Madrid is one of the coolest cities on the planet with something to suit every type of traveler, whether that's an art lover on the trail of the world's greatest masterpieces, a foodie keen to explore one of Europe's great culinary capitals, or a rambler in search of festivals and fiestas.
The Spanish capital's calendar of events is jam-packed and its nightlife is unparalleled. Deciding when to go depends on what you want to see and do. Summer brings a string of festivals, street parties and fierce heat, while in winter locals flock to the city's bars and restaurants for great food and a cosy place to escape the chill, or go hiking and skiing in Sierra de Guadarrama. Here's our guide to help you decide the perfect time to visit Madrid.
Shoulder season: March-May, September-October
Best for weather and sightseeing
Spring (especially April and May) and fall are the best times to visit. Temperatures are balmy and tolerable, making it easier to navigate the city. In spring, festival season begins with Semana Santa (Holy Week) and in fall, locals take advantage of last days of great weather by gathering (long into the evening) in the city's rooftop bars and outdoor terraces before the city cools down.
High season: June-July, December
Best for street parties and festivals
As the city heats up, so do street parties and summer festivals in June and July, with Madrid Pride (June) being one of the highlights. Museums and attractions are exceptionally busy in July with schoolchildren on holidays and an influx of international tourists to the city. Head out early each day and book ahead for the main attractions. December brings Christmas markets to the capital, a number of festive events, and high-season prices to hotels.
Low season: August, January-February
Best for budget-friendly travel and avoiding crowds
The city can be punishingly hot in August, coming to a standstill as locals flock to the coast to escape the white-hot heat. Most hotels lower their prices, and some restaurants and bars operate at reduced hours. That said, if you want to feel like you have the Spanish capital to yourself, this is a great time to visit. Neighbourhood summer festivals (held during the period from mid-August to September) are great for cheap entertainment. Then at the opposite end of the year, temperature-wise, you'll find the months of January and February to be relatively tame in Madrid. But you'll always find a fiesta happening somewhere, no matter when you visit.
Not much happens in Madrid until after 6 January, although the Christmas to New Year period can be high season for some hotels. Temperatures can be bitterly cold, but wonderfully clear, crisp days are also common.
Key events: Año Nuevo, Día de los Reyes Magos.
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Usually the coldest month in Madrid, February always has a chill in the air. In warmer years, late February can be surprisingly mild, heralding the early onset of spring. Whenever the sun comes out, madrileños emerge like sunflowers to the terrazas.
Key events: Gastrofestival Madrid, Carnaval, Arco.
Freezing temperatures are possible, but early spring sunshine prompts restaurants to set up their outdoor tables. Madrileños often evacuate the city for Semana Santa (Holy Week), but it's still high season for some hotels.
Key events: Semana Santa, Viernes Santo, La Noche de los Teatros.
Mid-spring can be a delightful time to visit Madrid. Most madrileños emerge from hibernation to take over the streets and squares, although there are no festivals of note (unless Semana Santa falls in April).
May is arguably Madrid's biggest month for festivals, and with the weather warming up, it's one of our favourite times to be in the city.
Key events: Fiestas De San Isidro Labrador, Feria del Libro, Festival Flamenco, Fiesta de la Comunidad de Madrid .
Read more: Why I live in both Madrid and Barcelona – and which city I prefer
A select group of festivals usher in the Spanish summer. The city has a real spring in its step with warm weather and summer holidays just around the corner.
Key events: Suma Flamenca, Pride (Día del Orgullo).
Madrid can really cook in July and the city's pace slows in response. Those not at the beach are preparing to head there in August. Hotel prices often drop when things are quiet.
Key events: Veranos de la Villa, Mad Cool.
Temperatures soar and the city can be eerily quiet as locals flock to the coast or mountains. Many restaurants and other businesses close and some museums have reduced hours.
Key events: La Asunción, neighbourhood summer festivals.
Read more: Calle Ponzano: where to go on Madrid’s hottest street
The worst of the summer heat should have passed and most locals are back from their summer holidays, but the weather's still warm enough to enjoy being outdoors.
Key events: Madrid Gallery Weekend, DCode.
Autumn in Madrid can be lovely, with clear days and autumnal colours in the parks. The first winter chill can also make an appearance, so bring warm clothes just in case.
Key events: Semana de la Arquitectura, Fiesta de Otoño a Primavera.
November is when Madrid's winter chill usually starts to bite. The city's jazz festival and a dance festival headline an otherwise quiet month.
Key events: Jazz Madrid, Madrid en Danza.
The run-up to Christmas sees the city full of festive spirit – crowds throng the city centre in astonishing numbers, many of them en route to Plaza Mayor's Christmas market. There are high-season prices in many hotels.
Key Events: Navidad (Christmas).
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