For the second year in a row, people across the world are celebrating the holiday season in the throes of a global pandemic. Unlike last time, though, vaccinations offer hope to many seeking a sense of adventure and a break from the mundane. Whether you’re daydreaming about next year’s destination holiday, looking to drop everything and take a vacation, or just hoping to bring a bit of culture to your at-home festivities: consider Spain.

With incredible cultures, must-see architecture, and exceptional food, a trip to Spain should be on everyone’s bucket list. Spain has nature, history, shopping—truly something for people of all ages and interests.

With COVID restrictions, it’s a bit more difficult than it would otherwise be to book a last-minute trip, but in most cases it’s not impossible. It takes a bit of research, depending on whether you’re traveling from outside the EU or inside the EU, and if you’re coming via air, land, or sea. With the situation changing every day, stay updated before, during, and after your trip by visiting But if you’re able to, lean into your impulsive side and ring in 2022 in Spain.

There are town and city squares across the country where people go to count down and celebrate together, the most famous of which is Puerta del Sol in the capital city of Madrid. You’ll find confetti, music, costumes, and thousands of excited people toasting in the New Year. The parties extend for hours into the morning, in the streets, at bars and clubs, and at special events for locals and tourists alike. To cap off what will surely be one of the most memorable New Year’s celebrations of your life, end the night—that is, the wee hours of the morning—by stopping at a 24/7 chocolatería for churros and hot chocolate.


Christmas season in Spain culminates on January 6, the Epiphany (Three Kings Day), when gifts are exchanged. On the evening of January 5, Three Kings parades take place throughout the mainland and the islands of Spain, in cities large and small, with processions ranging from simple to elaborate, in which the Kings may arrive dramatically by sea, by horseback, by helicopter, or on a float. In the middle of the night, the Three Kings deliver gifts to homes, where turrón, polvorones, and glasses of cava are often left out for them. The oldest parade, established in 1885, occurs in Alcoy, near the eastern coast of Spain. It starts with a children’s parade called Les Pastoretes (“the little shepherds”), where kids dressed as shepherds parade with their flocks on the Sunday prior to January 6. On January 4, the Royal Envoy announces the arrival of Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar, reading a proclamation throughout town. He is accompanied by les burretes, small donkeys that carry letterboxes in which children place letters to the Three Kings.

If leaving in time for the new year doesn’t seem feasible, start planning your trip for next Christmas. The build-up to the holidays is one of the best parts in Spain—cities across the country have incomparable displays of holiday lights and a wealth of activities to partake in. 


Visit Plaza Mayor in Madrid, and see thousands of lights created by artists and designers. Walk around the Plaza de España and see glowing trees and nativity scenes, and don’t forget to stop at the Metropolis Building to see the Giant Christmas Ball. Like Madrid, Barcelona is transformed during the holidays, with lights and Christmas markets—like the one at Santa Llúcia, a tradition since 1786—across the city. Málaga, Spain, is also becoming an iconic location to celebrate the holiday. See the lights at Calle Larios or hit the theater for a flamenco or classical music show. From Vigo to Valencia to Zaragoza, the list goes on and on. You’ll find no shortage of places to shop for gifts and souvenirs, ice skate, take photos, and feel truly immersed in the holiday season.

Looking to bring a bit of Spain into your home for the holidays, rather than traveling? Teach the little ones in your life about the Three Wise Men, and play Spanish music throughout the season. Try your hand at some Spanish cooking, and make foods commonly found on the holiday table in Spain: Ibérico ham, seafood, stuffed turkey, turrón, marzipan, Epiphany cake, and more. 

Spain is so full of joy and life around the holidays, but of course the beautiful country has much to offer all year round. Escape the cold weather of January with a trip to the Canary Islands; check out Carnival or the fiesta of the Wedding of Isabel de Segura in February; March brings cherry blossoms and the fiesta of Las Fallas, with enormous papier-mâché monuments called ninots; don’t miss the flamenco and festivities in April at the Feria de Abril in Seville; visit in May, also called the month of flowers; in June, celebrate midsummer and music festivals; the world-famous fiesta of San Fermín takes place in July; the warm weather of August is perfect for sunbathing and scuba diving; September has the San Sebastian International Film Festival; the vineyards and wineries are can’t-miss in October; November brings leafy forests and cozy autumn foods; and then you’re back to December, where the Christmas atmosphere is truly like no other.

¡Feliz Navidad!

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Five most popular Christmas traditions in Spain

Christmas is perhaps the most traditional, family-oriented celebration in the whole world, and in Spain it lasts until January 6. Visiting the country between the middle of December and the start of the new year is a time that’s always full of lovely moments for sharing. 

1.“El Gordo” Christmas lottery

The Christmas time festivities kick-start in Spain on December 22 with the National Christmas Lottery. The first prize is popularly known as “El Gordo.” Participation is massive and the draw is closely followed throughout the morning. The prize money is very well spread out and the winners usually celebrate their glory in the street. 

2. Meals bursting with Christmas flavors and lots of sweet treats

Christmas is a time for lavish meals with family and friends. On Christmas Eve, restaurants and hotels offer extraordinary menus. The meals normally include several starters: for example, Ibérico ham, seafood, and delicious cheeses, followed by dishes such as soups, roast meat, fish, or stuffed turkey. And to finish, sweet treats and desserts: turrón, marzipan, Spanish sweets, shortbread, and naturally, Epiphany cake are all delicacies not to be missed. You can learn more about Christmas food in Spain in this article.

3. Colorful Christmas lights

The festive lights in Spain are a delight for children and adults alike. Cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Málaga, and Vigo have perhaps been the most eye-catching in recent years, but from the end of November, it is usual for all towns and cities to light up their streets with colors and Christmas motifs. 

4. The 12 most festive grapes of the year

This tradition promises luck and an original way to see in the New Year. It consists of eating 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. The idea is to eat one grape for each clock chime at midnight. You can follow the chimes of the famous Puerta del Sol clock in Madrid on television, live at the Puerta del Sol, or in the iconic landmark where this tradition is celebrated in your destination.

5. A magical night full of excitement

On the night of January 5, going into the 6th, the Three Wise Men arrive from the east and bring presents to all the children. It is traditional for every child to write a letter to the wise men, telling them how they have behaved all year and requesting gifts. Special mailboxes are placed in shopping centers and leisure spaces for posting these letters and the “royal pages” make frequent appearances to collect them. The wise men (Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar) arrive in all the cities in processions and parades through the streets. After an early night (and waiting excitedly for the morning to arrive), children finally get to open their presents.

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Paid for by Tourist Office of Spain in Chicago