Guide to the best 10 cities to visit in winter
During the summer months we all know that the best places to be, by far, include somewhere on the coast on a beach; up in the north of the country removed from the treacherous heat and humidity, or away from everyone at an altitude in the mountains where the air is cooler and you don’t have to seek shade for the majority of the day.
However, during the winter, the whole scenario changes. The north of the country becomes a white blanket, too cold, wet and windy to visit; and the mountains are a definite no-no unless you’re off to a ski resort that’s equipped and prepared for the weather. The southern half of Spain, nevertheless, comes alive and everyone takes to the streets after a long period of practically hibernating through months of intense heat and inaction.
OK, that might be somewhat of a generalisation and exaggeration, but do you know which places in Spain are the best to visit during the winter? Read on to find out Skyscanner’s top destinations.
During the colder months of the year, the city of Granada is one of the only cities in Spain to unite the tropical with the polar weather. If you can’t make up your mind and want the best of both worlds at the same time, Granada can give you that. It’s totally possible to spend the morning skiing in the cold and the afternoon lazing on a beach in the sun! The Sierra Nevada is just a stone’s throw from the city itself, and actually possesses one of the best ski stations in the country. As soon as you’ve had enough of the cold and snow for one day, you can descend to the magnificent city to take in the sights of one of the finest architectural structures of the country – The Alhambra Palace – which is much more pleasant to visit at this time of the year than during the height of the summer.
One of the main times to celebrate in Teruel is in February. The city pays homage to two of its most famous characters from medieval times – “Los Amantes de Teruel”, or the “Lovers from Teruel”. History, or legend, has it that Isabel, a young woman from a wealthy background, met and fell in love with Diego, a young man who was poor. The two wanted to get married, they were so in love. However, Diego knew that their relationship would not be accepted because of his status, so he set off for five years in order to make some money, and he asked Isabel to wait for him. This she did, in spite of the fact that her father said she should marry, but five years passed and there was no sign of Diego, so eventually she agreed to marry another man. However, Diego did appear, and on the day of Isabel’s wedding. One tragic episode led to another and both ended up falling down dead due to the love for the other and the pain of not being able to be together.
During the third weekend of February each year, the whole town celebrates the story of the two fated lovers with a reproduction of the story in the town, which is converted to medieval times just for the occasion. The fiesta lasts for the whole weekend and there’s plenty of entertainment going on throughout.
Spain’s capital, Madrid, has a harsh climate in winter, being at such a high altitude. However, the Madrileños know exactly how to make the best of it during this time of year. In fact, now would be the ideal time to go and enjoy a delicious portion of the best churros and chocolate you have ever tasted in your life in this city, after, of course, the obligatory visit to the Retiro park. One of the best chocolate houses for this scrumptious treat is the Chocolatería San Ginés, which is located just a few metres from the Puerta del Sol, right in the heart of the city centre. This place has been serving chocolate and churros for more than a century, so it’s safe to say that you won’t be disappointed.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
OK, so when the cold weather hits, a little bit of sun and heat doesn’t go amiss either, especially when the going gets really tough. And, there’s nowhere in Spain that is hotter at this time of year than this city in the Canary Islands. Daily temperatures during the winter average between 16 and 24°C. If you want to keep that tan that you put so much time and effort in to achieve during the summer topped up and glowing, then make sure that your stay involves a few days down at the Playa de las Canteras, one of the most popular and prettiest beaches in Las Palmas. The weather isn’t exactly the same as in the summer, so you will need to wrap up slightly when the sun sets and the evening begins.
This is not the most well-known city in Spain, although those that like snow and skiing will have definitely heard of it. If you love the cold weather, and especially the snow, this is the place to be. When the first snowflakes start falling to the ground and cover the whole area in a beautiful blanket of pure white, it’s as if time has stopped in Vielha and the pace of life slows right down. Sanctuaries and thousand-year-old churches are hidden underneath the white sheet of winter, yet you can still make out their outline. And all of this is set within the frame of the Pyrenees Mountains that surround and protect the town. If this appeals to you, make the most of your time and explore the nearby Boí Valley, making sure that you discover the Romanesque treasures left behind, such as the Sant Climent de Taüll Church. The prestigious Baqueira-Beret ski resort is also just a stone’s throw away at less than 30km distance.
Segovia, Castilla y León
It’s not difficult to imagine just how picturesque the city of Segovia must look as soon as the first snowflakes of winter begin to fall, especially with the infamous Roman aqueduct and the city’s narrow cobbled streets as a backdrop. However, not only does the city look as pretty as a picture at this time of year, it also transforms into a place of happiness, fun and festivity. For example, one of the many unique customs takes place on Christmas Day. It’s called the “Carrera del Pavo” or “Turkey Race” and consists of seeing who can get the furthest peddling on a bicycle with no chain. The winner receives a turkey, second place is awarded a duck, and whoever is in third is given a chicken. As you can tell, the residents of Segovia have plenty of imagination!
Cuenca, Castilla-La Mancha
If you’ve never visited the beautiful town of Cuenca, a trip in winter will ensure that you fall in love with the place by lunchtime. The bridge that connects the Parador to the Casas Colgantes (Hanging Houses) is exceptionally pretty when it is covered in snow. You will need to wrap up warm, however, and ensure that you’re wearing comfortable shoes for walking, as Cuenca is very hilly. There are dozens of first-class restaurants in Cuenca for when you need to retreat from the cold, and after a hearty meal of the best regional homemade cuisine and a few glasses of red wine, it won’t be long before you’re rushing outside again to take in more of the spectacular sights.
A visit to the Navarra town of Tudela should be obligatory for everyone in winter. When the first signs of the winter appear with the first falls of snow, even the River Ebro can barely be made out from underneath the white blanket of frozen water. The views in this town are absolutely breath-taking from the Cerro de Santa Bárbara to the bridge that crosses the river. With a population of around 35,000, Tudela is the second largest municipality in the region of Navarra. There’s always plenty going on and this is one of the best cities in the whole of Spain to visit during winter.
Zamora, Castilla y León
The banks of the River Duero in winter are a spectacular sight during the coldest months of the year. An early-morning walk here will certainly awaken all the senses of the body in one go. In fact, if you do decide to visit this city, make sure that you take in the rest of the area as well, as there is always a lot to see and do. With the onset of winter, the province of Zamora celebrates the festival of Las Mascaradas. The residents of the town dress up in colourful clothing and cover their faces with huge devil-like masks. Various events and activities occur over several weeks, during which much of the celebrations take place outside in the streets.
But, it’s not all about the snow in Spain in winter! A good dose of variety always does the trick to recharge the batteries and ensure that your eyes are open and you’re taking everything in. So, for a little bit of something different, how about visiting somewhere that has snow and sea at the same time? Now, that’s something that you don’t see very often. Snow and sea is a very unusual combination, but that’s exactly what you get in Santander during the winter. At this time of year, it practically always snows in this city. And, although you won’t see the sun come out very often, the views of a turbulent Cantabrian Sea from the Playa del Sardinero surrounded by snow are something that must be seen and captured.