With its bright and crisp blue skies and sunny days, Europe’s highest capital makes for a perfect short break. If you’re heading to Madrid in winter you’ll have plenty of opportunities to make the most of the off-peak prices and fewer crowds that Madrid attracts during the summer months.
Madrid is a relatively dry city all year round, and although it can get as low as a chilly 6°C (approx 44°F), the average temperature hangs around the low double figures. Twin this with clear blue skies, meaning plenty of sunshine, you can catch some winter sun. Just make sure you pack suitable clothes for the European winter, which means layers of clothing. Even during the coldest months, you can still get out and about. If you’re visiting Madrid in winter you’ll find plenty of stuff to do and make the most of the warm rays.
I’m a little bit biased when it comes to visiting Madrid in the wintertime. I split my time between England and Spain. After coming from the grey and rainy UK, the blue skies and sun are a much-needed escape when visiting Madrid in winter.
Winter in Madrid makes for the perfect short city break to Europe, with its delicious food scene, outdoor spaces, historical centre as well as plenty of traditional activities around the festive season (check out the one which involves eating grapes!). This guide gives you a ton of ideas to add to your Madrid winter itinerary.
So what are you waiting for? Grab yourself a brew and come and find out what to add to your winter Madrid itinerary.
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WINTER IN MADRID, SPAIN -
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MADRID IN WINTER?
Not sure when to visit Madrid? Here’s a summary of what to expect in each of the winter months if you’re planning on visiting Madrid in winter.
Madrid in November
Prices are much cheaper after the peak of summer (July-August) and the late-season rush (September – October). As the temperatures drop, so do the prices. During the cooler and shorter days just before the festive season rush, you can find some great deals on flights and accommodation.
Madrid in December
Prices go up for the festive rush. This is the prettiest time to spend winter in Madrid because of the wealth of Christmas lights and decorations that dominate every town square, shop window and street. There are plenty of Christmas Markets selling traditional gifts including ice skating. Also, look out for the Madrid Christmas bus. The weather is cool and the days are at their shortest. The first week of December will be cheaper for flights and accommodation than the week directly before or after Christmas. Expect to pay top prices during the school holidays.
Madrid in January
Prices are still high at the beginning of the month but will drop after the 6th January (Kings Day) when schools and work started back up. In the first week of January, lots of the festive lights and decorations will still be up. The weather is cool and the days are still short. The latter weeks of January will be cheaper for flights and accommodation after the festive season is over.
Madrid in February
Similar to November, prices are much cheaper after the festive season is well and truly over. The weather is cool although the days are gradually getting longer. Except for the school-holiday week in mid-February, you can find some great deals on flights and accommodation at this time.
This Madrid Winter city guide will cover everything you need to know, but for offline viewing, why not download this FREE checklist on the best things to do in Madrid in winter.
WHAT TO DO IN MADRID IN WINTER
If you’re looking to capture all your favourite moments while you’re visiting the city, then why not hire a private photographer for a day in Madrid to capture all those Instagrammable moments.
WHAT TO DO IN MADRID IN WINTER IN GOOD WEATHER
Visit Parque El Retiro to Walk, Cycle or Segway
Nothing beats a stroll around this gorgeous park in Madrid in winter, and always one of the most popular places to visit in Madrid. Covering 1.4km² of the city, it was historically owned by the Spanish Monarchy but in the late 19th Century it became a Public Park. In the winter you’ll see a myriad of locals enjoying the outdoor space.
The park boasts lakes, monuments, a Crystal Palace (Palacio de Cristal), a museum, rose gardens, ruins, cafes, fountains, performing artists and tons of footpaths and foliage for some real chill out time right in the City Centre. A great way to see everything in a short space of time is to join a guided walking tour of Retiro Park. If you don’t fancy walking, then opt for a bike tour of Retiro Park or even on a Segway.
Different exhibitions happen in both the Crystal Palace and Palacio de Velazquez. Both are free to get into and again like lots of exhibitions may or may not be to your liking but worth a look.
I’d recommend visiting the Parque El Retiro over the weekend when there is a hive of activity. It’s not uncommon to see youths practising dance routines, roller skaters showing off their slalom skills, people reciting poetry, Zumba classes in the open air, yoga sessions and even the occasional devil worshipper at the Fountain of the Fallen Angel (Fuente del Ángel Caído) which is situated a convenient 666 meters above sea level. The devil-worshipping is just one of the many fun facts you’ll discover about Madrid.
Visit one of the three stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites
There are three absolutely stunning UNESCO World Heritage cities, all an easy trip from the centre of Madrid. Choose from Toledo, Segovia or Avilla. The easiest way to all three of these beautiful UNESCO cities is on a full-day guided tour.
In a nutshell, Segovia has the giant Roman aqueduct, Avilla is a walled city, where you can walk around the wall and Toledo feels like stepping back in time to a medieval city. They are all phenomenal and it’s tough to choose the best one.
Madrid is well connected with decent train services (much cheaper than British prices! they leave on time AND you actually get a seat!), so you choose one of the destinations as a day trip.
During the summer months, these three UNESCO sites are rammed, so if you’re in Madrid in winter, it’s a great idea to take advantage of the quieter streets.
Related Article: Road trip from Madrid to Segovia
Cycle your way round the city
For the energetic and ambitious ones amongst us, Madrid offers a 64km circuit that skirts around the city. El Anillo Verde Ciclista is sure to get the blood pumping on a crisp winters day while you’re visiting Madrid in winter.
If you’re wanting to cycle and explore at a more leisurely pace, you’ll find Madrid rent-a-bike shops dotted all over the place. However, if you prefer the convenience of a guide to show you all the highlights of Madrid, then you might prefer this Madrid guided city tour by bike. If seeing the grungier side of the city is more your thing, then check out some of the best urban artwork on this Madrid street art bike tour.
Learn about the history of Madrid
If it’s a crisp, sunny day of winter in Madrid, take the opportunity to explore the history of the city. If you want the exercise and to find out a bit more of the juicy bits of information along with the low-down of the city’s gory past then check out something like on a Spanish Inquisition walking tour of Madrid.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to walk then the Madrid hop on hop off bus is a great option and will drop you at all the famous landmarks with an audio guide in between stops. For a more quirky way to see the best parts of the city, you’ll love the Segway tour of Madrid.
Alternatively, if you want a more quirky way of seeing the city then this private hire TukTuk Madrid city tour is a fun way to get about.
Visit the Royal Palace
No trip to Madrid (whatever time of the year) would be complete without paying a visit to the Royal Palace. Located in the heart of the city, The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish royal family. Today, the palace is only used only for state ceremonies and naturally, a bit of a tourist attraction. Madrid’s Royal Palace is the largest functioning palace in Europe, based on floor area.
This is one of the most iconic landmarks in Spain, taking up a gigantic 135,000 m² of floor space. The palace features over 3,418 rooms (only a small portion of these are open to the public).
Because the palace is so popular, expect a long queue to get inside. It’s a good idea to not only arrive early in the day, but book your ticket in advance to skip the queues.
Hit the slopes for some winter sports
I said at the start that Madrid was the highest capital in Europe, so it’s no surprise that it’s surrounded by mountains. If you’re in Madrid in winter and if the conditions are right, a day trip from the capital will land you in the popular ski area of Sierra de Guadarrama.
The area is about an hour north of Madrid if you hire a car, although you can get there by public transport. There are a variety of slopes in the region ranging from green, blue and red. If you’re planning on winter sports, check in advance for conditions of the slopes.
Immerse yourself in the super cool street market scene
If you’re visiting Madrid in winter, then you can’t ignore the markets. Two, in particular, are certainly worth putting on your radar. The first is Mercado de Los Motores. This is a great little vintage market that takes over an old train museum once a month. Think flea markets but with lots of stalls selling a wide variety of items from a bygone era. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything it’s a fab way to spend a few hours.
The other one is the ginormous El Rastro; Madrid’s most famous flea market. Held in La Latina every Sunday from the early hours until around 2 pm, it’s massive and has grown so much in popularity that it’s hard to navigate your way through the crowds. Originally it focused just on vintage/antique items and curiosities but now it has expanded to offer everything from hippy trinkets and clothing to sunglasses and socks.
Romantic Things to do in Madrid in Winter
Madrid is a great city for a romantic get away. The city itself features plenty of roof top bars and world class food for every taste. If you’re looking for an activity to spoil a loved one with, then hot air balloon rides are a popular choice. If you’re a couple who’s into finding the best wine and cuisine, then you’ll love the walking food and wine tour around the Old Town, or even a full day wine tour.
Adventurous things to do in Madrid in winter
With so much rugged terrain and beautiful scenery surrounding Madrid, it’s no secret that there’s going to be stuff for the adrenalin junkie. Check out these awesome things to do in and around Madrid.
WHAT TO DO IN WINTER IN MADRID IN THE RAIN
Become a culture vulture and check out the world-class museums
Naturally, there are LOADS of top-class museums to choose from on a wet day in winter in Madrid. Some of the notable ones are the Prado Museum, Reina Sofia Museum, Centro/Centro (Palacio de Cibeles) and Telefonica. All of these museums are housed in stunning buildings. Check out the Art Deco architecture in the latter two suggestions. All these museums have permanent galleries as well as temporary and specialist exhibitions.
- Prado Museum – If you love your grandmasters, then head for The Prado Museum. Its official name is the Museo Nacional del Prado and is Spain’s premier and national art museum. Its located in central Madrid. Crowds from all over the world flock to this iconic museum, so it’s worthwhile booking tickets for the Prado Museum to skip the queues and avoid the crowds by visiting in the early morning.
- Reina Sofia – Madrid’s other most notable museum is The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. This is is Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art. The museum was officially opened and named after Queen Sofía in 1990. Centrally located, this is another of Madrids busiest attractions, so like with the Prado, it’s a good idea to book your ticket for the Reina Sofia in advance to skip the line.
- Centro/Centro (Palacio de Cibeles) – The building itself is worth the visit! Opening in 1919, it used to be the central hub for all things communication-based in Madrid (think postal service, telecommunications etc.). Scattered about the foyer, you’ll find some information boards with interesting nuggets of information about the building and its original features which remain. Check out the old desks and the light fittings.
Each floor houses a different exhibition and it’s free to enter If you’re looking for somewhere to sit down and rest for a while, then seek out the sofas and cosy study area on Level 5. Here, you can sit, read and relax whilst overlooking the fabulous city views.
- Telefonica – This is a great little exhibition centre housed in the 1920s Telefonica Building. Of course, there is an exhibition on the history of communication ranging from Morse code right up to modern-day mobile phones. Don’t forget to check out some of their ‘vintage’ mobile collection; I’m sure I have phones in drawers at home to rival some of the offerings here. This permanent fixture is a very well-curated exhibition with lots of nice hands-on examples.
The other floors host different exhibitions, at the time of visiting there was a great exhibition on ‘Mars’. Again, like the permanent exhibition on communication, this was very well set out with lots of multimedia bits on display. So even if you can’t understand Spanish, you’ll still enjoy it. Also, Telefonica is free to enter.
Check out the vibrant music and dance performaces
With live music from regional, national and international artists popping up all over the city, this is a great option for something to do on the cool evenings of Madrid in winter.
The best place for international artists is at WiZink. There are tons of international acts that come to perform at this venue and actually the price for gig tickets here is very reasonable. Check-in advance for listings. The other most popular concert arena in Madrid is La Riviera, again check listings online for what’s on.
If more intimate music venues are more your thing, then head to Cafe Berlin. This is a great little music venue with a vintage feel to the décor for live Jazz, Flamenco, Swing…..you name it, they probably have a night for it.
For a more traditional experience, be sure to catch a flamenco show at one of the many clubs dotted about the city. These are usually small and intimate venues featuring the acoustic sound of the flamenco guitar playing nimble and intricate rhythms which a fierce and fast footed (usually female) dancer creates powerful movements with her feet.
Take a trip back in time at Chamberí
Probably one of the coolest things to do in Madrid purely because it’s literally a time capsule. A visit to the abandoned Chamberí Metro Station is a must. The station was part of Line 1 from the early 1900s up until the 1960s. From the ’60s right up to 2008, it was closed off to the public.
The platform was renovated and restored, then opened as the Andén 0 museum. There are still loads of original features in place like the ticket booths. The walls still have some of the fantastic colourful tile advertisements which would have been normal back then, I couldn’t imagine these works of art on the walls of modern-day Metro stations!
The super cool thing about this is that trains still travel along the line (they just don’t stop). Chamberí is just one closed station along a still functioning Metro line. What you do get though is the eerie sound of trains rumbling in the distance and then bolting past every so often.
Images and video clips showing bygone scenes of Madrid are projected onto the walls of the station. This is intermingled with slide shows of vintage billboards that would have donned the walls. It’s a pretty awesome place.
Check one of the many Shopping Malls in Madrid
Boasting a plethora of shopping malls, Madrid is a great place to go shopping. With high-end stores selling designer wear (if that’s your thing) to street markets, for sure you’ll find something to suit your taste (and budget).
If you need something a little more adrenalin based, then check out the Snowzone. You’ll find it at Madrid’s Xanadú shopping centre.
Head for the heights at Faro de Moncloa
They love their repurposed buildings in Madrid, and this converted old transmission tower is another of them. Faro de Moncloa has an observation platform 92m high up and boasts views up to 100km away. I’m not quite sure how genuine that claim is, but either way, it’s a pretty decent view from up here.
WHERE TO EAT IN MADRID
Madrid is certainly a city for foodie lovers, the Spaniards also love their wine! The best way to get a feel for Spanish cuisine is to just go and eat where the locals eat and try the tapas. If you’re in Madrid in winter on a chilly wet day, then why not sign up for a Spanish cooking class and learn to cook all your favourite dishes back home.
Chocolate y Churros
This is a MUST DO while in Madrid in winter, although they are technically available all year round. Typically, Chocolate y Churros would be eaten in the morning, however, I loved them as a late afternoon treat, especially when the sun has just set and the air is getting chilly (in fact, scrap that and have them in the morning and afternoon!) Not sure where to find these delicious sweet treats, then check out the Chocolate and Churros in Tour Madrid.
A ‘Churro’ is a little bit like a doughnut in the way they are made apart from they are long and skinny; sometimes they are left straight, other times they are looped round to make a teardrop shape. They are then deep-fried and sometimes finished with a light sprinkling of sugar on them. Churros come served with an equally calorific cup of gloopy, rich chocolate which you dip the Churro in. Don’t even think about the calories, just sit back and enjoy.
San Anton Market
Madrid KNOWS how to do food well, and this indoor market in Chueca District is a foodie’s paradise. Part of me is thankful that I am only here for a few days, I’d go back with a shameless spare tyre from working my way around this place.
This market sells everything from sweet to savoury dishes, snacks, ingredients, alcoholic drinks to healthy juices. Admittedly, it’s not the cheapest place to eat but you can be sure that the food you eat here is top-notch in terms of quality and taste.
If you’re after more old-school style and authentic Spanish tapas, then take a trip out to Cava Baja, in La Latina district, this is also known as Madrid’s ‘tapas street’.
For an amusing quick read, this post by fellow Brit-blogger, Rosie, has a hilarious account of her experience of going for Tapas in Madrid.
I’m always on the hunt for top vegetarian restaurants wherever I go and Vega is up there with the best. This is an awesome little (no joke, the restaurant is tiny) vegan restaurant in the popular Malasaña District. I visited with two full-on carnivore friends and who both loved everything they tried here.
Between the three of us, we shared a starter, along with a bowl of homemade bread, then ordered three mains and a bottle of red wine (we had the one from Cenicientos and it was divine).
We were stuffed and the bill came to less than $60 equivalent. I don’t think three people could eat that much top quality food and feel that full WITH a bottle of decent wine for that in any European capital!
For the animal lovers out there
It’s worth knowing that Madrid has its very own Cat Café. If you’ve never had the privilege of visiting a Cat Café before, the idea is simple, you order your drink and then while you’re drinking it, go around and pamper the resident kitties.
La Gatoteca works on a donation basis depending on how long you stay and what drink you order. The money goes straight back into the care of the cats until they find their forever home.
The café is spread over 2 floors with ample space to sit and relax. There are write-ups on the walls telling you about each of the cats, some of which will be sleeping, wandering about or causing mischief. When you leave, check out the ‘hall of fame’ showing all the lucky kitties which have already been adopted.
VISITING MADRID AT CHRISTMAS TIME
Shop for traditional and unique gifts at the Christmas Mercados
If you’re visiting Madrid in winter, try and aim for December if you want to experience the markets. Christmas Mercados pop up all over the place. The largest one within Madrid City Centre is in Plaza Mayor. Another popular one is at the medieval walled town of Toledo.
Marvel at the decorations, twinkling lights and Nativity scenes
One of the simplest things to do in Madrid in December in the lead up to the festive seasons is to simply wander the streets and town squares admiring the decorations on display. You’ll find Christmas themed displays in shop windows, giant trees in the open squares along with lights strung above the roads and pavements.
Decorations start to pop up towards the end of November and carry on through Christmas up until Kings Day on the 6th of January. As the light of the winter sun fades, the colourful and twinkling lights get switched on every night.
NEW YEARS EVE IN MADRID
Join in with the local tradition and eat 12 grapes on New Years Eve
The strange tradition of seeing in New Year originated in the 1800s with the idea that you have to eat one grape with every chime of the clock at midnight. Wash this down with Champagne as you welcome in the new year.
Celebrate an extended Christmas on Kings Day
If you are in Madrid in January, more precisely, January 6th, then you’ll be there for The Cabalgata De Los Reyes (The Three Kings Cavalcade). In Madrid, a huge street parade and carnival takes place to mark the end of the festive season and gifts are given to children.
Eat the Roscón de Reyes
You’ll find this ring-shaped, tasty, sweet, fruity, buttery bread-like cake for sale in every bakery and pastry shop in Madrid during the festive season. This is traditionally eaten on the morning of Three Kings Day.
Travel Tips for visiting Madrid in Winter
Where to stay in Madrid
- On a budget: 2060 The Newton Hostel is centrally located with possibly the cutest and quirkiest rooms (seriously go take a look at the bedrooms!). It’s also got a sun terrace filled with seating overlooking the city, loads of indoor social space AND an on-site spa. I was actually shocked by how little it costs to stay here.
- Mid-Budget: Hostal Central Palace Madrid don’t be deceived by the name, although it offers a few dorm rooms this place is predominately private rooms. Whatsmore, it can’t be in a better location. It overlooks the gardens of The Grand Palace. This is a great mid-range option and considering the location, reviews and how big the rooms are it’s a great price.
- Blow the Budget: Gran Hotel Inglés is a stunning 5 star hotel, centrally located in a 19th-century building. Just 350 yards from Puerta del Sol and only 650 yards from the main museums. The decor screams luxury in an opulent art-decó style. Go take a look a the lounge! There’s even an onsite gym, spa and wellness centre and some rooms come with an outdoor hot tub.
Getting from the airport to Madrid, Spain
The main airport for Madrid is Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport, commonly known as Madrid–Barajas Airport. It’s located about 18km outside of the centre of Madrid.
There are several options to get from the airport to the centre. One of the most efficient is by taking the Line 8 Metro to the ‘Nuevos Ministerios Metro station‘ in the centre of Madrid.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to navigate the metro station with your luggage, you can book your private airport transfer directly to your hotel in advance. Booking in advance saves you both the hassle and avoids the hefty inflated fees from the taxi firms at the airport.
Prebook now: Private Transfer From Madrid Airport
Related Article: The Spain Bucket List – Awesome Spanish Landmarks you NEED to see
What is the best month to visit Madrid, Spain?
It depends on what you are after. If you’re after hot weather, then don’t come in the winter. If you’re wanting the warmer of the winter months, then early November is best, however, if you really want to enjoy all the festivities then the best months are December and early January.
Is Madrid cold in winter?
Madrid is a dry city, with plenty of crisp and sunny days. The air temperature does get cool and it even snows in the city. Expect daytime temperatures to linger at around 12 degrees in November. The weather in Madrid in December and January can drop to about 6 degrees in the coldest months. In the sunshine, it does feel warmer, so it’s a good idea to pack clothing that can be layered. The night times will feel significantly cooler without the sunshine. If you’re unfortunate enough to be there during a rain shower, be sure to have a waterproof jacket or umbrella. It can get chilly!
Does it snow in Madrid in winter?
In short, yes. It can snow, although this is guaranteed to happen every year. The best thing to do is check the weather forecast before you depart.
What to wear in Madrid in winter?
Although there is plenty of suns, it can still get chilly. You will certainly want to pack some warm socks with a pair of waterproof shoes (in case it rains) as well as plenty of layer-able clothing. Take a warm jacket, particularly for the evenings. It’s also worth taking had, gloves and scarfs especially if there is a snowfall (although it’s not common for snow)
You can find out more about what to wear in winter in Europe here.
So, are you tempted to visit Madrid in Winter?
I’m hoping you’ve discovered how amazing Madrid in winter really is and why I’m a little bit obsessed with this city. It really is the perfect European city for a winter break with ample stuff to do both indoors and outside and traditional, yet sometimes quirky, activities over the festive season.
If you’re wondering how much to budget for your trip to Spain, you could check out this useful post on how much things cost in Spain. Or this article about a budget weekend in Madrid might be useful too.
Alternatively, if you’re not convinced by Madrid, check out some of these other European winter sun desitnations.
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