In Madrid, Europe’s highest capital city, days are crisp but bright and sunny, which means Madrileños continue to sit out at street terraces throughout the winter months and the skies are, more often than not, a bright blue colour.
Take advantage of Spain’s most famous fashion brands and stock up on some cosy winter knits, boots and coats while you’re visiting Madrid. Shopping fans should not miss the January sales.
Retiro Park is beautiful in winter and the ideal place for a romantic, wrapped up walk or an active day with the family renting a rowing boat on the lake, renting bikes or braving a segway…
Winter is the best time to sample one of Madrid’s specialties – Cocido Madrileño, a hearty stew of meat and vegetables that is the ideal lunch on a chilly December day. And heavy dishes like roast suckling pig, the speciality of Sobrino de Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world, are best enjoyed on a winter’s day.
Madrid transforms into a twinkling vision during December, when beautiful lights are strung across the streets and huge Christmas trees dominate city plazas. Wander around the city’s Christmas markets in search of that perfect bauble then take a ride on the Christmas bus to enjoy the festive lights from the top deck.
Summertime in Madrid is unbearably hot, making day trips something that often slips off the agenda for most visitors, who are more concerned with getting the ice-cold drinks in and finding some air conditioning than wandering around nearby cities. So winter is the ideal time to check out the likes of Toledo, Segovia or Ávila, three cities that are within easy each of Madrid by train and make an excellent day trip.
Low season means excellent hotel deals – you could snap up a weekend away in Madrid for a fraction of the price you would have paid in the summer. And even better, you’ll beat the crowds that clog the city during spring, summer and autumn.
The tradition of standing in crowded buzzing tapas bars is much more enjoyable during the winter, when the temperatures aren’t soaring, making any crowded space a place to avoid. Head to Cava Baja, Madrid’s ‘tapas street’, where you can sample some of the best tapas in the city.
Many of the restaurants and bars in Madrid’s old centre have basement-caves that make the perfect cosy place to enjoy a meal or a late-night drink during the winter months. Check out the labyrinthine rooms of Plaza Menor or the downstairs cave complete with ping pong table of La Musa Latina.
Chocolate and churros
There is no better time than winter to enjoy the rich, comforting taste of freshly made churros dipped in a cup of thick, glossy hot chocolate. There are churros shops all over the city, but the most famous is Chocolatería San Ginés, which is open 24 hours a day to satisfy every late night churros fix.
You can easily reach the ski resorts of the Sierra de Guadarrama, north of Madrid, for a day trip skiing or snowboarding, or just for a play in the snow if that’s more your thing. Take the Cercanías (commuter train) to Cercadila, from where you can take a smaller train up to Puerto de Navacerrada, the closest ski resort to Madrid.