Spending the Holidays in Madrid

The complete guide to celebrating the winter season and Christmas in Madrid, Spain

Nov 24, 2023
christmas tree in madrid streetschristmas tree in madrid streets

If you’re thinking of spending the holidays in Madrid, you’re in for a treat. Even though the Spanish capital doesn’t have a white Christmas, the city makes up for it by illuminating itself with lights, joy, and the holiday spirit. Here’s some fun and cool local things to do if you choose to spend Christmas in Madrid.

The holiday season in Madrid

The holiday season in Madrid, Spain can be broken up into three main celebrations: Christmas, New Years, and Epiphany. Each occasion has its own special traditions that are local to Spain, so here’s what you can expect to see for each day.


The season for Christmas in Madrid starts, like most places, in late November/early December, as the city decorations go up and the stores start getting into the holiday spirit. Christmas Eve (Nochebuena) is arguably more important in Spain than Christmas Day (Navidad) itself.

lights in madrid

The Christmas celebration in Spain revolves around food. Families gather for a large dinner on Christmas Eve to feast on seafood, jamón, meat, turrón, and cava. Most bars, restaurants, and shops will be closed on this day, so it’s the best time to buy some local delicacies and join in on the Spanish Christmas festivities.

On Christmas day in Madrid, there isn’t much gift giving going on, as Three Kings Day is the main gift exchange holiday, but some families have adopted the Santa Claus custom in recent years as well. Christmas Day in Madrid usually consists of a family lunch, and then afterwards, many people will go out for a drink with friends or family. That being said, a decent number of bars and restaurants are open on the 25th, so you can celebrate the occasion as you please.

New Years

New Year’s Eve in Madrid is a lively time. Most of the outdoor events happen in Puerta del Sol, which is televised to the whole country, but whether you want to celebrate at a restaurant, at home with some cava, in the streets partying, or in a club, there’s plenty of options of what to do.

A traditional Spanish countdown to the New Year is done by eating 12 grapes, one every second, until the clock strikes midnight. At this moment a huge toast with cava happens and people across the country celebrate the new year ahead. Most places will be closed for New Year’s Eve, but on New Year’s Day, there should be a good selection of bars and restaurants open, so you can enjoy some churros con chocolate to help ease your hangover.

new years cheers

Epiphany (Día de los Reyes Magos)

Epiphany is the main gift giving holiday in Spain, making it one of the favorite days of the year for Spanish children. On January 5th, the Three Kings travel through the city to throw candy at onlookers as a sort of Epiphany celebration parade. This is the big event that leads up to January 6th, Día de los Reyes Magos, or Three Kings Day.

On this holiday, many families in Spain will celebrate together with a big lunch that concludes with a roscón de Reyes, or King Cake. This is a type of circular cake filled with cream and a plastic baby and bean. Whoever gets the piece with the baby gets luck and prosperity throughout the year, while whoever gets the bean needs to pay for the roscón.

Traditional activities

If you’re moving to Spain to spend your holidays in Madrid, be sure to take part in one of the most integral Christmas traditions in Madrid, Spain, the Christmas lottery. This long standing tradition has been going on since 1812 and is today one of the biggest lottery draws worldwide. The numbers are read on December 22 by primary school children. If you want to test your luck and buy a ticket, just look for the long lines in the street, and you’ll find your way to a sale spot.

Christmas markets

One of the highlights of spending Christmas in Madrid is walking through the joyous Christmas markets to shop for gifts, drink some mulled wine, and indulge in some delectable Spanish cured meats and cheeses. The most classic Christmas market in Madrid takes place in Plaza Mayor. This market always gets very busy, especially when you get closer to the holidays themselves, but if you’re not into crowds, there’s always the markets at Plaza de Santa Cruz or Plaza del Carmen closeby.

plaza mayor christmas market

Seasonal delicacies

It’s no secret that the holidays in Madrid revolve around food, so be sure to try some of these seasonal Mediterranean delicacies when spending your Christmas in Madrid.

Most Christmas meals in Spain revolve around seafood, but a traditional Christmas in Madrid speciality is cocido madrileño. This is a type of stew with beans, vegetables, meat and pasta. The broth with noodles is served as one portion, while the rest of the ingredients are served on the side. Even though this dish is served year round, Christmas is the perfect time to help yourself to a bowl as it’s sure to warm your body and heart.

Moving on to sweets, nougat, marzipan, and polvorón are must-have sweets during the holiday season. They can be found at the supermarket, Christmas markets, food stands, and any other place. Even though it’s not traditionally Spanish, a Christmas log cake has become increasingly popular in Madrid. As we previously mentioned, the Roscón de Reyes is the traditional treat of Three Kings Day, so be sure to save room in your stomach to try a piece on January 6th.

Holiday decorations around the city

christmas tree in sol

One of the first decorations you’ll start noticing around the city as the holidays in Madrid approach is the lights. Every year, the city strings almost every street with festive lights that twinkle throughout the night from November 23rd to January 6th. The biggest displays can be found around Gran Vía, Puerta del Sol, and Plaza Mayor. Other large Christmas decorations, such as trees, can be found at pretty much every major plaza in the city, from Sol, to Callao, and Plaza de España.

On top of these more modern Christmas decorations, watch out for the Beléns that are scattered throughout the city. A Belén is the Nativity scene, and the Spanish take these very seriously. Each family has their own display, as well as most Christmas markets, and the size ranges from just the three main figures to the whole town with hundreds of figures. These setups can get very intricate and are fascinating to see the detail involved.

Finding holiday homes in Madrid

The holidays in Madrid are magical, as the whole city is covered in decorations, holiday spirit, and joy. So if you’re wanting to get in on the action and spend Christmas in Madrid, Spain, be sure to check out Ukio for the perfect holiday homes in Madrid.

We offer fully furnished and artfully decorated apartments that are designed specifically to make you feel at home. Choose from one of the many neighborhoods in the city to find your perfect fit holiday home in Madrid to kickstart your Spanish holiday experience. The holidays are quickly approaching, so be sure to reserve now to ensure your Christmas in Madrid is locked in.