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When you think of Spain, you most likely conjure up images of sunbathing on soft sand beaches and sipping sangria under the shade of a city-center bar umbrella, but what if we told you Spain can be just as enjoyable in the winter? Spain has more mountains than any other country in Europe and with the mountains comes snow (that’s right, it snows in Spain) so skiing and snowboarding holidays are popular over the winter months, especially in the Pyrenees. While snow sports will likely be at the top of your winter in Spain to-do list, don’t forget that most of the country’s major attractions, museums, and National Parks remain open in the off-season. In short, you can plan to enjoy Spain the same way you would in summer (perhaps with a little less sunbathing) as long as you dress appropriately for the weather.
The winter months in Spain span from mid -December to late March and in general, temperatures aren’t too drastic as the climate in Spain is one of the mildest in Europe. The weather entirely depends on where you’re planning to visit but as a rule of thumb, the closer to the mountains you are the cooler you’ll be. The Pyrenees region in northern Spain tends to see temperatures drop below zero in the height of winter while the southern coastal areas (including Andalucia) tend to enjoy fairly warm winters with temperatures of around 15° C.
Below we’ve listed our top five places to visit in Spain in winter to provide a little inspiration for your holiday planning. We’ve also covered what to do in Spain in winter, and provided a number of recommended activities in each destination.
1. Barcelona in winter
Winter in Barcelona is quite mild and you can expect temperatures of around 12° C most days, with largely blue skies and very little rain (that tends to disappear with autumn). One of the best reasons to visit the Spanish capital in winter is the lack of crowds! Don’t expect to be pushing and shoving your way down Las Ramblas, or fighting for the best views at Park Gaudi as you’ll likely have the city almost to yourself and can blend in with the locals.
- Visit the Boqueria Market without the crowds and spend time sampling the local produce on offer. Wild mushrooms come into season at the end of autumn and local varieties are well sought-after at the market.
- Head 2-hours out of the city by bus to the ski resorts of La Molina and La Masella for a day of skiing.
- Enjoy winter art exhibition at one of Barcelona’s many museums including the MACBA or the Contemporary Culture Center.
- Attend Fira de Sana Llucia, the capital’s annual Christmas festival that dates right back to 1786. Over 300 stalls spread across the Gothic Quarter selling festive gifts and souvenirs.
2. Madrid in winter
Winter in Madrid brings with it fairytale Christmas decorations, picturesque parks, and hearty-winter dishes that soothe the soul. Though temperatures are fairly mild you’ll still need to wrap up warm if you’re going to spend a day making the most of the city on foot!
- Dine on ‘cocido madrileno’, a heartwarming winter stew made with pork, chorizo, chickpeas, and vegetables. The dish is often served at lunchtime to give you a burst of energy for the rest of the day!
- Enjoy the Christmas lights as you wander through the central neighborhoods. The lights are hung up across the city from the end of November right through to January 6th and are switched on between the hours of 6pm and 11pm.
- Take a day trip to nearby Valdesqui ski resort located an hours drive north of the city for a day of winter sports.
- Visit the nearby magical royal palaces of Castile, located just an hour away.
3. The Canary Islands in winter
While you might initially recoil at spending winter in Spain on the beaches of the Canary Islands, take a moment to think about the peace and quiet you’ll enjoy without the rabble of the summer crowds. Not only is the accommodation on the islands incredibly cheap during the off-season, you’ll also likely enjoy blue skies and sunshine (with highs of 20 ° C.
- Go hiking in Garajonay National Park on the island of La Gomera. Cooler winter temperatures make hiking on the islands more bearable and you can spend a full day exploring the winding forest on foot without worrying too much about sun exposure.
- Rent a bike in Gran Canaria and explore the island on two wheels. Cycling is far more enjoyable in cooler temperatures and is a popular winter sport.
- Explore the cobblestoned streets of Santa Cruz in La Palma. Without the summer crowds, you’ll be able to enjoy uninterrupted views of Cumbre Vieja volcano from the town center.
- Go whale watching off the coast of Tenerife and La Gomera. Blue whales. The largest animal on the planet is sometimes seen here from December to February as they migrate from/to their feeding grounds in the north Atlantic to/from their breeding area near Cape Verde.
4. Seville in winter
Seville is known for its flamenco dancing, bullfighting, tapas dishes and all of this and more is available during the winter, just like summer! What’s more, the city is renowned for its annual Christmas festival where elaborate nativity scenes are spread across the city in a bid to celebrate all things Navidad!
- Experience the Belen tradition! In the run-up to Christmas shops and restaurants turn their windows into elaborate nativity scenes that cover the entire city of Bethlehem.
- Head an hour north of Seville to Sierra Norte region, a rugged area home to mountainous terrain and plenty of walking trails.
- Visit the Seville Cathedral and enjoy the third-largest church in the world without the crowds.
- Spend your evenings dining on tapas in cozy bars with local music. Overjas, Negras, and La Cava Bar are three of the city’s most popular winter tapas hangouts.
5. Sierra Nevada in winter
The Sierra Nevada is Spain’s largest natural park found in the southern region of Andalucia and come winter it’s towering mountains and rugged terrain become covered in fresh white snow. The park is a popular destination with winter sports enthusiasts as its home to Europe’s most southerly ski resort. Visitors can take their pick from over 100 kilometers of ski tracks and 124 pistes suitable for all levels of skiers.
- Head to the Sierra Nevada Ski Station and spend the day skiing on the northwestern slopes of Veleta, the third highest peak in Spain!
- Cycle some of Europe’s highest paved roads and enjoy views of Veleta’s summit as you go! Consider hiring bikes from Granada for the week and driving north into the park to the Hoya de la Mora trailhead.
- Spend the day snowboarding at Superparque Sulayr, the park’s modern snowboarding facility home to the largest halfpipe in Spain! Beginners should head to Borreguiles resort to enjoy the green runs.
- Tick night skiing off your bucket list! Every Thursday and Saturday night the park opens a number of floodlit pistes between the resorts of Borreguiles and Pradollano.
Winter in Spain brings with it fewer crowds, cheaper travel costs, and a number of perks including spectacular wildlife and cooler temperatures for exploring on foot. Whether you’re eager to enjoy a cheap ski holiday or you’d prefer to enjoy a major city without the crowds, a Spain holiday during the winter has a little something on offer for all traveler types — just make sure you pack your coat!
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