7 magical Spanish cities you should visit in winter

Many travellers only consider a Spanish break in spring or summer so they can enjoy the heat and hit the beaches, however, it's a great country to visit in winter too.

By not visiting during low season, you could in fact be missing out on some Spain's best festivals and activities. While most of Spain is not hot in winter, you can still get your dose of vitamin D with its frequent dry and sunny days.

Sunset over the Alhambra Palace, Granada © Javi - Flickr Creative Commons
Sunset over the Alhambra Palace, Granada © Javi - Flickr Creative Commons

Planning a seasonal city break? Don't miss our bespoke city break finder, which lets you search by your preferred weather and interests.

1. Seville

If you're after a bit of winter sun, you can't beat Seville - often the warmest and sunniest city in mainland Spain.

You may still need your jacket for mornings and evenings, but you can enjoy sitting outside and sampling some of the city's delicious tapas in the sunshine in middle of the day.

Robles Laredo, a favourite watering hole in Seville © Donald Scott Lee - Wikimedia Commons
Robles Laredo, a favourite watering hole in Seville © Donald Scott Lee - Wikimedia Commons

Over the festive period, Seville hosts a Christmas market with a bit of a difference - the Feria del Belén. Here you won't find your usual Christmas gifts, but elaborate elements to create your own nativity scene instead.

2. Madrid

Winter 2018/19 will be a unique time to visit Madrid as the city is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the famous El Prado art museum.

There will be a special exhibition marking the occasion, as well as several events throughout the city. Another anniversary Madrid will be celebrating in 2019 is that its metro system will be turning 100. Several exhibits and events will centre around this too.

Madrid can get very cold in winter (it's 2,000ft up, after all), but it's full of excellent galleries and museums such as the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, so there are plenty of interesting places for you to keep warm.

The city is also dotted with small old fashioned tapas bars and churrerías, where you can indulge in plates of croquettes, fried padron peppers, or cups of thick hot chocolate with crispy fried churros.

3. San Sebastian

The elegant Basque city of San Sebastian may have lots of beaches and seem more like a summer destination, but its status as one of the world's top foodie cities makes it ideal at any time of year.

It's filled with toasty taverns, where you can pile your plate high with gourmet pintxos (pieces of bread topped with various ingredients).

If you're a fan of surfing, then you're in luck as winter is surf season along the Basque coastline. Some of the best surfing beaches are just a short walk or bus ride from the centre.

Make your trip coincide with the end of January and you'll be treated to one of San Sebastian's best festivals - the Tamborrada, taking place on January 19th and 20th.

The event begins at midnight on the 19th, when everyone dresses up as chefs or soldiers, and gathers together in the main square to beat out rhythms on small wooden drums. The drumming continues for a full 24 hours and finally stops at midnight on the 20th with a big celebration.

4. Barcelona

Winter in Barcelona is a great time of year - most of the crowds have gone, hotels are cheaper, and although cold, the sun still shines on most days. It's also a magical time of year, covered in Christmas lights and decorations, but here like in the rest of Spain, the Christmas season continues into January.

Plan your trip to coincide with January 5th and 6th, and you can experience a Spanish Christmas. On the night of January 5th, the three Kings arrive and parade through the city streets with their huge entourage, ready to fill children's shoes with presents.

Can't make it in January? How about February? The city lights up again in mid-February with the Festival of Santa Eulalia, celebrating one of Barcelona's two patron saints with typical Catalan activities.

These included eye-popping parades of giants, correfocs (fire runs with crazy parades of sparks and devils) and castellers (human towers).

A few days after Santa Eulalia, Llum BCN takes place - Barcelona's annual light festival. During this event, dazzling light installations are set up across the city.

5. Granada

If you want to mix action and adventure with a winter city break, you can't beat Granada. Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, the city is located just a one-hour bus journey from the ski station.

You could hit the slopes in the morning and be back in the city by the late afternoon, devouring a plate of free tapas, whilst enjoying views of the magnificent Alhambra Palace.

Moroccan tea shop in the Albaicín quarter, Granada © Luis Dafos - Alamy Stock Photo
Moroccan tea shop in the Albaicín quarter, Granada © Luis Dafos - Alamy Stock Photo

Granada may be situated in southern Spain but can get very cold in winter due to its high altitude, and everywhere you look, you'll be greeted by snow-capped mountain views.

To warm up, visit one of Granada's Moroccan style tea shops (teterías) in the old Moorish district of the Albaicín.

6. Santa Cruz, Tenerife

Tenerife in the Canary Islands will, of course, be warmer than mainland Spain in winter, being located a lot closer to Morocco than it is to Spain. It's a long-time favourite destination for some winter sun.

Time your holiday to experience the island's renowned Carnival for some sun, culture and festival fun.

During the days just before Lent and the run-up to Easter, Spain celebrates with vibrant costumes, parties, and parades. While Carnival is celebrated all over Spain, the best party in the country is found in Santa Cruz, Tenerife.

7. Valencia

As winter draws to a close, there's nowhere better to be than Valencia. The biggest and most important event on the city's calendar - Las Fallas, takes place in mid-March.

During Las Fallas, huge and elaborate papier-mâché sculptures are set up in squares across the city. Over the next few days, there are parades with locals in traditional dress, flower offerings, and lots and lots of fireworks.

Giant papier-mâché sculptures in the streets of Valencia © Ferbr1 - Wikimedia Commons
Giant papier-mâché sculptures in the streets of Valencia © Ferbr1 - Wikimedia Commons

The festival culminates on March 19th when all the sculptures are burnt at midnight and the city is set ablaze.

The temperature is usually starting to rise around this time too, so you can spend the first few warm days of the year enjoying some classic Valencian paella by the beach.

Fancy visiting Spain this winter? If you've found your ideal Spanish city, don't miss our collection of deals of flights, hotels and holidays from the likes of British Airways, Jet2holidays and Iberostar to help you get away for less this winter.

Esme Fox

Esme Fox
Article updated on Monday 3rd December 2018 in: City Culture Europe Festival Season

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