Visiting Madrid in the shoulder season gives you a great chance to explore without the crowds, meaning you can get around so many more spots, dine out in the best restaurants without a reservation and roam markets and gardens in peace.
Many of the city’s attractions are open year-round but there are also special holiday events, exhibitions and fiestas that are only available in the winter season. Whether you visit for some pre-Christmas shopping, New Year celebrations or a winter city break in January or February, you’re sure to marvel at Madrid’s off-season magic.
Another bonus of visiting Madrid in winter is that you are able to indulge in all the sweet treats and traditional delicacies knowing that you are just adding another layer of warmth for hibernation season!
Weather in Madrid in Winter
While Madrid isn’t exactly a winter sun destination where you can sunbathe for hours on end, it is certainly more mild than other destinations in Northern Europe. With crisp, clear days and sweeping blue skies you can wrap up warm and explore the city with the sun on your face. As long as you have a few layers you can make the most of the café culture, enjoying a warming coffee and some tasty churros in the afternoon sun. Temperatures generally range between 5-15°C so it will be chilly but you’re unlikely to get snow in the city!
Check out the average temperature for Madrid in winter:
November average temperature for Madrid: 59°F high and 39°F low / 15°C high and 4°C low
December average temperature for Madrid: 52°F high and 36°F low / 11°C high and 2°C low
January average temperature for Madrid: 50°F high and 34°F low / 10°C high and 1°C low
February average temperature for Madrid: 54°F high and 36°F low / 12°C high and 2°C low
March average temperature for Madrid: 61°F high and 39°F low / 16°C high and 4°C low
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Things to do in Madrid in Winter
1. Naviluz (‘Christmas Bus’)
If you happen to visit Madrid in December, you’ll have the chance to ride the famous Naviluz (formerly called the NaviBus), a Christmas bus that tours the city to fill you with festive cheer. The bus runs from November 30 until January 6 and takes you past the city’s best Christmas lights.
Both tourists and Madrileños love touring this picturesque Christmas route and as tickets can be purchased in advance online before you travel you can guarantee your spot! The bus departs from Calle Serrano in the Salamanca neighbourhood so head there, grab your seat and enjoy the ride.
2. Ice Skating
As a classic European city with tons of scenic squares, Madrid is a wonderful place to take part in a spot of ice skating during the winter months. Whether you’re whiz on some skates or look more like Bambi on ice, you’re sure to enjoy spending time with your friends and family as you make your way around the rink.
Azca, Villa de Vallecas, Palacio de Cibeles and the Vicálvaro fairgrounds all have spacious ice rinks for you to skate to your heart’s content. Most rinks also have bars, cafés or restaurants so you can warm up with some refreshments when you step off the ice.
3. Madrid’s Museums
Madrid’s museums are awesome year-round, whether to escape the heat of the day in summer or to warm up during the winter months. The city has a wealth of culture, art and history that is represented in the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (the three also known as The Golden Triangle of Art), as well as in the Naval Museum and La Tabacalera. Not only are the works held within the museums fascinating and beautiful, but the buildings themselves are stunning too!
4. A Walk in the Park
When days are dry there’s nothing better than roaming through the parks and gardens of Madrid, taking in the picturesque winter blooms and pristine city buildings. The famous Parque El Retiro is one of the best, with serene lakes, majestic monuments, tranquil rose gardens and the impressive Palacio de Crystal at its centre.
Not only is this palace breath-taking, but it features ever-changing exhibitions and events running throughout the year. Alternatively, head to Casa de Campo park to enjoy a day out at Madrid Zoo with the family.
5. Visit Km 0 in Puerta del Sol
Km 0 at Puerta del Sol is the physical heart of Spain; the exact point from which the six main radial roads of the country stem. It is also the beginning of the road numbering system in the city, so the closer you are to Puerta del Sol, the lower the road number.
The location is marked with a plaque which can be hard to see in the summer season, so it’s great to visit in winter so you can see the stone and take some photos. The Km 0 plaque is also ideally located just in front of the old Post Office, a beautiful building which features the famous clock tower that keeps official time in Spain.
6. Watch Flamenco
When the nights begin to draw in and evenings can get a little chilly, there’s no better place to warm up than with a fiery flamenco show in the city. Madrid is famous for this fierce dance and the power and passion of the dancers will be sure to get you hot under the collar!
That’s not to mention the sweat you will work up if you take part in a flamenco lesson where the instructors will have you stomping, strutting and swaying your way around the room! Shows are often accompanied by dinner and drinks and it is a lovely way to spend an evening with friends and family.
7. Christmas Markets
Like most European cities, Madrid is home to some pretty decent Christmas markets that are the best place to buy gifts, souvenirs and tasty treats for your friends and family. Plaza Mayor plays host to the most famous Christmas market in Madrid, with over a hundred stalls sprawling out across the square.
The festive season will be in full flow here as Madrileños and tourists alike stock up on figures for their nativity scenes and other Christmas decorations. The market usually runs throughout November and December so you’ll have plenty of time to explore the stalls.
8. Cine Doré
If Madrid’s winter weather isn’t on your side, you might want to find some indoor activities to keep you entertained. This is where the beautiful arthouse cinema, Cine Doré, steps in. The art deco exteriors are simply stunning and the cosy, comfortable interiors are the perfect place to while away a few afternoon hours.
The cinema is also home to the Filmoteca Española, an institution that preserves and restores Spain’s movie history. Watch Spanish and English films both old and new, while sitting back in the plush seats and enjoying a cocktail or a glass of wine.
9. Cycle the City
Madrid is a great city to cycle through and it’s even easier in winter when there are less tourists around to fill the streets. Pick up a bicycle from one of the many rental zones dotted around the city and roam through the parks, gardens and boulevards.
There are photo-worthy buildings, monuments and landscapes all over Madrid, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to stop to catch your breath at the same time. If you really love to cycle and are feeling fit, you might want to venture out on El Anillo Verde Ciclista, a 64km route around the city!
10. Shopping in Salamanca
Once you’ve wandered around the Christmas markets of Madrid you may have been bitten by the shopping bug and want to explore some of the high-street shops or designer boutiques the capital has to offer. If so, you’ll want to head to the Salamanca district and Serrano Street to get your fashion fix.
Walk around the high street stores or window shop as you pass by international jewellers and designer clothing brands like Prada, Louis Vuitton and Michael Kors. You’ll be amazed by the chic Italian style, with locals dressing to impressive even in winter when most of us are just wrapped up in coats and scarves!
11. Food Glorious Food
Food is central to any good trip to Spain and winter is a great time to indulge. Tapas is always a good idea and with nothing else pressing time during cold, winter days, spending a long afternoon dining on plates upon plates of delicious food with a group of friends is the perfect way to spend the day.
Alternatively, you could move around the city trying different delicacies and local favourites like cocido madrileño (meat and chickpea stew), carrillada (braised beef cheeks in red wine) and lentejas (lentils). Plus, the desserts at this time of year are amazing with the ring-shaped Roscón de Reyes, bartolillos (cream cakes), marzipan and, of course, chocolate con churros!
12. Madrid Nightlife
Aside from traditional flamenco shows and long family dinners, Madrid has some awesome nightlife that will keep you partying until the early hours. Whether you want to check out live music at venues such as WiZink and Cefe Berlin or would prefer a club like Joy Eslava, the capital has plenty of options so you can find something that will suit your style.
You’ll soon forget that it’s winter outside and once you’ve had an epic night out with friends, you won’t mind spending lazy days enjoy coffee, cake and cinema the morning after the night before.
13. Faro de Moncloa
If you get a crisp, clear day when visiting Madrid in winter (and aren’t scared of heights) you might want to head up to the observation tower at the Faro de Moncloa to get some great views of the city. This tower stands at 110m and the panoramic observation deck at 92m up gives you sweeping vistas of Madrid’s magnificent monuments.
The deck offers 360-degree views and on a clear day you are able to see for a whopping 100km! At just 3 Euros, this is a cheap and cheerful way to see the city from a different angle. (Closed Mondays)
14. NYE in Puerta del Sol
One of the biggest celebrations in Madrid during the winter months is the famous New Year’s Eve party in Puerta del Sol. This is perhaps one of the most vibrant New Year’s fiestas in Europe with thousands gathering in the city’s main square at midnight.
Of course, if you’ve ever celebrated New Year in Spain before (or with Spanish friends), you’ll know all about the 12 grapes that are essential you bring along! As the Post Office Clock Tower strikes midnight, everyone eats their 12 grapes, passing others around friends and family to ring in the New Year. If you’re in Madrid on the 31st December you don’t want to miss it!
15. Skiing in Sierra de Guadarrama
If you’re a ski bunny or boarder you may think of nothing better than hitting the slopes in winter and thankfully, Madrid is located close to the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range so you can combine city break and ski season in style.
The ski resort of Puerta de Navacerrada can be reached by public transport from the city centre or you can choose to stay at the resort for a few days of slopeside action. The resort features nine ski lifts taking you to a range of starting points and is a great choice for both beginners and more intermediate/advanced skiers alike.
How To Get Around Madrid In Winter
The weather in Madrid in winter is generally clear, crisp and dry which means that walking in the city is a fine way to get around. This gives you the chance to see the city sights, explore pop-up Christmas markets and dip in and out of cafes en route while continuously getting a taste for the city.
Alternatively, you could take the metro around the city, particular when it is wet and windy out! The metro system in Madrid extends from the city all the way out to the airport and to surrounding suburbs so there should always be a line that will take you where you need to go. The metro is a cheap and cheerful way to travel, with most tickets costing just €1.50-2 for a single journey. Please be aware of your personal possessions when travelling by metro, as like any European city, Madrid is known for pick-pockets.
Another mode of transport for getting around Madrid in winter is the bus. Madrid boasts over 200 bus lines which can take you all over the city. Again, the bus is a pretty cheap option (singles €1.50). Most buses run from 6am-11.30pm, but there are also night buses and a 24h bus to/from the airport.
Finally, if all else fails you can always jump in a taxi, especially if you’re caught out by the weather. Metered taxis are available everywhere in the city, and while they’re definitely not the cheapest option they can be convenient. Uber is available in Madrid but there are also official city cabs, which are white with the city’s emblem and a red diagonal stripe across the front two doors.
What To Pack For A Trip To Madrid In Winter
While Madrid isn’t the coldest European city in winter, you’ll still want to ensure you have a decent coat and some waterproof shoes for travelling around the city. You’ll want to wear a few layers as well as a hat and scarf so you always have enough on to keep you toasty while exploring in winter.
Madrid is usually quite sunny, even in winter so you might also want to pack your sunglasses and maybe even some sun screen or face cream with a good SPF coverage. Long-sleeved tops and a wind-resistant jacket are great for evenings in Madrid in winter as when the wind picks up it can feel quite chilly.
Finally, there is no harm in packing an umbrella for your trip to Madrid in winter as it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Where to stay in Madrid
Here are my favorite accommodation options in Madrid.
Francisco I is located 250 m from Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol. It offers simple rooms with private bathroom, TV and free Wi-Fi.
Room Mate Laura is centrally located 350 m from Puerta del Sol and the Royal Palace. It offers a range of accommodation options (double rooms, family rooms) all with satellite TV, free Wi-Fi and air-condition.
Hostal Central Palace Madrid is centrally located and overlooks the Sabatini Gardens in Madrid’s Plaza de Oriente. Rooms have free Wi-Fi, toiletries and a flat screen TV. Breakfast is served in a nearby cafe.
Hotel Círculo Gran Vía, Autograph Collection by Marriott is an adults only hotel located in Gran Via just 400 m away from Puerta del Sol. It offers stylish rooms with air condition, flat-screen TV and coffee facilities, bathrobes, and toiletries. Other hotel amenities include a restaurant, bar and business facilities.
Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques – The Leading Hotels of the World is a luxurious hotel located 300m away from the Royal Palace. It offers elegant rooms with 49-inch LED-TV, iPhone docking station, Nespresso coffee machine and free WiFi. Bathroom amenities include a rain shower, bath, heated floors, and Clarins toiletries. On site there are 3 restaurants, a coctail bar, a tea corner, a Thai Room wellness center and a 24-hour gym.
With such an impressive range of activities on offer, it’s no wonder that Madrid is a year-round destination that draws in millions of visitors from around the globe. The peaceful winter months allow you to make the most of the city while watching the seasons change, winter flowers bloom and the seasonal Spanish produce come to the fore.
As Madrid is less busy with tourists throughout the winter, it also gives you a great chance to watch locals go about their daily life: shopping in markets; visiting friends; and taking advantages of the galleries and museum exhibits that are on show in the city they call home.