Are you staying in Madrid over the Christmas break? With the lights, markets, and festivities, the city is definitely the place to be over the holiday!
During the holiday season, Madrid comes alive with Christmas spirit, so be sure to take part in the festivities that the city has to offer!
As you stroll through the bustling streets of Madrid, enjoying the Christmas ambiance, buying gifts, or meeting friends take a moment to take part in some of the most common holiday traditions.
Bocadillo de calamares
Take a break after all that Christmas shopping and stop to enjoy a bocadillo de calamares in the Plaza Mayor. The warm crunchy bread and tasty calamari with ali oli or mayonnaise will surely satisfy your taste-buds and accompany the sandwich with a caña.
Chocolate con churros
“Baby, it’s cold outside…” so warm up with a nice cup of thick hot chocolate and churros. San Gines Chocolateria is the place to go and the wait is worth your while. This restaurant has been serving up delicious churros since 1894!
Another typical Spanish delicacy at Christmas time is turrón. This pastry is made of honey, sugar and egg whites and sometimes almonds or other nuts can be found in a variety of different flavors and textures. There is soft turrón and hard turrón, chocolate and nut; a flavor for everyone. Turrón can be purchased at any supermarket and Corte Inglés, however if you want to try a truly authentic turrón go to Casa Mira. It’s been their specialty since 1842!
Plaza Mayor Market
One of the most popular events to check out during the Christmas season is the market in Plaza Mayor. Here, you can find a variety of booths with artisans from all over Spain selling handmade figures and nativity sets. They make for a great gift, but if you’re not looking to buy anything it’s still worth your while to check out the figures, houses, and handmade treasures.
Setting up a nativity scene or Belén is a Christmas tradition in Spain. Some Belenes are small and simple, however others are very elaborate including many towns, houses, figures and animals leading up to the nativity. There are many nativity scenes you can see throughout Madrid, however the most traditional is found in the Plaza del Sol. The Belén de la Puerta del Sol can be visited at the Real Casa de Correos de la Puerta del Sol until the 5th of January. As with many of the events in Madrid during this busy time, be sure to get there early!
The entire city becomes illuminated in a spectacle of lights and decorations. Stroll through the center between Plaza Mayor, Callao, and Sol and take in the Christmas spirit. While you’re passing through the decorated streets, stop and connect with your inner child at Cortylandia, outside the Corte Inglés on Preciados. After enjoying this 15-minute show of lights, interactive characters, and songs, you’ll leave with a huge smile on your face and singing, “Cortylandia, Cortylandia vamos todos a cantar…”
To get a full-lit experience of the city at Christmas, you can hop on the Naviluz, a bus that tours through Serrano, Puerto de Alcalá, Cibeles, Gran Vía, Callao, Jacometrezo, Santo Domingo, San Bernardo, Velázquez, and Ortega y Gasset. Tickets can be purchased for only 2 euro online!
Don’t miss the Parade of Lights that brings in the winter season! For the first time in Madrid, on the night of the winter solstice, you can see the parade of lights at the Madrid Rio. The festival begins at 19:00 on December 21st and ends with a firework show to signify the end of autumn and beginning of winter.
International Christmas Fair of Cultures
It’s the second year that Madrid hosts the International Christmas Fair of Cultures. From the 15th to the 23rd of December, the Matadero Madrid is a Christmas spectacle with over 250 activities including dances, shows, games, crafts, markets and food from 75 different countries of the world. Learn about how different cultures celebrate Christmas and become part of this wordly experience!
Although it rarely ever snows in Madrid, it does get cold enough to enjoy a day of ice skating. Be sure to slip and slide on of the biggest ice skating rinks in Plaza de la Luna. You can go from 10 in the morning to 23:00 on weekends at a cost of 5 euro on weekdays and 7.50 euro on weekends. Skate rentals are included in the price.
The lottery is a big deal in Spain and Spaniards take it even more seriously during the Christmas season. Whether it be at school, at work, in the bars, or just on the streets, you will be bombarded with opportunities to participate in the Loteria de Navidad. One fraction of the lottery, un décimo, costs 20 euro and while it may seem expensive, it only increases your chances of winning some prize. The big lottery day is the 22nd of December, when the children sing and announce the winning numbers. It’s a whole day event and by the end of the affair, over 2,310 million euros will be distributed! You might just get lucky!
New Year’s in Madrid
Madrid brings in the New Year, broadcasting live from the Puerta del Sol. The plaza fills with thousands of partiers with their hats, costumes, and noise-makers. The sounding of twelve bells from the Casa de Correos announces the New Year and for each bell rung, you have to eat one grape. Twelve bells, twelve grapes, Happy New Year!
Three Kings Day (Epiphany)
The Christmas season doesn’t end on January 1st in Spain. The festivities continue until the Dia de los Reyes on January 6th. On the eve of Reyes or on the actual day, families gather to eat roscón, a typical pastry similar to a huge bagel that can be filled with cream or eaten with chocolate. Be sure to try this delicious calorie counter!
The Three Kings Day is also the holiday on which children receive presents. Before they go to bed, the children leave biscuits and three glasses of water for the three wise men and their camels.
On the eve of Reyes, the young and old gather to witness the three wise men parade into the city. The Cabalgata de Reyes takes place at 18:30 starting from Plaza de San Juan de la Cruz (near Nuevos Ministerios) and passing through la Castellana, finishing at Plaza de Cibeles with fireworks. This parade marks the end of the Christmas holiday. Be a part of it!
Happy New Year!