For our first New Year’s Eve abroad, we wanted to party in Madrid. New Year’s Eve in Madrid is regularly touted as one of the top places in the world to bring in the New Year – and we were excited to experience it.
Puerta del Sol, the plaza in the city center, was where the midnight action 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 we 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 do in Madrid on New Year’s Eve!
New Year’s Eve in Spain
New Year’s in Spain 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 in some of the smaller cities, 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 in the upcoming year. The most popular tradition, however, is eating grapes on New Year’s Eve.
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, we anticipated an incredible Madrid New Year’s…
Madrid New Year’s Eve: What Happened
We had been briefed on the Spanish New Year traditions, like eating 12 grapes at midnight – one at each chime – for good luck. 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…and we were stoked.
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 the nation’s embassies and high-end retailers, it was relatively quiet, as 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 taking 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 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 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 an classic tapas crawl down the famous Madrid tapas lane just off Plaza Mayor, Baja Cava. However, we faced disappointment as several recommended establishments were already 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 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 dinner at home.
Madrid New Year Party: After Midnight
Right before midnight, people fill Puerto del Sol for the celebration. Then, after midnight, Madrid New Year’s Eve events ramp up, with many bars re-opening and the party going on until dawn. We even got an invite to join our new friends for a party that was kicking off at 2:00am.
After already having a few drinks and a long day of sightseeing, we knew there was no way we were going to make it to the party.
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 read these very important details of the New Year celebration in Spain. Completely caught off guard by this revelation and unprepared for a dinner at home, we headed out in search of a mini-market to secure rations. The shock slowly set in that our epic New Year’s Eve in Madrid was going to be celebrated slightly less lively.
We obtained the staples of two bottles of wine, pizza, meat, cheese and bread from a corner market as we made our way home. We made it to two more bars on our block – closing one down at 8:00 and the next one at 9:00 (and getting a few cheesy croquets to go) before we finally made it back to our apartment.
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, bake-it-yourself pizza and cheap, local 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 made it to midnight to eat our 12 grapes and fell asleep to thumping techno music as parties geared up in the apartments and bars around us.
What To Do in Madrid for New Year’s Eve: Our Tips
Unfortunately, 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 New Year’s Eve. Here are our tips of what we would have done differently.
#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 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 Airbnb apartments have kitchens – as do many hostels. For a fun Madrid experience of classic fare and already prepared meals, we recommend going to the city’s famous Mercado de San Miguel, which is open on NYE from 10:00am until 7:00pm.
#3 Or Make Dinner Reservations
If you don’t get a personal invite or don’t have a kitchen, don’t fret. While there are not many Madrid restaurants open for NYE, guests can book a table at Platea for a Madrid New Year’s Eve Dinner.
#4 Don’t Party Early
Unlike NYE celebrations in America, parties in Madrid for New Year’s Eve don’t 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! Plan to arrive around 11:00pm if you want a good spot…and don’t forget your 12 Grapes!
Explore the best sights in Madrid! Use our step-by-step Self-Guided Madrid Walking Tour for your city sightseeing!
Need help planning your trip? Find our top tips in our detailed day-by-day Spain Itinerary!
We want to know: Have you celebrated New Year’s Eve in Madrid? Did you know their customs prior to the celebration? Where else in the world have you celebrated New Year’s Eve and found it different than expected? Are you also celebrating Christmas In Europe? Tell us in the comments!
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