When thinking of a fall or winter destination Spain may not immediately spring to mind but there is so much more diversity to this fascinating country than simply sun, sand and sangria. Having moved to Madrid from Britain, with its well-known weather uncertainties almost a year ago, I was surprised to find such distinct weather changes here. However, I have just spent my first wintertime in the city and have learnt to embrace the chillier season and can now see that Madrid makes for a perfect winter getaway.
This bustling, vibrant capital has one of the most variable climates in the country but as the seasons change so too does the atmosphere of the city, presenting another, less well known side of Spanish lifestyle and culture.
The temperatures tend to drop around early November and rise again by the beginning of March. In between these months I have to admit it does get a little nippy but on the plus side the days remain mostly bright, sunny and crisp throughout the season. As the days get shorter and the nights get longer the city’s rich indoor nightlife steps in with all its sparkle and vitality so you have even more opportunity to enjoy the bustling restaurants and cosy tapas bars so well established within the city.
Start off your day with a heart-warming breakfast of churros, a traditional and still very popular Spanish donut dipped in warm chocolate, the perfect winter perk. Madrid has a long history of café culture that rivals that of other European cities such as Paris and Berlin and Madrileños have been meeting in coffee shops to debate, catch up with friends and family and even been the base for great writers such as most famously, Ernest Hemmingway. Due to this great literary café culture here in the city there are a few historic places but my personal recommendation would be Café Comercial which is located right next to Bilbao metro station as, being slightly out of the touristy down town area, here you will see long entrenched locals and trendy youth alike.
Afterwards, you might jump into one of the city’s many available and affordable taxis to take you along the Castellana which is Madrid’s main artery road with picturesque views (all the way) to Retiro Park. In terms of city parks this is one of Europe’s best kept secrets, maintaining its beauty throughout the year and in frosty weather still often buzzing with people and stalls while the lake glistens in the winter sun. Generate some warmth by following the signs to Retiro’s beautiful Crystal House which is a hidden gem!! Built in 1887 this building, constructed totally out of glass, is a wonderful example of Madrid’s elegant history. See if you can catch a glimpse of the local black swans gliding past on the nearby pond. Refresh and keep warm with another hot drink in one of the park’s coffee shops.
Alternatives, perfect for a winter’s morning, could be a visit to the world famous Prado art gallery where you will be wrapped up in all the glowing colour and vibrancy expressed by some of Spain’s most renowned painters. Or shop til you drop in one of the capitals many shopping streets, I recommend the Salamanca district whose streets brim with high end fashion where you can cosy up on a winters day and kit yourself out for a stylish sub zero season.
Spaniards take pleasure in their lengthy lunches and so after working up an appetite, a winter’s afternoon is the perfect setting to enjoy Madrid’s famous Cocido stew. Packed with traditional meats, chick peas and nourishing vegetables, it is normally served hot and will arrive at your table bubbling and can be washed down with a local red wine (or two!). One of thy city’s well regarded restaurants is Casa Corola, in the Salamanca district. The art of relaxing Spanish style may take a bit of getting used to and an afternoon of Cocido may see you wile away the hours but this traditional meal is all about spending time together with loved ones and shouldn’t be rushed.
Come rain or shine the Spanish know how to enjoy life and I have loved the winter in the country’s capital. So if you are starting to think of what to do in the potentially dreary months this coming winter I recommend Madrid, it won’t disappoint. Even if the temperatures do drop the city’s exuberance does not and it has proved to be a real “hotspot” whatever the weather.