01 of 05
What's Christmas like in the Spanish Capital?
As the capital of a Catholic country, Madrid really goes to town at Christmas.
What to Do in Madrid at Christmas
Over the next few pages, you'll find information on the following:
- Christmas Markets
- Christmas Lights
- Christmas for the Kids (including Ice Rinks)
- Nativity Scenes
Eating on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve is the main celebration in Spain, which means you'll find a lot more open on Christmas Day than in Britain or the United States. However, restaurants all take bookings months in advance.
To eat in a restaurant on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, I would use a restaurant booking service such as atrapalo.com (the site is only in Spanish but everything is self-explanatory). It shows clearly which restaurants are open on these days (many won't be), though I didn't find all restaurants had put their Christmas menu online yet.
More:Continue to 2 of 5 below.
02 of 05
Christmas Markets in Madrid
An idea of what to expect at Christmas in Madrid, including Christmas market locations and times.
Christmas Markets in Madrid
There are several Christmas markets (mercados de navidad, mercadillos de navidad or mercado navideño in Spanish) in Madrid, running for various durations over the Christmas period. The authorities are slow in releasing information about when these will open, so all days below are unofficial and are based on previous years' events. Christmas markets tend to open at around midday and close around 9pm or 10pm.
See also: Christmas Market and Royal Palace Tour
The markets of most interest to visitors to Madrid are the following:
Plaza Mayor Christmas Market
The main Christmas market each year in Madrid is in Plaza Mayor. Its stalls usually open in the last week of November. Stalls usually spill over into nearby Plaza Santa Cruz.
Plaza Callao, Plaza Santo Domingo and Plaza del Carmen Christmas... Markets
All three of these are situated between Sol and Gran Via. Callo market should open around November 16, while the other two should open around November 24.
Plaza La Luna Christmas Market
Plaza La Luna, more correctly called Plaza de Santa María de Soledad Torres Acosta, situated just north of the major Gran Via street should open in mid-November and close on January 6.
Plaza de España Christmas Market
This artisanal market normally opens in mid-December and runs until early January.
Plaza Benavente Christmas Market
Just a few steps from Sol there is a smaller market that should open around November 24, and close around January 8.
Plaza Isabel Christmas Market
Mainly Christmas food market. Runs from late November until around January 10.Continue to 3 of 5 below.
03 of 05
Christmas Lights in Madrid
Much of Madrid will be covered in Christmas lights, but the most spectacular will be those below.
The Christmas lights will be turned around November 29 and will be turned off on January 7.
- Gran Via in central Madrid.
- Puerta del Sol in central Madrid.
- Paseo de la Castellana/Paseo del Prado in central Madrid.
- Calle Goya and Calle Ortega y Gasset in the Barrio Salamanca district.
- The various El Corte Inglés department stores are usually well decorated, too.
See the Christmas Lights from the Navibus
This seasonal bus costs around 2 euros for a 45-minute journey around Madrid's best Christmas lights. Get the bus from in front of the Jardines del Descubrimiento in Plaza Colon.
Christmas Trees in Madrid
The 'official' Christmas tree is the one in Puerta del Sol, an enormous arbol de navidad that will be the equivalent to a 12-storey building.Continue to 4 of 5 below.
04 of 05
Christmas in Madrid for the Kids
Ciudad de los Niños se reúnen aquellas iniciativas dirigidas a los más pequeños.
Christmas for Kids in Madrid
- In the Jardines del Descubrimiento (Gardens of Discovery) near Plaza de Colon is a light and sound display for the kids, running from around December 22 until January 7.
Ciudad de los Niños (City of Kids)
There are is an extensive programme of kids activities around the city, mainly centered on Centro Cultura Conde Duque in Malasaña. Check out this website for details: Ciudad de los Niños. Many activities will require an understanding of Spanish, but some will not.
Christmas Ice Rinks in Madrid
There are ice rinks each year in the following locations:
- Centro Cultural Conde Duque in Malasana, from mid-December.
- Plaza de la Luna from late November.
- Plaza de Felipe II in Barrio Salamanca, from November.
Three Kings Procession in Madrid
The Three Kings Procession (Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos in Spanish) on January 5 is one of the biggest attractions of Christmas in Madrid.
Read more... about Three Kings Day in Spain.
The itinerary is as follows:
Continue to 5 of 5 below.
- Plaza de San Juan de la Cruz next to Nuevos Ministerios metro station
- Paseo de la Castellana,
- Plaza del Doctor Marañón,
- Glorieta de Emilio Castelar
- Plaza de Colón,
- Paseo de Recoletos
- Plaza de Cibeles. At 8.45pm (roughly, this is Spain after all) there will be a fireworks display.
05 of 05
Nativity scenes in Madrid (belenes in Spanish) are a big deal. These are not just a couple of playmobil toys and some toy farm yard animals: the whole of Bethlehem is reproduced. There are nativity scenes all over the city and there will usually be a line to get in to see them.
Nativity Scene at Centrocentro Cibeles de Cultura y Ciudadanía
The former post office hosts the an antique 17th-century nativity scene. It is open from 10am to 8pm on most days, though it will close earlier on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve and will be closed on New Year's Day. It is open on Christmas Day. Closes on January 6.
Address: Plaza de Cibeles, 1
Nativity Scene at City Hall
One of the biggest nativity scenes is at the one put on by the ayuntamiento (city hall).
Open from 10am to 8pm, but closed on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve and opens at 5pm on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Closes on January 6.
Address: Calle Jorge Juan
Nativity Scene in Plaza Mayor
Outdoor nativity scene around the central statue.... Probably the easiest to visit.
Address: Plaza Mayor
Other Nativity Scenes in Madrid
There are also nativity scenes in the Museo de Historia de Madrid (on Calle Fuencarral), in the Museo de San Isidro (Plaza de San Andres) and in the Real Casa de Correos (Calle Correos).