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Spending Christmas in Madrid

christmas tree with lights and snow man in front of it
Written by Paula

Christmas Eve is known in Spanish as Nochebuena, a night where families get together to share a meal. In a typical Madrilian Christmas Eve, the meal will start with a Madrilian consommé, a type of clear soup to which they add some vegetables and a large variety of meats like beef, chicken and bones.

The consommé is cooked for four hours, and served with a side of Savoy cabbage, prepared with onions and bacon.

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For the main dish, some families prepare fish dishes and some prefer meat. One of the most famous Christmas Eve fish dishes is the besugo al horno, or baked sea bream.

Those who prefer meat usually go with turkey or lamb. The meal is accompanied by a glass of cava, Spain’s version of the Champagne. ShMadrid has more information on foods and activities for the holiday season.

Typically Madrid at Christmas time

Star foods of the holiday season

But the star foods of the holiday season in Madrid are the sweets. The most typical ones are the turrón, a thick nougat bar usually made of almonds, sugar and honey; polvorones, a pressed powdered biscuit made of almonds and butter; and the Roscón de Reyes, a ring-shaped pastry filled with Spanish custard, topped with crystallized fruit.


Photo via Pixabay

After dinner, some families play songs and sing, and others go to the Misa del gallo (the rooster’s mass), which happens at midnight, to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The next day, families get together again to celebrate Christmas. The celebration is very similar to the one on Christmas Eve: good food, singing and joy.

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christmas present

Photo via Pixabay

Though the official day for gift-giving in Spain is Dia de los Reyes Magos, the Three Wise Men Day, on January 6th, some families have started to adopt the international figure of Santa Claus.

When people, especially the kids, wake up on the 25th, they run to the living-room to discover what gifts Santa Claus has left them under the Christmas tree, or by the chimney.

Related article: Celebrating New Year’s Eve In Madrid

Activities in Madrid Spain during Christmas

Visiting the Christmas Markets

During the holiday season, Madrid gets filled with Christmas markets, in which you can purchase a variety of items related to the holidays, like Christmas trees, ornaments, candles or individual figures to create your own nativity scene.

christmas decorations at christmas market

Photo via Pixabay

Some booths also sell items like jewelry and handcrafted items that can make great gifts. You can also find booths selling tasty treats like turróns, polvorones, and churros with hot chocolate.

Taking a tour to see the Christmas lights in Madrid

During the holiday season, Madrid gets turned into a wonderland, with Christmas lights that are turned on daily from 6 m to 10 pm or 11 pm, depending on if it is a weekday or the weekend.

decorations streets of madrid

Photo via Pixabay

During this season, there is a bus that takes visitors on a tour of the Christmas lights around the city, called Navibus. The bus costs only 2€ per person, taking visitors on a 50-minute tour.

Related article: A Traditional Christmas Dinner in Madrid

Discover Madrid’s Nativity Scenes

There are several nativity scenes you can visit in Madrid. The largest one is Belén de Francisco Salzillo, in Centro at Palacio Cibeles.

nativity scene recreated with houses and people

Photo via Pixabay

There are also nativity scenes at Plaza del Sol, the Royal Church of San Ginés, at the Corpus Christi Convent of the Nuns Jerónimas, at St, Michaels Basilica, the Church of Jesús de Medinaceli, and at Palacio de Cibeles.

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What are your favourite foods and activities during the Christmas season?
Tell us about other things to do on Christmas day in Madrid!

About the author


Paula is an experienced content writer, translator and editor.

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