Visiting Spain In Winter
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Spain in Winter

My usual recommendation for those wondering when to go to Spain is to visit during the shoulder season. Shoulder season occurs twice a year, roughly that time between Easter to late June, and late Sep to mid November. During shoulder season airplane tickets are lower, tourist crowds are fewer and you are likely to avoid the high heat of summer. Recently, I have been wondering about doing Winter travel to Europe, and Spain is starting to look like a good winter destination compared to some other European countries.

Photo right - the Alhambra in Granada, like all major Spain tourist sites, is open during the winter.

The patio of the lions part of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Madrid's average winter temperature highs are 52°-60° F, much better than the 36°-37° F average of Munich, Germany and, in Madrid, you will likely get blue sky instead of Munich's gray hued sky.

Now, don't go to Spain in winter for a beach holiday... Whilst the south coast of Spain is the most southern point in Europe, it's still not warm enough in winter to think about a break at the beach. So, ignore all beach resort towns... they'll be dead.

The castle, alcazar, of Toldeo, Spain

While you might find visiting hours are a little shorter and a few minor sites closed, major cities, such as Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Granada, Bilbao, Cordoba, Toledo etc offer their cultural riches throughout the year. Winter is as good a time as any for taking in Spain's famous landmark monuments and museums. Visit the Alhambra in winter and you get the extra treat of snow capped mountains in the background. The Mezquita in Cordoba, the Prado museum in Madrid and the Guggenheim in Bilbao are all fully functioning during winter. The bonus of visiting these cities in winter is that hotel rates are much lower so if a sun tan is not important but experiencing Spanish culture is, don't delay!

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Important info:
Spain's national (winter) holidays are on December 8, December 25, January 1 and January 6.

Spanish food is a delight no mater the season

In terms of gastronomy activities, winter is a good time for tapas tours, wine tours, cooking classes or epicurean insiders tours. Spanish chefs are currently leading the way and Spain is very much the place for innovation and creativity for both cuisine and wine at the moment, without losing sights of its strong traditions. Three of Spain's restaurants are in the World's Top Ten restaurants... Arzak and Nugarritz are both in San Sebastian. The third, EL Bulli, unfortunately is closed over winter.

Flamenco is alive and well throughout the year... but do not expect to see any bullfighting... the bull fighting season is from spring to autumn but other sporting events, such as soccer continue through the season.

Try to work variety in to your travel, there are so many stunning and beautiful rural areas in Spain, with fascinating history... Consider a rural stay in the winter... particularly in a privately run rural hotel, where after a day's sightseeing and activities, you can enjoy authentic Spanish hospitality, and a real burning fire in the lounge. Ideal for families with children ...

Christmas Eve in Spain is a family affair. Most bars will be closed and there won't be many restaurants open. Like Christmas Eve, Christmas Day in Spain is traditionally a family day - couples will normally spend Christmas Eve with one set of parents and Christmas Day with the other. However, in recent years more and more people have started eating in restaurants on Christmas Day. Restaurants advertise their Christmas menu well in advance. It is usually possible to book until quite late, but at least give them a chance to buy the ingredients! To guarantee your place, the morning of the 24th is probably about as late as you can leave it.

By the evening of the 25th, most restaurants and bars are open again and these days more and more young people have started going out on the town.

New Year's Eve is another night often celebrated with a big dinner with family at first and then a night out at a party. Many bars and restaurants have private parties where you pay for food and drink, including a bottle or glass of champagne. Grapes are consumed as well - one for each chime of the clock at midnight - that's 12 total! Many gather in Plaza Nueva to watch the clock, eat a lot of grapes and then head to parties around town.

New Year's Day is an official holiday and most people spend it recovering from the night before.

Spain's winter season may not be hot but the sun is shining and the sky is blue!

Some epicurean experiences you might want to consider:
Wine Tours, Gastronomy Tours, Cooking Class

wine tasting

My recommended Spain Travel Agent could be of exceptional help in planning your Spain winter travel. Working with excellent local contacts, Madrid & Beyond opens up some of the best-kept secrets of Spain for the traveler. Personal guides, private wine tours, walking excursions and tickets for Real Madrid are just a few of the possibilities.

Just bear in mind that Spain's national holidays are on December 8, December 25, January 1 and January 6. Generally speaking, Madrid and Beyond can arrange private visits during the winter except for the above dates and Christmas Eve ...

Note: Madrid and Beyond arranges trips in their entirety, not segments or single nights. Also Note: Madrid and Beyond's focus is on unique accommodations and three star hotels or above.

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This page last updated November 2008

Information on this page comes from my "shoulder" visits to Spain and from the input of Madrid and Beyond,
a travel agency located in the heart of Madrid