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Spain in December, Itinerary Help

Hello friends! My husband and I will be arriving in Madrid early the morning of December 15 (taking a direct flight from Boston). We need to get to Dublin for a flight home to Seattle on December 27 (we're making the most of direct flights and ability to book using points). We'd like to experience Christmas Eve/Day in Dublin, so tentatively planning to fly there on the 23rd but that isn't booked yet. That leaves us with 8 nights in Spain.

We were originally considering just splitting the time between Madrid and Barcelona, especially since we could easily fly to Dublin from either city. This plan is still on the table, but we're also drawn to smaller cities, slightly less touristy, places we can just relax and explore and enjoy the food and the vibe, especially because this will be a holiday season trip for us. We aren't big museum people at all--like, probably won't visit a single one. We're well-versed in travel to Europe in general but this will be our first time in Spain and I am doing research but would love some input from you experts as well. What would you do with 8 nights in December? We'd prefer not to rent a car, so sticking to places accessible by train would be ideal.

Posted by
3730 posts

Given your interest in smaller cities, I'd combine one smaller city with a larger one you will fly to Dublin from. There are a plethora of potential combinations, it really depends on your personal interests. You could do, they are all accessible via highspeed rail :

Madrid + Toledo
Madrid + Zaragoza
Madrid + Cordoba
Sevilla + Cadiz
Sevilla + Cordoba
Sevilla + Granada
Barcelona + Zaragoza
Barcelona + Girona
Barcelona + Tarragona

I'd probably combine either Barcelona + Zaragoza or Madrid + Toledo. All are very festive during the holidays, with excellent local Christmas markets in the central plazas.

Posted by
7811 posts

You mention that you don't like museums. How do you feel about ancient buildings? I ask because probably the main draw in Granada is the Alhambra. Does some place like this draw your interest or is really more about strolling and enjoying the vibe of the area?

Posted by
5805 posts

The Christmas season in Spain is special. Carlos provided some great suggestions. Of his suggestions, I’d choose Madrid +Toledo so you could get a feel for the season in a large city and smaller town. You’ll have a good time whichever option you choose.

Posted by
2131 posts

Just a heads up...

From the end of November there's a crescendo of people flocking to Madrid's center to see the Christmas lights. As much as I love Madrid, and can love the energy of people/groups/families out for strolls, the scene there is... too much. Like, suffocating, borderline panic attack level, crowds for me. Clearly many people are perfectly comfortable with it. So, heads up.

And note that Madrid's lattitude is about equal to New York City's, so days are short in December. The odd time-zone placement means that's weighted to a later sunrise than we're accustomed to.

Posted by
25514 posts

Central Spain isn't particularly warm in December. I don't like cold weather and would not choose Madrid at that time of year. Its average high is about 50F (and don't expect that for much of the day); the average low is 38.5F. Late December will be chillier. Barcelona's average temperatures are roughly ten degrees warmer (F), as are Seville's. The Wikipedia entries for those cities have monthly temperature-summary charts that are handy for making comparisons.

Since I want to know how bad it can get, I look at the actual, day-by-day historical weather data available on the website I like to check the most recent five years' worth of statistics. Here's Madrid for December 2022. Use the pull-down box to change the month and year. Use the Search box to change the location.

Posted by
272 posts

Thank you so much for these responses! A couple responses from me:

We are definitely into history and ancient stuff (lol) -- we just got back from Jordan and Petra was a huge highlight. However, with landing in Madrid I'm not sure if it makes sense to head south to Sevilla or if we should do one of the Madrid + smaller town combos?

Definitely great to know about the Christmas light crowds. I'm really looking forward to seeing a European city all dressed up for Christmas but we also can get very overwhelmed by massive crowds so maybe less time in Madrid, if that's what we choose, would make sense...

We prefer cold weather so I'm not worried about temperature but will definitely make sure we pack appropriately. One of our favorite trips was to Prague in March in the snow. :)

Posted by
272 posts

Any thoughts on Sevilla around Christmas time? The more we read and learn about it the more drawn to it we are. I know it wouldn't accomplish our smaller town wish, but perhaps Madrid and Sevilla would be a nice combo?

Posted by
2131 posts

Madrid and Sevilla could be a good pairing. While Sevilla is the 4th largest city, in many ways, its center feels less like a large city and more like a town—low-rise, smaller streets, little post-war development, more independent shops than chains, etc. If you walk from the train to the center you'll think I sold you a line of BS, but there's an avenue you cross and it all changes.