Winter holidays are an amazing opportunity to explore the cities of Europe and enjoy the festive atmosphere as we are approaching Christmas. In Spain, it is typical for this atmosphere to extends to January as well. It is a completely different experience to visit Madrid during winter because numerous sociocultural events hosted in the city of Madrid create a scenery which you cannot find any other time of the year.
Also on the plus side, Madrid’s climate is quite moderate, which means you will be quite comfortable exploring the city and attending the outdoor events. Multiple clothing layers and comfortable boots are enough to keep you warm as you wander around the city during the most magical time of the year to be visiting the city. It can get a bit chilly at night time, but when it does, you can quickly go back to your cozy apartment in the center of Madrid, and enjoy watching a Christmas movie all tucked up under a warm blanket.
It is advisable to do your Christmas shopping earlier, to avoid crowds and make sure the items you want are in stock. As the holiday season approaches its peak, there is less time to pick up gifts for your loved ones. Still, it is not too late. Besides plenty of stores around the city, the biggest Spanish department store El Corte Inglés S.A., and Gran Via, the most famous shopping street in Madrid, popular places to shop during winter are Christmas markets.
Many of the markets are set up as pop-up markets, which means that you can find them exclusively during the winter holidays. Most are open throughout December, up to the New Year’s Day, but you will see a couple of them staying up until the first week of January.
Christmas market with festive stalls
Christmas markets in Madrid
Christmas Market Plaza Mayor
Watch as the most iconic square in Madrid turns into a Christmas wonderland with hundreds of log cabins and stalls that offer a variety of Christmas and winter related products. You will instantly be infected with this festive atmosphere as you step to the square.
Open: From the 1st of December to the 31st of December
Hours: Monday to Thursday, from 10 am to 10 pm
Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 11 pm
Christmas Market Plaza de Callao
Plaza de Callao is the place where you will find lots of decorations and Christmas-related items. The setting is installed by El Corte Ingles, with a traditional Christmas tree which is almost 20 meters high.
Open: From the 1st of December to the 6th of January
Hours: Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 10 pm
Christmas Market Plaza de la Remonta
Here is another market worth visiting this winter in Madrid. You will find lots of Christmas ornaments, figures and other products such as toys, gifts, etc. This market also has an ice rink so if you are interested to try out ice skating this winter, check out this place in Madrid.
Open: From the 5th of December to the 6th of January
Hours: Monday to Sunday from 12 pm to 22 pm
Christmas Market Mercadillo del Gato
A lot of travelers will be visiting Gran Vía street anyway, so it is quite convent to visit a market placed on this street. The market offers a lot of fashion items, accessories, jewelry, art, children clothing, crafts, etc.
Open: From the 15 of December to the 5th of January
Hours: Monday to Sunday from 11 am to 9 pm
Central Courtyard of Matadero Madrid
This is known to be the most international market that celebrates Christmas and winter holidays in Madrid. It represents the unique way to enjoy the local atmosphere, to buy gifts, taste international dishes, and attend activities and events organized for the entire family. Yes, you will find lots of exciting activities for the young ones, such as dance classes, decorating dishes, creating toys, etc.
Open: From the 15 of December to the 29th of December
Hours: From 12 pm to 8 pm
Events of the winter season in Madrid
Enjoy this magnificent winter landscape which is a perfect day to spend a day in Madrid. Besides the lovely tour of the place, you can also spend time on different games or skate in an ice rink. The entrance is free.
Open: From the 21st of December to the 6th of January
Hours: From 11 am until 9 pm, except on special days (December 21: 4 pm to 9 pm, December 24 and 31: 11 am to 6 pm, December 25 and January 1: 5 pm to 9 pm, January 5: 11 am to 2 pm)
Location: Calle Montalbán 1, Madrid
Harry Potter – The Exhibition
They say there is something magical about spending winter holidays in the city such as Madrid. When you add the tour of the Harry Potter’s world, the magical experience is guaranteed. Discover the world of the famous wizard as you enjoy the exclusive Harry Potter™: The Exhibition. You will get to see the objects and props used in the movies, costumes and popular movie sets, such as Gryffindor™ bedroom, classrooms, Quidditch™ field, etc. The exhibition in Madrid is the only one in Europe. The entrance fee starts at € 16.90 (plus €1 management fee) for adults.
Open: From the 18th of November until the 2nd of April
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Friday and Saturday, from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm
Location: Ifema – Feria de Madrid
Christmas lights in Madrid
This one has indeed become a tradition typical for Madrid. Christmas lights are set up in the late November, and they decorate the city until the 6 of January. The lights are on from 6 pm each day, until 10 or 11 pm. On the 24th of December and the 5th of January, the Christmas lights stay on until 3 am. On the 25th of December and the 1st of January, they are on until midnight, while they are on throughout the night until 6 am during the New Year’s Night.
The Christmas lights are placed along the most prominent streets of Madrid, which is where you will do most of your sightseeing. Here is a suggestion of the Christmas light walk, that will take you from the Calle Serrano to the Plaza Mayor as you explore the most prominent Christmas lights ornaments in the city.
It’s a great guide for you to discover the streets with the Christmas lights and make sure you do not miss excellent places to take photos of the festive atmosphere.
New Year’s Day in Madrid
Traditionally, the last day of the year is the day when the popular 10k race is taking places. With decades-long tradition, the San Silvestre Vallecana is one of the most important sporting events in the city. The route might vary from year to year, but it is always located in the center of Madrid. This year, there will be two races. SSV’17 Popular race is a running party where 40,000 are expected to join the amazing experience. The second one is SSV’17 International, and the best world’s athletes are announced to participate.
When: The 31st of December
Hours: SSV’17 Popular starts at 5:30 pm. SSV’17 International starts at 7:50 pm
Location: The Square of the Sacred Hearts, Madrid
New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve, known as Noche Vieja in Spanish, is the big celebration organized on multiple locations around the city. Besides hotels and clubs that organize parties, those celebrations include streets parties as well. The main event of all street parties is the celebration at the Puerta del Sol, where the Real Casa de Correos clock strikes twelve times at midnight. Traditionally, 12 grapes are eaten at midnight, for each strike of the clock. It is believed that this brings good luck for the upcoming year. It is also a tradition that people staying at home do as well. The old year ends with spectacular fireworks, confetti and light show.
The day after New Year’s Eve is a public holiday, which means that most of the shops and other establishments will be closed. It is a day that is typically spend indoor, with family and friends, resting from the big celebration the night before.
The Day of the Three Kings
Typically, the holiday season in Madrid lasts until the 5th of January, because of the Día de Los Reyes Magos (The Day of the Three Kings), one of the most anticipated holidays, especially among children as they wake up the next day with gifts left by the Three Kings. This holiday has even more significance for the Spaniards than Christmas. The city celebrates the arrival of the Three Kings with the parade organized on the 5th of January. People gather on the city streets to watch the parade on its route that is organized to promote peace and solidarity. Giant puppets, lots of colorful costumes, dances and acrobatics are some of the highlights that are typical for this parade.
Details: The parade starts at the Plaza de San Juan de la Cruz, it goes along the Paseo de la Castellana, and it ends at the Plaza de Cibeles. It starts in the evening, at 6:30 pm and it lasts approximately two hours.
No matter which events you choose to attend during your stay, you will definitely enjoy winter season in Madrid. It is the perfect city to spend your holidays and welcome the New Year.