Despite the city being on a ‘black level’ alert, Madrid was festive and fun (Image: Getty)

As we get increasingly close to Christmas, there have been fresh warnings about health and safety from festive event organisers in the UK as everything from food markets to carol services become overcrowded with swarms of visitors.

York’s St Nicholas Fair, which attracts visitors from the UK and beyond, is undergoing a revised market layout with people being encouraged to visit during quieter periods.

London’s Columbia Road Christmas carols events have also been cancelled after TikTok uploads consequently drew in huge crowds.

It is a similar situation across Europe, as people visit cities abroad to soak up the festive atmosphere in the lead up to Christmas.

Authorities in Madrid, Spain, have drawn up plans to shut down streets and public transport if traffic increases and pedestrian congestion becomes too high.

I visited the city on Constitution Day just before authorities issued warnings of a ‘black level’ alert due to the substantial influx of visitors.

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Royal Palace Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid on Constitution Day (Image: Hanisha Sethi)

Constitution Day is a public holiday in Spain, and is a day off for the general population with most schools and businesses closed.

The holiday marks the day when the country’s constitution was approved by the Spanish people via a referendum on December 6, 1978, and essentially marks the beginning of Spain’s new era as a democratic nation.

The city felt jam-packed with families walking around the streets of Madrid and both locals and tourists had visited from different towns far and wide across the country.

Outside the Royal Palace of Madrid, crowds gathered peacefully and watched on as a parade in procession to the sound of drums and trumpets marched across the palace grounds.

On a sunny but crisp and cold day, huge crowds of visitors cheered and clapped as they edged as close to the Royal Palace.

The Royal Palace of Madrid is regal and grand it contains a huge 3,418 rooms. It is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, although it is mainly used for state ceremonies.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor contains one of the largest Christmas Markets in Spain (Image: Hanisha Sethi)

Walking from the palace grounds to the Plaza Mayor (town square), you had to weave in and out of crowds, and city did feel slightly congested. I can only imagine, closer to Christmas when the city has more visitors, it could feel quite claustrophobic.

Spanish authorities have said drones might be used to watch crowds from the skies and when numbers reach unacceptable levels, measures might be put in place.

There was a small amount of police presence on main streets and squares, which I believe was important for congestion safety.

Each year, Madrid’s main Plaza Mayor turns into a Christmas market with a huge number of stalls selling ceramics, wooden toys and local delicacies.

It is known to be one of the best markets in Spain. On this national holiday, compared to a normal working day, the plaza felt particularly busy with families and young children celebrating together.

However, because of the plentiful cafés near the square, queues for coffee and churros had lots of space for seating and customer service was rapid, attentive, and friendly in most places.

It was a joyous, kid-friendly atmosphere, with bright lights, and local Christmas music being played throughout the city.

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Madrid Spain el corte ingles

The children’s puppet show at El Corte Ingles (Image: Hanisha Sethi)

More than 74 million people visited Spain last year, and tourism is a massive part of the country’s economy, according to the Acting Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Héctor Gómez.

Madrid is a city that is always full of surprises – when walking through the cobbled streets in the centre of the city, I noticed large numbers of people and children patiently wating by one of the main department stores, El Corte Ingles.

The store, to my surprise, had gigantic moving robotic puppets displayed on the building, and delighted families with a musical number.

This lasted for about 15 minutes and I was told the “concert” took place at multiple times in the day. Although it was packed outside the store, the crowd was well behaved and it felt safe and secure.


Restaurants were not too packed if you visited at earlier dining hours (Image: Hanisha Sethi)


Visiting the Spanish capital during the festive season felt safe (Image: Getty)

It wouldn’t be a visit to Spain without tasting traditional dishes, and I was eager to try visit the local restaurants, many of which were very busy.

The Spanish are known for eating late in the evening, so we avoided the chaotic restaurants by eating earlier in the evening. La paella de la reina, served incredible, home-cooked paella snd service was incredibly attentive.

The kitchen also gave us the “socarrat”, which is the burnt, scorched rice at the bottom of the paella pan which contains most of the flavour. Every mouthful was moreish.

Upon reflection, although tourist numbers are expected to surge during Christmas time, I believe visiting Madrid is manageable, safe, and enjoyable. Like travelling to any major city, it is important to keep your wits about you and travel with people you trust.

Even pointers such as visiting restaurants or Christmas markets at less busy times can help with packing more activities into your schedule – definitely a place to tick off your Christmas bucket list!