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How strong is your sense of curiosity? Spain has deeply rooted customs and traditions, with its society strongly influenced by its Catholic religion, which makes it a delightful destination to explore in winter. In particular its Christmas markets close to some of Spain’s most famous UNESCO heritage sites.
The religious appeal of Christmas still remains extremely strong and drives the celebrations at the end of the year at a time when many countries are more heavily engaged in commercially-driven activity, and in Spain the sight of the Christmas Bethlehem decoration is as nostalgic and emotive as the sight of Christmas trees and mince pies is in the UK.
Christmas in Spain has been influenced greatly by big business and the bright lights of shops and festive advertising, but in the same way that Christmas markets over here are highly popular, the same can be said of the markets in Spain, many of which can be found in the most picturesque streets and squares in the old towns of wonderful historic cities such as Avila, Segovia and Salamanca.
With these three cities located within one to two hours of Madrid airport, exploring cities so rich in cultural attractions and magnificent architecture, paired with the opportunity to stroll through the Christmas markets and retail shops is a big lure to the curious foreign traveller. Milder temperatures by day are often accompanied by bright luminosity, whilst the Knights are somewhere between cool and chilly, encouraging you to enjoy a Spanish equivalent of mould wine or thick hot chocolate, all the more traditional cup of “caldo” or hot broth, which is served in some bars and eagerly requested by chilly market goers at night.
Some churches have classical or Christmas concerts to celebrate the season although you are more likely to find more traditional Spanish music and celebrations at this time of year.
Probably a blend of Christmas atmosphere traditional markets visiting churches and wonderful historic monuments and a few hours in mainstream retail shops is the perfect blend before you reward yourself with some exceptional Spanish food and perhaps a fine glass of wine or a warm glass of the mulled variety?
Exploring Spain in the low season has many merits, not only can you reward yourself with a stay in a very fine hotel and possibly one of the finest rooms at a very reasonable cost, but you also avoid the busy tourist queues at most monuments and meet much more genuine Spanish people on the streets amidst the hustle and bustle of Christmas celebrations on the weekend. You can also find tables in wonderful restaurants, and you will surprise yourself how often you can enjoy a coffee or an appetiser on a terrace enjoying a stunning view before the sun goes down.
The Christmas markets in these three cities open as follows:
You will encounter typical Christmas decorations and crafts in these markets, often very different items from what we find over here, which may furnish you with some lovely little gifts for Christmas.
You may try to resist buying a leg of serrano ham and the requisite chorizos that always seem to get added to your basket, which goes down very well on Christmas Day with family. Try your hand as a “Cortador de Jamon” but go light on the Sherry until you put the sharp knife away.