Visiting Madrid Spain in winter is quite different from the summer, but there’s so much to the capital city even in the low season.
During the festive season, the city sparkles, and with mild winter temperatures, it’s a comfortable winter destination to visit. You might even enjoy an outside lunch on a sunny day.
There are so many reasons to visit Madrid in the winter. In my opinion, it’s the perfect winter destination as it’s not on the coast.
The Spanish capital city boasts a foodie scene like no other, its shopping opportunities are beyond satisfying, and don’t get me started on the cultural scene.
In this post, I’ll go through everything you need to know to prepare for your trip and exactly what to expect from winter in Madrid.
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Table of Contents
Madrid winter weather
In winter, Madrid experiences a relatively mild climate compared to many other European cities. However, temperatures can still vary, and it can get chilly, especially during the coldest months from December to February.
Daytime temperatures typically range from 8 to 15 degrees Celsius (46 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit), but colder days can see temperatures dropping below 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) at night.
Despite the cooler temperatures, Madrid tends to have a good amount of sunshine in winter.
This means you can experience nice warm days, but as the temperatures drop dramatically by sundown, it’s important to dress in layers and bring warm outer layers for the evenings.
Madrid also experiences some rainfall during the winter months, with occasional light showers. I recommend bringing an umbrella just in case.
It’s important to note that weather conditions can vary from year to year. I suggest checking the weather forecast closer to your travel dates for more accurate and up-to-date information.
But even so, be prepared for changes in the forecast as the winter weather in Madrid can be unpredictable.
Does it snow in Madrid?
The million-dollar question I get asked a lot is, “Does it snow in Madrid?” Well, it might or might not.
While snow is not extremely common in Madrid, it does happen occasionally, especially in the surrounding mountains. If there is snowfall in the city, it’s usually light and doesn’t last long.
The last heavy snowfall in Madrid was in January 2021 during a heavy storm. But I assure you this is not normal for the city.
I’ve been to Madrid in the winter months several times and have never been blessed with snow. Not even rain for that sake – I’ve always just caught nice and sunny weather.
What to wear in Madrid in winter?
If you wonder what to wear in Madrid in winter, you’re not alone. It can be a tricky one because the temperatures change a lot from day to night.
Your best option is to dress in layers. You might find yourself carrying your jacket on a sunny day, but as soon as the sun goes down, you’ll wish you had a scarf and beanie too.
So don’t underestimate a day that can seem warm. You should also wear good walking shoes because you’ll be walking a lot!
Where to stay in Madrid in winter
You might wonder what neighborhood to stay in Madrid when you visit. While there are many great areas, I suggest staying centrally, especially if it’s your first time.
Since the weather can change and you might experience rain or snow it’s also better to have a short walk to your hotel and not have to travel a long way if you need to change.
Here are my top picks for your winter stay in Madrid.
Gran Hotel Inglés
fabulous 5-star hotel with a friendly atmosphere and a spa and wellness center
such a cozy hotel with super friendly staff – the city’s attractions are within walking distance
Things to do in Madrid Spain in winter
Visit all the museums
Madrid’s museums stand as veritable treasure troves of art and history, attracting millions of visitors annually.
The renowned Prado Museum showcases an unparalleled collection of European masterpieces, including works by Goya, Velázquez, and Bosch.
The Reina Sofía Museum, dedicated to contemporary art, proudly houses Picasso’s iconic “Guernica.”
For a diverse array of artistic expressions, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum offers a journey through seven centuries of European art.
Beyond paintings, Madrid’s museums delve into history with the National Archaeological Museum and the Royal Palace, providing insights into Spain’s rich past.
The quirky IKONO Museum is an immersive art space where you can interact with and become part of vibrant, visually striking installations that blend digital and physical elements, creating a dynamic and engaging art experience. You might also enjoy the Museum of Illusions and Madrid Wax Museum.
As you can tell, even if you catch some days of rain, there are plenty of things to do indoors in Madrid with this only being a taste of the museums the city has to show for.
I highly recommend pre-booking the following to save time:
- Reina Sofia Museum skip-the-line tickets
- Prado Museum and Royal Palace guided tour
- Prado Museum guided tour
- IKONO skip-the-line tickets
- Museum of Illusions tickets
- Madrid Wax Museum tickets
Go ice skating
While in Madrid during winter, you’ll be surprised how many outdoor ice skating rinks pop up throughout the city.
The Retiro Park is the most famous park in Madrid and one of the places where you can enjoy ice skating.
But you can also rent skates at Plaza de España and Palacio de Cibeles which are both idyllic places to enjoy this winter activity.
Warm up with Churros and Chocolate
Indulge in a Spanish winter tradition by enjoying churros dipped in thick hot chocolate. You can find excellent churrerías throughout the city.
The original churros recipe is vegan, though some places use milk these days, so you gotta ask. However, the chocolate is usually not vegan, but since we’re talking about Madrid, some places are serving vegan chocolate with the churros too.
My favorite place for vegan churros with chocolate is Chocolateria 1902. This might in fact be the best place for churros con chocolate in Madrid and they have gluten-free options too.
Experience Madrid’s Christmas Markets
If you travel in the Holiday season, exploring the Christmas Markets is a must. If you only have one day in Madrid, make sure you visit the one at Plaza Mayor. It’s the oldest and biggest in the city dating back to the 19th century.
There, you can find everything you can imagine from pieces for a nativity scene to ornaments, toys, and handicrafts.
I highly recommend you take this Christmas walking tour with a local guide for the ultimate cultural immersion. This way, you’ll experience the festive spirit of Madrid like a local.
Explore the Royal Palace
Visiting the Royal Palace is a must on any Madrid winter itinerary. As one of Europe’s largest royal palaces, it boasts opulent rooms, ornate furnishings, and stunning gardens.
Admire the grandeur of the Throne Room, the sumptuous Royal Chapel, and the lavish Hall of Columns. The Palace’s exterior, with its neoclassical facade and expansive courtyards, is equally impressive.
Expect to be captivated by the intricate details and artistry within the Palace, providing a glimpse into Spain’s royal legacy.
I highly recommend joining this walking tour of Madrid including a guided tour of the Royal Palace.
Shop till you drop
Visiting Madrid in winter is perfect for shopping. The bustling Gran Vía hosts flagship stores and trendy boutiques, perfect for fashion enthusiasts seeking the latest styles. This is also the most famous avenue in Madrid which you are bound to pass during your visit.
For luxury brands, head to Salamanca District’s Golden Mile, renowned for its high-end shops. El Rastro, Europe’s largest flea market, is a treasure trove of antiques, vintage finds, and eclectic items.
Attend a Flamenco Show
Warm up your winter nights by attending a Flamenco show. There are many venues in Madrid where you can experience this passionate and traditional Spanish dance.
For a full Flamenco experience, I recommend joining this guided tour where you not only see a Flamenco show but also visit local Flamenco shops where you can see how the costumes and musical instruments in this unique art form are created. The tour also includes tapas and drinks.
Participate in New Year’s Eve Traditions
If you’re in Madrid for New Year’s Eve, make sure you join the locals in celebrating at Puerta del Sol, where the famous clock strikes midnight.
It’s a tradition to eat twelve grapes, one for each stroke of the clock, for good luck in the coming year. You can purchase packs of 12 stone-free grapes at stores around Madrid in the days before New Year.
Explore the city parks
Madrid in winter invites for strolls in the many parks. The most popular is Retiro Park with the magnificent Crystal Palace and ponds. In fact, it’s dedicated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Monuments and sculptures decorate the park and with the naked trees, it’s a completely different experience than other times of the year.
Other parks I enjoy in Madrid are Sabatini Garden and Parque del Oeste, which has a beautiful lookout and is close to Debod Temple.
For a small fee, you can venture into the perfectly groomed Royal Botanical Garden which is adjacent to the Royal Palace.
Marvel at the Temple of Debod
Head to the Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple relocated to Madrid. It stands as a unique cultural gem and as a sucker for ancient Egyptian sites, it’s one of my favorite attractions in Madrid.
Originally located in Aswan, Egypt, it was gifted to Spain in 1968 in gratitude for Spanish assistance in saving Abu Simbel’s temples.
Situated in Parque del Oeste, the temple dates back to the 2nd century BC. You can explore well-preserved structures, including the main temple and gate, adorned with intricate hieroglyphics.
Warm up with Spanish Hot Wine (Vino Caliente)
Combat the winter chill by sipping on vino caliente, a Spanish hot wine. Typically made with red wine, it’s infused with cinnamon, cloves, and citrus, creating a delightful warmth.
Served at festive occasions and winter markets, Vino Caliente offers a delicious way to embrace the seasonal spirit.
Witness the Three Kings Parade (Cabalgata de Reyes)
Celebrate the arrival of the Magi by attending the Three Kings Parade on the evening of January 5th. This lively procession features colorful floats, music, and tons of sweets (literally!) thrown to the spectators.
If you have never experienced a Spanish Fiesta, this is a great experience to start with. The streets are filled with people and the Holiday spirit is full on. After all, Reyes is the real Christmas celebration in Spain!
Take a Day Trip to Segovia and Toledo
There are plenty of easy day trips from Madrid by train as well as organized day tours. I highly recommend going on a day tour of the UNESCO cities Toledo and Segovia to see the highlights.
One day in Toledo gives you the chance to see the historic center with the cathedral, the Jewish Quarter, and the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes. If you prefer going on a full-day tour to Toledo to get more out of the city and enter the top attractions, I highly recommend this tour.
Segovia is mainly known for its magnificent aqueduct, but also the Alcazar and cathedral are impressive attractions worth seeing.
Reflections on winter in Madrid Spain
Summing up, winter in Madrid Spain offers an array of activities and is one of the best winter city breaks in Europe.
For me, it’s a bit chilly as I’m used to the southern Spain winter temperatures, but that aside, I really love the winter vibes of Madrid and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the city too.