If you are looking for some winter sun in Europe, Spain is one of the best destinations to escape from the cold. However, Spain in the winter months is not just about beaches and sunshine – some of the best places to visit in Spain in winter are just as cold as elsewhere in Europe but visiting in the off-season means you will get a unique Spanish experience. With the help of some of my fellow travel bloggers, I’ve put together this guide for the best places to visit in Spain in winter, with lots of tips and advice about enjoying Spain in December and January.
Weather in Spain in Winter
Winter in Spain is generally mild, although there are several different climates across the country. Temperatures tend to vary between 5°C to 14°C, but along the coast, high humidity can make it feel colder, and in higher altitude areas temperatures will be lower. Snow in coastal areas and on the Spanish Islands is rare, but inland it is more common, especially in the mountains where skiing is a popular winter activity.
When you are planning where to visit in Spain in winter, bear in mind that a lot of apartments in Spain are woefully prepared for the cold weather. My apartment in Barcelona didn’t have heating so I spent a lot of time snuggled up in my duvet with a hot water bottle and fan heater! However, most hotels will be heated, but check carefully before you book accommodation in Spain to make sure you will be warm enough.
Winter in Spanish Beach Resorts
The south coast of Spain is in places just a few kilometres from the north coast of Africa, so it is warmer than the north, but still not boiling hot! On some days you may be able to enjoy walking around in short sleeves but you’re unlikely to be on the beach in your bikini.
The exception to this is the Canary Islands, off the Moroccan coast. I remember going to Gran Canaria in February when I was a child and it was ridiculously hot, up to 40°C some days. However, the weather is changeable, and it certainly wasn’t that warm when I returned to the Canaries a couple of years ago to go surfing. It rained and it was cold!
Before you book a trip to the Spanish coast in winter, check what facilities will be open and available to you. Some resorts close down in the winter, and you might find that many of the bars and restaurants that are open during the summer have closed their doors for the quieter winter season. That said, if you come to enjoy the beautiful scenery it shouldn’t matter if a few places are closed up.
Winter in Inland Spain
Before you start thinking that Spain is all about winter sun, don’t forget that there are several places in Spain where the weather is just as cold as the rest of Europe – or close to it! There are mountain ranges in Spain, perfect for skiing or other winter sports, and if the weather turns then some places get dreadfully cold. However, visiting inland cities in Spain during the winter, you will enjoy the streets without hoards of tourists and be able to spend your time in cosy restaurants and bars without sweating like you would in summer!
Things to do in Spain in Winter
Of course, this varies depending on where you decide to go in Spain during the winter, but here are a few suggestions for the best things to do in December and January in Spain:
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Christmas Celebrations in Spain
As a traditionally catholic country, Christmas is a big deal in Spain. Although not as famous perhaps as northern European destinations, Christmas markets in Spain are popular with locals and tourists alike. In the markets, you can find all sorts of decorations such as handmade nativity scenes, tree decorations and some unique items such as caganers in Catalan Christmas markets in Barcelona. Christmas lights pop up everywhere to brighten up the long dark nights. Christmas celebrations continue in January when the Three Kings arrive on 5th January to deliver presents. Then you will often find parades when “Los Reyes” bring sweets and gifts for the children as they travel through the streets.
Enjoy Some Winter Sun
Although you shouldn’t expect to be hitting the beach in your bikini every day, there is a high chance of lovely weather in southern Spain and the Canary Islands. Even if it isn’t hot enough for sunbathing, walking around in jeans and short sleeves is better than being bundled up in coats and woolly hats like you would be at home!
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Winter Sports in Spain
Skiing in Spain might not be at the top of your list, but ski resorts such as those in the Sierra Nevada near Granada in the south and in the Pyrenees in the north are great places to ski in the winter. If you don’t fancy spending your whole trip in the snowy mountains, a day trip from the Costa del Sol to the Sierra Nevada is easy to arrange, so you could be skiing during the day and sipping sangria by the sea at night! Skiing in Spain also tends to be cheaper than most other European ski destinations like France, Austria and Switzerland, so you know you can get a great deal here. And it’s not just skiing that you can do in Spain in winter, but snowboarding, snowshoeing, sledding, skidoo driving and a whole host of other snowy fun to enjoy!
Sight-seeing Without the Crowds
Many destinations in Spain suffer from over-crowding in the summer months but come winter they are blissfully quiet. Visiting top attractions such as the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or the Alhambra in Granada is much nicer without queuing for hours or barging your way through hundreds of other people. Although some places with gardens or outdoor areas might be prettier in spring or summer when the flowers are blooming, you can still enjoy being here in relative peace and quiet.
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Eat Delicious Spanish Food
Spanish food is some of the best in the world, and you can enjoy delicious dishes in Spain all year round. Depending on the weather, in many places, you can still sit outside to enjoy some tapas and a glass of wine or beer on the terrace, or if it is too cold or rainy then there are plenty of cosy taverns to settle into. Traditional Spanish dishes such as paella are comforting and warming on cold days, and you can also find rich hearty dishes like goat stew in the Canary Islands. Winter specialities like turron in Catalunya are only found in December, and this sweet treat similar to nougat is not to be missed. And there is nothing better than a steaming cup of thick hot chocolate and crisp sugar-covered churros to keep you warm in the winter! Winter is also the perfect time to take part in a cooking class in Spain, so you can learn how to make your own Spanish dishes once you get back home.
The Best Places to Visit in Spain in Winter
I adore Barcelona, and for me, there is no better city to spend the winter. Barcelona in winter is chilly, but a damn sight warmer (and drier) than the UK. Christmas celebrations will be in full swing from the start of December, with Christmas markets popping up around the Sagrada Familia and Gothic Cathedral, among others.
The streets are quieter than usual, and although Barcelona has a steady stream of tourists all year, you won’t have the deluge of visitors as you do in the summer. The weather is often bright and clear, if cool, and enjoying a stroll along the beach is a fabulous way to pass the time.
If you are on a budget there are plenty of free things to do in Barcelona throughout the year, from exploring Gaudi’s magnificent architecture to exploring the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter.
Madrid is a great destination to travel to in winter for so many reasons.
In the height of summer, Madrid is boiling hot, with many locals escaping to cooler climes elsewhere but tourists arriving in their droves. By contrast, the winter is a much nicer time to put on your walking shoes and see the best of the Spanish capital.
Madrid is a museum-lover’s haven thanks to the number of stellar galleries and museums dotted around the city. Many of the city’s biggest draws, like the Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia are no less fabulous but are much quieter during the winter months. Instead of battling the crowds, you can browse at your leisure – seizing the opportunity to see world-famous works like Picasso’s Guernica in relative quiet.
You might not think of winter as a great time to scope out a rooftop bar or two but thanks to Madrid’s relatively mild climate, you can still hop up to the top of bars like the Circulo de Bellas Artes to grab some beautiful views of the city – again without the heaving crowds of the summer months.
Food-wise, Madrid is straight-up fabulous and that doesn’t change in the winter months. Bag a table at cool spots like Bar Cerveriz (their Spanish tortilla is divine) and La Sanabresa and feast on the vibrant flavours of Madrileno cuisine.
Add to that the usual draws of travelling during the low-season (cheaper accommodation, no need to book tickets for attractions in advance and fewer crowds to name a few) I’d highly recommend a winter trip to Madrid.
By Julianna from The Discoveries Of
The Canary Islands
The Canary Islands are the most southern part of Spain, and the group of islands off the Moroccan coast are the best place to visit if you want some winter sun in Spain. However, good weather isn’t guaranteed, so check the forecast before you pack your bags. I went surfing in Fuerteventura in winter, and the weather was chilly with a strong wind, but temperatures are often warm enough to enjoy the beach, with an average winter temperature of around 20°C.
Watersports are popular in the Canary Islands at any time of year, but windy weather makes ideal conditions for surfing, wind-surfing and kite surfing. Under the water, the Canaries are also excellent for diving.
If you’re on the hunt for the perfect city in which to spend winter in Spain, then you absolutely cannot go wrong with the lovely coastal city of Málaga. Situated in the Costa del Sol region of Andalucía in the south of Spain, Málaga boasts perennially beautiful weather and abundant sunshine even when the rest of Europe is in the depths of a cold, dark winter.
Though Málaga is known to be a tourist destination packed with crowds, it is easy enough to venture a bit off the beaten path and see a more local side of the city. Also, if visiting in the winter months, you do have the added benefit of fewer tourist crowds to begin with! Some of the top attractions in Málaga include the Alcazaba complex, the Picasso Museum, the Málaga Cathedral and the Museo de Vino. Though compact, you can easily spend a couple of days in Málaga and not run out of things to do!
Málaga also has an incredible tapas scene and if you take the time to venture away from the overpriced, tourist-centric restaurants close to the city’s main attractions, you have the potential to find some really special, hole-in-the-wall bars. If you would rather make yourself a picnic or see where Spaniards buy their food, make sure to head to the Mercado de Atarazanas — the central market hall in Málaga. Here you can find some local delicacies, fresh fruits and vegetables, and even sit down for a small beer, a glass of wine, and a few snacks before you finish your shop.
All in all, Málaga has a lot to offer visitors and it is the perfect winter destination in Spain.
By Maggie from The World Was Here First
Looking for a beautiful winter destination in Spain? Consider Córdoba, located in Spain’s southern province of Andalusia, with its stunning architecture, great food scene, and lively vibe.
Winter is a particularly nice time to visit Cordoba, which gets scorchingly hot in the summer. In the winter though, daytime temperatures are in the low 60s Fahrenheit, perfect for wandering and exploring outdoors. Nights are in the low 40s, so bring a cosy jacket and you can enjoy the city at night as well!
There are lots of fun things to do in Cordoba, including exploring the world-famous Mezquita, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and taking a mini trip just outside the city to view the ruins of Medina Azahara, another UNESCO World Heritage site.
Wandering the picturesque Jewish Quarter and viewing the Roman Bridge, a Game of Thrones location, should also feature on your itinerary for the city. Visit the Alcazar, the Moorish fortress, for great views from the ramparts.
In November and December, visit the lovely Christmas market, held in Tendillas Square, and browse the stalls selling wooden toys and local treats. Enjoy the lights and Nativity Scenes all over the city. On New Year’s Eve, visit Tendillas Square to watch the fireworks and eat the traditional 12 grapes as you count down the clock at midnight.
By Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
Almost anyone who is not too familiar with Spain or is – but does not like cold or rain – will tell you that in the coldest season, you should head south of the Iberian Peninsula or the Canary Islands (which enjoy temperatures almost tropical throughout the year).
There will be few who recommend that you go north, to experience the strength of the Atlantic Ocean (in Galicia) or that of the Cantabrian Sea. I am talking about this last one today because after living for many years in the north of Spain, I want to recommend you to visit Gijón (Asturias) in winter.
The amount of activities that the city offers to enjoy the outdoors regardless of the weather is very much to take into account. From surfing (when there are big waves) to paragliding (when there is enough wind), going for walks along the coast and many others; action lovers won’t get bored.
On the other hand, Gijón has a wonderful historical centre, full of restaurants where you can taste the specialities of the region and bars to have a typical cider in the afternoon.
Take a raincoat and good shoes, read this list of awesome things to do in Gijon and put northern Spain in your winter plans now.
By Inma from A World to Travel
Zaragoza in Winter
One of my favourite places to visit in the winter in Spain is Zaragoza. Since my husband’s family is from there, we visit the capital of Aragón almost every Christmas.
It might most probably not be the first Spanish city you have in mind when planning your winter vacation but, trust me, it’s absolutely worth a visit. With its perfect location right in between Madrid and Barcelona, it can also be perfectly combined with a trip to those important Spanish cities.
Zaragoza has unlike many other destinations in Spain a much more Christmassy vibe. This is not only due to the much colder weather (sometimes as low as 0°C /32 ° F) but also due to the beautiful Christmas decorations all over the city.
Our favourite is the little Christmas market which you can find on Plaza de Pilar. Here you can sip some delicious mulled wine (which in cities like Barcelona, is super hard to find) and have some typical Christmas market snacks.
Another of the great things to do in Zaragoza in winter is joining the locals on their “terraceros”. Even though Zaragoza might be colder than many Spanish cities, the locals love to keep sitting outside in bars and restaurants enjoying hot meals and coffee. One yummy treat you should definitely not miss is the mouth-watering fresh churros con chocolate which might not be native to the city but still has a long tradition, especially if you visit around Christmas time.
By Vicki from Vicki Viaja
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago of Compostela in Galicia is Spain’s most famous pilgrimage destination. Every year millions of pilgrims walk the way of Saint James leading to the apostle’s shrine in Santiago de Compostela. The Sanctuary holds the remains of the apostle James which were brought to Galicia in the 9th century. One of the most interesting things to do in the city is to attend a religious celebration in the Cathedral and witnessing the blessing of the pilgrims and the swing of the “Botafumeiro”. A massive censer that swings through the huge cathedral suspended from the roof of the Cathedral, and at the end of the ceremony.
Besides the Shire of Saint James, the city has a beautiful medieval centre with cobbled streets, old buildings, and some impressive monuments that have been very well preserved. Santiago’s old town is a UNESCO heritage site since 1985.
We feel that there is something fascinating about roaming the old town and watching the pilgrims arrive, tired and inspired after doing the Saint James way, especially in winter when there fewer people and the whole ceremony feels more authentic and traditional. Old medieval Spanish towns combine well with winter. At the end of the cold and rainy day, you must simply enjoy a hot and hearty “Caldo Gallego”.
By Claudia from Travel Drafts
Almeria lies on the southern coast in Andalucia. It has a small airport and a train station but is most easily reached by bus from nearby cities. For sightseeing, the main attraction is the alcazar on top of the hill with views of the city. It has both Moorish and Christian sections, and it’s free to enter. You just have to walk up the steep hill. Nearby is the nature preserve of Cabo de Gato with hiking trails and other natural sights.
This is all pretty standard for an old town in southern Spain. But the reason you should visit Almeria in the winter is the tomatoes. More specifically Raf tomatoes. They don’t look like your standard garden variety tomatoes. They are greenish even when perfectly ripe, ridged instead of smooth, and really almost ugly. Despite this, they are sweet and delicious. Winter is when they are ripe and Almeria is the centre of their area.
In the winter, Raf tomatoes feature on many menus. Often the dish comes with onions and olives, sometimes with tuna, but the simplest form is just the tasty tomatoes with oil and salt on a plate. There are plenty of tapas bars in the old town scattered between the cathedral and the town hall square or just head to the covered market and buy fresh ones. Almeria was also the Spanish capital of Gastronomy for 2019, so there’s more tasty food to try alongside your tomatoes as you enjoy the sun in the winter.
By Ali from Travel Made Simple
With a rich history dating back more than 2,500 years, Granada is a fascinating place to visit. Its biggest claim to fame is the Alhambra, which began as a 9th-century fortress but is most famous for its 14th-century incarnation as the palace of the Muslim Nasrid rulers of Granada. This is actually the most visited attraction in all of Spain, which means that Granada can get unbearably overcrowded in the high season. By visiting in the winter, you will avoid the worst of the crowds, but you do still need to book in advance your Alhambra tickets well in advance, as they sell out quickly.
In addition to fewer crowds, another advantage of going in winter is that there will be snow on the Sierra Nevada mountains south of the city. For photographers, this is great for when you’re snapping that classic shot of the Alhambra with the mountains in the background. You could even make a day trip to the Sierra Nevada to go skiing, as it’s only about 30 kilometres away.
High temperatures in the winter are a comfortable 12 to 14 degrees Celsius. It does get quite chilly at night, though, so be sure to bring a good jacket. If you need to warm up, head to one of Granada’s many bars for a glass of red wine or a shot of the local artisanal rum, Pálido Montero. Unlike in other parts of Spain where tapas are paid for separately, here you’ll always receive a free tapa with every drink.
By Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
The beauty of visiting Valencia in Winter is that temperatures are mild and crowds are few and far apart. Although December, January and February are the coldest months, temperatures average around 17 degrees Celsius throughout the day. Despite being the City of Arts and Science, Valencia completely transforms into a Christmas town at the start of winter.
Valencia’s main square boasts four ice skating rinks with an equipment hire option for spontaneous fun. At this time of year, the streets are lined with meticulously decorated Belenes, or nativity scenes, as well as an array of stalls, craft workshops, and food markets, making for the perfect place to find a souvenir.
From the start of December, the town is elaborately decorated with fairy lights, and churches hold Christmas concerts. The renowned carols at Palau de la Musica are not to be missed. There is also no shortage of sweet treats, and a cup of traditional hot chocolate and some churros are an absolute must. Witness the Reyes Magos de Oriente, or the Parade of the Three Kings of Orient, which is a re-enactment of the Biblical tale of the Three Wise Men that takes place on 5 January each year.
After Christmas festivities have ended, be sure to explore the mazed streets which comprise the heart of the city. Visit La Llotja de la Seda, the former Silk Exchange dating back to the 1500s, and support artisan shops and markets, while taking in the amazing architecture of the City Hall, a major landmark.
By Chrysoula from Travel Passionate
Alicante in winter is a perfect getaway to escape the cold. While it normally is too cold for nice beach days, it is still warmer than in many other European cities and thus perfect for some relaxed sightseeing.
And the best about visiting Alicante in the winter is that you don’t have the crowds and can explore the city almost all by yourself.
Though Alicante has some Christmas Markets you cannot compare them to markets in Central Europe like Germany, or Switzerland. HOWEVER, it is great to visit in any of the winter months.
So, what to do if you can’t spend your day swimming in the Mediterranean Sea? Don’t worry, there are many activities even for the winter months. Do a short walk and get up to Santa Barbara Castle to enjoy beautiful views and learn about Alicante´s history. Stroll one of the most beautiful promenades in the country – Esplanade of Spain.
The promenade is pleasantly lively and yet not busy at that time of the year – perfect to enjoy nice walks before resting at Canalejas Park.
And another good news: Alicante is quite affordable compared to other top destinations in Spain – especially in the winter months. From Alicante, you can also take a few day trips to explore some of the pretty towns and villages. Even in the cold months, it is fun to explore the cities and stroll along the Costa Blanca.
By Arzo from Arzo Travels
Seville is in the Andalucia region of southern Spain, and the warmest city in continental Europe. In the summer you can expect daily highs of 97 °F (36 °C). With those temperatures, it’s not surprising that you might prefer to visit Seville in the winter. During the wintertime, the weather in Seville is still pleasant (it rarely drops below 50 °F (10 °C), the streets are quieter and it’s the perfect time to see everything that Seville has to offer.
Most of Seville’s attractions are outside, so getting the weather right for your visit is everything. Top of your list should be Seville Cathedral and the amazing rooftop tour which takes you up secret staircases and out onto the cathedral roof for fabulous views of the city.
For a more modern take on rooftop adventures, head to the Metropol Parasol, the world’s largest wooden structure. Seville locals have nicknamed it the “mushrooms” and wandering around the undulating paths on top are a great way to spend an hour or so.
Another place in Seville that’s lovely to wander around in winter’s milder temperatures is the Real Alcazar, a complex of palaces and gardens that dates back to the middle ages. It may not be the best time to see flowers in the gardens, but they’re still gorgeous and visitor numbers are far lower in the winter.
By Helen from Helen on her Holidays
San Sebastian Spain, one of the most overlooked and underrated coastal cities in the country. It was by accident that I stumbled through here 10 years prior en route to New Year’s Eve by car in France. But that trip would forever change how I viewed the region of Donostia, now 4 times back there I absolutely cannot get enough and winter is the perfect time to visit!
When the crowds are relaxed and the temperature is in the middle is where you’ll find yourselves diving into some of the best pintxos in the world. In this Basque city of 186,000, you’ll find yourselves among 3 of 5 three-star Michelin restaurants in Spain, and 16 Michelin stars total in San Sebastian…Making it the most stars per sq capita in the world!
If that wasn’t enough, it’s in the mid-’50s during the day and mid-’40’s at night with the occasional sea breeze bringing in warmer temperatures. It’s easy to find yourself walking along the beach looking out into the Bay of La Cancha and stopping into one of the exquisite cafes to watch the sunset. This winter or next, be sure to pay a visit to this little slice of heaven in the northwest corner of Spain!
By Jim from The Executive Thrillseeker
Where would you like to spend the winter in Spain? There are so many wonderful destinations in Spain to enjoy all year round, so let me know what you would choose.
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