Madrid in December: 8 reasons to visit and guide for 2023

Royal palace of Madrid

Are you planning a trip to Madrid in December?

This article’s here to help!

Our guest blogger, Timon, worked for 2 years in the heart of Madrid and has a big love for Spanish food.

He knows what makes Madrid interesting and exciting. With his guidance, you can discover the best of Madrid!

He’s excited to share his recommendations and the special things he found about the city and its food.

So, here’s a deep dive into Madrid’s December festivities!

What’s Madrid in December like?

December is a wonderful time to visit Madrid, the capital of Spain.

The city lights up with festive and cozy decorations, the weather’s never too cold and the atmosphere brims with excitement.

Plus, December generally has fewer tourists; so you can explore at a much more relaxed pace!

I’ve lived in Madrid for over two years, and I know that the city in December will connect you with the city’s culture and friendly locals like no other month!

The festive feel, unique sights, pleasant weather, and smaller crowds make this the perfect time to visit

Top reasons to visit Madrid in December

As someone who has experienced winter in Madrid multiple times, I can say that the Spanish capital really is a one–of–a–kind city, full of life and magic during the winter months.

Here are eight of the best reasons to visit Madrid in December: once these have swayed you, you can start looking at other details like where to stay in Madrid!

1. Beautiful Christmas lights

Madrid at Christmas

Madrid is full of sparkling holiday lights during the winter holiday season.

You’ll definitely want to see Madrid’s majestic Christmas tree at Puerta del Sol.

It’s a huge artificial tree, full of lights. Perfect for shooting an Instagram picture or two! 

Even more impressive sparkling holiday lights can be found along the Calle Preciados shopping area.

And obviously, you’ll want to plan to visit those places after sunset. That’s when the true magic happens!

Looking for more Christmas light decorations? Head out to Plaza Mayor, where there’s another huge Christmas tree.

Gran Vía is also not to be missed; it’s adorned with holiday lights throughout December.

2. Christmas Markets

From unique handcrafts to delicious Spanish foods, the Christmas markets in Madrid have plenty to offer.

Every year in December, there’s a beautiful Christmas market on Paseo de Recoletos (home to the Cibeles Fountain).

There’s also the lively Christmas market at Plaza Mayor, where you’ll find unique seasonal items.

It’s perfect for getting some unique holiday gifts for you and your family!

3. Delicious Spanish Winter Food

Calling all foodies! During December, you can savor some of Spain’s best winter dishes. 

Treat yourself to traditional Spanish tapas, and you definitely shouldn’t go home without trying churros with chocolate at San Ginés. 

Enjoy a warm cup of hearty Caldo Gallego, a traditional Spanish soup, to beat the winter chill.

It’s a local favorite and a culinary highlight of the season.

Madrid’s various food markets provide an excellent opportunity to try various small local dishes and experience Spain’s culinary delights.

4. Opera Season in Madrid

December marks the peak of the opera season in Madrid.

Teatro Real and Teatro de la Zarzuela are among the city’s top opera houses, where you can catch spectacular performances on a weekly basis. 

I’m not a lifelong opera fan – I saw my first in winter in Madrid – but I can vouch for attending at least one while you’re in the city!

If you’re planning to catch a show, make sure to check their schedules on the official websites to see which operas are being shown during your visit.

You’ll also want to book a ticket in advance, as the major shows be sold out quickly. 

5. New Year’s Eve Celebrations

Plaza Mayor Madrid

Madrid welcomes the New Year with vibrant public celebrations and fireworks displays. If you’re staying around the center, head to the main square, Puerta del Sol, before midnight.

This is where thousands of Madrileños will gather to follow the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight, one with each clock stroke. 

If you don’t have time to get some delicious white grapes from the supermarket, don’t worry! People will often sell small boxes of grapes around the main square on December 31st.

After midnight, the party continues with music and dancing!

6. Visit Museums

Madrid in December

December is an ideal time to explore Madrid’s world-renowned museums.

They offer a warm break from the December chill and are well worth visiting if you’re a fan of Spanish history and art. 

Visit the famous Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Reina Sofía to admire their impressive art collections.

People from all over the world head out to Madrid to witness these artworks!

If you’re more into history, check out the National Archaeological Museum and the History Museum of Madrid.

7. Wrap up warm for festive outdoor activities!

Provided you wrap up warm, Madrid’s milder climate gives you a perfect opportunity for outdoor activities like ice skating and walking in the parks.

The iconic Retiro Park features several ice-skating rinks; you can also find one in Matadero and Plaza España.

Retiro Park is one of my favorite places in Madrid; I always head here when I need a break from the chaos of the city centre!

Retiro Park spans approximately 1.4 km² (350 acres) and is named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So, you will be walking a lot – don’t forget comfy shoes and warm layers if it’s chilly outside.

8. Shopping in Madrid

If you’re visiting later in December, discover post-holiday bargains in Madrid’s shopping areas, such as Calle Preciados and Calle Serrano. 

December’s a fantastic time to visit popular shopping malls for various products, such as El Corte Inglés.

Should you make it to the rooftop of El Corte Inglés, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of the city. Plus, they have some great tapas bars up there too!

In December, Corte Inglés hosts several family-friendly Christmas shows outside their department store at Callao (the area in front of the shop is called Cortylandia). Perfect if you’re visiting Madrid in kids!

Looking for a fancier shopping experience? Head to Salamanca.

This area is famous for its expensive and exclusive stores!

Madrid’s December Weather

Madrid winter

December weather in Madrid is decent – never too cold!

Throughout my time in Madrid, I haven’t experienced any snowfall – it can definitely happen, but it’s not that common.

Generally, Madrid’s warmer, with daytime temperatures ranging from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F).

If you’re coming over from a northern country, you might even get a little sense of summer here – but it’s nowhere near as warm as other places in Spain in December, like Malaga or Lanzarote.

Also, don’t forget that evenings can become quite chilly!

Take my advice as a former resident and pack some extra warm clothes to enjoy those evening activities (remember New Year’s Eve, when you might want to be outside!).

Temperatures can drop significantly after sunset to as low as 1°C (34°F), with chilly breezes making it feel even colder!

Here’s a brief overview of Madrid’s December weather:

Average High15°C (59°F)
Average Low1°C (34°F)
Days of Rainfall5

What to pack for your Madrid December vacation

Your packing list for some Spanish destinations in winter might not involve layers, but you should include some when packing for Madrid.

Even though daytime temperatures can reach a comfortable 15°C (59°F), the mercury can dip as low as 1°C (34°F) once the sun sets.

A good-quality winter jacket or coat is crucial, along with layers like sweaters and long-sleeve shirts.

Scarves, gloves, and hats aren’t as necessary as in other European cities in winter, but if you feel the cold, it’s a good idea to bring them.

Comfortable shoes are a must when packing for Madrid.

The city is best explored on foot, so be sure to bring sturdy shoes that you can walk in all day.

If you plan on attending fancier events or dining at high-end restaurants, a pair of dress shoes would also be a good addition.

Madrid’s beautiful architecture and lively streets are a photographer’s dream, so don’t forget your camera equipment.

Finally, an umbrella or raincoat could be useful since Madrid sees around five days of rainfall in December.

A compact, travel-friendly umbrella or lightweight raincoat will suffice and won’t take up too much luggage space.

If you’re planning on participating in any special activities, pack accordingly!

This could mean bringing along an elegant outfit for a night at the opera or thick socks for ice skating.

A travel guidebook or city map could also be handy for navigating Madrid’s streets and discovering local attractions.

Though digital maps are widely used, having a physical map can be a lifesaver if your phone battery dies or if you’re in an area with limited internet connectivity.

Handy Tips for December in Madrid

Madrid is a fantastic place to be in December.

You’ll enjoy clear and sunny days and a lively and festive atmosphere. To make the most of your holiday trip, follow these helpful suggestions.

Embrace local customs

Madrid is known for its lively Christmas celebrations.

Explore seasonal events and join the locals in the festivities. At local markets, why not try some traditional holiday treats, such as turrón (nougat) and polvorones (crumbly almond cookies).

And, if you stumble upon some enormous queues in the streets, fear not. Thousands of Madrileños will head to their favorite lottery stores every year to purchase a Christmas lottery ticket. 

Why on earth would you want to spend hours in a queue to buy a lottery ticket, I hear you ask? Doing so is supposed to bring you luck instead of buying it online!

Use public transport

Navigating Madrid is easy with its efficient public transportation system. If you’re visiting Madrid for a few days, I recommend purchasing a Tourist Travel Pass for unlimited travel on public transport within your selected zones and duration. 

To buy a Tourist Travel Pass, head down to any metro station and buy one from the ticket machines with a red sticker. 

Explore nearby attractions


Madrid in December is beautiful, but it also has some beautiful towns and historic sites nearby! 

If it’s not your first time in Madrid, or if you just want to plan a small escape from the big city, then you should take a look at some excellent day trips from Madrid

Popular destinations nearby Madrid include Toledo, Cuenca and Segovia.

Buy a Madrid City Pass

With Christmas around the corner, being able to save some extra bucks on entrance fees to museums and attractions will surely be welcome!

Consider getting yourself a Madrid City Pass. This will grant you access to various locations without having to purchase individual tickets.

You can buy a City Pass at the major tourist information points: Callao, Royal Palace, Paseo del Prado, CentroCentro and the Reina Sofiá Museum.

Are you ready to visit Madrid in December?

Having lived in Madrid for over 2 years, I’m slightly biased when I say that visiting Madrid in December is truly magical. But trust me, it really is!

The city’s crisp air, bright sunny days, and festive atmosphere make it the perfect time to explore the many famous sites it has to offer. 

Enjoy a lovely walk in the park on foot, or hunt for some souvenirs at Madrid’s many Christmas markets. 

As the sun sets, head to a lively cocktail bar or tapas restaurant.

While Madrid’s winter weather can be chilly, you will warm up quickly with the city’s energy and enthusiasm.

So why not plan your December trip to Madrid and experience the magic yourself?

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