Updated December 6, 2016
Q. When is the best time to visit Madrid?
- Best Time for Sightseeing: May and October are both ideal months to enjoy sightseeing in Madrid. In May, the intense heat of summer has yet to arrive and crowds are more manageable too. In October, with autumn in full swing and the kids back in school, the city begins to cool down, golden hues blanket the parks and you won’t have to worry about bumping elbows with hundreds of other tourists. If you decide to visit during the summer, with its intense afternoon sun, it’s important to plan your sightseeing early in the day and do what many locals do – take a siesta (or at least a break indoors) by 3pm, and wait until about 7pm before heading outdoors again. If you’re hoping to avoid the biggest crowds, especially in the summer months, try not to go to the most popular sights and attractions, including museums like the Prado Museum (Museo del Prado) between 10am and noon. In fact, you may want to skip your nap, and visit indoor sights like these instead. They’re air-conditioned, and you can enjoy the exhibits without hordes of others blocking your view in the late afternoon when everyone else is enjoying a snooze.
- Best Time for Visiting the Royal Palace: The Royal Palace is the No. 1 attraction in Madrid, and many come to see the changing of the guard. If watching that event is at the top of your wish list, you may not want to visit the city during the peak of the summer months, July and August, as it’s frequently cancelled due to the heat. If you’re here during the high season and don’t want to wait in long lines, plan to arrive about 15 minutes before it opens, or near the end of the day, about two hours before closing. The winter months, or low season, is arguably the best time to visit for the optimal experience. While there are still crowds in line before 11am on Wednesday, when the ceremony of the changing of the guard is held, and longer lines on the weekend, by arriving just before the palace opens, or at about 3pm on a Monday, Tuesday or Thursday, you’ll have the best chance to enjoy it in relative peace.
- Best Time for Watching a Bullfight: If you want to watch a bullfight, you’ll need to be in Madrid sometime between mid-May and October, as there is no bullfighting in Madrid outside of this period. Bullfights are held every Sunday during bullfighting season at 7pm.
- Best Time for Nightlife: Madrid is where the party is. Renowned for its nightlife, many first-time visitors to the city are surprised at the Spanish schedule, which generally runs later than most, but even more so here. If you’d like to experience it at its peak, visit during June or July, or around the holidays when there is an especially festive atmosphere. In Madrid, many people eat their evening meal at 10pm – and a night on the town doesn’t even get started until the pubs are closing in many other European cities. It doesn’t end until the sun comes up and “salir,” which means “to go out,” only counts if you make it past 4am.
- Best Time Shopping: Madrid stands out when it comes to shopping because of its sheer variety. Here retailers and their products are never limited to a particular style, or a single look. This is a city where almost anything can be found, along with unique treasures you never expected to find. To find the best prices, you’ll want to come during either the summer or winter sales, which offer discounts of as much as 70 percent. The winter sales begin on January 7, just after the Festival of Kings, and run through the end of February, or until inventory is depleted. The summer sales begin in early July and are held until late September. Generally, if you want the best choice of items without having to battle crowds, shop during the second week of the sale during either season.
Madrid Travel Seasons
- High Season (July and August): Visiting Madrid during the high season generally isn’t recommended unless you’re coming for a specific event. This is the hottest time of the year, and the time when the majority of tourists come. During the month of August, many locals are on vacation, which means that lots of businesses will be closed, while the streets are still filled with sweaty visitors and accommodation rates are at their highest. There is a “mini high season” around the Christmas holidays, from about mid-December through the first week of January. If you plan to come during this time, be aware that the city is hectic. You’ll need to book your room well in advance, and it may still pose a challenge to find one, particularly at the cheapest accommodations.
- Shoulder Season (March through May, September and October): The shoulder season is an ideal time to be in Madrid, with the second half of May and the second half of September considered the very best. Temperatures are usually just right, and walking around the city is enjoyable. There won’t be as many tourists as there will be in the summer months, but you’ll still have long days to take advantage of for sight-seeing.
- Low Season (November through February, except around the Christmas Holidays): Winter, other than Christmastime, is low season in Madrid. The number of tourists is significant lower than other times of the year, plus you’ll enjoy a wide variety of accommodation options along with lower rates. Most of the sights and attractions can be enjoyed at a more relaxing pace, and while the weather can be a bit chilly, it rarely gets below freezing, and often the sun is shining, making it feel warmer than it really is.
Madrid Weather by Month
- Madrid Weather in January: Winters in Madrid are colder than many other places in Spain, but they’re rarely bitterly cold. January is the coldest month of the year, though the temperature can reach as high as 10°C on a sunny afternoon and the average low is just above freezing at 1°C. While the surrounding mountains generally see lots of snow during this time year, the city itself is unlikely to. As long as you pack a warm winter coat (and nothing too serious like you’d need for the frigid winters in places like Chicago or Stockholm), a few sweaters and perhaps a scarf and a pair of gloves, you’ll be more than comfortable enough to enjoy seeing the sights. Plan to dress in layers, such as wearing a t-shirt under your winter clothing for those frequent sunny spells too. While it may rain a little, you’re unlikely to need an umbrella as just 40mm of precipitation is seen on average this month. (Average Max Temperature: 10°C. Average Precipitation: 40mm.)
- Madrid Weather in February: February is very similar to January, though the high temperature increases to a pleasant 12°C, so you’re more likely to enjoy at least a few relatively warm afternoons. The days are shorter and darker during the winter, with about 10 hours of daylight on February 1, and 11 hours by the end of the month, but there’s a good chance you’ll have at least some bright sunshine for exploring the city on foot in relative comfort too. Pack as you would for January, with warm clothing along with a few short-sleeved shirts for those days you get to enjoy the rays of the sun. (Average Max Temperature: 12°C. Average Precipitation: 40mm.)
- Madrid Weather in March: Spring is on its way, and you’ll really be able to tell, with the high temperature increasing to 16°C this month. There is even less rain in March than there was in the previous two, with 30mm of rainfall coming down over eight days. Thanks in part to Daylight Savings Time, you’ll get over 12 hours of daylight with the sun sticking around until after 8:30pm on March 31. Early in the month you may still need a light winter coat, but with the changing weather, the best rule of thumb to follow is to bring layers that can easily be peeled off or put back on as temperatures fluctuate. (Average Max Temperature: 16°C. Average Precipitation: 30mm.)
- Madrid Weather in April: April is one of the rainier months in Madrid, with 50mm coming down over 10 days, though it’s not usually enough to put a damper on your plans. Plan for relatively cool weather, with average temperatures of 11°C this month, though on many days, especially during the second half of April, it can get as warm as 17°C. Once again, plan to dress in layers; bring a light jacket and perhaps a sweater that you can carry around for cooler mornings and evenings. A small, portable umbrella is a good idea too, just in case you get caught in a downpour. On the other end of the spectrum, heat waves are a possibility, so you may want a skirt or a pair of shorts if you happen to be here when temperatures rise higher than normal. (Average Max Temperature: 17°C. Average Precipitation: 50mm.)
- Madrid Weather in May: Spring doesn’t stick around long in Madrid, with summer fast approaching in May as average high temperatures increase five degrees to 22°C this month. While this is considered one of the rainier months, May averages less precipitation than April with 40mm of rainfall, and there’s generally lots of beautiful sunshine to enjoy on most days. Many visitors feel this month is an ideal time to be in Madrid, with the big crowds yet to arrive and weather often idyllic. The occasional showers are a perfect excuse to cozy up in a café until they dissipate if you don’t have an umbrella. (Average Max Temperature: 22°C. Average Precipitation: 40mm.)
- Madrid Weather in June: The high temperature really shoots up this month with summer officially here, increasing seven degrees from May to 29°C. While it is quite warm, it won’t be as hot as the next two months, and June is usually a good time to be in Madrid. Rain is minimal, so you won’t have a need for an umbrella, with just 30mm falling over six days in June. The nearly 15 hours of daylight means you’ll have plenty of time for enjoying the sights, just be sure to slather on the sunscreen to avoid a burn, and you may want a wide-brimmed hat if you’re especially sensitive to the sun; lightweight clothing, sunglasses and sandals are the standard attire now.(Average Max Temperature: 29°C. Average Precipitation: 30mm.)
- Madrid Weather in July: July is the hottest month in Madrid, with the average high rising to a sizzling 33°C, and little if any rainfall to cool things off with just 10mm of precipitation this month. During this time of year, many of the shops and some cafes close their doors to customers during the peak of the heat to take a siesta break, opening again in late afternoon. To avoid sunburn and/or heat exhaustion, you may want to follow suit by enjoying a nap or at least spending time inside an air-conditioned building like a museum when the rays of the sun are at their most intense. With the weather so hot during the day, and the evenings warm, this is a good time to enjoy the nightlife. As the heat can make sleeping uncomfortable, try to book an air-conditioned room. Just as you would for June, pack your summer gear, including sundresses, short-sleeved shirts, shorts, sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen. (Average Max Temperature: 33°C. Average Precipitation: 10mm.)
- Madrid Weather in August: August continues to bring scorching hot weather, with afternoon highs reaching 33°C and sometimes stretching all the way to 37°C or even hotter. Just like last month, there is very little rain to bring relief, with 10mm of precipitation over three days. In August, many people are on vacation from work, and with people living the city, many businesses shut down. If you decide to visit Madrid this month, it’s best to get up as early as possible in the morning so you can enjoy the outdoors before it gets too hot, generally around 2 or 3pm. Use the time to rest, relax or take a nap and then head out again when it’s more comfortable, around 7pm. (Average Max Temperature: 33°C. Average Precipitation: 10mm.)
- Madrid Weather in September: September brings relief from summer’s most intense heat, with the average high dipping down once again to 29°C. Early in the month, it’s likely to still feel quite hot, but as the month progresses, it becomes more and more pleasant. The second half of September with its slightly cooler daytime and evening temperatures, make this a fabulous time to visit. The mood throughout the city is different too, with everyone returning to work or school, and relieved that the hottest months are behind. While there’s a slightly greater chance for rain, with 20mm falling over six days, there’s usually no need for rain gear. Pack your summer clothing along with a light sweater for the evening and you’ll be well-prepared. (Average Max Temperature: 29°C. Average Precipitation: 20mm.)
- Madrid Weather in October: October is a wonderful time to be in Madrid, with much cooler, pleasant temperatures that make exploring the city on foot very enjoyable. The average high dips eight degrees to 21°C, and while there is a bit more rain with 40mm over 10 days this month, it’s still fairly minimal and you’ll be able to enjoy plenty of sunshine too. Early in the month, there is nearly 12 hours of daylight, but with clocks moving back an hour on October 30, the sun sets at about 6:15, leaving about 9 ½ hours of daylight by month’s end. Like spring, you’ll need to bring clothes for a range of temperatures. It’s unlikely to get so cold that a decent sweater won’t keep you comfortable, but you may want to bring a portable umbrella due to the higher risk for rain. (Average Max Temperature: 21°C. Average Precipitation: 40mm.)
- Madrid Weather in November: It’s noticeably cooler by the time November hits, with high temperatures generally not exceeding 15°C. It’s rainier too, with 50mm of rainfall over nine days this month, though usually nothing an umbrella can’t fend off. November can be unusual, however, with some years bringing t-shirt weather and other years bringing a chill that requires a winter coat and a scarf. If you plan to visit this month, you may want to bring the full gamut of clothing, including winter wear along with lighter clothing for layering. (Average Max Temperature: 15°C. Average Precipitation: 50mm.)
- Madrid Weather in December: While it may be chilly, Madrid is a colorful, vibrant place to be in December. You can expect temperatures to hover around 7°C, but on some days it creeps up as high as 11°C. Most days are cool and crisp, but you’ll still see the sun. The rainfall is consistent with last month, with 50mm falling over nine days, and while it occasionally snows, it rarely accumulates. Bring warm clothes, including a winter coat, gloves and perhaps a light jacket for warmer days, along with a few sweaters. (Average Max Temperature: 11°C. Average Precipitation: 50mm.)
Madrid Events and Festivals
Madrid in January
- New Year’s Day – On this national holiday, most residents in Madrid and throughout Spain take time to rest and recover from the previous night’s festivities. While many shops, businesses and museums are closed, you might want to take advantage of the empty streets to enjoy the city’s diverse barrios like Alonso Martinez, a picturesque area with beautiful architecture and hidden plazas, or head to the Madrid Zoo, which is open at 9am on January 1.
- Three King’s Parade – This annual celebration on January 5 is one of the most anticipated of the year. Madrid’s parade is one of the best in the entire country, and welcomes the arrival of the Three Kings known as Mechior, Caspar and Balthazar. It features elaborate costumes and floats along with marching bands, music, horses, oxen and burros. It typically begins at 6pm along Avenida de la Castellana, passing in front of the Plaza de Colon.
- Feast of the Epiphany – The Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated in many places around the world, including Spain, is on January 6. On this national holiday, residents usually enjoy an Epiphany cake, or Roscon de Reyes, after lunch or in the evening. The huge pastry-type sweet cake is decorated as a crown and may be plain or stuffed with custard or cream. Inside, the baker inserts a special prize and a dry bean. The person who gets the prize is allowed to wear the golden cardboard crown that’s included with the purchase of the cake. The one who gets the bean has to purchase the cake the following year.
- San Anton Festival – This celebration of animals is held throughout Spain on January 17. In the Chueca district of Madrid, you’ll see animals being blessed and shown off to the crowd. The Blessing of the Animals involves blessing the creatures as well as their owners to ensure another year of good health and protection.
Madrid in February
- Candlemas Day (Día de la Candelaria) – Held annually on February 2, this festival honors the Virgin of Candelaria which typically involves colorful processions through the streets of Madrid. You’ll see clowns dressed as farmers pushing around young bulls that are made of wood, while “bullfighters” don colored silk pants with lassos and paper flowers to mock bullfights. In the city center in the evening, the makeshift bull is then “killed,” and everyone celebrates by drinking sangria, which symbolizes its blood.
- Carnival – Carnival in Madrid, and the rest of the world, marks the start of Lent, 40 days before Easter. In Spain, it’s known as Semana Santa. Madrid’s Carnaval, while not nearly as elaborate as others, takes over the streets for nearly a week, from February 24 to March 1 in 2017. It kicks off with a big parade that runs along the Paseo de la Castellana, and culminates with a masked ball at the Circulo de Bellas Artes. Throughout the week, festivals feature music and dance from around the world, children’s parades, traditional musical ensembles and more.
- International Contemporary Art Fair (ARCO) – One of the biggest draws on the cultural calendar in Spain, this event, generally held over five days in mid- to late-February, showcases the best in contemporary art from Europe and the U.S. The exhibition, held at the Crystal Pavilion of the Casa de Camp, brings galleries from throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas as well as the works of regional and internationally-known artists.
- Valentine’s Day – El dia de San Valentin, as February 14 is called here, isn’t a Spanish holiday but it is celebrated with lots of merriment. The restaurants and shops are decked out with hearts and roses, and many eateries offer specials that cater to couples who are celebrating the romantic day. In old Madrid, several restaurants and bars feature flamenco shows and traditional Spanish meals.
Madrid in March
- Festival of Jesus de Medinaceli – Annually on the first Sunday of the month in the Jesus de Medinaceli hermitage, participants observe the tradition of making three wishes before heading to an Andalusian-style fair.
- St. Patrick’s Day – While St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish holiday, it’s becoming increasingly popular in Madrid due to the growing number of Irish pubs in the city. Both locals and Irish ex-pats celebrate in a big way, with traditional food from the Emerald Isle, lots of Guinness and live Irish tunes. A St. Patrick’s Day parade is hosted Cabo Roig, usually on March 17 at 5pm. It’s preceded by all sorts of entertainment and activities that kick off at noon.
Madrid in April
- Easter and Holy Week (Semana Santa) – Holy Week is celebrated from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday in Spain, and many other countries around the world. It falls in either late March or early to mid-April; in 2017, it will be celebrated from April 9-15. In Madrid, visitors can enjoy some of the most elaborate festivities in the country. The streets in many neighborhoods throughout the city host colorful processions and other events. You’ll see beautifully decorated floats carrying the images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, accompanied by marching bands and followers. The most emblematic religious procession in Madrid, held on Good Friday, is the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno, which leaves the Basílica del Cristo de Medinaceli in the Plaza de Jesus around 7pm, parading through the central streets, including Plaza Cibeles and Puerto de Sol. The main event on Easter Sunday is held in the Plaza Mayor, which includes a gathering of dozens of different types of drums that beat a continuous rhythm, representing the earth tremors that were said to have occurred when Jesus died on the cross.
- Madrid Open – In late April (April 29, 2016), the Madrid Open kicks off, bringing together nearly 200 tennis stars, many of whom are internationally-renowned, for a thrilling tournament that takes place over 10 days.
- Festimad – This long-running music festival features rock, pop and electronica, and takes place over more than two weeks from mid-April to early May. Artists like Beck, Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead have been featured in the past. 2016’s lineup includes The Posies, The Long Riders and A.N.I.M.A.L.
Madrid in May
- Labour Day – Celebrated annually on May 1 honoring the people of Madrid who in 1808 rose up against the occupation by Napoleon’s army, the holiday in Madrid features a large May Day march that attracts over 60,000. Afterwards, many of the participants head to the Casa de Campo, where there is a huge, lively party with music and all sorts of eats.
- Dos de Mayo– May 2 brings the commemoration of the valiant but unsuccessful uprising against occupying French forces in 1808. Flamenco shows and concerts are held in the Dos de Mayo square in Malasana, where the rebellion began, and in other parts of the city.
- Fiesta de San Isrido – This festival honoring the Patron Saint of Madrid takes place on May 15, though there are events held before and after the day as well. You’ll find food fairs, parties, music, street parades, dances, bullfights and more. San Isidro marks the start of Madrid’s bullfighting season and is the world’s largest event, attracting all the top bullfighters and bull breeders.
- Feria del Libro – This annual book fair hosted in Parque del Retiro for two weeks starting in late May, brings together leading international novelists and historians who come to promote their latest works.
Madrid in June
- MULAFEST – Held annually in late June, June 23-26 in 2016, MULAFEST is an urban culture event that’s become an important platform for launching new trends and hidden talents. It brings together everything from dance and music, including open-air concerts, to theater, art and tattoo work.
- Festival of San Juan – Held over June 23 and June 24 in the Parque del Retire, fireworks and bonfires celebrate the shortest night of the year.
- Orgullo Madrid – One of the biggest gay pride events in the world, the Madrid Orgullo is held between mid-June and early July, June 19-July 2 in 2016. While it originally was mainly for gays and lesbians, it’s gradually become a festival for all, with activities like parties and free live acts centered around the Chueca area. Its gay pride parade is by far the largest of its kind in Spain, and attracts more than 1.5 million people to the city.
Madrid in July
- Veranos de la Villa – Known as “the summer binge” of Madrid, this event features an open-air cinema in the Parque del Retiro as well as pop music, classical music, folkloric dancing and flamenco at various venues throughout the city held during the month of July. Many of the events are free.
- Nuestra Senora de las Victorias – The first Sunday of July brings celebrations to the Tetuan district, including several concerts.
- Virgen del Carmen – For a week in mid-July, towns across Spain and Madrid’s neighborhoods honor the Virgen del Carmen. Festivities are concentrated in the La Latina, Vallecas and Carabanchel neighborhoods of Madrid, and feature a host of sporting and religious events, one right after the other.
Madrid in August
- San Lorenzo, San Cayetano and Virgen de la Paloma Festivals – These festivals all take place within close succession, mainly in Madrid’s historic center, over August 6-15. Locals often dress in traditional clothing, and there is much rejoicing, dancing and music in the streets.
- Running of the Bulls San Sebastian De Los Reyes – The second most famous bull-run in Spain, after the San Fermin festival in Pamplon, is held in Madrid in late August. Participants wear red and white, and spill as much sangria as they drink while trying their luck outrunning the huge beasts.
Madrid in September
- Fiestas del Motin – Generally taking place over the first weekend of September, this festival features re-enactments of famous local mutinies. Each district in Aranjuez, just south of Madrid, depicts scenes of mutiny that are acted out by hundreds of residents.
- Vogue’s Fashion Night Out – VFNO is an evening in mid-September that includes over 160 stores offering discounts on high-end merchandise, much of it focused on fashion. In addition to savings, participants can enjoy a glamourous night with champagne, a peak at the coming fashion trends and red carpet photo-ops.
- Fiestas of la Virgen de la Torre – The fiestas of la Virgen de la Torre are held in the Villa de Vallecas district during the second week of September.
Madrid in October
- Fiestas de Otono/Autumn Festival – Throughout the month of October and into November, the Autumn Festival features a wide variety of music and dance, theater, workshops and circus events at various venues across the city.
- Dia de la Hispanitat – This national day that commemorates Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World, also known as Hispanic Day, is more about celebrating Spain in all its glory than honoring Columbus. Taking place annually on October 12, Madrid parades its fleet of military equipment down Paseo de Recoletos while fighter jets fly overhead and royals sit at curbside to watch the procession pass by.
- Halloween – Although Halloween is not a Spanish tradition, nowadays, just about every nightspot in Madrid throws a Halloween party. Huertas, a centrally-located neighborhood, is best known for its October 31st festivities, which can be found in a multitude of restaurants, bars, pubs and nightclubs – many of which offer costume contests with cash prizes.
Madrid in November
- All Saints’ Day – This national holiday on November 1 is celebrated by locals visiting and laying flowers on the graves of loved ones. While banks and government-run establishments are closed, many shops, restaurants and attractions like museums remain open.
- Virgen de la Almudena – On November 9, the Patron Saint of the City, Virgen de la Almudena, is honored with festive celebrations in the city center.
- Feriarte Art and Antiques Fair – This annual art fair is held in late November, November 19-27 in 2016. It features an enticing selection of furniture, jewelry and works of art, with more than 16,000 unique, high quality pieces on sale to the public.
Madrid in December
- Christmas Market – One of the country’s most beautiful Christmas markets, Plaza Mayor opens in mid-December and runs through January 5. Its market stalls are made up of over 100 log cabins, most of which offer traditional Christmas items, including decorations and nativity sets as well as handmade crafts.
- Parque Warner Madrid –.In December, Madrid’s popular theme park, home to a wide variety of rides, adds bonus attractions for Christmas, including a parade, fireworks, traditional music, fake snow and Santa Claus.
- Christmas Lights City Tour on the NaviBus –.The Navibus will take you on a tour of all the Christmas lights throughout Madrid, starting and returning at the same stop, Calle Serrano between Goya and Jorge Juan.
- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – December 24 and 25 are all about family and food, generally with seafood and sparkling Cava wine as the focus in Madrid. Nearly all businesses, sights and attractions will be closed on Christmas Day, though a number of restaurants remain open. Most area churches hold Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, with visitors welcomed to attend.
- New Year’s Eve – December 31st brings one of the biggest parties of the year. Thousands fill Madrid’s main plaza, Puerto del Sol, and as the ancient clock strikes 12, revelers eat 12 grapes to bring them luck in each of the coming year’s 12 months. Afterward, the crowd goes wild kissing and hugging each other, popping bottles of cava, and enjoying the amazing fireworks display.