Spain has a winter!?
It may be hard to believe, but the perpetually sunny Spain does get cold.
It will rarely dip below freezing and snow is rare – although yesterday it did snow for a good 15 minutes here in Madrid! Still, Spain has a winter that’s cold enough for you require some different clothes – but not much. We used to live in New York, and after our most recent visit over the holidays, returning to Spain felt balmy and carefree.
Layers are key in Spain no matter what the season. In winter if the sun is shining bright, it can easily get up to 50 or even 60 (in the South) degrees Fahrenheit during the high point of the day. Meanwhile, at night it can dip down to the low thirties and even twenties depending on where you are.
That being said, here are a few essential items for a pack for your winter travels in Spain. As always, everything we recommend is 100% animal product free.
Clothing for Spain Winter Travel
Ok, we all know to pack some shirts, pants, and underwear. Since this post is focused on what to wear in Spain in winter, we’re only gonna talk about the essentials.
Insulated, water-resistant coat
Yes, you’ll need a heavy coat and something that can handle some rain, unless you don’t mind wearing 3 or 4 hoodies under a raincoat. When it comes to traveling light and practical, you need your articles to cover multiple purposes.
It’s hard to beat a coat that’s designed for colder weather, can break the wind, is water proofish, and overall make you feel cozy and not exposed to the elements.
Having something that can fit another layer underneath is key. I never wear more than my coat and a hooded sweatshirt. I get up before the crack of dawn three times a week to teach English in Madrid, so I definitely experience the coldest of the cold that Spain has to offer (for a city dweller).
The Patagonia Nano Puff jacket is made from synthetic downlike material and stuffs into its own pocket when you’re not using it. As much as I kinda hate the puffy jacket look, they’re super practical for travel, which Sam and I are 100% all about.
Thick-ish sweater or Hoodie
If you’re visiting Spain in winter, you’ll need a sweater. At Madrid’s coldest, you’ll want that sweater still on when you take off your coat. Also, if I’m already wearing a sweater, why not have a hood on it? I have always worn hoodies since I could remember, and hoodless sweaters just seem 75% done.
Water resistant boots
Apart from the coastal north (regions of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Basque Country), it doesn’t rain often in most of Spain. However, winter is the time Spain receives the most rain. And of course, if you’re up north, it rains a lot.
They’re lightweight as far as hiking boots go and you can wear them on a flight. The rest of my shoes have super light fabric uppers, so I can easily flatten them to pack.
These are great because they’ll do double duty for you. One, you need something rugged in case you do some off-road day trip walking (which we highly recommend – Sam wore a pair of hi-teks for 500 kilometers of walking, and she still uses the same pair of hiking boots today). Two, you’ll have something that’ll keep your feet warm and dry, for when it does rain in Spain (more so up in the north, but less cold).
Having these, you’ll hardly need another pair of shoes, unless it’s an actual preference.
A nice long, wrap around scarf will definitely help. I find scarves more adjustable than a seamless neck warmer, and especially important when you wear zip ups. You can wrap them tight or loose, and even tuck them under your zipper line to increase insulation as necessary. You really don’t need anything super warm as then you’ll get too hot when it’s sunny. Something with a t-shirt like fabric does the trick. We especially love big scarves that can be used as shawls on cold buses, trains, and planes.
Plus, a scarf seems to be the obligatory fashion for Spaniards in cooler weather.
This travel scarf is cotton, doubles as a shawl, and also has handy pockets for keeping your phone when you don’t wanna carry a purse or man bag.
Light Touchscreen Gloves
Of course, it helps if your jacket has pockets to stuff your hands, but sometimes that’s not enough. You don’t need heavy gloves that reduce your dexterity – light thin ones should do the trick.
These ones don’t just have touchscreen tips (for posting those Instagram stories on the go of course) – the entire glove is touchscreen. Sam has been happily using these all winter. Each glove also has a magnet so you can stick them together when you’re not using them and not create more orphaned gloves.
A warm hat
Yes, you may want a warm hat. While I spend most of winter not wearing one, having the option is key, especially when you plan to be outside for prolonged durations exploring the city.
I’ve had this one from Carhartt for years and it’s hard to beat. None of my other hats have survived. It’s not itchy and can fit all sorts of sized heads (Sam steals it sometimes).
If you’re not into hats, discreet foldable ear muffs would do the trick too.
These are some essentials that we take wherever we go, but that we especially recommend if you’re visiting Spain in winter.
Light day backpack with rain fly
While you don’t want to lug your luggage around, it definitely helps to keep some things on you while you explore.
My backpack also has side pockets for easily retrievable items that I frequently use, like our collapsible water bottle bag, and collapsible hot beverage cup.
We recently also just got this foldable backpack with a rain fly. It has tons of zippers, pockets, is waterproof, and packs into itself when you’re not using it.
Order it on Amazon and they give you a free phone armband for running.
Foldable water bottle
As you’ll quickly notice, Spanish restaurants don’t give out water as readily as U.S. ones. Keep a water bottle on hand and you’ll always be hydrated. We have been using our collapsible bottles for the past 2 years and they’re still going strong.
Reusable grocery bags
If you spend any length of time in Spain, chances are you’ll do some grocery shopping, even if it’s just to pick up some snacks. Unlike in the U.S., you have to pay for plastic shopping bags in Europe, Spain included. So save your money (and the environment of course) by bringing your own. We love the ones that pack into themselves so they take up practically no space when you’re not using them.
For our full list of what we take with us wherever we go, head to our Eco-Friendly Packing List.
For places to visit in Spain in winter, head to our Spain archives.