What to Do in Madrid to Enjoy the Holiday Season
The holidays are the most magical time of year all over the world and Spain is no exception! December is an exciting month as people prepare for Christmas, New Year’s and the 3 Kings Day, so it’s no surprise that there are many activities to see and do. In Madrid, you will find no shortage of fun wintertime activities to get you in the holiday spirit. If you’re wondering what to do in Madrid during the holidays, then look no further. Here is guide to holiday fun for all in Spain’s capital!
Visit Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor is a tourist hot spot all year round, known for its shops, bars and famous fried calamari sandwiches. During Christmas holidays, the plaza has even more to offer as there is the yearly Christmas market. You can shop around the market, enjoy the lights, and see the belen, or nativity scene, that is put in the plaza every year. Plaza Mayor is an epicenter of activity in Madrid and during the holidays is even more special.
See the lights at night
Christmas is such a pretty time because the lights illuminate Madrid at night, making each street festive and spirited. When you walk around the city you will notice that the lights are different in every neighborhood, and there may be additional decorations like Christmas trees and ribbons.If you’re out at night in December and wondering what to do in Madrid, taking a nighttime stroll is a good bet. The magic of the lights and decorations are sure to put you in the holiday spirit! There are several great sots to check out the lights, for example, Plaza de España or Plaza del Callao. Take a walk down Calle Alcalá from Cibeles to Puerta del Sol and you will be amazed by all of the illumination. From Cibeles to Puerta de Alcalá is where you will find the most beautiful light display of all!
Try the local cuisine
Trying Spanish food is a no-brainer when you’re thinking about what to do in Madrid! There are so many local specialties and no lack of great restaurants and tapas bars to try them in. Try classic dishes like callos, cocido madrileño, or the famous bocadillos de calamares. Spanish cuisine has so much depth and flavor that you might consider joining Food Lover Tour on any one of our food tours in Madrid to get a local’s perspective and go where they go.
December is the biggest month for shopping as everyone prepares for the holidays. During this month, most shops stay open on Sundays to take advantage of shoppers getting ready for Christmas. Some stores may even stay open much later than usual for the same reason. Take advantage of this and get your Christmas shopping done in Madrid’s many large stores like El Corte Inglés, Zara, and Primark. If you can stand the crowds then Christmas shopping along Madrid’s Gran Via is a must! Also of note is Calle Fuencarral is mall filled with various shops to catch your eye. Some of the most exclusive boutiques can be found on Calle José Ortega y Gassett for upscale shopping. All of the lights and bustle of activity add to the holiday frenzy during this time of year.
Count down the new year in Puerta del Sol
Every year in Puerta del Sol there is a giant lit Christmas tree that bring in visitors to take pictures and see the brightest tree in town. This is also the site of the biggest New Years countdown in Madrid, as it is televised for all the nation to see. Thousands of people gather together to ring in the new year and eat the traditional 12 grapes at midnight. If you’re looking for THE place to be on New Year’s Eve in Madrid, this is it!
Snack on some churros and chocolate
Madrid is famous for its churros dipped in chocolate, so if you’re wondering what to do in Madrid around snack time this is it! Churros are served fresh with a steaming mug of thick liquid chocolate, which is perfect to warm you up from the chilly winter air. This is a treat that locals love and tourists must try when they are in Madrid, as most cafes and pastry shops make there own churros in-house. The most famous is Chocolatería San Ginés, a local favorite in the center. You can also try Churrería Santa Ana in La Latina or Chocolatería Los Artesanos 1902 in the center. It’s the perfect snack to satisfy your sweet tooth as well!
Nativity scenes throughout the city
As mentioned before, belenes are a very important Spanish tradition as Christmas time, as most people set them up in their homes during the holidays. They can be very intricate, and there are often markets and vendors in the streets that sell pieces for these nativity scenes. They can be simple or elaborate, big or small. Sometimes you can even find live nativity scenes in churches or public squares. Many businesses set up a belen in their window for Christmas, so you can walk all over Madrid and see many beautiful nativity scenes everywhere you look.
Run the San Silvestre
To combat the holiday calories, you can partake in in the San Silvestre race on December 31st. This is a 10K race in the Valleca neighborhood of Madrid. There are two races, one for runners looking to have fun and another for more serious athletes. The race has been a tradition since 1964 and attracts thousands of runners every year. This is a great way to see Madrid from another perspective and cover a lot of ground easily. Click here to learn more about the race.
Eat seasonal sweets
Lastly, make sure you indulge in some of the Christmastime treats that can be found in bakeries and cafes in Madrid! Turrones, polvorones, and marzipan are traditional holiday sweets almost anywhere and are eaten in homes across Spain during the holidays. These sweets also make great holiday gifts or souvenirs if you want to give a unique gift to your favorite foodie! Sweets lovers won’t be disappointed!
So there you have it! Your complete guide of what to do in Madrid during the holiday season! In reality, no matter you end up doing since Madrid is such a vibrant city and the holiday season only adds to the magic.