Madrid is a beautiful city to visit year-round, but it has a special charm in the winter. The city is decorated for Christmas with twinkling lights and festive markets. There are also plenty of indoor activities to enjoy, such as visiting world-class museums, seeing a show, or simply relaxing in a cosy café.
Here are some of the best things to do in Madrid Spain in winter:
Visit the Christmas markets in Madrid
Madrid is a vibrant city full of festive markets and shopping opportunities during the winter season. The most famous Christmas market takes place in the Plaza Mayor, where you can find everything from Christmas decorations to nativity scenes to joke articles.
Other popular markets include the Feria Mercado de Artesanía de la Comunidad de Madrid (Paseo de Recoletos), the Mercadillo del Gato (an ephemeral event held at The Westin Palace Hotel), the Las lonjas (fish markets) set up in Madrid Río Park, and the craft market in Plaza Isabel II.
If you’re looking for a more luxurious shopping experience, you can head to the outlet at Las Rozas Village, located just outside of Madrid. This outlet village features boutiques from many high-end fashion and jewellery brands, including Carolina Herrera, Karl Lagerfeld, and Swarovski.
See a Flamenco show
Madrid is home to a variety of theatres and concert halls, so you’re sure to find a show to enjoy. There are everything from musicals and plays to concerts and operas. Some popular venues include the Teatro Real, the Teatro de la Zarzuela, and the Palacio de Congresos.
You can book the Flamenco show in Madrid and watch that if you want.
Visit the Prado Museum
The Prado Museum is one of the world’s leading art museums, home to a vast collection of Spanish and European art from the 12th to the 20th centuries. The museum’s collection includes over 8,000 paintings, 700 sculptures, and 1,000 drawings and prints, as well as a collection of decorative arts and furniture.
Some of the most famous works in the Prado’s collection include:
- Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez (1656)
- The Third of May 1808 by Francisco Goya (1814)
- The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1500–1510)
Enjoy a hot chocolate
Chocolate con churros is a popular Spanish snack, especially in the winter. You can find churrerías (churro shops) all over Madrid, but some of the most popular include Chocolatería San Ginés and La Chocolatería.
Take a walk through Retiro Park
Retiro Park is Madrid’s largest and most popular park. It’s a great place to take a walk, have a picnic, or simply relax and enjoy the scenery. In the winter, the park is especially beautiful when the trees are covered in snow.
Go ice skating in Madrid
There are several ice skating rinks in Madrid, including one in the Plaza Mayor. Ice skating is a fun activity for all ages and a great way to get some exercise in the winter.
Visit the Royal Palace
The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish royal family. It is one of the largest and most opulent palaces in Europe. You can tour the palace and learn about its history and architecture.
Madrid is known for its tapas bars. Tapas are small plates of food that are perfect for sharing. There are tapas bars all over Madrid, but some of the most popular neighbourhoods for tapas include La Latina and Malasaña.
Celebrate New Year’s Eve at the Puerta del Sol
The Puerta del Sol is the central square in Madrid and it’s where thousands of people gather to celebrate New Year’s Eve. As the clock strikes midnight, people eat 12 grapes, one for each month of the coming year. It’s a fun and festive way to ring in the new year.
If you are staying in Madrid for four days, I highly recommend taking a day trip to the nearby city of Segovia. Segovia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to a number of well-preserved Roman ruins, including the Segovia Aqueduct and the Alcazar of Segovia.
Here is a possible itinerary for a day trip to Segovia from Madrid:
- Take the train from Chamartín station to Segovia. The journey takes about 30 minutes.
- Once you arrive in Segovia, head to the Plaza Mayor, the city’s main square. Here you can admire the Cathedral of Segovia, which blends three architectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance.
- From the Plaza Mayor, walk to the Roman aqueduct, one of Segovia’s most iconic landmarks. The aqueduct was built in the 2nd century AD and is still standing today.
- Have lunch at one of Segovia’s many restaurants. Segovia is known for its suckling pig, so be sure to try it if you have the chance.
- After lunch, visit the Alcazar of Segovia, a medieval castle that is perched on a hilltop overlooking the city. The castle offers stunning views of Segovia and the surrounding countryside.
- Take a walk through Segovia’s old town, which is full of narrow cobblestone streets and charming shops and restaurants.
- If you have time, visit the Casa de los Picos, a 15th-century palace that is decorated with over 200 spikes.
- Take the train back to Madrid.
If you are short on time, you can book an organized excursion to Segovia. This will save you the hassle of planning your own trip and will allow you to see all of the main attractions in one day.
Some More Madrid Winter Attractions
Here are some Madrid winter attractions that I have not mentioned yet:
- Navidad Mágica (Magical Christmas): This annual event features light displays, ice sculptures, and other festive attractions all over the city.
- Cortijo de San Isidro: This traditional Spanish cortijo (farmhouse) is located in the Casa de Campo park and offers a variety of winter activities, such as horseback riding, carriage rides, and ice skating.
- Madrid Río: This park along the Manzanares River is a great place to go for a walk, bike ride, or picnic. In the winter, there is also an ice skating rink and a Christmas market.
- Palacio de Cristal: This glass and metal greenhouse is located in Retiro Park and hosts a variety of art exhibitions throughout the year. In the winter, the greenhouse is decorated with festive lights and plants.
- Tiovivo de la Pradera: This traditional merry-go-round is located in the Casa de Campo park and is a popular attraction for both children and adults.
- Mercado del Rastro: This flea market is held every Sunday in the La Latina neighborhood and is a great place to find unique souvenirs and antiques.
- Parque Warner Madrid: This amusement park is located just outside of Madrid and offers a variety of rides and attractions for all ages. It is especially popular during the winter holidays, when it is decorated for Christmas.
Some of the Madrid Winter Festivals you should be aware of
- Festival de las Luces (Festival of Lights): This annual event features light displays and installations all over the city, from the Puerta del Sol to the Royal Palace. The festival usually takes place in January and February.
- Navidad Mágica (Magical Christmas): This event features a variety of Christmas-themed attractions, including light displays, ice sculptures, and a Christmas market. It usually takes place from late November to early January.
- JAZZMADRID: This international jazz festival features performances by renowned jazz musicians from all over the world. It usually takes place in November and December.
- Madrid Fusión: This international gastronomic summit features demonstrations, tastings, and talks by some of the world’s top chefs. It usually takes place in January.
- Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid: This biannual event showcases the latest collections from Spanish and international fashion designers. It usually takes place in February and September.
Where can you go for snowboarding in Madrid?
Snowboarding is a popular activity in Madrid, thanks to its proximity to the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range. There are a number of ski resorts within easy reach of the city, including:
- Puerto de Navacerrada: This is the closest ski resort to Madrid, located just over an hour’s drive away. It has a variety of slopes for all abilities, as well as a snow park and a children’s area.
- Valdesquí: This resort is located slightly further from Madrid, but it offers more challenging terrain and a larger snow park. It is also home to the Spanish National Ski School.
- La Pinilla: This resort is located in the province of Segovia, but it is still within easy reach of Madrid. It is known for its family-friendly atmosphere and its wide range of activities, including snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, and sledging.
If you are new to snowboarding, there are a number of ski schools in Madrid that offer lessons for all ages and abilities. You can also rent snowboard equipment from most ski resorts.
Once you have your snowboard and gear, you are ready to hit the slopes! Here are some tips for snowboarding in Madrid:
- Dress warmly: The weather in the Sierra de Guadarrama can be cold and windy, so it is important to dress warmly. Be sure to wear layers so that you can adjust your clothing as needed.
- Wear sunscreen: Even on cloudy days, the sun can be strong at high altitudes. Be sure to wear sunscreen to protect your skin.
- Take breaks: Snowboarding can be tiring, so it is important to take breaks throughout the day. Drink plenty of water and eat snacks to stay hydrated and energized.
- Be aware of your surroundings: Snowboarding can be dangerous, so it is important to be aware of your surroundings and to ski or snowboard within your limits.
What about Winter Hiking in Madrid?
Winter hiking in Madrid is a great way to enjoy the stunning scenery of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range. The mountains are covered in snow, and the air is crisp and clean. There are a number of hiking trails to choose from, ranging from easy to challenging.
Here are a few of the best winter hiking trails in Madrid:
- Laguna de Peñalara (Peñalara Lagoon): This trail leads to a beautiful mountain lake that is frozen in the winter. The trail is moderate difficulty and takes about 2 hours to complete.
- Siete Picos (Seven Peaks): This trail takes you to the seven highest peaks in the Sierra de Guadarrama. The trail is challenging and takes about 5 hours to complete.
- Camino Schmidt (Schmidt Trail): This trail is a good option for beginners, as it is relatively easy and flat. The trail winds through a forest and offers stunning views of the mountains.
- Pozo de la Nieve (Snow Well): This trail leads to a natural snow well that was used to store ice in the past. The trail is moderate difficulty and takes about 3 hours to complete.
- Circo de Peñalara (Peñalara Cirque): This trail takes you to a glacial cirque that is surrounded by towering peaks. The trail is challenging and takes about 4 hours to complete.
If you are planning to go winter hiking in Madrid, be sure to dress warmly and wear appropriate footwear. It is also a good idea to bring a map and compass, as some of the trails can be difficult to follow in the snow.
Here are some additional tips for winter hiking in Madrid:
- Start early: The days are shorter in the winter, so it is important to start your hike early so that you have enough time to finish before dark.
- Check the weather forecast: The weather in the mountains can change quickly, so it is important to check the weather forecast before you go hiking.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks: You will need to stay hydrated and energized on your hike, so be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks.
- Be aware of your surroundings: Be aware of your surroundings and ski or snowboard within your limits.
Here are some additional tips for planning your trip:
- Madrid can be cold in the winter, so be sure to pack warm clothes.
- If you’re visiting during the Christmas holidays, be sure to book your accommodation and flights in advance.
- Madrid has a great public transportation system, so you can easily get around the city without a car.
- Be sure to try some of the local cuisine, such as tapas, churros con chocolate, and paella.
- Madrid is a safe city, but it’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions against pickpocketing.
I hope this post has helped you plan your trip to Madrid, Spain in winter. Have a wonderful time!