Christmastime is exciting at any age, but it really is the most wonderful time of the year when you’re smaller than one of Santa’s elves. All year long, (hopefully) your little ones have been on their best behaviour in order to be put on Santa’s nice list, so why not make their festive period even more special by taking them to some of Madrid’s amazing Christmas activities for children? All across the capital, there’s so much wintry fun to be had, from ice rinks, dazzling Christmas lights, Christmas villages and Christmas theatre shows. Here’s our guide to the best Christmas activities for children in Madrid.
See the Christmas lights
Madrid’s festive lights appeared around the city at the end of November so you’re almost guaranteed to spot some twinkling decorations wherever you go. Each neighbourhood/street has lights of different design and colours to project a kind of individual identity and variety. From tree branches and raindrops stretching across massive avenues to small delicate shapes hanging over those small cobbled streets, the magic is everywhere!
The Light ball
Coming back for another year is the amazing installation know as la gran bola de navidad. It’s a spectacular 3D light ball with a diameter of 12 metres, weighing seven tonnes and fitted with 43,000 led lights at the intersection of Calle Alcalá and Gran Vía, just in front of the Metrópolis building.
This is another Christmas tradition if you’re lucky enough to get tickets.The Naviluz is a blue, double decker Christmas bus that allows you to see the lights in the most comfortable fashion (wrap up well as it can be cold up there!). It really is delightful to see the Christmas lights from the top deck of the Christmas bus. The bus departs from Plaza de Colón, and takes passengers on a 40-50 minute tour through the centre of Madrid.
A lot of the department stores get in on the action too, with festive facelifts for shops like el Corte Inglés. No Christmas in Madrid is complete without witnessing the giant street puppet show put on by el Corte Inglés in Preciados.
Be warned, the rhyme will go round and round in your head for days afterwards.
vamos todos a cantar,
alegría en estas fechas
porque ya es Navidad!”
Plaza Mayor has got to be one of the best. Plaza de España (also boasts a great playground and an enormous Christmas tree), Mercadillo del Gato and el Corte Inglés in Nuevos Ministerios are other worthy options.
Torrejón de Ardoz Christmas village. This is a great one for adults and children alike.
Parque de Atraciones does Christmas really well. And their Santa is the best that I’ve seen in Madrid.
The Madrid Players Christmas Panto returns (first in three years) with The Extraordinary Adventures of Pinocchio.
Circo Price is another festive classic in Madrid and is always guaranteed a Christmas cracker for all of the family.
Articus, a new addition to Madrid’s Christmas offering compares itself to a Winter Wonderland in London and is showing Peter Pan on ice.
Nativity Scenes (belenes)
Visit belenes across the city that bring the nativity scene to life in the most spectacular manner. Whether you are religious or not they really are a sight to behold.
Christmas Carols (for a good cause)
Eco Families will be singing Christmas Carols in el Retiro on 17th of December at 12-13h. All money raised will go to non-profit group Madrid for Refugees and Reforestation. Come and join them! It’s a good way of giving back.
For the ice skating enthusiasts, el ayuntamiento de Madrid have opened eight ice skating rinks.
Naturaleza Encendida at el jardín Botánico
The botanical gardens are beautiful at any time of year but Christmas is especially nice when it is transformed into “Naturaleza Encendida“, a luminous fairytale landscape with Christmas light shows, impressively staged flora and imaginative illuminated figures.
La Cabalgata de los Reyes
If you are lucky enough to be in Madrid on the 5th of January, you will have the opportunity to experience one of the most loved Christmas traditions by Spanish people, la cabalgata. The arrival of the Three Kings (Spanish equivalent to Santa Claus) is for many Spanish families the most important Christmas celebration. Spanish children wait anxiously for the Kings to arrive so that they can open their presents.
In Madrid, the evening includes very special celebrations, with a famous parade that allows the excited children line the streets of Madrid to watch Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar arrival from the East.
If this will be your first time celebrating Christmas in Spain there are many typical Spanish Christmas customs or traditions which are worth learning about. Take a look at some of the highlights you may just need to adopt whilst living here in Spain!
Sinéad Galvin is an educational consultant and founded Steps into Spain (a boutique educational and relocation consultancy located in Madrid) to help families find the right school for their child in Madrid. She uses her professional and personal experience of Spanish schools, the Spanish education system and the Spanish way of life to ensure that parents are knowledgeable and informed about what to expect and can secure the best school for their child.
Steps into Spain will take stock of your children’s educational needs and overall family requirements (housing, paperwork and general settling in). A happy child is a happy parent, which is the central ethos of Steps into Spain, and one less challenge.