Christmas Traditions in Madrid

Good friends, lots of shopping and family celebrations

The best way to enjoy Christmas in Madrid is to wear comfortable shoes, cover up and go for a walk. Surprise! The party atmosphere is contagious. There is joy and happiness everywhere. It does not matter how hard the cold gets, because in the street, in the bars, in the cafes and restaurants, in the subway and squares, and in the department stores, the atmosphere has that warmth of shared happiness.

Madrid has a population of more than six million inhabitants, in its metropolitan area. It is third in population, only behind Paris and London, and is the fourth richest capital of the European Union, behind London, Paris and Moscow.

The Cabalgata de Reyes is undoubtedly the most important event to spend Christmas in Madrid.

The city offers a wide menu of activities in areas and neighborhoods appropriate for entertainment, and in the best style of Madrid, to go out, at any time of day and night. At the end of century XX the international press consecrated Madrid like the European capital of leisure and gastronomy. The bars are not far behind. They have developed an unmistakable and unique concept; where they offer a great variety of beer canes, wine glasses and other liquors, accompanied by delicious tapas, at surprisingly comfortable prices. The Plaza Mayor and other surrounding areas earned the reputation of being the entertainment center for tourists in Madrid. At first only young people came from different European countries, but today tourists of all ages meet to enjoy in these streets, full of traditional bars and centennial restaurants that offer excellent cuisine, in addition to the fact that this is the sector where the offer of local Madrid shows is, for the Christmas season, more abundant and generous.

Street Markets: At the end of November, the lights of Christmas light up and with them, the Spanish capital displays, shows off, its entire splendor. Everything seems magical, the night becomes day, and the fun and excitement of the people is so contagious, that there is no difference between Spaniards and visitors. The invitation is to share the enthusiasm that is lived in the Gran Vía and in the famous Puerta de Alcalá, Salamanca and Lavapiés. Also the spirit of party is lived in Chueca and in Casa de Campo, in the Quarter of the Letters and in Atocha. The geography of the city is immersed in a large celebration – bumpy and massive – that is not bended by the low temperatures that get close to zero degrees, nor snow, which sometimes complements the Christmas postcard.

“This is the most typical and traditional of the Christmas markets in Madrid,” I’ve been explained. “It opens on November 28th and continues through December 31st.” “Opens from 10 in the morning until 9:30 at night”.

The market is a huge fair of a hundred stalls in the Plaza Mayor and its surroundings, with a generous and varied offer of Christmas crafts: ornaments, trees, nativity scenes (known in some places in Latin America as “pesebres” or “nacimientos”) and traditional nougat from Alicante.

Among the obligatory visits on these dates, the nativity exhibitions must be programmed. The most famous is the Neapolitan Bethlehem of the Dukes of Cardona. It is a play from the XVIII century that the City of Madrid usually presents, throughout the month of January, in the palace of Cibeles.

The Plaza Mayor: “We go to the Plaza Mayor to see the nativity scenes and to buy decorations and lights, for the house”. The invitation was from Diego Lozano and Sagrario, his wife, friends with whom I shared a Christmas experience in Villaviciosa de Odón, Madrid.

The Cathedral of the Almudena is the most important religious building in Madrid. Its interior astonishes for having very different details than other cathedrals. The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family. Today the palace is used exclusively for receptions, ceremonies and official events.


The terraces are the best option to take some canes, meet people, watch the comings and goings, and confirm that the Madrid experience is unique.

Illumination: The days pass by in the middle of feverish activity. They alternate shopping with the strolls and terraces to appreciate the geometric designs of colored lights that adorn buildings, shops and some huge trees. The spirit of the festivity is evident in the loud voices and laughter of children, who mix with the traditional December music and Christmas carols. This festive spirit of cordiality is lived throughout the illuminated Madrid, from the Palace of Cibeles to La Puerta de Alcalá, in the Plaza de Sol-Callao and in La Plaza de España and La Casa de la Villa. But a spirit of competition also reigns during Christmas. In radio and television shows, competitions are organized so that adults and children participate with their opinions in recognizing and choosing those illuminations that, because of their beauty, surprised them more during the Christmas season.

Turkey, Bream and Champagne: Christmas meals are copious: turkey and baked sea bream, states the Spanish plastic artist Francisca Hernández Muher. “People also eat lots of seafood, barnacles, partridges and ham and drink wine and champagne,” she said. Christmas is time to meet friends, and family shopping time.

For this kind of Venezuelan art collector, who usually spends this time of year in his apartment in La Castellana in Madrid: “during Christmas Eve and Christmas there are often scheduled family parties, reason for many restaurants to close early.” “People even forget the crisis and go out and buy gifts to compete in generosity.

La Gran Via: one of Madrid’s main streets, from the commercial, touristic and entertainment point of view.

Shops and malls are crowded with customers. ” “During this time, my favorite dish is the Madrid stew; taste in which thousands of locals coincide, filling the restaurants,” recalls Delgado.

The night of the 31st is another day of fun for the locals. You will receive the New Year between friends and family, with dinner at home, or attracted by the shows that renowned hotels and restaurants offer.  Whether at home or in a large space, the important thing is to make reservations in time. The party starts at 9 pm, people dance, the New Year is received with caps and whistles and, if there is good atmosphere and endurance, the celebration continues until dawn.

The great “Fiesta de Reyes”: The great celebration day for children is associated with Three Kings Day. Madrilenians are preparing to receive the Kings of the East, since the afternoon of January 5th. A beautiful horse ride takes you along the “Paseo de La Castellana” and finishes at the Town Hall, in the Post Office Building. There the kings descend from their floats and turn to the children. They distribute candy and gifts, and to promote the habit of reading they share books and children’s stories. The night of the 5th ithe great party for children takes place. Gifts are given they can only be opened the next day, in the morning. On January 6th, the city changes its landscape. The children go out to show their gifts, to take a ride on their brand new bicycles and to organize groups and competitions around the footballs. According to legend, children who misbehave will not receive gifts from the Kings. For them they are given a packet with charcoal. The party ends in the afternoon with the snack of the so-called “Roscon de reyes” (a Spanish pastry) adorned with slices of crystallized fruit. And so we end these happy days of Christmas. How wonderful to discover that for six weeks each year, we all have the opportunity to remain children.