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First timers to Spain - January 2020


After much debate about where our family of 4 should travel over Winter Break this year, we have decided on Spain. This would be our first time visiting the country and we could use some suggestions! Our current plan is to land Dec 30 and fly home Jan 8, which means we will have 9 nights to work with. Should we base out of Barcelona and do a few day trips from there, try to hit both Barcelona and Madrid, or fly into Madrid and work our way south?

A bit of background info - my children are 10 and 5, but very well traveled. Not looking for a wild NYE party scene, just beautiful scenery and fun exploring a new destination. Also, weather is a consideration and I know that it will be warmer in the southern parts of Spain, but we aren't totally basing the decision on weather!


Posted by
2259 posts

Hi, good choose for a vacation! Here would be some of my advice for Spain in Dec/Jan:

  • Spain is quite festive during these times, remember our main celebration is the 3 Kings Day (Jan 6th) rather than Christmas, so you will still feel the holiday atmosphere.

  • We actually have a tradition of the Christmas Markets too, that may come as a surprise. The best one for me is in Barcelona la Feria de Santa Llucia, right in front of the main cathedral, it's the oldest one from the 1700s.

  • Also know that on the night of Jan 5th most cities in Spain have a big parade of the Three Kings (Cavalcade de Los Reyes Magos), I think the kids will love this experience. There are really big ones in Barcelona and Madrid.

  • Toledo is a great city to spend a portion of the holidays in, it feels very cozy and is decked out in decorations and lights, with a nice Christmas market right in front of the Cathedral. It will also be a nice place to spend a low key NYE as Barcelona and Madrid can get quite crazy (in a good way).

I would probably recommend something along these lines for 9 nights:

Fly in to Madrid
then AVE train to Toledo
Toledo (2 nights) - spend NYE in Toledo
AVE back to
Madrid (3 nights) - day trip to Segovia castle
AVE to
Barcelona (4 nights) - enjoy Cavalcade and la Feria
Fly out of Barcelona

Posted by
14399 posts

I wonder how much there will be for the kids to enjoy in Madrid. The big draw is the art museums. One sight that kids seemed to enjoy was the Naval Museum (be sure to take your passports with you).

Barcelona has a lot more variety.

I've visited twice in February, not much difference in weather between Madrid, Barcelona and Andalucia. Toledo may be colder (altitude).

Posted by
1273 posts

Given the idiosyncrasies of weather recently, I wouldn't want to make any prediction for next January! But, in general it will be colder in Madrid, bitterly so at night, than Barcelona or, for example, Seville (I suspect Toledo will be very chilly too up top, and with a biting wind perhaps?). But I don't think the difference is enough to be a deciding factor, and you can dress accordingly (also the chill is a great excuse to regularly stop for hot chocolate and other warming snacks). If you're lucky most days will be cold but with clear blue sky - if you're unlucky it will rain, but be a bit warmer. You can usually anticipate less rain and brighter winter sun in Seville than Barcelona.

Personally, I'd split your time between Madrid and Sevilla because I think Barcelona and around are best saved for when you can enjoy and take advantage of being on the coast. For instance, arrive Madrid and stay 3 nights, Toledo for a night, then Sevilla for 4 nights, before returning to Madrid for the night before flying home? There's a lot to see in Madrid that doesn't require stepping foot inside an art gallery.

Carlos has mentioned that Epiphany is an important holiday. Be aware that as well as celebrations, that does mean some attractions and shops close, though by no means all.

PS if you do stay up for NYE (unlikely, perhaps, with young children), by tradition you need grapes to eat as 2020 is rung in.