Madrid in December: Best Things to See & Do

Bundle up and get ready to indulge in plenty of seasonal treats. The holiday season has officially arrived in Madrid, and we couldn’t be more excited!

There are plenty of fun activities in store when it comes to what to do in Madrid in December. If your holiday itinerary includes the Spanish capital (and it should!), here’s how to make the most of your trip during this magical time of year.

People walking along a city street at night below arched christmas light displays.
Madrid during the holidays is full of festive cheer! Photo credit: Jo Kassis

There’s a lot to love about visiting Madrid in December. You’ve got the festive holiday atmosphere, charming European Christmas markets, and—our personal favorite aspect!—the delicious seasonal food.

Read on to discover how to make the most of the Spanish capital at this cheerful and chilly time of year.

Weather in Madrid in December

December is definitely one of the chilliest months of the year in Madrid. Temperatures average out in the mid-40s Fahrenheit (6–7 degrees Celsius). However, they can range from the mid 30s to the low 50s (2–10 degrees Celsius).

It’s one of the rainiest months of the year along with November. Around 2 inches (50 mm) of precipitation in total fall throughout the month.

That said, December weather in Madrid is overall pleasant and mild compared to many other European destinations at this same time of year. Sunshine, while less common than in the warmer months, is still quite prevalent. Snow is rare in the capital, so if you want to experience a white Christmas, consider heading out to one of the mountain villages north of the city.

Group of people in winter clothing standing outside a restaurant.
Pack warm clothes if you’re visiting Madrid in December!

Things to Do in Madrid in December

1. Marvel at the Holiday Lights

First on our agenda of what to do in Madrid in December is simple: check out the Christmas lights!

All over the city, festive lights twinkle in the streets, bringing a visible sense of holiday cheer that’s impossible to resist. If walking around in the cold doesn’t sound too appealing but you want to enjoy the holiday magic, hop on board the Navibus, the city’s famous Christmas-themed bus!

The double-decker bus makes its way regularly through Madrid’s city center, allowing breathtaking views of the holiday lights along with live holiday-themed performances. If you’re wondering what to do in Madrid in December with your family, this option will easily be at the top of your list.

Large stone gateway decorated with blue holiday lights with pink and white flowers in front.
Puerta de Alcalá all decked out for Christmas! Photo credit: Antonio Alelu

2. Explore the Christmas Markets

But before you hop on board the Navibus, it’s time to take part in a cherished European holiday tradition: the fairytale Christmas markets.

Madrid’s largest and most famous market takes place in Plaza Mayor, and locals and visitors alike look forward to it every year. Here, you’ll be able to find anything and everything you could possibly want, from crazy hats to traditional handmade decorations to remarkable details for your home nativity scene.

It’s impossible not to feel the holiday spirit as you make your way through the stalls and browse the traditional products. No wonder this is often at the top of everyone’s list of what to do in Madrid in December!

Woman browsing the stalls at a brightly lit Christmas market.
Did you really visit Europe at the holidays if you didn’t shop at a Christmas market? Photo credit: Ross Sneddon

3. Snack on Churros

Between wandering around the Christmas markets and taking a stroll to see the holiday lights, you’ll probably start to feel a bit chilly after a while. Warm up by ducking into a cozy churrería for our favorite cold-weather snack: churros con chocolate!

Churros aren’t exclusively a holiday treat, but they taste even more perfect on a cold winter day. Enjoy them for breakfast, or later in the day for merienda (the mid-afternoon snack, traditionally eaten around 6 p.m.) for the best experience—they’re more likely to be freshly fried at these times.

If you’re coming from the Plaza Mayor Christmas market, your closest churros stop is the iconic Chocolateria San Ginés. This legendary local favorite is open 24 hours a day and has been serving up some of the city’s best churros and hot chocolate since 1894! Indulge your sweet tooth with a virtual visit to San Ginés in the video below.

For a more local neighborhood experience, head to Chocolat in the Huertas neighborhood. It’s an easy walk from the center and provide the perfect cozy cafe experience!

4. Take Part in a Festive Race

It may be tempting to turn into a couch potato as the weather gets colder, but try to resist. Instead, get up and get moving this holiday season by running the Santa Claus Race, which takes place every year in early December.

Join thousands of fellow Santas (your entry fee includes a costume!) for a five-kilometer race down Paseo del Prado, all for a good cause: the money raised helps fund childhood cancer research.

But the fun doesn’t end there. Later in the month, it’s time for the St. Sylvester Race, which has taken to the streets of the capital every New Year’s Eve since 1964. Upwards of 40,000 participants, ranging from amateur runners to professional athletes, take part in the 10-kilometer evening race, sending the old year out with a bang.

Take things to the next level by wearing a festive costume, whether you plan on running the race yourself or would rather cheer on the runners from the sidelines.

Hundreds of people running a race through city streets.
Say adiós to the old year by running through the streets of Madrid! Photo credit: PromoMadrid

Madrid in December FAQs

Is December a good time to visit Madrid?

Yes! December is one of the most enjoyable times to visit Madrid. It can be a bit chilly, but not too cold, and the festive holiday decorations, markets, and food make the city a true winter wonderland.

Is it normal for it to snow in Madrid?

Snow in Madrid is fairly rare, but it does happen from time to time. Most snow in the city falls in January rather than December.

Is Madrid cold in December?

Madrid is definitely chilly in December, but it’s still one of the warmest cities in Europe at this time of year. The average daytime temperature is 44 degrees Fahrenheit (6.5 degrees Celsius).

Update Notice: This post was originally published on December 6, 2016 and was updated with new text and photos on April 9, 2021.

5 Comment

  1. LaLa says
    December 6, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    I never knew about the Navibus! Sounds like fun! Thanks for the Christmas tips.

  2. madrid says
    November 19, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    Wow! I usually have more free time in winter and would go to travel but always had problem with “what to do” question 🙂 Great article, great suggestions – now I have to put them in use 🙂

    1. Devour Tours says
      November 20, 2019 at 8:51 am

      Thanks for reading—glad you found our tips helpful!

  3. paulo says
    November 21, 2019 at 11:38 pm

    this is a great list. i’m thinking of going to madrid dec 12-15. quite short. but if you have any itineraries or suggestions of “must” see, do, or eat , let me know

    1. Devour Tours says
      November 22, 2019 at 9:21 am

      Hi Paulo—be sure to check out the Christmas markets and ride the Navibus to see the lights! This is a great time of year to eat hearty, warm dishes like cocido madrileño, Madrid’s signature stew (we try it on our Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour if you’d like to join us! Enjoy your trip!

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