can do indoor skiing. Noting is impossible in Madrid.
Paulina I Paulina on the Road
Visit the best Museums in Madrid
On the gloomy and rainy days, escape the winter cold in one of Madrid’s museums.
Luckily, you will have loads of places to choose from. Madrid is particularly known for its “Golden Triangle” of art museums (the Reina Sofia, The Prado, and The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum). These are the top Museums to visit in Madrid in winter time:
Indoor Markets, a great plan in Madrid winter weather
One of the best things to do in Madrid during winter time is to visit its many markets.
And, since most of them take place indoors, it’s something you can happily enjoy during the coldest months.
In fact, winter may just be the best time of all to visit.
During the colder months, Madrid’s indoor markets become even cozier, the hot tapas taste just a little better and a warm hot chocolate from one of the stalls (preferably with a side of churros) feels even more comforting.
Although the indoor markets can be enjoyed all year round, you’ll have a much more authentic experience in the winter months.
Being off season, there are much fewer tourists, meaning you’ll mostly be surrounded by locals.
Not only does it mean the markets will be less crowded, but you’ll also be able to blend in and enjoy soaking up daily life in Madrid.
Mercado de San Miguel is the most famous market, but still sees relatively few tourists during winter.
If you want an even more local experience, though, head to Mercado Barcelo or Mercado de San Fernando.
Jodie I Alajode
Faro de Moncloa, a must thing to do if visiting Madrid in winter
The Faro de Moncloa (“Moncloa Lighthouse”) is one of the best places to visit in Madrid in winter and one of the top-rated landmarks in Spain.
Located only 20 minutes away by metro from Puerta del Sol, this 92 m high viewpoint is an important landmark of the Moncloa-Aravaca district.
The Faro de Moncloa, otherwise known as Moncloa’s Lighthouse offers incredible panoramic views over Madrid and makes you realize how green the Spanish capital is.
Once you walk out of the elevator, you get to the observation deck where a panoramic scene of Madrid is awaiting you.
Of course, is not like the Eiffel Tower, which is the symbol of the city, but amazing views won’t disappoint.
If you’re lucky it’s clear weather and you can watch miles ahead of you.
Take your time and try to recognize other Madrid sights from the tower, such as the snow-capped mountains of Sierra de Guadarrama, the Telefónica Building or even the Monastery of El Escorial.
The Faro de Moncloa is a perfect location for taking pictures.
Not for the faint of heart, the journey up to the Faro is in a panoramic elevator. Make sure you stand by the doors if you want a good view on your way up or down.
The entry is for a maximum of 30 minutes and you can buy the tickets online or at the main hall.
I think you’ll agree with me when I say: 3 Euros is a fair price to enjoy amazing views of Madrid.
The Faro is considered one of the best non-touristy things to do in Madrid because most people don’t even know it exists. It also should be on your list of cheap things to do in Madrid. Worth a try.
Keep in mind, the Faro de Moncloa is closed on Mondays.
Ivan I Mind The Travel
Vegan Tapas Tour in Madrid
Madrid may be known for its love of jamón (ham), but it’s also one of the best vegan foodie destinations in all of Europe.
New vegan restaurants are popping up seemingly every week and are putting a creative plant-based spin on the usual Spanish fare, including tapas.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, then having a local vegan madrileña show you some of the best places in the city for vegan tapas is a no-brainer. But even if you do eat meat, why not take the opportunity to discover a different side of Madrid’s food scene?
Madrid’s vegan establishments have veganized everything from patatas con carne (potatoes with meat) to calamari, and they’ve completely nailed it.
You won’t believe that what you’re eating is vegan!
The winter holiday season can feel a bit gluttonous at times, so take a break from all the heavy foods and try something that’s better for your body and for the planet, without compromising one bit on taste.
Madrid Vegan Travel offers a tapas tour that includes stops at four bars and restaurants in the lively neighborhood of Malasaña.
All stops are indoors, making it an ideal activity for the winter. And, in addition to the delicious food, you can also warm up with a glass of Rioja wine, sangría or a traditional vermouth.
Wendy Werneth I The Nomadic Vegan
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