Spain is the second-largest country in Europe, so the weather is going to change from region to region. If you’re arriving in Madrid, expect temperatures around the Meseta Central (Spain’s central plateau) to be on the chillier side with average highs around 50°F/10°C, and lows of about 37°F/3°C.
Averages on the Mediterranean coast experience highs in the low 60s (Fahrenheit) and lows in the 50s, but sea winds can add to the chill. Northern Spain is prone to weather fronts so you’ll feel the chillier weather more up there, and temps in the Basque Country and elsewhere average in the 50s during the day plus there are frequent showers. The area around San Sebastian averages over six inches of rain in January, while the Mediterranean coast sees just over an inch of rain.
Crowds & Costs
One major benefit of visiting Spain in the off-season is the low prices. A quick search of Google Flights and Skyscanner will reveal transatlantic flights that are often hundreds of dollars less than they would cost in the peak summer season. You can also expect lower prices since the Christmas holidays will be (mostly) behind you. All in all, January is the perfect month if you want to visit some of Spain’s most famous hotspots without having to contend with the tourist crowds.
Where to Go
January is a great time to visit historic Andalusian cities like Granada and Seville while also allowing time for an excursion to Barcelona. Sure, it will be too cold to swim but you can still luxuriate in the culture of Catalonia, strolling the Ramblas, enjoying the nightlife, and of course indulging in all the great food.
If you are desperate for sunbathing, even in January, you’d do well to head to the Canary Islands. More so than Mallorca or Ibiza you stand the best chance of lucking out with some halfway sunny weather. After all, the high temps hover around 70°F/21°C.
And if you're a winter sports fan you can find good skiing in Spain in January. The Sierra Nevada Mountains, near the southern coast, has some of the best skiing/snowboarding conditions in the country. Another good destination is Zaragoza, the capital of Spain's Aragon region. This metropolis sits at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains, and there are a number of ski resorts within a short drive including Aramon, Formigal, and Panticosa. With 160 miles (259 km) of ski runs, Aramon is the biggest.
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What to Do
With many of the beaches out of commission during the winter, you might as well take advantage of the one Spanish cultural offering that knows no seasons: food. The tapas culture in Barcelona and Andalusia is alive and well throughout the year, and you can get a great paella anytime in Valencia, which is the city where that iconic Spanish dish was invented.
The same is true for San Sebastian, Spain's northeastern coastal gem of a city. There's something sad about looking out from its waterfront promenade to the Bay of Donostia and Santa Clara Island when it's all obscured by grey winter clouds. The best alternative is to stay in and enjoy pintxos culture. There are plenty of bars in the historic center serving up these tapas-like small plates and tasty tidbits, and they are open for business year-round.
If you're in major cities and are experiencing gloomy weather, use it to your advantage and spend time at some of Spain's must-visit museums. Of course the most famous is the Prado in Madrid. Within the neoclassical facade of this 18th-century building, you'll find the most comprehensive collection of Spanish masterworks dating from the 11th century. These include works by Rembrandt, El Greco, Rubens, and Goya.
Other must-visit museums include the Picasso Museum in Málaga, MACBA (Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona), and the Guggenheim, in Bilbao, which is located in a stunning 20th-century modern masterwork building by Frank Gehry.
Events in January
Jan 1st. New Years Day is a public holiday, but the real celebrations occur the night before.
Epiphany/Three King’s Day. For many Spaniards, Jan. 6th, not Dec 25th, is officially Christmas day. This is when many families open their presents, and you’ll find Three King’s festivals throughout the country. Both Madrid and Barcelona host unforgettable parties for this holiday, so if revelry is your thing, make a beeline to either of these iconic cities.
Tamborrada. If you happen to be in San Sebastian and love a good party, come out to Tamborrada. It’s one huge drumline where locals take to the streets beating their drums until sunrise. Needless to say, there is ample eating, drinking, and partying until dawn.
Traveling to Spain in January? Check out these great itineraries.
Best of Spain Highlights - 8 Days. This 8-day itinerary checks off Spain's three most exciting cities—Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville—that make great travel destinations even in January.
Food and Culture in Basque Country - 10 Days. Enjoy a gastronomic itinerary from Madrid to San Sebastian and Bilbao. It's a great trip when the chilly January weather favors indoor activities.