The Spanish capital is stunning at any time of year but there is one time when it shines brighter than any other: Christmas. From the end of November to Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day 6th of January), Madrid Christmas lights twinkle with colourful lights, trees, nativity scenes and holiday magic. At Mad4Madrid we know these city streets like the back of our collective hand, so we have drawn up two routes just for you that show the best of this year’s decorations.
If you are going to spend Christmas 2016-2017 in Madrid then you have chosen well. For the past few years the same lights have been reused, with their location being switched around each year (a bit boring quite frankly). But the repetition ends here! A new tree stands proudly in Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor has been given a facelift with warm flickering candles, and colourful flowers blossom above the streets that lead up to Sol.
MADRID CHRISTMAS LIGHTS ROUTE 1: CENTRO
Set off from the nerve centre of the city: Puerta del Sol. A huge tree dominates the centre of the plaza and this year it is BRAND NEW. Oh how long we have been waiting for that to happen. What does it represent? No idea but it’s very pretty. We only know that it was designed by German architect Ben Busche, who also did the flowers on Calle Carmen and Calle Arenal. Don’t forget, a handy little insider’s tip is that you can actually go inside the Sol tree, surrounding yourself with a cascade of blue and green neon lights. Beautiful.
Leaving Sol, turn onto Calle Mayor, decorated with bunches of gently glowing grapes. Follow it up to Plaza Mayor, which this year is illuminated by softly flickering candles. Mosey around over 104 Christmas Market stalls of the there (Open 90:00 to 22:00, 23:00 on weekends), filled with excellent sweets and gift ideas, before heading towards Ópera, from where you’ll take Calle Arenal (one of the streets decorated by Ben Busche) back to Puerta del Sol.
If you’re with children, stop by at Cortylandia, at the rear entrance to the Corte Inglés on Calle Preciados. This usually nondescript feature is transformed every year at Christmas with a mechanised display that sings and dances. Perfect for little ones and anyone who needs to reboot their Chirstmas spirit. Just seeing the crowds is worth a trip out in itself: you’d think that Justin Bieber were there!
Once you’ve reached Sol, take Calle Preciados north towards Callao (If you detoured to Corylandia you can either turn back to Calle Arenal or cut straight through to Preciados). Once there you’ll find a great many arches which change colour and turn on and off as the bells toll in Sol. This is another new feature in Madrid Christmas lights: simple but we love it.
In Callao you’ll find the tree that until this year was to be found in Sol. From here you can join Gran Via, adorned with large banners of streetlights which as you walk reveal the Earth.
From Callao you can either turn left towards Plaza de España, where you’ll find a pink Christmas tree, and continue along Calle Princesa, or cross the plaza towards the royal palace. Turn right and you’ll reach Cibeles and the City Hall, but not before you pass Calle Montera, where a blue-green Christmas tree has replaced last year’s Vodafone-sponsored eyesore. The Palacio de Cibeles and famous goddess fountain will also be lit up with Christmas colours and inside the city hall you’ll find a beautiful nativity scene over 60m2 (open 10:00 to 20:00 and until the 8th of January).
Check out our online map!
MADRID CHRISTMAS LIGHTS ROUTE TWO: BARRIO DE SALAMANCA
Our second suggestions starts right where the first one ends. If you’re coming from Atocha you’ll see that all the trees lining Paseo del Prado have been decorated with fairy lights and this continues up along Paseo de Recoletes. When you reach its end you’ll find yourself in Colón, the gateway one of Madrid’s most exclusive and luxuriant neighbourhoods: Serrano. Turn left onto Calle Serrano and head north until you reach Juan Bravo. Here it is not the decorations hanging overhead, rather the enchanting displays of gifts and Christmas scenes displayed in the surrounding shop windows. At Juan Bravo turn right and continue straight until you reach either Calle Velázquez or Principe de Vergara.
Take whichever one you like and follow it south until you reach Calle Alcalá. Now you’ll find yourself facing Retiro Park. Turn to the right and follow the road down to Puerta de Alcalá, where this year is embellished with magnificent curtains of light that hang from each one of it’s arches. If you continue along the same road, you’ll find yourself back in Cibeles.
Check out our online map!
WHEN SHOULD I GO?
The times for the Christmas lights are:
- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, from 18:00 to 23:00
- Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and the night before national holidays, 18:00 to 00:00
- 24th of December and 5th of January, from 18:00 to 03:00
- 31st of December from 18:00 to 06:00
At this time of year the streets are always busy but Monday to Thursday, the traffic is somewhat lighter and therefore we recommend you go out to see Madrid Christmas lights on one of these days. Wrap up warm as the temperatures dip low and get out your best walking shoes. Seeing the lights is always more special from street level, going at your own pace and stopping to snap up some souvenir photos. However if you’re looking for a faster, more comfortable option (although equally chilly), we recommend you take the Naviluz, an open top bus which will take you through most of the displays and only costs 2€.
Choose your route or be brave and do both!
Trad. Sebastian Morgan