The weather in Spain is some of the best in Europe in the wintertime. Even when it’s cold, it’s not too cold, and you’ll find plenty of good food, festivals, and fun activities in fall, winter, and early spring. In fact, Wendy has taken her own family to Barcelona at Christmastime and to Granada for her kids’ February school break.
We spoke with Mary Vaira, our Trusted Travel Expert for Spain Villa Vacations, to find out her favorite spots for every winter holiday. She knows which regions are crowded, which aren’t, and where you can go to join in the holiday spirit—or stay huddled up with your loved ones in cozy secluded havens.
Thanksgiving in San Sebastian
Thanksgiving is all about feasting, so Mary recommends spending it in a food town. San Sebastian has more Michelin stars per capita than any other city in Europe—and is at the top of the list for the world too. If you stay in town, you’re near the beach, which is famous for tapas and food (though too cold at this time of year for sunbathing or swimming). Or you could opt for Mary’s Villa San Sebastian, about 15 minutes outside of the city. “It would be great for the holidays: It’s cozy and old-fashioned,” Mary says. “And the family that owns it owns a big restaurant next door too.” The other house she recommends is the very contemporary Villa Telmo, which is a little closer to San Sebastian (ten minutes as opposed to 15). Either way, she adds, “You’re also close to the Rioja wine region—so you could spend a day there—and you’re near Bilbao, so you could see the Guggenheim.”
Christmas in Ronda, Andalucia
“I have a house outside the ancient Moorish city of Ronda called Finca Andalucia that’s decorated festively at Christmas, complete with tree. It accommodates 14 people and is 15 minutes from Ronda. You can go into town for church, then entertain in the house: There are two kitchens, a home cinema, a game room with a pool table and a foosball table, and beautiful views across the Arriate valley. Plus, Ronda is a working town—it’s not a resort area—so it goes all year long.”
New Year’s in Madrid
“Madrid can be cold in the wintertime, but it’s festive. On New Year’s Eve, everyone goes down to the central Plaza Mayor and eats grapes for good luck, and there are lots of parties. Madrid has an Old World, traditional-Spanish-city feel. It’s a real walking town: All the museums are close to each other, so it’s easy to get around, and there is plenty of nightlife.
A lot of our Madrid apartments are in the Salamanca area. It’s safe, it’s close to everything, and there are great restaurants. The Diego apartment sleeps six and is very pretty. The Jose apartment is in a fantastic location, with a market right around the corner. It’s a loft-like, two-bedroom space that can sleep four, and it’s within walking distance of the Prado and Retiro Park. Both are in doorman buildings.”
Easter in Seville
“Seville is where the action is at Easter time. There are floats and processions all through town. I have a magnificent 13th century palace, Palacio Santa Cruz, that is right in the middle of the historic center of Seville. A family stayed there for three weeks at Christmastime and loved it.”
“Marbella has a micro-climate, so it’s pretty warm year-round. It’s an international resort, with golf and tennis, and yachts in the summertime. We have a lot of houses there, some with tennis courts and pools. A few houses at different price points include:
•Summer House: It’s got a gym, a home cinema, a tennis court, and a barbecue.
•Tangier fits 14 people, so it works well for two to three families.
• San Pedro Villa has five bedrooms and is near the water and a good value. You can walk both to town and to the beach.
•The Shell House is old-world in style and right on Marbella Club property, so you have access to the Club’s facilities and activities. With a main house and four ensuite bungalows, it fits up to 14 people.”
May brings the legendary Jerez Horse Fair, so if you’re interested in the historical, that’s the part of the country to go to. Cortijo de las Flores is the villa I would recommend. Forty minutes from Jerez and 90 minutes from Seville, it was part of an old bull-fighting farm and is surrounded by farmland. It has six bedrooms, lovely grounds, and a pool.