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For our first New Year’s Eve abroad, we wanted to party in Madrid. New Year’s Eve in Madrid, Spain is regularly touted as one of the top places in the world to ring in the New Year – and we were excited to experience it!
Puerta del Sol, the plaza in the Madrid city center, was where the midnight masquerading would be happening. Revelers gather around the base of the Casa de Correos building clock and count down to midnight. We were ready for an epic New Year in Madrid. However, we missed a few key details that rendered our plan utterly useless and managed to get it all wrong.
Read our story about how we spent our Madrid NYE – and then check out our tips for what to really do in Madrid on New Year’s Eve!
New Year’s Eve in Spain
New Year’s in Spain – called Nochevieja, which means Old Night – is a festive holiday marked with big celebrations and fun superstitions. Before we decided to be in Madrid at New Year, we had only a basic understanding of the events.
New Year Celebration in Spain
There are New Year celebrations in Spain in all the major cities – and most of the smaller towns, too. There are large festivals in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Granada.
So, how does Spain celebrate New Year’s Eve? The New Year celebrations in Spain are highlighted by outdoor gatherings (usually in the main square), fireworks and fun New Year’s traditions.
New Year in Spain Traditions
There are numerous Spain New Year’s traditions – like drinking bubbly Cava wine to celebrate at midnight and wearing red underwear for luck in love for the upcoming year. The most popular tradition, however, is eating grapes on New Year’s Eve.
One grape is eaten with each chime of the bells at midnight – as it’s said to bring good fortune.
Eating Chocolate con Churros is another one of the Spain New Year traditions. Fried churros are consumed with piping hot chocolate before going to sleep.
On New Year’s Day in Spain, the tradition is to eat lentils. The dish, which is usually served as a stew with spicy chorizo, is said to bring good luck, wealth and prosperity. It also happens to be a good hangover cure, which we doubt is just a coincidence!
With a basic understanding of what to expect in Spain for NYE, we anticipated an incredible Madrid New Year’s…
Madrid New Year’s Eve: What Happened To Us
We had been briefed on the Spanish New Year traditions. We prepared ourselves for the New Year Eve celebrations by securing a handy 12-count pack of midnight grapes and practicing the countdown in Spanish (Diez! Nueve! Ocho!…). Additionally, we learned how to say Happy New Year in Spanish (Feliz Ano Nuevo!). We were ready for the big night…or so we thought.
Madrid, Spain: New Year’s Eve Day
To keep ourselves from over-imbibing and ensure we made it to midnight, we spent the afternoon checking out the less-visited, but more modern, northern neighborhoods of Madrid. Home to foreign embassies and high-end retailers, it was relatively quiet, which we had expected in such an area on Madrid NYE.
As we headed back into the heart of Madrid in the early evening, we passed through Puerta del Sol where the Madrid New Year celebrations were due to take place. We wanted to gauge just how Times Square-esque New Year’s Eve in Madrid would be. There was a heavy police presence and wandering tourists like ourselves, but no one was taking claim to their spot for the big ball drop. Odd, we thought.
We moved on through Plaza Mayor, where we thought there would be more Madrid New Year’s Eve events, only to find nearly every restaurant in the square closed. The vendors from the Christmas Market in Plaza Mayor were already packing up for the day – and it wasn’t even dark yet. We had assumed the area around Plaza Mayor would be gearing up for a big New Year in Madrid, but it was quite the opposite scenario. Strange, we thought.
Madrid New Year’s Eve Restaurants
We pushed on with high hopes for a Madrid New Year’s Eve dinner of tapas. We had planned a classic tapas crawl down the famous Madrid tapas lane just off Plaza Mayor, Baja Cava. However, we faced disappointment as several recommended establishments were closed.
The few that were open were packed with people, but three times we walked into restaurants and were told they were no longer serving. We finally found a place that was staying open until 7:00pm, so we wedged our way in.
However, they were only serving drinks, no food – so there went our plan for a Madrid New Year’s Eve dinner out. Stumped by the day’s bizarre events, we ordered glasses of Cava wine.
NYE Madrid Traditions: What We Missed
We struck up a conversation with fellow patrons (all locals) and finally got the lowdown: everything – and they mean everything – closes by 9:00pm on New Year’s Eve so that people can spend time with their families. According to Madrid traditions, they bring in the New Year with a huge…dinner at home.
Madrid New Year Party: After Midnight
Right before midnight, people rush to fill Puerto del Sol for the NYE countdown and celebration. Then, after midnight, Madrid New Year’s Eve events ramp up, with many bars re-opening and the party going on until dawn.
The New Year’s Eve party is called Cotillion – and it usually involves music, dancing and cava wine. We even got an invite to join our new friends for a party that was kicking off at…2:00am.
Our New Year Celebration in Madrid
How did we get it so wrong? In everything we read about New Year’s Eve in Madrid, we never found these very important details of the New Year celebration in Spain. The shock slowly set in that our epic New Year’s Eve in Madrid was going to be celebrated spectacularly less exciting than envisioned.
We miraculously mashes ourselves into two more packed bars on our block – closing one down at 8:00pm and the next at 9:00pm (even managing to get a few cheesy croquets to go). We obtained the sad staples of defeat; cheap wine and frozen pizza from a corner market. We made our way back to our Airbnb apartment…at 10:00pm.
Our Not-So-Epic New Year’s Eve Madrid
Once we were in, the thought of an epic NYE in Madrid completely diminished. Instead, we settled for a not-so-epic game of Apples to Apples, pizza and wine. Although not the crazy Puerta del Sol New Year’s Eve party we had envisioned, it was a night spent in good company with a lot of laughs.
We actually made it to midnight to eat our twelve grapes, but fell asleep to thumping techno music as parties geared up in the apartments and bars around us. Not exactly how we planned New Year’s Eve in Madrid…
Tips on What To Do in Madrid for New Year’s Eve
There is only one day a year to get New Year’s Eve Madrid right – and we failed. Our mis-steps resulted in a less than spectacular (albeit, now humorous) New Year Madrid celebration. The silver lining is that we can use our experience to help other travelers know what to do in Madrid on New Year’s Eve. Here are our tips of what we would have done differently to celebrate NYE in the Spanish capital.
#1 Take a Siesta
We love the Spanish tradition of the mid-day nap. Had we taken a late afternoon siesta, we would have been more likely to make it to the celebrations for New Year’s Eve in Madrid.
#2 Make Plans for New Year’s Eve Madrid Dinner
New Year’s Eve Madrid is celebrated at home with family and friends. Visitors who make friends with a local family can secure an invite to the NYE in-home dinner (which we are fairly certain will taste better than our frozen pizza!).
Travelers can also opt to create their own meal in their accommodations. Most vacation apartments have kitchens – as do many hostels. For a fun Madrid experience of classic fare and already prepared meals, we recommend going to Madrid’s famous Mercado de San Miguel, which is open on NYE from 10:00am until 7:00pm.
#3 Make Madrid New Year’s Dinner Reservations
If you can’t score a personal invite or don’t have a kitchen, don’t fret. While there are not many Madrid restaurants open for NYE, there are a few options for a meal out.
On New Year’s in Madrid, restaurants that are open either offer a set dinner or a package deal. Places that only provide dinner will likely close before 11pm. However, the restaurants that offer a full night of Madrid New Year’s Eve events – including dinner, entertainment, dancing and a cava wine toast at midnight – are a good option. For example, guests can book a table at Platea for a Madrid New Year’s Eve Dinner and a full night of entertainment.
Hotels are another good option for a Madrid New Year’s Eve dinner or celebration. The meal will likely be a set menu and getting a reservation early is imperative! Likewise, if attending a full evening, packaged Madrid celebration, it is best to secure tickets far in advance.
#4 Don’t Party Early
Our biggest tip for what to do in Madrid on New Year’s Eve is actually what not to do…and that is starting the party too early.
Unlike NYE celebrations in America that build up to the big event, parties in Madrid for New Year’s Eve don’t really start until after midnight. If you want to make it until dawn, don’t start drinking at happy hour like we did!
#5 Secure Your Spot in Puerta del Sol
Although far from the chaos of the New York City NYE celebration, the Puerta del Sol square does get crowded! Thousands of people gather before midnight – and it’s best to plan to arrive around 11:00pm if you care about getting a prime spot under the clocktower. The square is cleared around 9pm and revelers must pass through security to gain access. It’s fine to bring in beverages…just no glass. Of course, don’t forget your 12 Grapes!
#6 Enjoy the Madrid Nightlife
The clubs in Madrid are in full swing after midnight on New Year’s Eve and are the perfect place to dance and celebrate the New Year. That said, most clubs charge a cover fee – and it is highly recommended that you get tickets to the clubs in advance!
#7 Make Alternate New Year’s Eve Plans in Madrid
If the traditional Madrid celebrations are not your style, there area a few other ways to ring in the New Year in the city.
For an entertaining evening, consider attending a Flamenco show. Performances typically last an hour and going to one on NYE is an excellent way to celebrate the Spanish culture.
Visitors traveling with family or young kids can enjoy an early celebration. Be in Puerta del Sol at noon for the practice run of the midnight affair. Then, enjoy a special New Year’s Eve lunch, as most restaurants are open on New Year’s Eve during the day.
Planning a Madrid New Years Eve Trip
Now that you know how they celebrate New Year’s in Madrid, we have a few more tips for planning your trip! In addition to preparing for the night’s festivities, you also need to consider how to get there, where to stay and what to pack.
For those planning to spend the holidays in Spain, we share heaps of advice in our Spain Itinerary – including a detailed day-by-day trip plan for visiting Barcelona, Seville and Madrid. In fact, we think Barcelona at Christmas and Madrid for Christmas are exceptional – we rank them as some of the Best Places To Spend Christmas in Europe.
For travelers coming from overseas, we also cover the need-to-know details in our Guide to Planning a Trip to Europe.
During your visit to Madrid, you will want to explore the best sights of the city. Use our step-by-step Self-Guided Madrid Walking Tour for your sightseeing!
As you begin to make your plans, you will need to stay on top of your trip specifics. We recommend using our Printable Travel Planner – so that nothing falls through the cracks and your New Year’s Eve in Madrid goes off without a hitch, unlike ours!
Getting To Madrid, Spain
Madrid is well-connected to major cities around the world; there are several direct flights to Madrid (MAD) from the United States (even in winter). To find the best deals on airfare, we recommend using SkyScanner – but first, read our Tips on Booking Flights for Cheap.
Where To Stay in Madrid
Those spending New Year’s Eve in Madrid will find that the finest accommodations get booked very early. To find top hotels at great rates, use our Guide to Booking Hotels – then start your search like we do, at Booking.com.
What To Pack for Madrid
The weather in Madrid in wintertime is typically mild, but it does get quite cold at night. If you plan on celebrating New Year’s Eve Madrid in the main square, be sure to pack layers of warm clothes in your backpack or suitcase. You can find all of our advice on our Travel Packing Tips page – also grab your FREE Packing Checklist!
We want to know: Have you celebrated New Year’s Eve in Madrid? Where else in the world have you celebrated New Year’s Eve and found it different than expected? Share with us in the comments!
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