New Year’s Eve in Madrid


Photo: Jens Karlsson.

New Year’s Eve, Nochevieja as it is called in Spanish, is approaching. In Spain, you traditionally celebrate it with family dinner, so you don’t primarily celebrate it with your friends. The food served is similar to that on Christmas Eve. Midnight is celebrated in a special way by eating twelve grapes, one on each chime of the clock. The official countdown is always taking place at Puerta del Sol in Madrid, where thousands of people gather to count in the New Year and to see the fireworks. A good advice is to get there in time to follow the festivities at close range.

Those who are not able to be at Puerta del Sol normally follow the celebrations on TV. When the clock starts to chime everybody put a grape in their mouth, the idea is to finish all the twelve grapes before the New Year starts. This is actually pretty tricky as you need to do it really fast and many people don’t finish on time (which is supposed to mean bad luck). Another thing that is said to bring luck is to wear red underwear, some argue that it should be worn inside out, and be a gift. There are also those who say you should wear red underwear if you want passion and love but yellow if you want luck.

12 grapes

The traditional 12 grapes

After midnight you usually gather with your friends, at least if you want to continue the party. Which is something most people choose to do, in many Spanish towns, it is tradition to continue partying until late next day. In many cities, especially the largest, you buy tickets to New Years parties at clubs long before this day. These tickets can cost between 20 € and 100 €, on the website below, you can find some of the clubs that are throwing New Year’s parties:

If you don’t want to spend much money, there are other options in Madrid. However, you should plan where to go before, because many places that normally don’t have an entrance fee could have it on this particular night. One suggestion is to go to the areas Tribunal or Lavapies. Both areas are a bit more relaxed and this is a good option if you want a more modest New Year’s Eve.

Early next morning the tradition is to have a breakfast of chocolate con churros (hot chocolate and a kind of fried pastry).

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Christmas – and Spaniards have more money in their wallet

Christmas gifts

Photo: Jens Karlsson.

One advantage with the Spanish labour market is the so-called pagas extraordinarias or simply pagas extras. This means that two times a year, in many cases three, you get double salary. This normally occurs at Christmas and at some point during the summer. This is something that all employees are entitled. If not, it should be included in the monthly salary in form of a certain percentage.

This is of course something the Spaniards are grateful for at Christmas. Many Spaniards believe that without this extra salary they would not afford to buy Christmas gifts or even manage their personal finances.

Speaking of Christmas shopping, a large majority of Spaniards said in a survey that the crisis, which is still far from over in Spain, is affecting their Christmas shopping.

Nevertheless, perhaps this little contribution means that also Spanish children receive a visit from Santa this year!

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Spanish Christmas food



Spanish Christmas food varies depending on region and different family traditions. Nevertheless, there are some typical dishes. It is very common to have lamb on Christmas Eve. The lamb is often cordero lechal, spring lamb. This meat is considered to be extra delicious and normally originates from the northern regions Castilla y León and La Rioja. Furthermore, it is not uncommon to have turkey on Christmas Eve even though lamb is the traditional dish. Something completely different from the English Christmas tradition is the presence of seafood. Especially common are langostinos, a type of giant prawns.



Something that do have a strong tradition are Spanish Christmas sweets. Something you will for sure find is turrón, a typical Spanish nougat. There are both hard and crunchy, or soft and chewy turrón, both are common as a Christmas dessert. Another important dessert is the marzipan, for example the one from the region Toledo, which is shaped into animal shapes and commonly filled with egg yolk. Other sweets are dates and polvorónes, a typical Andalucian butter bread. Almost mandatory is the panettone or panetón, a sweet bread loaf typically during Christmas in Spain and Italy.

You enjoy the Christmas dinner together with the family. In Spain, people eat at two-three o’clock, and between 9-11 o’clock in the evening, Christmas dinner is served at the later, i.e. in the evening.

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Jamie does Andalucía

If your interested in Spanish cooking a tips is to watch Jamie Oliver’s program Jamie does Andalucía. In this episode, he visits Andalucía in southern Spain. Andalucía is a region famous for its culinary traditions; as for example the well-known dishes Paella and Gazpacho. In this episode, you can watch Jamie taking part in the preparing of the village Paella (a Paella made for an entire village). This is just part 1 of 4 but you can see the other parts on Youtube.

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El Mercado de San Miguel

El Mercado de san Miguel

El Mercado de san Miguel

El Mercado de San Miguel is a market hall in the centre of Madrid. The building dates back to 1916 but the place has functioned as a market long before that. During the late 1990s, business started to decrease; the market simply couldn’t compete with modern supermarkets. It was then decided to make El Mercado de San Miguel a place where focus would be on Spanish products and high quality ingredients, and in this way stand out. The idea was also that the customer would be able to taste different products and get something to drink while making their groceries. This turned out to be a success, today there are several bars and stands offering something to drink and eat and the market has become a major tourist attraction. This is not a market to do your daily shopping because of the high prices but it’s definitely worth visiting on a weekend just to have something to eat and drink.

Metro station: Sol or Ópera. The Market Hall is located at Plaza de San Miguel. Opening hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 10:00 to 24:00, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10:00 to 02:00.

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Typical Spanish tapas

Pimientos de padrón

Pimientos de padrón

Tapas are a very important part of the Spanish food culture. Since it is very common for both young adults and older people to meet up at bars, both day time and night time, you’ll for sure have a couple of tapas a week. Going out to eat tapas is called tapeo, however, most of the times you get a small snack to your drink, therefore going out for tapeo is a more conscious tapas-eating, meaning that you go from bar to bar where you know they have great tapas. The word tapas comes from the word “tapar” which means, “to cover”. It is said that the word tapas has it origins in that in the past bars had problems with flies and therefore people covered their wine with a piece of bread or a small plate where they put some ham or cheese. Others argue that it is simpler than that, by giving guests something to chew on you are reducing the alcohol effect. There are also people arguing that it is the other way around, by giving the guests a salty tapas you will increase the alcohol consumption. Typical when it comes to tapas is that they should be easy to prepare and of course taste good. Here are some examples of some typical tapas often served at bars:

Tortilla de patatas: Spanish potato omelette, a very common tapa all around Spain.

Pimientos de padrón: green spicy fried peppers with sea salt. They are normally pretty spicy to very spicy. On a plate with Pimientos de Padrón, it is pretty likely to find one that is much spicier than the rest, so it’s becomes a kind of Russian roulette.

Pescado Frito: fried fish. The fish used has to be small, for example anchovies or red mullets (saltwater fish from the Mediterranean Sea). The fish is usually breaded and served with lemon.

Chipirones: baby squids, this dish can be prepared in many different ways, but they are most commonly fried.

Ensaladilla rusa: a salad usually consisting of potato, tuna, carrots, peas, eggs, asparagus, and mayonnaise, but there are several different variations.

Patatas bravas: potatoes served in cubes, usually fried, with a spicy red sauce based primarily on tomato.

Patatas Alioli: boiled potatoes served in cubes, with a sauce based on mayonnaise and garlic. There are many different variations on the alioli recipe.

Paella: many bars have paella as tapas once a week. Typically, the paella served as tapas, is a less luxurious version of this rice dish.

Morcilla/ Chorizo/ Jamón: It’s very common to be served different kinds of sausages and ham. For example Morcilla (blood sausage), chorizo (spicy typical Spanish sausage) or the classic dry-cured Spanish ham. It is common to serve the meat with cheese and a slice of bread.

There are as many examples of tapas as there are bars, but the above ones are very common. Las tapas de toda la vida, so to speak.

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