Picture your perfect winter break. What do you see? Snow-capped mountains? Romantic hideaways? Out-of-season sunshine? Or charming city culture? There’s no need to choose between them. Spain has all this and more.
Spain might be famous as a summer-by-the-sea kind of destination but it’s during the winter months that the country’s many facets really reveal themselves. From the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees to the sunny shores of the Canary Islands, there are endless ways to either embrace the colder weather or escape it entirely – whether winding down in quaint mountain villages or living it up in buzzing coastal towns. While you might be visiting Spain in winter, you’ll experience the joy of all four seasons in one go. spain.info
Travel –– Mountains
If winter, for you, is synonymous with perfect powder, Spain has got you covered. With smaller crowds than the Alps, the country’s resorts are an off-piste alternative to Europe’s more well-trodden ski territory.
Spain boasts all the landscapes that you can imagine – and majestic mountain ranges are an unmissable part. From November through to April, the Pyrenees and the Sierra Nevada become an outdoor playground for skiers with thousands of kilometres of snow-sure slopes snaking through unspoilt mountain terrain. Add to this countless cosy accommodation options and hearty local cuisines, and you will have a new perspective on a season so often associated with cold-weather blues.
EAT: Spanish mountain fare typically consists of thick, beany soups. In the Pyrenees, olha aranesa with black sausage is a much-loved staple, while skiers in the Sierra Nevada like to warm up with ham-hock-laced cocido alpujarreño.
DO: Marvel at the beautifully lit streets and get in the festive spirit. Best of all, Spain’s Christmas celebrations last until 6 January, when the Three Wise Men arrive to bring presents to the children.
Travel –– Cities
Whether an under-the-radar gem or an established stop on the tourist trail, each Spanish city has its own distinctive identity and charm – and an around-the-clock energy that knows no winter break.
In a country appreciated the world over for its art and design, a visit to a major city is a must. It’s here, in Barcelona and Bilbao, Madrid and Málaga, that the beating heart of Spanish culture, past and present, lies. Winter days can be filled with sunshine, so it’s not uncommon to find Spaniards taking it all in from bustling café terraces or strolling city avenues. For cloudier days, there are world-class museums, galleries and independent boutiques, where Spain’s creative riches can be witnessed first-hand.
EAT: Madrid’s signature winter dish, Cocido Madrileño is a chickpea stew made with vegetables, potatoes and meat. Tuck into a bowl at one of the capital’s no-fuss hole-in-the-wall eateries.
DO: If there’s one country that knows how to fiesta, it’s Spain. Join in on the party during Carnival, when towns like Cádiz, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Águilas play host to colourful celebrations.
Travel –– Beaches
You haven’t truly experienced Spain in winter until you’ve spent a few hours lazing on a picture-perfect beach. Hop on a flight to the sun-soaked Canary Islands and bask in the feeling of an endless summer.
There aren’t many places in Europe where you can welcome the New Year with a balmy beach swim, but the Canary Islands offer just that. Less than a three-hour flight from Madrid, this group of eight islands is blessed with a year-round mild climate and average winter temperatures of 24C. Not only has the archipelago become a magnet for sunseekers but, with four National Parks, featuring volcanoes and verdant hills, it’s just as much a haven for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
EAT: Baifo – young goat meat marinated in aromatic herbs – is found on Christmas tables all around the Canaries. Fish is abundant year-round, starring in island specialities such as the deliciously spicy Sancocho Canario.
DO: New Year’s swim aside, the people of the Canary Islands, like all Spaniards, eat 12 grapes during the 12 strokes of midnight on 31 December to wave goodbye to the year gone by.
Travel –– Romance
Diving into Spain’s natural, culinary and architectural wonders is an endlessly romantic journey. Sublime winter sunsets, Moorish palaces and plenty more will make you fall in love with the country all over again.
Spain holds a particular magic for couples looking for a relaxing winter getaway. Want to wake up in the same quarters as the ancient nobility in a historic parador hotel? Or watch the sun set over the fairy-tale Alhambra, nestled against the snow-dusted mountains of the Sierra Nevada? The country teems with delights around every corner. Simply immerse yourself in the beauty of its sights, sounds and smells, and you’ll be rewarded with experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime.
EAT: In Spain, nothing says winter like freshly fried churros dipped in thick, hot chocolate. It’s a perfect snack to warm up with after a crisp walk – and tastes best when shared with a loved one.
DO: Steeped in the old-world charm of the Moorish era, Seville is one of Spain’s most romantic cities. Ride through the scenic old town in a horse-drawn carriage past ornate mansions and former mosques.