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It’s no secret that crowds flock to Madrid in the warmer weather but what about visiting Madrid in winter?

Visiting Spain in winter can be a brilliant time for a Spanish city break as often the climate is mild in the winter and you can top up on a bit of Vitamin D whilst still getting out to explore the city.

madrid in winter city lights

But visiting Madrid in winter is bound to be different and so I asked a local, Sam, for their insider’s tips. I’ve learnt so much from this latest instalment in the ‘Interview with a Local‘ series. I’m particularly loving the quirky grape tradition at New Year and hearing about the national lottery superstitions! You’ll have to read on to find out more…

Things you need to know before visiting Madrid in winter

Population 3.2 million

Language Spanish (but English is widely spoken)

Currency Euro ( €1 = $1.15)

Airport Madrid-Barajas Airport

I’m excited to hand you over to Sam now to tell you all of her insider’s tips about winter in Madrid to make sure you have the most amazing city break!

madrid in winter at dawn

Madrid in Winter – Tips from a Local

Why should we visit Madrid?

Madrid is a beautiful city with a lot to offer in terms of culture, food, history, and fun, affordable things to do. It often gets overshadowed by Barcelona, but we love Madrid because it is less touristy, less expensive, and more enjoyable!

Is there any part of Madrid we should base ourselves?

The city centre is fairly small and walkable, so where you stay matters less in Madrid than in more spread out cities. You can easily walk most places or hop on the convenient and cheap metro system.

Las Letras, the literary district, is a great centrally located place to stay. It is near the city’s main museums, parks, nightlife, and there are many hotels and hostels to choose from in the area.

We do not recommend Airbnb for travellers in Madrid as it is pushing out residents and driving up rents in the historic centre. This has also led to many illegal Airbnbs with substandard conditions, so you’re better off booking other forms of accommodation anyway.

What do you love most about winter in Madrid?

We love winter in Madrid because while it does get chilly, the sun still shines! It snows extremely rarely in Madrid (flurries once a year is cause for great excitement), and though it does rain more in the winter, it’s not debilitating like winters in other places can be.

You can still do so much in winter in Madrid. You won’t be cooped up like in other cities!

Madrid Retiro Park in Winter Alternative Travelers

What is the weather like in Madrid in Winter? Do we need our thermals?!

As mentioned above, the winter in Madrid is pretty mild. However, if you are visiting Spain in the winter months you’ll still need some layers and common winter items like a hat, scarf, and gloves. It does get cold, especially once the sun goes down.

During the day, if you want to still sit out on a terrace, you’ll want to layer up. Spaniards eat outside throughout the year and you won’t want to miss out on this tradition. Finally, while it likely won’t rain every day, be prepared for rain as well with an umbrella and waterproof boots.

We actually have an entire article dedicated to what to wear in Spain in winter.

Can you suggest some things to do in Madrid in winter?

You can explore Madrid as you would in other seasons, though with a few more layers and plans for rainy days. On sunny days, you can still walk around the city streets and explore the many unique neighbourhoods, plazas, and parks.

Grab a coffee on an outdoor terrace and soak up the sun that you would not get in winter in other places. Madrid also has a bar on nearly every corner, so if you need something stronger to warm up, you won’t have to look far!

madrid in winter Outdoor Dining in Plaza de la Paja - Alternative Travelers

Any Suggestions for things to do in Madrid in the rain?

On bad days, there are many indoor places to hole up, such as local neighbourhood markets with tapas stalls and other shops, as well as many fantastic museums.

Madrid is known for its “Golden Triangle” of art museums, the Reina Sofia, The Prado, and The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Besides these museums, you can visit the royal palace, the city history museum, and tons of other smaller, quirky museums with minimal or free entry.

Any cosy cafes or restaurants where you recommend getting warm in Madrid in winter?

We love cafes and Madrid has been getting more and more of them over the years. One of our favourites is Chilling Cafe, a cosy vegan cafe with fantastic coffee and tea drinks as well as lunches with Asian inspired food, created by the hip Taiwanese owners.

Cafe de la Luz is also a favourite. Its variety of couches, eclectic decor, and it’s large selection of various hot drinks makes it the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon or evening. They often give out little bowls of popcorn with your order!

Can you recommend things to do in Madrid at Christmas Time?

There are many Christmas markets that spring up around the city in Madrid in the months and weeks before Christmas. You can find everything from traditional sweets and figurines to funny hats and colourful wigs.

A must-do in Madrid during the holiday season is visiting a “Belen”, or miniature Bethlehem. These tiny, elaborate villages are representations of Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’s birth. The Spanish take great pride in these villages and the figurines can be up to hundreds of years old.

Madrid in winter Christmas Markets in Plaza Mayor - Alternative Travelers

Is there anywhere you recommend spending New Year’s Eve in Madrid?

Just like New York has the ball drop in Times Square, Madrid has eating grapes in the Puerta del Sol, the city’s main square. If you plan to go, make sure to take 12 grapes to eat with you as the clock strikes down the last seconds of the year. Be careful not to choke!

Any other Exciting events or festivals in Madrid in the winter?

While the majority of Madrid’s festivals happen in the spring or summer, there are still a few in winter in Madrid.

The major events during the winter are Christmas and New Year. In Spain, the big day is January 6, Three King’s Day, on which there’s a massive parade going through central Madrid.

Before Christmas, you’ll likely wonder why people are standing in lines outside of lottery shops around the city. They’re buying tickets for the biggest national lottery of the year. Shops that have sold previous winning tickets are said to be lucky, and thus have longer lines.

Any Interesting Facts about Madrid you can share with us? Anything else we should know?

Look out for the city’s coat of arms – a bear and a strawberry tree – throughout the city!

Note that over the Christmas season, many small shops and businesses will be closed. If you plan to visit Madrid anytime between December 24-January 7th, this may affect your plans.

Sam writes about sustainable and vegan travel on a budget. She travels with her partner and is currently exploring the USA but prior to that, they lived in Madrid for several years. On their blog, you will find lots of content about Spain, Europe and the USA. Make sure you check out their website!

With many thanks to Sam for this really informative guest post about winter in Madrid.

I’ve personally only visited Madrid in the summertime but absolutely loved the city so this article has got me thinking about going back in winter – who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky on the Madrid winter lottery?!

Would you visit Madrid in winter? I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this post, it would be fabulous if you could share it with your friends and family!

Want to read more? There are plenty more Interviews with Locals here.