There is so much to love about Madrid at anytime, but my heart nearly explodes for the city during the holidays. I cherish the opportunity to live here during this time because it allows me to fully unwrap and enjoy all the cheer, quirk and tradition it has to offer!
1. Día de los Reyes
The holidays aren’t officially over until January 6th in Spain. Spaniards celebrate Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve and finally Día de los Reyes on January 6th when the “Three Kings” bring presents to the children. Some households celebrate with Santa on the 25th and the Three Kings on the 6th (double the presents!), but traditionally, the Three Kings are the bearers of gifts and you can find children sitting or screaming on their laps at the mall.
2. The Lights
Easily, my favorite part of the season. The city spends nearly two million euros (what crisis?) and hires designers from around the globe to adorn every street with classy, glamorous lights.
When there are delightful lights hanging down every street and Christmas trees in every plaza, I don’t even notice the cold weather.
This year we took the “Navibús” tour for a different perspective and to be sure we didn’t miss any of the ornamentation. It’s an open-air bus that carries you down the main streets, and although it was chilly, I highly recommend it!
The Navibús leaves daily from Plaza Colon until January 6th. The cost is 2 euros and the ride is about 40 minutes long.
3. The Tea Shop Christmas Tea
I’m a tea-a-holic. I get it (and a lot of other quirks) from my sweet grandma. I’m obsessed with a chain here called The Tea Shop. The reason I love it so much? There’s a warm, glass tea pot filled with tasty tea waiting to be sampled outside every single shop. And in December, they fill it with their seasonal Christmas Tea, which is exactly what I would imagine Christmas to taste like. The perfect mixture of almonds, cinnamon, oranges, cloves and apples. Every single time I’m near one, traffic stops for me because I’m making a beeline for it with my eye on the prize. Who doesn’t love a shot of hot Christmas tea on a chilly day? Or any day, rather.
The Christmas markets in Madrid are nothing to write home about, especially having visited many other Christmas markets through Europe. In my opinion, the items for sale always seem a bit dated or cheap. But nevertheless, I love to wander through a plaza lined with little wooden houses, christmas trees, dangling lights and maybe even a carousel, hoping that it will be better than I remembered.
However, I have been impressed by Madrid’s pop-up markets this year! Specifically, The Hovse in Chamberí.
What was an old, three-story Madrid mansion is now a trendy, temporary place for designers to display their artisan goods. There’s even an vermuteria and a rooftop bar! It was so fabulous and way out of my budget, but I loved meandering through every one of its tastefully decorated corners.
You can find it here: Calle General Arrando 40
5. Lise & Leti Homemade Cookies
This shop is open year round, but I associate these cookies with the holidays because they were my one good discovery at a Christmas market last year. I don’t normally have a sweet tooth, but all of my teeth become sweet for these guys.
You can find them here: Calle de la Cruz 12 (closed Mondays)
6. Crema de Orujo
Only my favorite desert drink. In Spain, it’s very common for a restaurant to give a complimentary shot at the end of a meal and in winter, they often offer Crema de Orujo–a liquor similar to Baileys. Although it’s typically taken as a shot, I’ve been known to order a cup of it over ice. It doesn’t take much for my cheeks to feel rosy and cozy! It warms me right up in the winter.
Spanish people love to eat and drink on restaurant terraces. Solution for the wintertime? Heaters at every table and blankets on the back of every chair. Pair that with a little Crema de Orujo or red wine and you’ve got a snug terrace dinner in the middle of December.
8. La Carrera de Papa Noel
The best way to spread Christmas cheer? Throw on a Papa Noel suit and join 5,000 others for a race through the city center. This year I participated in the annual Corte Ingles Papa Noel 5.5K and it’s easily a contender for my favorite race yet. Participating or not, it definitely makes for a quirky Christmas spectacle!
(Not only is a Santa suit included in the 12 euro race fee, but also a gift for a child that may have gone without this year.)
To my dear family, friends, and readers, here’s to bright and cheery holidays wherever you are in the world! I hope you’re feeling the Christmas spirit as much as I am. Feliz Navidad!