There aren’t many European places that escape winter completely, but Spain definitely comes out with a fairer deal during the cooler months. Along the mainland’s southern coast, average temperatures are typically amongst the mildest on the Continent, and anyone who’s desperate for a vitamin D fix – and temperatures over 20 degrees C – can head further south to places like the Canary Islands.
For residents and visitors alike, winter in Spain is often actually more tolerable than the summer months, when the temperatures soar to uncomfortable levels, and many of the best restaurants and attractions close until things get less sticky. Hiking and trekking become a cool pleasure as opposed to an endurance test, while the less active can always hire a car in Spain whatever the time of year, and tour towns and villages to enjoy regional dishes and seasonal pageantry.
For expats, there’s something deeply satisfying about the coast in low season. With the sun-seeking tourists gone, you can go for walks on the beach again, enjoying the changing landscape and that heightened sense of wilderness that accompanies coastal winters. The sea might be more volatile than during the summer months, but it’s also more interesting, and can often bring treasure for the sharp-eyed beachcomber.
Anyone who is not used to entertaining themselves with blustery walks on the beach should keep an eye out for any of the Spanish festivals that take place during winter. November in Andalucia sees La Matanza, “the killing”, which takes places in towns and villages throughout the region. The aim is to prepare cured meats and sausage to last the winter; the day begins with slaughtering the pig, and is spent butchering and preparing the meat, along with much eating and drinking. December begins with celebrations to honour the Virgin Mary, and proceeds through Advent to Navidad ((the Nativity), as Christmas is known in Spain. During this time, traditional pageants are often performed in towns and villages, re-enacting regional variants on the Nativity story.
Although winter in the countryside is often beautiful, the warmth and bustle of the city can provide a welcome lift to the spirits; in the south, Seville and Barcelona are especially gratifying, while Madrid, Vigo and San Sebastian are worth a sniff in the centre and north – but everyone has their favourite, depending on the preferred ratio of shops, crowds, cafes, attractions and nightlife.
Hitting the slopes
Head to the Pyrenees for the best skiing in Spain – there are resorts all along the northern border, which boast the added advantage of being more affordable than the Alpine resorts that so many skiers stick to, more, it seems, out of snobbishness than due to any material difference in quality. There are also resorts near Leon, La Rioja, and Sierra Nevada – these aren’t quite as well known, but each have their benefits.
Article kindly donated by Carly Morson