For many, the best time to visit Spain is the summer, when temperatures soar and tourists flock to the extensive beaches found all over the country. However, there is much more to see than just the sand, and there are many places in Spain that are ideal to visit in the winter when the lure of the beach is less of a distraction.
Spain is actually a very varied country that boasts vast metropolitan cities, dramatic volcanic landscapes, and towering mountain ranges in addition to its coastlines. Those who love to spend Christmas in the snow should not write Spain off as a destination: the Pyrenees in the north and the Sierra Nevada in the south both boast extensive opportunities for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding.
Winter in Spain is an ideal time to explore major cities such as Madrid and Barcelona and discover the wide range of indoor attractions such as the numerous renowned museums and art galleries, and to sample a beloved Spanish winter staple, thick hot chocolate with churros. There are also a number of lesser-known towns which celebrate a range of unique winter festivities that travelers can enjoy. Read on for a complete guide to travel information for Spain for the winter months.
Where Is The Warmest Place in Spain in Winter?
The warmest place in Spain in winter is the Canary Islands, located off the West Coast of Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean. Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Tenerife and Gran Canaria are the most popular islands for tourists to visit. The capital city of Gran Canaria, Las Palmas,
is the warmest city in all of Spain during the winter months, and temperatures can reach up to 24°C. The city boasts a number of impressive beaches on which to relax, including Las Canteras, one of the most famous in all of the Canary Islands.
The islands of Tenerife and Fuerteventura also have very balmy temperatures in winter, with the averages around 16°C and 19°C, respectively. Those who visit Tenerife will be able to hike across its spectacular volcanic landscapes, while those who travel to Fuerteventura have over 150 beaches to explore, as well as numerous opportunities to take part in water sports such as windsurfing and kite surfing.
The cities in the very south of the country also experience warm weather throughout the winter months. The Andalusian cities of Seville and Malaga, located on the Costa del Sol, are both popular winter retreats for visitors from northern Europe. Temperatures in Malaga in December average around 12°C and can hit highs of around 16°C. The town of Marbella 24 minutes southwest along the Costa del Sol is also another ideal destination to soak up some winter sun in Spain.
The Best Cities to Visit in Spain in Winter
The ample sunshine that many places in southern Spain offer during the colder months is only one reason to visit the country in winter. There are plenty of locations in the country ideal for a winter city break, to take in local festivities during the Christmas holidays, or to enjoy snow-filled vistas, including:
- Espot and Vielha, Catalonia – Two tiny towns in northern Catalonia nestled deep in the Pyrenees mountains, both Espot and Vielha both boast traditional Catalan architecture which looks even more appealing when covered in snow. The two towns both look straight out of a Christmas card during the colder months, and some of the best ski resorts in Spain are also just a short distance away.
- Teruel, Aragon – This city in eastern Spain is worth visiting year-round for its spectacular Moorish-influenced architecture, but Teruel really comes alive in the winter months, particularly during the third weekend of February. This is when the ‘Feast of Lovers’ takes place, a celebration which commemorates the local legend of two doomed lovers with a huge medieval market and extensive street performances.
- Sanzoles, Castilla y Leon – Another tiny town with a larger-than-life celebration, Sanzoles is located in the province of Zamora and is home to El Zangarrón, a festival which takes place every December 26th. The celebration consists of a large procession led by El Zangarrón, a strange clown-like character who demands treats on behalf of the local children, and is said to punish those who do not comply. The celebrations also include traditional dances and a large feast.
- Granada, Andalusia – The ideal location for those who cannot decide between sun or snow in the winter, as Granada offers a little of both. Surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountain range which sees significant snowfall in the winter, Granada is close to one of the best ski resorts in Spain. However, it is also only around an hour’s drive from the beaches of the Costa del Sol, so travelers won’t have to go far to enjoy mild temperatures.
Before deciding on the best time to visit the country, don’t forget to first check what you need to travel to Spain and whether or not it is necessary to obtain a visa. A number of nationalities are currently visa-exempt for the country for stays under 90 days but from 2021 the same citizens will be required to obtain an ETIAS Spain, an electronic visa waiver, to travel to Schengen Area countries for short stays.