Of course, Madrid is an incredible city to visit all year round, but visiting in winter feels like a dream destination to me, with lights adorning its historic streets, parks and squares and the Madrid Christmas Market taking place in Plaza Mayor.
In this article, I’ll guide you through everything you need to plan a visit based on my experience of the Spanish capital.
Madrid Christmas Market 2023
Madrid at Christmas becomes a spectacle of light and colour. The main square, Plaza Mayor, is transformed into an expansive Christmas market, a tradition dating back to the 17th century.
You’ll find 104 stalls shaped like small huts, an addition since the 1980s. They sell festive products, from handcrafted belénes (nativity scenes) to toys and decorations.
Like with many markets, you’re greeted by the scent of roasting chestnuts, but unique to Spain, you’ll have the sweet allure of turron, a local confectionery.
As you wander, the sounds of street performers and the sight of a vintage carousel in Plaza de Santa Cruz add to the ambience.
Make sure to savour classic churros dipped in chocolate and stay cosy with mulled wine prepared with local Spanish red wine.
A second market called La Navideña is located at Plaza de España, about a 15 minute walk from Plaza Mayor. This is where you’ll find the ice rink and circus performances.
Dates and Information
Madrid Christmas Market dates: 24th November to 31st December 2023.
Location: Plaza Mayor.
Opening times: Sunday to Thursday: 10am to 9pm. Friday and Saturday: 10am to 10pm.
Christmas Eve: 10am to 10pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
La Navideña dates: Late November to early January 2024.
Location: Plaza de España.
Christmas lights: From November.
Carousel: Plaza de Santa Cruz.
Ice skating: Yes, at Plaza de España.
Vegetarian: Yes, plenty of options.
Vegan: Yes, plenty of options.
Gluten-free: Yes, but limited.
Pet-friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed on a lead.
Parking: Please take public transport to help limit congestion.
Reason to visit: Intricate belénes displays; live music; delicious Spanish food; historic Plaza Mayor setting.
Recommended tour: See the highlights of Madrid in this city tour.
Specialities: Roasted chestnuts; turron; churros con chocolate; marzipan sweets; polvorones; warm mulled wine.
Where to stay: Pestana Plaza Mayor is a highly-rated hotel located directly at Plaza Mayor.
Madrid is quite a spread out city. I recommend staying near Puerta del Sol as the is the most central area between the Royal Palace and the famous Prado museum. If you stay closer towards the Royal Palace, you’ll also be near the activities at Plaza de España.
Pestana Plaza Mayor is an excellent choice in the area as it’s located directly on Plaza Mayor. It’s an exceptional location.
A city tour of Madrid is a fantastic way to experience the city, especially if this is your first visit.
I recommend this city tour of Madrid as you get to see all the city’s highlights with a local guide for an affordable price.
On a city tour, you’ll visit Madrid’s most iconic landmarks and attractions, including the bustling Puerta del Sol, the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral.
Alternatively, consider taking this food tour, where you go to several tapas bars and get to try around 12-15 different tapas.
Food tours are increasingly popular, and having taken a few in my time as a travel blogger, I highly recommend this kind of tour. They’re a lot of fun and the food never disappoints.
Christmas in Madrid
Churros con Chocolate: A classic Madrid treat, churros are long, fried pastries dipped in a cup of thick, hot chocolate. The combination offers a sweet and satisfying warmth against the winter chill.
Porras: Similar to churros but thicker and softer, porras are another beloved pastry. They’re also served with hot chocolate for dipping and provide a filling snack as you explore the market.
Turrón: A nougat-like confection made primarily from almonds and honey, turrón comes in various textures. It’s a festive favourite and a must-try for those with a sweet tooth.
Caldo de Navidad (Christmas Broth): This warm, savory broth made with meat, vegetables, and sometimes chickpeas, is perfect for staying cosy on cold evenings. It’s a simple, comforting dish that embodies the holiday spirit. You can find it at small restaurants.
Mantecados and Polvorones: These crumbly cookies made from lard, flour, and sugar are a Spanish Christmas staple. Often dusted with powdered sugar, they melt in your mouth.
Roscón de Reyes (King’s Cake): Traditionally eaten on Epiphany Day, this ring-shaped cake is decorated with candied fruit and sometimes filled with cream or chocolate. Some vendors sell them earlier in the season.
Vino Caliente (Mulled Wine): Spiced and heated red wine, vino caliente is Spain’s answer to the chilly winter. It’s a popular drink to enjoy while perusing the market.
Sidra (Cider): Although not as traditional as in northern Spain, you may find stalls selling warm cider, providing an alternative to mulled wine with its fruity and tangy flavour.
Buñuelos de Viento: These are light and airy fritters, often filled with custard, chocolate, or fruit. They’re a deliciously indulgent treat, perfect for enjoying on a leisurely walk.
What to Buy
Belénes (Nativity Scenes): Intricate nativity scenes, ranging from simple setups to elaborate displays featuring figurines of the Holy Family, shepherds, and the Three Wise Men, are a traditional purchase. They reflect the Spanish emphasis on the religious aspect of Christmas.
Figuras de Belén (Nativity Figures): Separately sold, these detailed figures allow you to build your own nativity scene at home. Crafted with care, they come in various sizes and depict various traditional characters.
Abanicos (Handheld Fans): While primarily practical in the summer, these beautifully designed fans also serve as a charming keepsake. They often feature flamenco styles or traditional Spanish patterns.
Mantones de Manila (Manila Shawls): These intricately embroidered shawls are works of art, often worn during special occasions or used as decorative pieces in homes.
Castañuelas (Castanets): These percussion instruments are a fundamental part of traditional Spanish music, particularly flamenco. They are a unique gift for music enthusiasts.
Piel de Ubrique (Leather Goods from Ubrique): Leather goods from the town of Ubrique highlight Spain’s craftmanship in leatherwork. Wallets, belts, and bags make for durable and stylish gifts.
Vino Español (Spanish Wine): A bottle of Spanish wine is a classic gift. Look for regional specialties like Rioja or Ribera del Duero to bring a taste of Spain to the table.
Juguetes de Madera (Wooden Toys): These traditional toys are popular among those seeking a nostalgic or eco-friendly gift for children.
To make the most of your trip to Madrid, be sure to get the latest info at Visit Espana, Spain’s official tourism website. It provides invaluable information and resources tailored specifically to your needs as you discover the city.
Many of us are increasingly concerned about climate change and sustainability. Here are a few tips on how we can travel more responsibly in Madrid at Christmas.
Food Waste: Plan your meals at local markets and restaurants, savouring the delicious cuisine while being mindful of portion sizes to minimise leftovers and waste.
Ethical Consumption: Support local artisans and businesses by purchasing handmade, ethically sourced gifts and products at or independent stores throughout the city.
Renewable Energy: Book an eco-friendly hotels powered by renewable energy. There are several sustainable hotels in Madrid you can choose from.
Energy Efficiency: Be conscious of your energy usage while staying in Madrid; turn off lights and appliances when not in use, and opt for energy-saving modes on air conditioning and heating systems. Again, staying in a sustainable hotel can help with energy efficiency and conservation.
Sustainable Diets: Enjoy the diverse range of plant-based dishes and tapas available in Madrid, helping to reduce your carbon footprint while experiencing the region’s flavours.
Sustainable Transport: Use Madrid’s extensive public transportation network, including the metro, buses and trains, or rent a bike to explore the city while reducing your environmental impact. Madrid has increasing numbers of separated bike lanes to make cycling safer for everyone.
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Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Madrid, Spain. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.