When we think of Spain, we imagine spending our time sunbathing on the beach, drinking sangria, or indulging in local cuisine. However, spending winter in Spain is as rewarding as in summer. One of the benefits of traveling to Spain in winter is getting the cheapest airfare deal and attending various festivals, events, and Christmas markets.
Here are some of the best places to go to Spain in winter, recommended by other travel bloggers, with snow-topped mountains and warm winter weather. But before you go, you might also want to learn some useful Spanish phrases for traveling.
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What’s the weather like in Spain in winter?
Even though temperatures are different across the country, Spain’s climate is still one of the warmers and mildest among other European countries. The winter season here starts in December and lasts till March. The temperature highly depends on the region and its proximity to the sea or the mountains.
If you plan on skiing in Spain, the temperature in mountainous ski resorts gets below zero, while the northern part of Spain sees a lot of rain during winter. Coastal towns reach a temperature of 15C during the day in winter, with Costa Brava and Catalonia regions being sunnier with little chance of rain.
The temperature gradually decreases in January and February, with January being the coldest month. However, the weather in the Canary Islands is still warmer these months, reaching 20C. Overall, visiting Spain in winter is an excellent option to spend your winter holidays exploring the country.
What to pack for your winter in Spain vacation?
If you plan on doing some winter activities and sports, it goes without saying that your suitcase should include cold-weather gear and clothing, including skiing pants, gloves, a warm jacket, and a hat.
When exploring the cities, layering your clothes is essential. Make sure you pack a coat, comfortable walking shoes or boots, a warm scarf, an umbrella, and a hat. As the weather varies depending on the destination and region, you might not need many warm winter clothes. Just check average temperatures before the departure and pack one or two warmest pullovers or sweaters if it gets colder during your vacation.
Festivals & events to attend in Spain in winter
One of the reasons to spend winter in Spain is to attend different religious events and festivals scheduled from mid-December till January 6. Spend an afternoon walking through Christmas markets and indulging in delicious local food, try your chances at winning a multi-billion Euro lottery, admire gorgeous religious scenes, and spend New Year’s Eve at one of the biggest celebrations.
Other festivals worth attending is the famous carnival in Sitges in February with lots of colorful costumes and drinking straight in the streets. Note: sometimes, the dates vary, so make sure to check before you plan.
Cadiz hosts Festival de Jerez is the most important flamenco festival in Spain that starts at the end of February and continues through the beginning of March.
Art lovers will enjoy spending their time at the ARCOmadrid International Contemporary Art Fair that runs from the end of February till the beginning of March in the capital.
Big cities to spend winter in Spain
The capital of Catalonia, Barcelona, is probably the most visited city in Spain. Although many travelers flock here during spring or summer, there are plenty of activities for you to do here in winter.
Winter in Barcelona is characterized by mild weather compared to other parts of Spain. The average temperature during the day is around 12C, while it doesn’t go below 5C at night. The days are sunny most of the time, and the streets see fewer crowds.
In winter, your trip to Barcelona will most likely include visiting its famous architectural masterpieces and monuments, tracking down Gaudi’s houses, and walking through the colorful Park Guel. While most of the museums don’t offer winter prices for tickets, there are two hacks you need to know about exploring Barcelona on a budget:
- Always buy tickets online. Although there might not be huge lines at the entrance in winter, you might get a discounted fare when purchasing it online.
- Some of these venues offer FREE entrances on certain days, such as the first Monday or Sunday of the month, or have open days throughout the year. Learn more here.
When wandering through the streets, hop in one of the cafes in Barcelona for delicious tapas or hot chocolate to warm up during the sightseeing. If you are a sweets person, don’t forget to try traditional Turron (nougat) or Polvoron (crumbly shortbread).
And if the weather gets cold, visit the revived ancient Roman bath located right next to El Born Market. Aire de Barcelona offers hot baths of different temperatures in a candlelit room along with other services like a relaxing massage, red wine bath, and candle oil experience, to name just a few.
Other winter activities in Barcelona include visiting the Christmas market, ice skating at one of the many rinks, and attending a Three Kings Parade on January 6.
One of the best places to spend the winter in Spain is the city of Madrid. There are many things to do in the capital, including visiting one of the museums in Madrid, and walking through one of the best and oldest Christmas markets in Madrid at Plaza Mayor, and featuring many stalls selling a variety of winter items and gifts. It is a great place to get that Christmas feeling!
Another winter activity to do in Madrid is to admire its Christmas lights hanging everywhere you look. These are not regular lights as you see in other cities. Spain’s best artists and designers come together to create a display of lights that should be unforgettable.
Moreover, pay a visit to one of the many Christmas trees scattered throughout the city, especially Puerta del Sol. And if you wish to have a relaxing winter walk, visit Madrid’s parks; however, El Retiro Park is wonderful during this time of the year.
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Zaragoza is one of the most underrated cities in Spain. Indeed, the capital of Aragon has so much to offer. Due to its location between Barcelona and Madrid, it’s a great stopover option if you plan on doing a roundtrip.
When visiting Zaragoza, spend at least one day in the city; however, it’s recommended to spend at least 2-3 days to get to know the sights of Zaragoza even better.
The most famous places in the city are the Moorish Palace Aljafería and the Basílica del Pilar. The remarkable Pilar is not only the most significant baroque church in all of Spain but also the landmark of Zaragoza. The basilica impresses its visitors with colorful and stunning details from the outside and inside.
But Plaza del Pilar, on which the basilica is located, is also a popular attraction because this is where the Christmas market takes place in winter. In addition to handicrafts, you can find all kinds of yummy snacks and even mulled wine, like the one common in Central Europe. Above it, you can discover festive lights and a vast nativity scene that you can walk through.
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With average annual temperatures of 23C and sunny winters that feel more like spring, Valencia is the perfect place to escape for a bit of off-season “sol y sangria.” Head to the city beaches for a stroll along Paseo Maritimo and some of Valencia’s famous paella by the sea (paella was invented here!), or explore the many tapas bars that line the ancient historic old town.
Moreover, during winter, bustling Christmas markets come to life and flow out into the streets around Central Market, Market Square, and the Silk Exchange building. During this time of the year, you’ll also find an ice-skating rink and carousel in the famous Plaza del Ayuntamiento, while the iconic City of Arts and Sciences becomes a wonderland of food trucks and Christmas cheer.
Also, be sure to visit the arts and crafts fair at Valencia’s iconic Colón Market, where you can meet Santa and Spain’s beloved “Three Kings.” You may also want to pop into the Museu Faller de València to see the city’s legendary “ninots,” which are set alight during Valencia’s crazy Las Fallas fiesta (every March).
End your days with warming churros con chocolate, or treat yourself to an altogether more fortifying jug of Agua de Valencia, made with cava, vodka, gin, and fresh orange juice from the city’s signature oranges. Now that’s what you call a winter escape!
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One of the best places to visit during the winter in Spain is the lovely city of Granada in the Andalucía region in the south of the country.
Being one of the most popular cities to visit in Spain, traveling here in winter enables you to experience the city’s beauty with a fraction of the crowds. Some of the best things to do in Granada for a couple of days is to explore the famous Alhambra complex (make sure to buy tickets in advance!), wander through the historical Arab quarter of Albaicín, indulge in the unique tapas culture of Granada, and visit the Sacromonte neighborhood to see the unique cave dwellings.
Apart from the typical attractions, you can experience year-round, visiting Granada during winter also means enjoying some unique experiences. Travelers can take a day trip to the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountain range to ski or enjoy other winter sports. Christmas markets also occur annually in the city in Plaza de Bib-Rambla and around Puerta Real.
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If you’d like to spend a winter in Spain under the sun, then definitely head over to Seville, the stunning capital of Andalusia. This city is one of Europe’s sunniest places, with average temperatures ranging from 8C – 17C during the winter months! This makes it the perfect place to enjoy the festive vibes without having to bear the cold.
It’s recommended to visit Seville for 3 days to enjoy everything this city has to offer fully. Some of the top things to do here include rowing a boat inside Plaza de España, exploring the majestic Royal Alcázar, seeing the tomb of Christopher Columbus in the Seville Cathedral, and climbing up the Giralda Tower. The best part about visiting in the winter is that you’ll see tons of beautiful festive lights when walking around these places!
Don’t miss out on the most popular Christmas market in town – the Feria del Belén de Sevilla. You can buy all kinds of gifts for your loved ones there, and it’s also a great place to get a glimpse of the local culture and traditions. Make sure to also stop by the Exposición y Vento de Dulces, which takes place at the Royal Alcázar. There, you’ll find local convents giving out delicious homemade sweets!
In mid-December, you can also watch a glorious Christmas concert performed by the Royal Orchestra of Seville. Towards the end of December, you can also see some Christmas parades organized by the Royal Postmen (Reales Carteros), which occur in the city center!
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Cordoba is a great sunny destination to spend a couple of days in Spain in winter. Daytime temperatures are around 14-16 degrees celsius and fall to 4 degrees on the coldest nights. Moreover, the region also sees very little rainfall, while most days are bright with clear skies.
The city of Cordoba is visually stunning. Throughout history, it’s been ruled over by the Romans, the Moors, and then the Christians. Naturally, the number one thing to do in Cordoba is to visit the UNESCO Heritage-listed Cathedra-Mosque. Originally built as a Mosque, it was completed in the 10th Century. In 1236 Cordoba was captured by the Christians and was transformed into a Cathedral.
Other worthy points of interest are the Alcazar de Los Reyes Cristianos, the iconic Roman Bridge, and just outside the city, the ruins of Medina Azahara. The latter is 8km from the city, so you’ll either need to rent a car or book a guided tour with transportation. It’s definitely worthy of the trip out to see the once-grand city’s ruins, nestled into the hillside.
Another great thing to do here is to find the pretty flowered patios. As Cordoba sees sun all year round, flowers bloom even in the winter months! You can find pretty patios dotted all over the city, or visit the Palacio de Viana. Alternatively, head towards the Calleja de las Flores (Alley of Flowers) to find the cute cobbled alleyways adorned with colorful flowers.
During Christmas time, Cordoba is decorated with lights and displays like other cities. The main Christmas market is at Plaza de las Tendillas, featuring live music, food stalls, sweet treats, and traditional toys and gifts.
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While the seaside region of Costa Brava may not be the first place you think of to spend winter in Spain, there are many reasons to visit it in the cooler months. During winter, the area typically experiences cool days with clear blue skies – perfect for walking the coastal trails and admiring the empty beaches.
You’ll find plenty of small villages and towns along the coast, some of which will be very quiet, and others that are still buzzing with daily village life. Head to Tossa de Mar to walk the ancient city walls and visit the Christmas fair that takes place early in the month, visit the Begur Castle and the stunning Sa Tuna seaside nearby, and discover fascinating Greek and Roman heritage at the Ruins Empuries.
For Christmas events, head inland to Girona, where you’ll find a lively open-air Christmas market at Plaça Independència, then walk the charming streets surrounding it that are adorned with festive lights and fun window displays. This unique area also has its own traditions when it comes to celebrating the Christmas season, and you can witness some of these curious customs for yourself during events that take place in Tossa de Mar, Bàscara, Pals, and Castell d’Aro.
You can visit the Costa Brava as a day trip from Barcelona, but to take full advantage of the quiet season, stay at one of the coastal towns and experience life as a local.
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Charming towns to spend winter in Spain
This coastal and peaceful town in the Costa Blanca region sees 3,000 hours of sun per year. There is no doubt that traveling to Alicante is an excellent choice for those who’d love to travel to Spain in winter.
Rich in history, sandy beaches, plenty of attractions, and colorful streets, you won’t get bored in Alicante. The main sight here is the Castle of Santa Barbara nestled on the hilltop overlooking the sea and the city. The surrounding Santa Cruz neighborhood is also worth checking out on your way to or from the castle. The area is full of cute white houses adorned with flowers and colorful windows.
Afterward, visit impressive cathedrals dotted in the city, or explore some of its interesting museums if the weather gets colder or rains during your stay.
The town’s location also enables travelers to explore its nearby charming towns such as Altea, Javea, Benidorm, Villajoyosa, or even Pink Lake in Torrevieja.
One of the most beautiful destinations in Spain is Sitges, the tiny coastal city south of Barcelona. This gorgeous beach town on the Costa Brava is a joy to visit any time of the year. It’s also a popular LGBT travel destination with gay Sitges attracting tourists from all over Europe and beyond. While the crowds swell in the summer, it’s just as enchanting during the winter months.
On average, Sitges sees 310 sunny days per year and mild temperatures in the winter months. Even though the water temperatures are cool, you’ll commonly have beach days all winter long. A walk on Passeig Maritim, the coastal promenade, is a nice activity after sunbathing. The strip is full of boutiques, cafes, and ocean-view bars, many of which are open through the winter.
At the end of the promenade, you’ll find the picturesque Iglesia de San Bartolomé y Santa Tecla on the southern end of the coast. It’s a charming seaside church that’s open for tours and belongs in any Instagram feed.
Besides the beach, promenade, and brilliant church, the food in Sitges is delicious. Tapas are a must in the region, and one of the best restaurants to enjoy them is El Cabel. It’s an airy tapas place that’s always full in the summer season, but you’ll have no problem getting a table in the winter. Another great dinner option is La Picara, a Basque-style restaurant that serves exquisite pintxos.
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Most people go on a day trip to Toledo, but this incredible historical town has so much to offer. With daytime temperatures around 12-14C, it’s a great place to go for the winter sun in Europe. It’s a wonderful city to get lost in its streets of the old town on sunny days.
There are historical sights and buildings around every corner, and you can easily spend a whole week in the city without running out of things to do and see. This self-guided Toledo Walking Tour will guide you through its highlights.
Make sure you visit the cathedral El Alcazar and Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes. It’s worth going for a stroll along the river that divides the old town from the rest of the city as you will cross beautiful medieval bridges like the Azarcuiel Bridge.
You might enjoy a Christmas market if you’re there at the right time. Otherwise, winter is the perfect time to indulge in Toledo’s finest marzipan and snuggle up with a hot drink in one of the many cafes to warm up. With some luck, you might even get to see the picturesque snow-covered ancient town.
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Villajoyosa is another charming town in the Costa Blanca region of Spain. This colorful little town will leave you in awe when wandering through its narrow streets. Villajoyosa is an ideal destination for those who’d love to embrace a peaceful environment during their winter break. The name of the town means “joyful,” and it literally lives up to this title.
Apart from having a historical value, Villajoyosa is also known for its chocolate, sandy beaches, nearby fishing houses, and perfect climate in winter. Those who’d love to mix cultural travel with their relaxing vacation should visit Valor Chocolate Museum, the archeological museum Vilamuseu, and Torre El Aguilo for stunning views of the Medieterreanin sea and the coastline. There’s a bustling dining scene here with beach bars and restaurants to try local cuisine and delicacies.
Similar to Alicante, you can base yourself in Villajoyosa and explore the nearby towns as a day trip.
Cadiz is one of the less touristy cities in Andalucia, making it a fantastic place to experience the authentic region and mingle with the locals.
In winter, Cadiz’s temperatures remain quite high, warm enough to wear just a t-shirt and even sunbathe during the day in February. Being located in southern Spain, Cadiz also benefits from an average of 300 sunny days a year, which makes it a desirable place in Spain in winter.
Whilst the winter holidays are not celebrated with Christmas markets and street celebrations like elsewhere, Cadiz still attracts thousands of visitors for its annual carnival.
In the second part of February, the Cadiz carnival brings the city to life through music, street performances, parades, competitions, great food, and fireworks displays. The carnival stretches over 10 days and is one of the liveliest and must-see spectacles in Andalucia.
Cadiz’s first carnival was held in the 16th century, and since then, it became a proper tradition. The most famous groups in the parades are the chirigotas, who wear identical costumes and train for the entire year before the carnival.
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Ávila looks like a page plucked from a fairytale book when you gaze down at it from a vantage point. More than a holiday destination, Ávila is about traditional Spanish culture rooted in its history. Thousands of tourists flock here every year because of its connection with Saint Teresa, who was born here.
The fortified medieval walls surrounding the intra-muros town Ávila in Spain are among the finest city defenses globally and are called Murallas. Therefore, the first thing to do in Avila should be to take a walk around these walls passing through its arches and gateways, for a feel of the historical town.
The Cathedral of Avila is one of Avila’s oldest religious buildings and represents the finest Gothic, Romanesque, and Renaissance architecture in Europe. The Cathedral’s museum has a large artifact collection, including valuable tapestries and embroidered pieces.
Ávila has the coldest winter and low temperatures among other provincial capital cities. There are several museums and churches to visit to remain indoors if the weather is too cold. The collections at the Museum of Oriental Art include some stunning ivory carvings and metalwork and a roomful exotic animal.
And don’t forget to visit Avila’s famous Tapas Bars. Avila’s veal is very famous, and so is the baked dessert Yemas de Avila. Visit the Christmas market at the Town Hall to see a large Christmas tree with lights glowing around, try some food, and maybe even buy some souvenirs.
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Islands to spend winter in Spain
Gran Canaria is a great spot to take a little break from the cold, grey Europe. And while the rest of the continent is covered in layers, scarves, and gloves, you can roam around here in a bathing suit and go to a beach bar for Christmas Eve.
Gran Canaria is the biggest of all Canary Islands and a gorgeous place. It offers sun, sea, and sand without breaking your bank. Don’t think of it as a beach spot; this beautiful island also offers adventure, culture, and nature.
On the north of the island lies the capital called Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which has a very local culture and vibe. Find beautiful beaches on the south of the island and the famous dunes of Maspalomas where the desert meets the sea.
Gran Canaria island also offers a chance to hike and explore nature with a chance to enjoy delicious local cuisine in its tiny villages. If you want some adrenaline rush, join a scuba school and explore the seas around or get your life vest on and head for a water sports center. Prefer to fly instead? Check out the parasailing adventures on offer.
For New Year’s Eve, enjoy the Spanish traditions of eating 12 grapes in the last 12 seconds till midnight and partying till dawn.
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Puerto de la Cruz
Tenerife is another island out of eight Canary Islands. Similar to Gran Canaria, it’s a popular destination for the rest of Europe. The Canary Islands, often referred to as “the land of eternal spring,” enjoys a 22C average temperature even in January, making it, probably, the warmest place in Spain.
Located just off the coast of Morocco, Tenerife offers the perfect blend of beach relaxation, great scenery, and outstanding hiking. Each island in the Canaries has its own highlights and personality. Even though Tenerife is often stereotyped for its rowdy beach resorts and raucous crowds of British package tourists, those resorts are almost entirely centered on the far southern coast.
Instead, head up to the northwest corner where beautiful Puerto de la Cruz retains a traditional atmosphere and relaxed expats community. Particularly popular with Germans, Puerto de la Cruz boasts a wide range of outstanding German restaurants to go along with several British pubs and many other great choices from Italian to Moroccan.
Many people don’t realize that Tenerife is also an amazing hiking destination, with trails ranging from short, scenic cliff strolls to stunning valley hikes to spectacular ascents of iconic Mount Teide. It is easy to rent a car to explore the island, or you can take advantage of the simple, extensive, and affordable public transportation system.
Moreover, Puerto de la Cruz is extremely affordable compared to other European beach destinations, especially if you have the time for a long-term apartment rental.
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Adventurous winter in Spain
Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park
Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park is an under-visited wilderness area dotted with deep canyons, lush green vistas, and craggy mountains. It’s an excellent place to spend winter in Spain, where you can enjoy hiking under snow-capped mountains on trails still framed by colorful winter flowers.
Sierra de Grazalema is home to an interesting array of wildlife, and winter is the best time to see them. Ibex can be spotted in the grassy hillside meadows; eagles are common, and Griffon vultures are particularly active in the winter months. It’s a great destination for active people who enjoy hiking and photography in a beautiful setting.
Several different trails are suitable for winter, the best being El Pinsapar – a half-day hike with an easy ridge climb. It offers excellent views over Andalucía then descends into the protected forest area, which is the only place in the world you can see the Spanish fir tree (Pinsapo).
Once refreshed from some winter hiking, enjoy a stroll around the famous white villages of Andalucía. Grazalema’s town sits on a rocky ledge, deep in the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, with towering, craggy mountains rising all around it. Zahara de la Sierra is a postcard-ready white village with magnificent views, a cute atmosphere, quirky churches, and excellent eating options.
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