Last updated on January 29th, 2024
Last year, at the end of November, we spontaneously made a plan to visit Spain during the winter. The reason for that was cheap flights to Barcelona and very affordable car rental (like $18 for two weeks, it was too tempting.) So we quickly packed and went. And honestly, it turned out to be the best decision we made.
In December, we visited Catalonia, Valencia, and Murcia and thought it was a perfect time for Spain. Then we went on a road trip from Barcelona to Valencia and in February, rented a flat in Santander, Cantabria, moving there for some time. We traveled all over the Northern Coast and also thought it was the best time to be there. No crowds, peace, and quiet almost everywhere with significantly lower prices.
Costa Brava’s nature and coast reminded us so much of Southern California where we used to live for almost four years. Amazing beaches of Cantabria in winter reminded of Oregon in the summertime. It was great and we loved every single day there.
This year we will be visiting again, and again during the winter. We feel that we don’t really want to go during any other season, just loved it so much.
So this is why I wanted to write this post and share about my experience of traveling around Spain during the winter season. It will surely help you understand if this is a good time of the year to travel for you personally.
What’s the weather like in Spain in winter?
So what’s the weather like in Spain in winter?
The climate in Spain is considered to be one of the mildest and warmest among European countries. Winter is not an exception here. However, the temperature depends largely on the region of the country and the proximity of the mountains or the sea.
In mountainous regions, for example, the temperatures in winter get below zero. So if you are up for skiing, there will be plenty of snow in the mountains.
The northern part of Spain, particularly the provinces of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, the Basque Country, and Navarre usually get quite a lot of rain during the winter and get chilly.
As for the coast, the average daytime temperature in winter is about 15 degrees Celcius (60 Fahrenheit.) The weather in Catalonia and Costa Brava regions is usually sunny with little precipitation. By mid-January though, the number of cloudy days increases.
In January and February, the air temperature in Spain gradually decreases. However, in the Canary Islands, it is still warm – above 20 degrees Celsius.
Overall, the weather in Spain in winter contributes to a comfortable journey throughout the country. Below is a detailed description of the weather each month.
Weather in Spain in December
For someone who comes from the North, the weather in Spain in December does not look like winter at all. At the same time, it is not really summer. The main climatic difference of this month is gusty winds, an increased level of humidity, and a decrease in daily temperatures.
Especially noticeable it is in the coastal zones of the country which are open to the sea. In the northeast of Spain, in Catalonia, it gets quite cold. For example, in the Costa Brava region, the average temperature is +13 degrees C during the day and +6 degrees C at night. In Barcelona, during daylight hours, the temperature is almost the same. The nights though are somewhat warmer with a temperature of +8 degrees C.
However, Costa Dorada, which is a bit more to the south, experiences more comfortable weather due to its protection from cyclones by the chain of mountain systems of the Pyrenees and Cordillera. On this stretch of coast in December there is an average of 11-12 rainy days. So the weather may feel a little cooler than it actually is.
When planning your trip here, you should definitely pack a pair of good waterproof shoes and windproof outerwear. Taking into account the fact that storms take place too and precipitation can be very intense, a raincoat will be very useful as well. Umbrellas don’t often withstand the pressure of the wind, so not sure how useful they will be.
The southern regions of the country are experiencing better weather conditions in terms of temperature. So, in Costa del Sol, between Gibraltar and Malaga, the maximum temperature usually reaches +17 degrees C. At night it is about +9 degrees C. However, do not rely on dry weather here. It can rain for 50% of the time.
Madrid, located on a hill, during the entire winter season experiences rather cold weather, with temperature dips during the day. When leaving your hotel early in the morning, put on some warm clothes. At this time of the day, the thermometer can barely reach +5 degrees C.
In the afternoon, the air warms up to +9 degrees C. However, when the humidity is high and it’s cloudy, long walks around the city are really unpleasant. There is no snow in the capital, but the northern mountain regions not far from Madrid see a lot of it.
Cities along the northern coast of Spain experience moderately cold weather. For example, in Santander, the daily temperature is between +8 + 13 degrees C, and in San Sebastian +6 + 8.
The Balearic Islands in December are significantly colder than the Mediterranean ones of the Andalusia region. So, in Ibiza and Formentera, the daily temperature ranges between +9 + 16 degrees C, in Mallorca +7 + 15, and in Menorca it’s slightly cooler during the day and +8 + 14 at night.
Weather in Spain in January
Madrid in January
January weather in Madrid can be extremely unpredictable – from severely cold to surprisingly mild. In general, however, you can expect it to be cold. This is the coldest month of the year in the city.
You may need an umbrella during this time of the year. The average maximum temperature in Madrid in January is 11 degrees C, and the average minimum temperature is 0.
Weather in Barcelona in January
If you don’t know that yet, there is a beach in Barcelona. But you won’t find anyone there in January. Because the whole month is usually pretty cold and windy, although it stays pretty dry.
The average maximum temperature in Barcelona in January is 13 degrees C, and the average minimum temperature is 4 C.
Weather in Andalusia in January
The coldest month in Spain brings some cold even to the warmest region. Hot, warm days are, of course, possible, but don’t expect to return home with a tan as you’ve been to the Caribbean. The average maximum temperature in Malaga in January, for instance, is 16 degrees. And the average minimum temperature is 7 degrees.
Weather in Northern Spain in January
The north of Spain in January sees a lot of cold, gloomy, and wet days. It will be very rainy, so you will definitely need a jacket, especially at night. The average maximum temperature in Bilbao in January is 13 degrees C, and the average minimum temperature is 6 degrees C.
Weather in North-West Spain in January
Being incredibly wet, Galicia escaped some of the cold weather experienced in the rest of Spain in January. The average maximum temperature in Santiago de Compostela in January is 13 degrees C, and the average minimum temperature is 8 C.
Weather in Spain in February
For some regions, February is the coldest and most unstable month. The weather can change a few times during the day, going from sunny to rainy and sometimes snowy. Of course, it depends on the part of Spain but for the most part, February is considered to be the rainiest month, especially in the north and in the center of the country.
The southern part of Spain during this time feels more like spring, with an average temperature + 18 degrees С.
If it’s too cold for you, choose to go to the Canary Islands or Malaga. It is much warmer there.
The second part of February is the best month to go to Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and many more cities as they have lovely weather (which gets better every day) and many events.
Best places to go in Spain in winter if…
From my experience, Spain is one of those few European destinations where winters are fun. No matter which part of the country you go to, there is always something exciting to do and the weather is always nice. Any time during the winter is a good time to visit Spain.
An answer to this question though depends on what your preferences are. But I personally feel that Spain has activities for any taste and budget.
Here are some ideas on what to do and where to go:
… if you love winter sports
Spain is second only to Switzerland in the number of mountain peaks in Europe. It is a few times cheaper than Switzerland but the quality of ski resorts is excellent and suits even the most fastidious tourists.
So if you are looking to spend a few days during your holidays somewhere in the mountains, look no further. There are endless opportunities to do that in Spain.
In wintertime, almost every Spaniard goes to the mountains at least once. If you do too, you won’t be disappointed. Magnificent ski trails and high-class service, combined with the extraordinary beauty of the scenery – this is what Spain is famous for.
Spain has more than 30 ski resorts. The largest and the most popular one in the country is Formigal, located in the Western Pyrenees. Either you are a beginner or a professional, you’ll feel comfortable there.
Another popular winter holiday destination is the Sierra Nevada, the southernmost ski resort in Europe. Besides developed infrastructure, long tracks, high lifts, lots of cafes, and areas for rest, it has an excellent location. It is uniquely located in a natural reserve, at the foot of the city of Granada. On a sunny day, from the top of the mountain, you can see the Mediterranean Sea and even the coast of Morocco.
Take a look at this list of all ski resorts in Spain for detailed information.
… if you are craving the beach, sea, and breeze
Spain in winter is a perfect destination for those who are looking to escape the cold.
The temperature allows you to relax on the beach under the warm sun, and the resorts in many parts of the country have a lot to offer.
Winter Sun in the Andalusia Region
The southern coast of Spain Andalusia has a unique climate. The mountain range protects this area from cold air currents, and its excellent geographical position keeps air temperature at 20C degrees or higher. At the same time, the water temperature doesn’t go below 16C degrees.
One of the best resort towns to visit in Andalusia in winter is Marbella. On one side, the city is surrounded by a mountain range, and on the other, by the seaside of Costa del Sol. Almost all 365 days a year in Marbella are sunny. In addition to the amazing climate, the city is known for its developed infrastructure and many historical attractions.
The port city Malaga is another beautiful resort town in Spain that offers winter sun activities. The weather forecast every day of the year shows sunny weather with no precipitation.
Two more beautiful cities on different sides of Malaga that beckon travelers in winter are Cadiz and Almeria. In my opinion, the south of Spain in winter is more attractive than in summer. Summers are just so hot, nature looks dry and tired. But winter is that season when nature wakes up to life.
Spanish Islands for Winter Escape
Another place you can associate with eternal summer and winter getaways is the Canary Islands. It deservedly attracts many tourists from different countries since it is pleasantly warm year-round. The thermometer mark does not fall below +25C degrees (77 Fahrenheit) while the water stays 20-22 degrees warm.
The southern coast of Tenerife, Gran Canaria, or the island of Palma guarantee sun and warmth every winter day. North of Tenerife what feels like eternal spring is also a wonderful destination for winter warmth. The amazing landscape with mountain volcanoes and sand dunes makes this part of Spain one of the best destinations in Europe.
Eastern islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura (which are only 100 kilometers away from the African continent) are even warmer. There, north or south are equally warm. On these islands, you’ll find pyramids, just like in Egypt. They are not as high as in Egypt but built at the same time and on the same principle as the famous Great Pyramid of Giza.
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… if you love shopping
Shopping in Spain in winter is incredibly profitable due to countless sales and discounts.
Sales usually start on January 7th and last until March 6th. At this time of the year, prices for branded items and equipment get cheaper by 90 percent. Of course, if you are looking to buy something from a well-known designer, expect to pay a considerable amount of money. But in Spain, it costs a few times less than let’s say in Paris, Milan or New York.
Barcelona is the best city for shopping. There are tens of thousands of shops, boutiques, malls, and outlets in Barcelona and on the outskirts.
Through the city center, there is a 5 kilometer long stretch of luxury boutique shops that locals call a “Shopping Line”. It starts at the Columbus Monument on the waterfront and goes all the way to Maria Cristina Square.
Madrid with its upscale neighborhood Salamanca also provides unlimited opportunities for shopper lovers.
… if you’d love to go on a thermal spa vacation
I am absolutely obsessed with hot springs and thermal spas. Over the years, I have been searching for information about the best hot springs around the world and even created my own spreadsheet with hundreds of them, which I regularly update. And, have to tell you that Spain has quite a few amazing thermal spa spots.
For me personally, Spain comes next after Slovakia hot springs, Cyprus mineral spas, and Hungary with its fantastic spa-centers. (Have you been to Budapest yet, by the way? This city has simply amazing thermal baths and hot springs that I also wrote about.)
Thermal springs in Spain are everywhere: in the mountains, forests, and even along the coast. You can opt for hot springs in the wilderness, choose to go to a health resort or one of the hotels that have thermal baths and their own spas.
For example, in Catalonia and Andalusia, more than a hundred hotels offer thalasso, balneo, or thermal spas. To find out which one suits you better, take a look at this post. Not sure what a balneo spa is? Here is another post on balneo therapy that explains it all. Want to know what is thalassotherapy? Read this information on thalassotherapy.
In most cases, spas that offer services use healing waters and it is believed they heal various illnesses. However, Spain also has wine spas where the product, which is usually used internally, is used for preventive purposes. The main treatments in wine spas are bathing, scrubbing and wrapping.
If you happen to travel to Northern Spain, pay a visit to Marques de Riscal Hotel in Rioja. This hotel was the first one with a wine spa in Spain and today is in the top 5 wine spas in the world.
Check prices and availability for Hotel Marqués de Riscal on Booking.com
If travels bring you to the Canary Islands, there you’ll find mainly wellness and spa hotels. In many cases no need to be an overnight guest, you can visit on a day pass, like at Aqua Club Thermal Spa.
… if you are a foodie and gourmet
One of the reasons why so many tourists choose Spain is the famous authentic cuisine. It is very rich and differs a lot from one region to another.
It’s probably impossible to advise the best gastro routes. Everything depends on your personal culinary preferences. But I do advise to get a tour or visit a restaurant that has at least one Michelin star, even if you are not really a foodie. In this case, you’ll discover the best tastes of the country. You’ll get to try ham, paella, the freshest seafood, the finest lamb and mutton, the best Spanish wines and cheeses.
By the way, visiting Spain in winter has another benefit. In winter there are delicacies on the menu that you won’t find during the summer. For example, fresh sea urchins. They are available only from December to April and their caviar, as many people say, works wonders. It is said that it kills cancer cells and increases potency, normalizes blood pressure, and improves the functioning of the heart and blood vessels.
Here are a few ideas for you what tours to take:
- Tapas and wine walking tour in Barcelona. We took the tapas tour and were so happy that wanted to repeat. It includes tapas, wine, tour, guide, being in a small group, and more.
- Tapas half-day tour in Barcelona. Very similar to the previous one but includes other activities.
- Wine and Tapas in Madrid. If you are going to be in Madrid, this is an excellent tour to take.
- Valencia Wine Tasting and Tapas Tour. Valencia food tour that introduces you to a wide selection of traditional foods.
… if you are in search of history and cultural events
Winter in Spain is an ideal time for excursions and trips to historic cities.
Lovers of cultural life, museums, and excursions should visit dynamic Madrid with its famous Prado gallery (in other words the world’s largest museum) or Barcelona which is home to Catalan Modernism. To find the best flamenco in a country, you should visit Seville. To walk through the streets of one of the oldest cities head to Girona.
Other famous tourist routes also pass through Valencia, San Sebastian, Granada, Malaga, and Bilbao.
Spain, along with Italy and China, has the most UNESCO world heritage sites. Santiago de Compostela keeps the third most important Catholic sanctuary in the world. Salamanca has one of the best universities in the world. Avila is a city of churches and monasteries, surrounded by the most ancient and best-preserved fortress wall.
Segovia is the city-museum. Cuenca is famous for its famous hanging houses. Caceres with its old quarters, palaces, and cathedrals look very ancient what draws filmmakers to this area. Toledo – the medieval imperial capital of Spain, the city of three world religions, and the great El Greco. Alcala de Henares, the birthplace of the greatest writer of humanity Miguel de Cervantes, is home to one of the most famous and prestigious universities in Spain.
Where is the warmest place in Spain in winter?
If I had to compare Spain with Canada, most of the U.S., Northern or Eastern Europe then I would surely say that anywhere in Spain it is pretty warm in winter. Still, it doesn’t automatically mean that Spain is a beach and sun destination.
In case you are wanting to escape not only snow and cold but would actually love to take a dip in the sea then look into the Canary Islands. The temperature in Tenerife is 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) year-round. Besides the sea, there are other numerous activities to do, such as an aqua park, an exotic park of parrots, a world-famous volcano Teide that you can reach by a funicular.
The southern coast of the Andalusia region has really warm winters too. The mountain range protects this area from the cold air currents, and its excellent geographical position provides at least 20C of air temperature and at least 16C of sea temperature.
Marbella is one of the best resort towns with almost 365 sunny and warm days. On the one side, there are mountains, on the other, there is a beach. In addition to the amazing climate and nature, the city is known for its developed infrastructure and many historical sites. And then Malaga with the warmest weather located nearby. The forecast reports almost every day show sunny weather.
Cadiz and Almeria are two other warmest towns in Andalusia.
What to Expect From Barcelona in Winter
If you plan to visit Barcelona in winter, you can definitely expect it to be free of crowds of tourists. Embankments and beaches that are equipped with excellent playgrounds, interesting rope swings, cozy cafes, and designated picnic areas are almost empty during each month of this season. Winter is the ideal time of the year for unhurried walks along deserted streets and the sea coast. On warmer days, you can even take off a jacket and hat and go for a walk enjoying the sun.
The seaside air and the sound of the waves fill with calm and give peace of mind. Some travelers choose to go to Barcelona in winter just for the climate and quietness alone.
Also, as I mentioned above with other places, the winter months in Barcelona will appeal to shoppers. All kinds of promotions and sales provide a great opportunity to buy anything you wish from a famous designer with 70% discounts.
Barcelona is impossible to understand without walking along its unusual streets. The ingenious architecture of the famous Gaudi, such as the houses of Mila and Batllo, the famous Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, looks harmoniously with modern buildings and huge entertainment centers.
Sad mimes and mischievous magicians add to the atmosphere in the ancient Square of Catalonia, La Rambla Boulevard, and the Gothic Quarter. Small tourist flow in winter provides an excellent opportunity to enjoy visiting museums and get acquainted with the history of sunny Spain in a relaxed atmosphere.
Fans of noisy parties will enjoy visiting music festivals of various styles. And those who love going to the theater will be amazed at the Gran Theater del Liceu and the National Theater. Symphony concerts, opera, ballet, and live music concerts take place there throughout the winter.
What to Expect From Madrid in Winter
Oh, Madrid, the capital of the great empire, great paintings and literature, the city of famous museums, bullfights, don Juan, and art.
In the summer, unbelievably hot Madrid awash with tourists is not very good for exploring city attractions that are huge in the heart of Spain. But the winter period is ideal for getting to know the city. Of course, on those days when it doesn’t rain non-stop and the wind is not strong.
You can walk along the old streets of Madrid and visit museums without standing up in kilometers long queues. Winter in Madrid is seriously a perfect time for the calm and laid-back atmosphere all over the city.
Reviews about holidays in Madrid in the low season suggest that winter has even more advantages than summer. First of all, as with any other place – fewer tourists. As with Barcelona, in the low tourist season in Madrid, there are few people on the streets, in museums and cafes. Hotels have plenty of availability and lower prices.
Second, it’s all about the weather. In the summer, for instance, it is simply impossible to be outside for a long time. While in the winter, Madrid always has pleasant mild temperatures.
Christmas markets and New Year’s illumination stay on the streets throughout the first week of January, creating a fabulous atmosphere. The sales start on the 7th of January and last all month long. You have the ability to explore the “open-air museum-city” at a slow pace. The main and, perhaps, the only disadvantage of visiting Madrid in the middle of winter is the low temperature. January is considered the coldest month of the year.
I have another very detailed guide to Madrid in winter. Give it a read to understand better what to expect there.
The holiday season, events, and activities in Spain during the winter
Spain is famous for many different winter holidays and Christmas is just one of them.
Christmas celebrations in Spain starts on December 8th. On this day Spaniards celebrate the day of Immaculate Conception. All big cities and small towns get decorations depicting biblical stories while houses, shops, and bus stops get bright ornaments.
A classical Christmas market is no different from other European destinations. It opens annually in Barcelona on the main square in front of the Cathedral. Also, there are small markets that operate near Sagrada Familia. But they are usually very busy on a regular day and holidays get insanely crowded. Locals in Barcelona like to go to the Plaza del Pi market. Below, you can find more information on Christmas markets in Spain.
Christmas is a very important holiday in Spain. And what’s interesting, each region has its own traditions, cooks different dishes, decorates trees, squares, churches, and streets in its own way.
In Grenada, locals have an unusual tradition of Christmas celebration in a way of bonfires they jump over.
In February, Barcelona hosts a gastronomic festival. Chefs of the best restaurants demonstrate their national cuisine cooking skills. If you are a gourmet, it’s the right time of the year to visit Spain.
From February 27th to March 9th Spanish city Cadiz holds a real carnival. During this time, residents dress up in masquerade costumes and walk the streets. The celebration is accompanied by songs, dancing, and competitions.
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Christmas Markets in Spain
December in Spain is a month of nationwide sales season. Christmas markets open around the entire country. This is a fantastic place for holiday shopping and buying gifts and souvenirs. Christmas markets in Spain open in late November and close in early January. Here are some of the most famous ones:
Christmas Markets in Barcelona
– Fira de Santa Lucia (Fira De Santa Lucia) – the oldest and largest Christmas market in Barcelona.
– Fira de Nadal in La Sagrada Familia (Fira de Nadal a la Sagrada Familia.) The location of this market makes it possible, in addition to shopping, to see the masterpiece of Gaudi and the park.
Christmas Markets in Madrid
– Plaza Mayor has a great selection of Christmas musical instruments and toys.
– Feria-Mercado de Artesanie de la Comunidad de Madrid specializes in local products, ceramics, and jewelry. All of them were designed and manufactured by more than 180 artisan workshops.
Christmas Markets in Seville
– Mercado Navideño de Artesanía de Sevilla – the fair is dedicated to seasonal local crafts in the characteristic Andalusian style. About 80 wooden chalets are decorated with works by artisans and traders from Seville and the surrounding area.
– Feria del Belén – the main focus of this market is exclusively on decorations for the den and Christmas tree. Still, it has other products for the entire family.
Christmas Markets in Granada
– Mercado de Navidad is a fairly small market with a wide range of Spanish Christmas decorations, candles, flowers, unique gifts and sweets.
Christmas Markets in Malaga
– Mercadillo Navideño Jardin Botanico La Concepción is an interesting market. It is full of sparkling displays and illuminations and offers light shows.
Christmas Markets in Valencia
– Feria de Atracciones de Navidad is located between the streets Ingeniero Manuel Soto and Avda. It has many seasonal stalls, festive music, lights, and sweets. Everyone can find a large number of attractions for his taste – from Ferris wheels to mini-trains for children.
Christmas Markets in Zaragoza
– Mercadillo Navideño Plaza del Pilar Christmas market in Plaza del Pilar has an ice rink, live music, and dance performances. There are rides and entertainment for all ages.
Christmas Markets in Cordoba
– Mercado de Navidad is located in the central square of Tendillas in Cordoba. There is everything here that you can expect from the Christmas market. There is food, stalls with sweets, mulled wine, toys, and handicrafts, as well as entertaining theater performances.
Tips on what to pack for winter holidays in Spain
Don’t forget that the weather in Spain in winter really depends on where exactly you go and what you are planning to do. Pack light but definitely take layers and at least some warmer clothes. Even if you are traveling to the South only, expect cold nights.
If you don’t plan to go skiing but still would love to visit the mountains, don’t forget gloves, a hat, and a scarf. It gets really windy in the mountains.
Another important item is comfortable walking shoes. Expect to walk a lot. If budget allows, choose leather only. Leather boots are always comfortable, feet wrapped in leather never sweat, and don’t get blisters from long walks. When buying them, you are going to save money too.
When you are packing for Spain, also don’t forget your swimwear.
We completely forgot to take ours (actually we didn’t forget, we deliberately didn’t pack them thinking they would not come in handy) which was a mistake. We thought the sea was cold anyway and we would not be swimming. But then we learned about the thermal baths and our hotel in Girona had a beautiful pool, so we had to run around looking for swimsuits.
When we were in Catalonia and Costa Brava in December, the weather was warm during the day (on the picture above you can see what I wore on one of those days) but was getting much colder in the evening. Mark was even putting his hat and gloves on while I was wearing a warm jacket.
And the last thing, do not forget glasses, even cold days are going to be very bright and sunny. Make sure to opt for 100% UV protection coating sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Packing light is important. I invite you to check my other post on what to wear in Spain during any season. It has way more practical tips.
More Spain Travel Resources For You
Also, with excellent roads, beautiful scenery on all sides and ancient towns, Spain is made for road trips! Thus, if you plan on visiting Spain in December, January or February, make sure to include a road trip into your itinerary to cover a few regions. And to help you understand what driving in Spain is like and best companies to rent a car, see my post about car hire in Spain.
For more winter content, check my other posts – Kyiv in winter, what is Turkey in winter like, and what to expect from travel in Montenegro in winter. If you are a budget traveler, here is the cheapest places to travel in Europe post.
So, happy travels and enjoy Spain! In winter this country is particularly beautiful!
More Winter Travel Guides For Europe
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- Ukraine in Winter – why it’s also a good season to visit
- 12 Cheapest Places Where to Travel in Europe For Winter Getaway – best for budget travelers