Spanish winter is fast approaching, and the best way to come to terms with the slight drop in weather is to embrace it! It may be inevitable, yes, but knowing how to do winter in Spain the right way is sure to yield more excitement than you think. From holidays to festivals, to sports, vacation spots and more, don’t miss our best tips for braving the cold season in style!
Spanish culture invites traditions that may seem a little strange to non-locals; for example the New Year, known as nochevieja is celebrated by eating exactly 12 grapes! Also, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are spent with good food and company, however it isn’t until the night of January 5th when Spanish children receive their presents to be opened the following morning. January 6th is called Día de los Reyes Magos, the day when the 3 kings arrived in Bethlehem, and is a public holiday met, understandably, with a ton of built-up anticipation and excitement.
Not a winter person? No worries… Believe it or not, some of Spain’s most prime vacation hotspots remain open into the colder months and are definitely still worth visiting at this time of year! For example, Costa del Sol, located along Málaga’s coastline. Situated along Malaga’s coastline is Costa del Sol, whose name is very fitting considering the area receives almost 325 days of sunshine per year! Although the water may not be warm enough for swimming, temperatures average around 70 degrees through the cold months, making perfect exploring weather! Discovering the quaint whitewashed streets, visiting the caves, and sunbathing are all great ways to survive winter in Spain! Diverse and rich in culture, the area is also pretty famous for its striking Roman and Moorish architecture. For those who like to do more than just sightsee, all you active people out there can choose from a bunch of stunning golf courses! Plus, Costa del Sol is sure to be less populated (and less touristy) during this time of year, so you can revel in the peace and relax in a more authentic, Spanish way of life.
Ski Resort Getaway
In general, people may not really think of Spain when planning a skiing trip, but with 34 resorts and the 2nd most mountainous terrain in Europe, the country as a whole is actually pretty ideal for the sport! Winter in Spain gives us mild temperatures and potent sunshine. Which make for perfect skiing weather, which is a trait unique to Spain’s year-round climate. Tucked away in the heart of the Pyrenees Mountains, beginners and professionals alike will fall in love with the Baqueira-Beret resort (Aran Valley and Àneu Valley Lleida, Spain). The area has a great track record when it comes to snowfall and is frequented each year by both new and returning skiers, who help to give it such a great reputation. This magical resort offers an extensive ski zone with 99 trails to choose from based on difficulty, and although it specializes in skiing and snowboarding, you can also enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking. Surrounded by hotels and apartment rentals with ice skating rinks, heated pools, café’s, restaurants and more, Baqueira-Beret makes for a solid weekend trip or week-long vacation getaway.
Seasonal Spanish Drinks
Crema de orujo is, essentially, the Spanish version (aka stronger yet smoother version) of Bailey’s. Originating in Galicia, the liquor is made from the leftovers of pressing grapes. The combination of a 50% alcohol content and the mix of holiday flavors such as cream, coffee, cocoa and caramel is sure to keep you warm for hours at a time! Look out for the brands such as Sierra del Oso or Ruavieja and try out this deliciously smooth brandy for yourself! Equally strong in flavour but completely free of alcohol is the Spanish version of hot chocolate! This is popular all year round, but during the winter season it’s more common for families to head out to the markets and have a cup of coco. So what’s so special? Chocolate caliente is a thick, rich drink that can almost be eaten with a spoon! It’s the same stuff often paired with churros – another typical snack that is great for chilly winter days!
Celebrating the end of the winter in Spain are the Carnivals of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Cádiz. Capital city Tenerife throws a huge week-long Brazilian style festival and attracts partygoers worldwide looking to completely let loose through the early hours of the morning. For months participators prepare huge, elaborate floats resembling universal themes such as political figures, that are often parodied and made for everyone to enjoy. Each year the carnival invites a new theme, which will be “Caribbean” in 2017. Come jam out with tons of street bands and people dressed in gorgeous, colorful costumes, and don’t miss the Carnival Queen selection, in which the most beautiful candidate is crowned queen (the event is also broadcasted on TV as of late!). In south Spain, Cádiz throws its own festival, beginning with Erizada, or sea urchin- (yes this is really the mascot!) inspired celebrations and feasts. A highlight is definitely the music competition, in which local bands and music groups parade around the streets showing off their talent and sparking an eruption of cheering and dancing that lasts until dawn. Don’t miss out on these incredibly anticipated, well-prepared, and even envied Spanish festivals, especially if you’re down to party with a super energetic international crowd. Citylife heads every year to the Carnival in Cádiz, come and join us!
Living in Madrid in the winter
Madrid actually gets chilly in the winter, so it’s common to see everyone with their puffy winter coats and bobble hats on. If you are coming to Madrid to live or even just for a visit during the winter, don’t forget to bring a coat! Of course, Madrid isn’t short of shops, which by November are fully stocked with winter warmers if you need them. It’s also common to carry an umbrella with you, as you could be caught in an unexpected downpour! There is plenty to enjoy in Madrid during the winter season like the Christmas markets (the biggest in Plaza Mayor) and beautiful lights! You can enjoy the lower tourist influx and keep warm in the abundant museums, cinemas, and theatres that Madrid has to offer. It is also worth trying the wholesome noodle soup famous in Madrid called cocido madrileño.
Sitges Carnival is probably the wildest fiesta in Spanish Winter! Carnival is celebrated around the world and Sitges is one of its biggest hotspots to celebrate the Barcelona Carnival in 2020, with 250,000 people flocking to this small coastal town on the 25th of February. Sitges Carnival marks the last chance to go absolutely wild and give in to every temptation before the 40 days of Lent begin. This is your chance to dress up and get freaky, go all out in sequins, feather boas and body paint, or even put on a mask if you desire. Also, Sitges is the LGBTQI capital of Europe, which makes the party extra amazing!
University New Year´s Eve Salamanca
New Year’s Eve has been celebrated in Salamanca for over 90 years. In the main square (Plaza Mayor) thousands of students gather to celebrate the biggest and most anticipated New Year’s Eve event. The reason that this event began is very simple: the University of Salamanca is home to thousands of students from Spain and from around the world (it’s the univeristy that receives the most Erasmus students) and most of the students would leave to celebrate Christmas with their families meaning they would not be together in New Years, so they decided to celebrate saying goodbye to their friends and seeing in the new year before they all went back home. This way, University New Year´s Eve is celebrated every year with more and more students, not only from the University of Salamanca but the whole of Spain. It´s always celebrated on a Thursday – the best university party night – in the second week of December, two weeks before the real New Year’s Eve.
Each year there are more and more students that come and it’s quickly becoming an international event. In fact, last year there were 35,000 students….Imagine the party atmosphere!
To have luck in the new year in Spain it is tradition to eat twelve grapes for each last twelve seconds of the year. But there is a different tradition in Salamanca, here you eat 12 fruit pastilles!