Madrid, Toledo, Barcelona
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Go beyond a Christmas of candy canes and sugar plum fairies, and experience the Three Wise Men parading down a Spanish street on camelback. The guardhouse at Park Guell resembles a gingerbread house topped with frosting. Crowds in a midnight square collectively eat grapes during the midnight bell chimes to bring in a sweet New Year. Christmas markets overtake open plazas framed by elegant palaces and children eagerly await holiday gifts. Your custom tailored 10-day Spain...
Madrid – A Festive Season
The Christmas lights along the Gran Via glow above the natural light of the Madrid. Vendors in the stalls of the Christmas Market at Plaza Mayor call out to passerby with cups of wine, spiced ham, and traditional polvoron, shortbread cookies with a buttery crumbly consistency and hinted with vanilla or cinnamon. Madrid brims with joyous activity in December, from the ice skating rink in Retiro Park to the Nativity Scene at the Royal Palace. The spirit of the winter season overtakes the streets, fills homes, and instills an exuberant nature in both locals and visitors. Your flight lands at Madrid-Barajas Airport.
Your private transfer meets you at the hotel and escorts you a luxurious hotel located in the heart of the city. The remainder of the day is at your leisure to wander along the streets of Madrid for an immersive winter experience at the center of Spain. El Retiro gardens contain an abundance of marble monuments and greenery. The garden was designed in the 17th century and opened to the public in the 19th century. In the summer, the Madrileos, locals of Madrid, glide across the lake on rowboats and linger on the steps of the Alfonso XII Monument. Marble lions frame the horsed figure at the top of the pillar. The aroma of hot chocolate drifts out of Chocolateria Valor. Shoppers relax at the marble tables, dipping crunchy churros into fresh cups of thick, rich melted chocolate.
Madrid – Antique Traditions with a Contemporary View
The off-white façade of the Royal Palace glints in the crisp morning light of Madrid. The modern city of Madrid blends past pleasures with current flavors at breakfast, with dishes such as huevos rotos, Spanish Broken Eggs, at Casa Lucio. The traditional restaurant provides a taste of typical regional cuisine for an authentic bite of lightly fried egg over a bed of crunchy, thin fries. After breakfast, your guide meets you at the hotel and escorts you through the city and into the hills.
You reach Toledo, a classic city with roots dating back to the Roman occupation of Spain in the 1st century BC. The antique architecture sprouts up from atop a gorge looking down to Rio Tajo. During the Middle Ages, the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities cohabitated peacefully, creating a unique blend of cultures unlike anywhere in the world. Serene cobblestone streets pass by horseshoe shaped mosques. Sephardic synagogues stand near the rugged ramparts of an historic fortress. Artisan shops hide in secluded alleyways and produce antique-inspired armors.
The scent of handmade marzipan drifts along the streets. The Toledo Cathedral contains a remarkable tower reaching a height of more than 145 feet tall. The structure was erected in the 13th century, overtaking what was a mosque on the border of the Jewish Quarter. The interior contains a rich collection of master artwork crafted between the 13th and 15th centuries at the height of the city’s prestige and Spain’s power. The 88 lavish columns shape your impression of the wide gallery beneath the elegantly ribbed vaulted ceiling. Natural light spills through the stained glass windows and radiates colorful biblical allegories.
Madrid – A Crystal Clear Image of Madrid on New Year’s Eve
In the morning, the beauty of Madrid returns with the sunlight spreading across Retiro Park. The Palacio de Cristal at the center of the park was erected almost entirely out of glass in the late 19th century. The iron framework borders and supports the glass panels over a ceramic walkway. The domed roof opens the gallery to a height of 72 feet. The palace originally exhibited the exotic flora of the Philippines when the country stood as a Spanish colony. After breakfast, New Year’s Eve day is yours to delight in the splendor of the city, from visiting the National Archaeological Museum to witnessing the Goya frescoes at the pilgrimage site of Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida.
In the early evening, you indulge in the celebrated marzipans of the city, shaped into stunning animal figurines or delicate flowers. At dinner, you bask in the beautiful atmosphere of the city, as Madrileos get ready to bring in the New Year. Enjoy a coursed menu of traditional Spanish cuisine before venturing to Puerta del Sol Square. A city gate once stood in the plaza and aligned with the spreading light of the rising sun. Locals enter the square with exuberant voices, eager to call out for a happy new year.
The plaza marks the beginning point from which all Spanish national roads are measured. Patrons linger at the café tables with glasses of tinto, red wine. The old-fashioned confectioners of La Violeta keep their doors open to the public until late into the evening, offering tastes of their local specialty, sugarcoated violets known as violet candies. The clock strikes midnight, the crowd roars, and people all around you eat one grape in time with the ringing bells of the city, which means 12 grapes for the 12 chimes of midnight. The tradition began in the early 20th century to begin a new year sweetly. Confetti rains from the sky and music erupts from the streets. Many Madrileos make their way to Chocolateria San Gines for a late night snack of churros and hot chocolate before returning home.
Madrid – A New Day, A New Year
At breakfast, the aroma of almond and olive oil emanates from the jijona, a type of smooth Christmas taffy often mixed with truffles, coffee, and chocolate. The morning begins quietly and serene around the emblematic 17th-century Plaza Mayor. The square represents the heart of municipal and commercial life in the historic Madrid set around the cobblestones and bordering cafes. Arched entrances link to the main streets branching out into the city. The Christmas Market contains more than 100 stalls resembling lob cabins, with nearly each vendor offering Christmas related products, from nativity statues to tree decorations. The herbaceous aroma of myrrh seamlessly blends with cinnamon.
The rustic ambiance of the stalls contrast the opulent border of the Casa de la Panaderia, named for housing the first bakery in the city. Locals wander around Mercado San Miguel, beside the plaza. The wrought iron structure blooms with the scents of freshly baked bread and juicy fruits. Market-style eateries feature oysters and Iberian ham. You can stroll along the stalls, nibbling on olives stuffed with red peppers and sliced smoked salmon. Nativity scenes continue to decorate open plazas. The narrow lanes of the former Muslim Quarter date back to the 9th century. Follow the viaduct erected between the 1930s and 1940s at a height of 75 feet above the city streets with an elegant arch supporting the bridge.
Barcelona – A New Year’s Jewel on the Mediterranean
In the morning, the Christmas Market in Plaza Mayor opens to tremendous activity. Colored wings and jewelry shine as bright as the Christmas lights during the evening. The nativity scene at the cultural center of CentroCentro displays the mastery of baroque Spanish artist Francisco Salzillo. The sculptures represent episodes from the bible in remarkable detail, including the Annunciation. After breakfast, your private transfer escorts you to the train station for a first-class seat on the high-speed train to Barcelona. City life centers on Las Ramblas, a stretch of nearly one mile in length. People dress as statues and decorate the streets with elegant, life-like interpretations of historic figures. Artists thoughtfully draw portraits and caricatures of passersby.
The tile mosaic near the Liceu Theater depicts bright circles, geometric shapes, and a single tile signed by the artist. The Christmas ambiance emanates from the lights strung down the streets and the various markets buzzing with jovial activity. Locals enjoy the temporary ice rink in the commercial center of La Farga. The market at Fira de Santa Llucia contains an impressive 300 stalls. Red decorative stars and ornaments dangle beside elaborate puppets and delicate scarves. The main street of Las Ramblas leads to the narrow lanes of the Gothic Quarter. Remnants of Roman structures accentuate monuments of the Middle Ages, including the cathedral crowning Monte Tabor. Children kick soccer balls against the stone structures, and cafes line the walkways with tables and chairs before opening to a hidden plaza filled with the harmonious notes of Spanish classical guitar.
Barcelona - A Coastal Christmas Scene
Today your guide meets you at the hotel, eager to lead you through a collection of traditional architecture, preserved culture, and the treasured Christmas scenes of Placa de Sant Jaume. The Mediterranean laps at the gold-sand shores. Palm trees rise along the seaside promenade. The gorgeous sea contrasts the bright festive lights of Christmas, and adds to the unique celebratory charms of the historic city. The summit of Mont Juic rises nearly 700 feet above the city and offers a view down its steep slopes to the Mediterranean and the glittering stream of Christmas lights decorating the streets. Groups perform carols against the backdrop of the city.
After wandering the historic streets and stunning markets at La Boqueria, which was erected in the 13th century, your guide takes you to Placa de Sant Jaume, where Barcelona City Hall and the seat of Catalonia’s Government stand across from each other. A medieval church once adorned the cobblestones before the erection of the city hall. The latter was erected in concordance with the historical political center of the city, dating back to the Roman Forum. The main nativity scene in the city rises out of the plaza outside town hall. Anticipation mounts throughout the month of December as locals await the creation of the nativity scene for the year. The creative depiction of the scene embodies the city’s connection to the Christmas spirit, cultural tradition, and artistic expression.
Barcelona – A Spanish Winter Wonderland
In the morning, the light pours through the windows of the ice skating rink at Placa Catalunya. The aroma of luscious fruit and hardy vegetables fills the Mercat de la Concepcio near the basilica of the Sagrada Familia. Your guide meets you in the hotel lobby and escorts you on a vibrant tour of Barcelona’s enchanting architecture and thrilling spirit embodied in the iconic figure of the Basilica de la Sagrada Famillia. The 18 gangly towers soar above the monuments of the city with the tallest reaching a height of nearly 560 feet. The neo-gothic design contains surreal art nouveau elements. In line with the Christmas spirit spread across Spain, your guide first points out the Nativity façade.
Two large columns separate the three porticos, around which ornate sculptures decorate are arranged. The images symbolize elements of nature, including the tortoises at the base of the columns, one of which refers to the land, the other of which refers to the sea. The sun meets the face on the northeast first and foremost, washing over the polychrome and images of the Tree of Life situated above the door. The interior has a central vault that is 200 feet tall and resembles a piece of honeycomb, featuring geometric shapes with both smooth curves and jagged points. Near the end of your guided exploration of Barcelona, you arrive at the Moll de la Fusta, one of the oldest docks in the city, located at Port Vell. The Santa Eulalia is a schooner moored in the harbor, and has a mailbox with letters written to the Three Kings.
Madrid – In the Company of the Wise
The fantastical façade of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo resembles a storybook castle consistent with the imaginings of a Christmas cartoon. Swinging shapes resembling plants frame the windows. Doorways resemble grottos. Ceramic tiles glazed with green, blue, and ochre hues adorn the façade and numerous chimneys crown the roof like waves. After breakfast, your private transfer escorts you from the hotel lobby to the train station. Once again, you board the first-class compartment to ride along the high-speed rail, this time returning you to Madrid. In the early afternoon, thousands of people crowd the main streets of Madrid eager to see the Three Kings passing through the city. The familiar aroma of rich, thick hot chocolate accompanied by sugary and cinnamon-coated churros drifts over the crowd.
Children rest on their parents’ shoulders eager to watch the parade leading from Paseo de la Castellana to Plaza de Cibeles. Parade goers hold up glowing stars and snowflakes. A float decorated to look like a train passes. Another float resembles a large elephant made from paper mache and glowing against the night. A ballerina floats above the parade and passes the ecstatic crowd. The excited families cry out to the three wise men, which in Spanish culture bring the gifts to the good children and offer coal to the naughty children. They throw candy into the crowd before a row of camels passes by. The tradition brings an infectious joy to the streets of Madrid set against the backdrop of the historic architecture and rich traditions.
Madrid – The Day of the Three Kings
Today children across Spain wake up to find the gifts the Wise Men left them in the night. Biblical tales claim the Three Kings brought frankincense, myrrh, and gold to the nativity. Children have left out plates of food for the camels and wise men to nibble on, waking up to find the dishes empty and a traditional round fruit cake set on the dining table. The streets fill with the aroma of a sweet donut-shaped bread dusted with glacier cherries and granulated sugar. A plastic toy hides in the sweet treat, offering good luck for a year to whoever finds it.
The city is quiet and tranquil, gilded with the impressive architecture and art in the 18th century near the Palacio de Cibeles cultural center. The fountain of Cybele is famous for its remarkable depiction of the Roma goddess riding a chariot drawn by lions. The park of La Montana contains a surprising reproduction of an Egyptian temple, which was originally erected in Egypt in the 2nd century BC for King Adikhalamani. An upper level terrace looks down to a reflective pond. The serene gardens encircling the temple offer a unique, majestic ambiance in the center of the often-bustling city. The Prado Museum remains open for half the day, offering insight into the beauty of Spain’s artistic history between the 12th and 19th centuries, with more than 5,000 works of art spread across 100 rooms.
Madrid – A Final Farewell
Shops along the Gran Via open their doors to an excited city the morning after Three Kings’ Day. The lights strung along the heart of Madrid reflect in the window displays lining the street. The food emporium in the trendy neighborhood of Malasana contains 18 stalls spread across three stories, offering remarkable specialties such as steak tartare with foie gras and burgers with black truffle and cranberry sauce, along with more traditional dishes like chorizo Iberico, dry-cured sausage. The quiet lanes and museum galleries of yesterday become a fond memory as the city returns to vivacious life. Your private transfer meets you at the hotel when you are ready and escorts you to Madrid-Barajas Airport for your flight home.
- Witness the thrills and excitement erupting from the crowd during the Three Kings Parade in Madrid
- Wander along the storybook architecture designed by famed Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona
- Relish the exuberant cheers of New Years in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol Square and participate in the tradition of eating 12 grapes to each of the clock’s chimes
- Wander the expansive Christmas Market in Placa de Sant Jaume in Barcelona, which contains over 300 stalls dedicated to holiday cheer
- Delight in Christmas cuisine by tasting turron, special fruit cake, a traditional donut dusted with sugar and cherries
- Explore the rich and diverse history of Toledo on a guided tour along the medieval streets and mélange of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cultures
- Embrace the outdoor ice skating rinks and bright Christmas lights, setting the ambiance of the holiday season in Spain
- Discover the Prado Museum during the tranquil morning of Three Kings’ Day to have the gallery virtually to yourself
The traditions of Christmas vary from city to state, country to country, and from family to family. Spain enjoys a rich heritage of Christmas celebration exemplified in exuberant lights decorating Madrid and Barcelona, along with the majestic parades, lavish dinners, and enthusiastic markets signifying the holiday season. Whether embracing Spanish culture with the family or enjoying a New Year’s getaway with a loved one, your 10-day holiday exploration of Spain provides insight into the cultural history of feasts and traditions of grape eating, along with unique discoveries of antique streets decorated with radiant Christmas lights. Relish in stunning seasonal markets, bask in the cheerful atmosphere, and indulge in remarkable dishes brought out to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.
Your Spanish Christmas begins with your arrival at the Madrid-Barajas Airport. Your private transfer meets you at baggage claim and escorts you to the heart of Spain’s capital city. Stroll at your preferred pace for the remainder of the day as you explore the streets and parks of Madrid at your leisure. The following morning, your private guide meets you at the hotel and leads you to the city of Toledo, located above the Rio Tajo. Enjoy the medieval streets and the revered collections of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim heritage before turning to Madrid.
The next day is at your leisure to discover the pleasures of Madrid, from the vibrant markets to the lavish galleries of the Royal Palace. Relax with a multi-course dinner before venturing to the Puerta del Sol Square for a tradition similar to New York’s Time Square. When the clock strikes midnight, you eat a grape during each of the bell’s chimes. The city thrives at night, allowing you to enjoy the outdoor festivities or linger in the warmth of a historic confectionary. On New Year’s Day, you explore the lively streets of Madrid, passing through the iconic squares and visiting the Nativity scenes, narrow lanes, and old city walls before reaching the emblematic Christmas market. Then, your private transfer meets you at the hotel and escorts you to the train station for a first-class experience on the high-speed rail to Barcelona.
After settling in to your luxurious hotel near the city center, you have the remainder of the day to enjoy the remarkable difference in culture and ambiance between central Madrid and coastal Barcelona. Your guide leads you on a fantastic journey through the antique streets, squares, and hidden corners of Barcelona’s old town before traversing the remarkable Christmas ambiance of Placa de Sant Jaume. Enjoy a full day tour of Barcelona’s treasures, taking in the views of Mont Juic and the surreal architecture of Antoni Gaudi. You can also visit the vessel of the Three Kings to find a royal mailbox where children send their letters to the Three Wise Men, a Spanish variant of sending letters to Santa.
You return to Madrid the following day by high-speed rail once more. Relax in the exuberant food markets and gorgeous parks of the city before participating in the Three Wise Men Parade. Next, you can enjoy the city at its most peaceful, with families enjoying a quiet morning of Three Kings Day. Traverse the serene streets and visit the Prado Art Museum for the unique experience of having the galleries almost entirely to yourself. On the final day, your private transfer meets you at the hotel when you are ready and escorts you to Madrid’s international airport for your flight home.
$2,395 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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