The weather in Madrid during the winter holidays is just about the perfect Christmas weather – cold enough to create the mandatory cosy feeling of Christmas, yet warm enough to not freeze your toes off, while you take off for a stroll along the streets of Madrid. Fortunately, there’s a plethora of exciting Christmas-themed activities around the city to explore. So, if you’re planning a Christmas getaway to Spain, here are the top seven things you should do, while soaking up the lively local culture in the thriving Spanish capital.
Words: Aleksandra Medina
1. Christmas Market in Plaza Meyor (Mercado de Navidad de Plaza Meyor)
Madrid, the capital of an old Catholic country, takes Christmas very seriously. Therefore, the city hosts multiple Christmas markets, with the main Christmas market taking place in Plaza Meyor. This Christmas market dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, and today has a total of 104 log cabins, offering an array of traditional Christmas products, activities and delicacies. The Mercado de Navidad de Plaza Meyor is open from late November to late December, with opening hours of 10.00 to 21.00 Monday to Friday, and 10.00 to 22.00 Saturday and Sunday.
2. Museo Nacional del Prado
If you haven’t been to Museo Nacional del Prado, definitely dedicate an afternoon to visit this famous museum, which is considered to be among the best art museums in the world. The Museum, owning its bounty of classical masterpieces to the Spanish Royal family, possesses some of the most important pieces from Spanish and Italian classical art, passionately collected by the kings and queens of Spain. Museo del Prado is open 10.00 to 20.00 from Monday to Saturday, and 10.00 to 19.00 on Sundays and holidays. Additionally, admission is free of charge on certain times (18.00-20.00 from Monday to Saturday and 17.00 to 19.00 on Sundays and holidays). Otherwise, the admission fee is 15 euros.
3. Christmas Light Spectacle Chasing
Just like most European capitals, every year for Christmas, Madrid will be shining in elaborate Christmas lights. Paired with the weather conditions, it makes Madrid the perfect city for strolling around and enjoying the Christmas light spectacle. Whereas in many other European cities, it might be simply too cold for that to be an enjoyable activity. From year to year, the most Christmassy spots are Gran Via, Puerta del Sol and Calle Goya. For particularly cold-sensitive visitors, it is possible to take the seasonal Navibus, that takes passengers on a 45-minute journey around the city’s best Christmas lights, starting from Jardines del Descubrimiento in Plaza Colon.
4. Puerta del Sol Christmas Tree
Undoubtedly, a tree is one of the main decorations and symbols of Christmas, and there will be countless Christmas trees around Madrid. But the main Christmas tree will be located in Puerta del Sol and its size will be equal to a 12-storey building. Read: incredibly impressive, and worth seeing in real life.
5. Nativity Scenes
Madrid, the capital of a once deeply Catholic country, takes nativity scenes to the next level. Famous for their thoroughness, people will queue up to get in to see them. But don’t worry, there are nativity scenes all around Madrid, with the whole Bethlehem reproduced. Some of the most famous ones are the nativity scenes at Centro Cibeles de Cultura y Ciudadanía, City Hall and Plaza Mayor.
6. Ice Rinks Around the City
There’s something about ice skating rinks, that just feels like Christmas. Maybe it’s all the cheesy Hollywood Christmas movies. Nevertheless, they also happen to be an ideal spot for a date, or a fun afternoon with your friends. Madrid’s best ice skating rinks are Centro Cultural Conde Duque (Malasana), Plaza de la Luna and Plaza de Felipe II.
7. Three Kings Procession in Madrid
If you stay in Madrid until January 5, missing the Three Kings Procession is unforgivable. One of the biggest Christmas attractions in Madrid, the Three Kings Procession is a huge spectacle featuring hundreds of actors, and is also broadcasted live on Spanish television. The parade draws around 100,000 people to the streets, with children receiving candy thrown into the crowd by the Three Kings themselves. January 6, the morning of the Epiphany, and January 5, the day of the parade, are incredibly important to the Spanish, who, according to a 2015 survey, love the Three Kings more than Santa.