Winter in Spain | A Dazzling Holiday Hangout
One of the biggest issues travelers have to contend with when traveling in Europe is fellow holidaymakers clogging up the popular sites and restaurants. Not only is it hard to grab a spectacular selfie with points of interest, but no one wants to spend their vacation standing in queues, either.
In Spain, winter is the best time to explore the country once the heat and clammy tourists have abated for the season. Check out what winter in Spain encompasses and how it could be the next best holiday destination for you.
When is Winter in Spain?
Winters in Spain officially begin around the 21st of December and last until approximately the 21st of March. The rest of Europe may have snow-packed landscapes and icy slush in the cold months, but in winter, Spain enjoys a milder climate.
It’s often rather sunny, with the northern regions of Spain experiencing the most rainfall in the country at an average of a few days a month. The southern coastal cities enjoy average temperatures between 44°F (7°C) and 64°F (18°C), while further inland, Madrid is a cooler 39°F (4°C) to 53°F (12°C). The coldest month is January, with average countrywide temperatures between 52°F (11°C) and 61°F (16°C).
Quick Tip: It doesn’t rain as often in Spain in the winter months, but it’s a good idea to pack an umbrella or rain jacket just in case the weather turns. The further south you are, the less likely it is to happen, but it’s better to be prepared!
What to Expect from Spain in Winter
For many, winter means short days filled with snow and slush. In Spain, winter holidays take on a different meaning depending on what part of the country you’re in.
Many cities like Seville and Madrid that siesta through the summer heat come alive in the cooler months when the temperatures are more tolerable. Bars and restaurants that are closed in the hot tourist season reopen in winter with offerings of chewy churros and hot chocolate for travelers looking to warm themselves up.
The masses of summer tourists clogging up attractions have also dissipated along with the heat, so in winter you’re more likely to get that ultra Instagrammable selfie you had your heart set on.
This isn’t to say you won’t feel the cold, though. It’ll still be chilly enough for warm layers and accessories, but the sun is usually shining and may even prompt you to remove a jacket on a particularly warm day. Another bonus is that accommodation tends to be cheaper during winter. No matter how we look at it, there don’t seem to be any downsides to a winter vacation in Spain.
Spain in Winter | Places to Go
Now that you have a broader idea of what a Spanish winter is like, here are a few of our favorite places in Spain to spend the colder months.
Barcelona & Madrid
Snow is rare in Barcelona and Madrid. Overall, it’s typically a dry and cold winter filled with sunny days in these cities. Live night concerts and art exhibitions will fill your soul’s quota for culture, and attending any of the seasonal festivals will rapidly liven up your holiday.
You could also simply explore and appreciate the fantastical architecture of Antoni Gaudi minus the densely-packed tourists. Traversing Barcelona or Madrid in the crisp sunshine wearing a fleecy jacket and clutching a packet of warm churros is a cozy dream come true. Pair that with a warm spicy sangria or a hot buttered rum from a local bar and you’ll be in a snug winter haven.
If you love the snow and plan on taking your winter holidays to Spain, then Granada is the city for you. With temperatures that hover around freezing, it doesn’t snow all that much in the city of Granada itself, but the backdrop of the snow-coated Sierra Nevada mountain range is charming.
It may be in the southern province, but Sierra Nevada’s abundance of fresh powder makes it one of the snowiest mountain ranges in the country. With approximately 25 ski resorts to choose from only 16 miles (30 km) or so outside of Granada, it’s a veritable paradise for skiing enthusiasts. It’s the best of both worlds with snow and sunshine at your disposal.
The Canary Islands: a Tropical Winter Paradise
Although the colder months affect various regions of the country to different extents, Spain’s winter weather seems to bypass the Canary Islands almost altogether. This tropical winter wonderland sits at a balmy average of 75.2°F (24°C) in the colder months, making summer clothes the favorite option for holidaymakers. All you need is a light jacket.
Some days it’s even warm enough to take a dip in the pool or sunbathe on one of the gorgeous beaches. Don’t forget to check out the four National Parks for some astounding natural beauty to round out your trip before heading home.
Other Winter Attractions in Spain
There’s much more to a Spanish winter experience than city tours. After all, winter encompasses some of the best celebrations of the year.
A Shopaholics Paradise
In January, the best sales of the year hit the stores. The exact dates vary, but casual travelers and shopaholics alike will feel the urge to splurge when they see the deals on offer come early January. If you’re not already up to your weight limit on souvenirs from Spain, take advantage of the discounts and fill those traveling bags with as much as your luggage allowance can take.
Celebrate the Holidays in Spain in December
A Spanish winter is one for the books. It may not be as charmingly fairytale-esque without snow-dusted rooftops, but the extravagance of lights against clear night skies will leave you feeling enchanted all the same.
The city squares are taken over by Christmas trees and festive markets toting traditional foods, crafts, and larger-than-life nativity scenes. Prepare yourself for a sugar overload because marzipan treats and turrón (a nougat made with honey and almonds) are abundantly available during the Christmas season. They’re too delicious to refuse, and why would you want to?
Vendors selling roasted chestnuts are scattered throughout cities, and ice-skating rinks are erected for that quintessential European winter market experience.
If you’re still in town for New Year’s Eve, why not participate in the Spanish tradition of eating twelve green grapes as the midnight bell tolls the old year out and the new year in? It’s meant to bring luck for the year ahead, and we never say no to a little extra good fortune!
Towards the end of winter leading up to Lent, Carnaval comes to Spain. Colorful costumes the likes of which could rival the parades in Rio de Janeiro hit the streets, with big feathers and bedazzled bikinis galore. Carnival-goers across Spain indulge in boozy drinks and fatty foods before dancing the night away in traditional celebration of Fat Thursday.
While every city celebrates in its own way, some of the more famous Carnival festivals include the La Mercè Carnival in Barcelona and the unique Sitges Carnival.
Final Thoughts on Spain in the Winter
Hot chocolate and sunny skies are the norm for wintery days in Spain. This country, often plagued by the heat in summer, is a far more pleasant exploration destination when the milder temperatures set in.
Whether you crave the balmy atmosphere of the Canary Islands or want to peruse Gaudi’s architecture with a churro in hand, there is no wrong way to enjoy your time here. Grab your passport and discover Spain in the colder months for a winter experience unlike any other.