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Spain’s Best Places To Visit In Winter

Toledo, Spain | © DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
Toledo, Spain | © DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
Most people think of Spain and picture fine sandy beaches, sweltering cities, ice cold glasses of sangria, and plates of paella by the coast. Yes, Spain is great in summer, but it’s also a fantastic country to visit in winter as well, with world class museums and art galleries, top ski resorts and magnificent mountain peaks.

Granada

There’s nothing quite like sipping a hot cup of coffee, sitting in one of Granada’s atmospheric plazas, while admiring the snow-draped peaks above the Alhambra Palace. Granada can get very cold in winter, being surrounded by some of Spain’s highest mountains, but it’s also very beautiful. One big plus is that the sky is often clear and the sun is often shining, so that even on the coldest of days you can find a spot to sit outside and warm up under the sun’s rays. Besides the obvious city attractions such as the Alhambra Palace, the cathedral, the Moorish Albaicín district, and the flamenco caves, Granada is located just an hour’s drive from the Sierra Nevada, home to one of the country’s best ski resorts.

Alhambra, Granada © Julián Rejas De Castro/Flickr

Madrid

Winter is an ideal time to visit Madrid and experience its many cultural attractions, when it’s not so hot or crowded. And since some of its most important sights are indoors, you won’t get too cold either. Don’t miss the city’s Golden Triangle – the famous art museums of the Reina Sofia, El Prado, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, as well as the opulent Royal Palace. The city also looks spectacular covered in Christmas lights and puts on an amazing fiesta during New Year’s Eve at the Puerto del Sol. And if it does get too chilly, just step inside one of Madrid’s best churrerías to warm yourself up with crunchy, doughy churros dipped in hot chocolate.

Madrid at Christmas ©Guzmán Lozano / Wikimedia Commons

Toledo

In the mountains just south of Madrid lies the historic, UNESCO World Heritage town of Toledo, recognized for its history as a ‘City of Three Cultures’ – Islamic, Christian, and Jewish. With a dusting of snow on the surrounding mountains, the city’s monuments looking even more spectacular. Among the best are its imposing Gothic cathedral, the Alcázar palace-fortress, the Synagog Tránsito with its Museo Sefardí (Jewish Cultural Museum) and the museum of the artist El Greco, who lived and died in the city. Warm up at one of the town’s cafés or bakeries and sample some of Toledo’s celebrated marzipan figurines.

Toldeo, Spain in winter ©CCPAPA / Pixabay

Barcelona

Barcelona is a perfect year-round city with plenty to do when the chill of winter sets in. Packed with museums and art galleries, quirky shops, flamboyant architecture, flashy cocktail bars and innovative restaurants, this is one place you’ll never be bored. It will be cold, but but still sunny, so you’ll find plenty of things to do both indoors and out. Check out its amazing Modernista masterpieces by the likes of Gaudí and Domènech i Montaner, visit the art museums of Picasso and Miró, and get lost among the streets of the Barrio Gótico. Don’t miss its amazing New Year’s spectacle at the Plaça d’Espanya or its magical Three Kings parade on the night of January 5th. In addition to city sights, you’ll also find a few good ski resorts located within a two-hour drive from the centre, including La Molina and La Masella.

Arc de Triomf Barcelona © katerina198

Canary Islands

If you’re after a bit of winter sun, you’ll find that the Canary Islands are definitely the warmest place in Spain during the winter season, with temperatures averaging around 17°C. Lying off the coast of Africa, they have a sub-tropical climate. Some days it may even be warm enough to swim in the outdoor pools or go to the beach, but if not, you’ll find plenty of interesting cities such as Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to discover and national parks such as Tenerife’s Teide National Park to explore. The island of Gran Canaria is also known for its excellent spa hotels.

Canary Island spurge in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands © Hansueli Krapf/WikiCommons