It Gets Cold in Spain!

Sierra Nevada mountains, snoq

Dear Julia,

One of the most widely-spread misconception about Spain is that the weather is hot and sunny all the time. I know Sean Kingston burned into my mind the line “hotter than the sun in the south of Spain” back in the day, but I’m here to tell you that it is just that―the sun in SOUTH OF SPAIN gets quite hot…but not even all year round and not everywhere else.

In terms of weather, Spain isn’t all that different from the US. The south enjoys hotter summers and milder winters, but the conditions vary greatly from region to region. Even here in Andalucía, the differences are marked. January in the Sierra Nevada (literally ‘Snow-covered Mountain Range’) of Granada can be frigid and white, while coastal cities like Málaga will never see snow. Still, I warn you not to be fooled by beautiful shots of blue skies and beaches at this time of year―you’ll still need a coat to enjoy the outdoors!

It’s also important to prepare yourself for the fact that, even though the temperature you’ll see on the forecast may be ‘nothing’ compared to the below-zero days you’ve weathered at home, the experience here in different. It is very common not to have heating in traditional Spanish houses and if you do, your host family and/or roommates will likely limit the use of it to short bursts and definitely not overnight. To make matters worse, houses here were often built in order to keep the cold in (you can thank those hot summers)! This means that sometimes it will literally feel warmer outside your apartment than indoors.

 This photo was taking in Málaga in January of last year―literally one week before the snowy photo at the top. Don't be fooled, it's still not real beach weather!

This photo was taking in Málaga in January of last year―literally one week before the snowy photo at the top. Don't be fooled, it's still not real beach weather!

But not to worry―there are plenty of tricks to help you stay warm, from typical Spanish habits to some of my personal hacks and I’m happy to share these tips with you.

1.) Layers are always your friend: What can be so frustrating in Granada is that at midday in direct sun I can sometimes get away with short sleeves in winter, but just a few hours before or after (and at whatever time indoors), I’m shivering. That’s why you’ll see most people sporting a million layers, constantly adding or removing throughout the day. I promise you, my scarf collection is not as much of a fashion statement as one would think!

2.) ‘House Clothes’ are real and wonderful: Before moving to Spain, I didn’t really have special clothes for staying home, I just wore yoga pants or pjs if I wanted to be comfy. Now I have a serious collection of extra heavy stuff to keep me cozy. Slippers are an absolute must (marble floors everywhere) and I enjoy pairing them with fuzzy socks (maybe over a normal pair), pajama pants, an oversized sweater (that fits over long sleeve shirts) and a ‘house scarf’ that is extra fluffy. Batas, or dressing gowns, are also totally respectable.

3.) Personal Heaters to the Rescue: Estufas (personal heaters) are common ways to solve the no-central-heating issue and are the go-to choice for keeping yourself warm while sitting, cooking, etc in the same place. Braseros are a special kind of heater that can be found in many houses here and involve a table that has been built to incorporate a heater, with a blanket draped between the wood and glass section of the tabletop. This is probably the best invention ever…and the reason so many university students miss class. It takes a special kind of willpower to abandon the toasty brasero, so consider yourself warned.

4.) Prepare yourself properly for the night: This tip may come across as crazy, but trust me you’ll soon know what I’m talking about... I go through a really serious routine every night (once we reach the heart of the winter). First, I’ll move my estufa to my bedside and leave it on for 20-30 minutes before I’m ready to crawl into bed (being sure to close the door to trap in the heat!). Once I get in, I’ll ‘burrito wrap’ my lower body in two fuzzy blankets and a sheet before clicking off the heater and covering myself with the comforter. Sometimes I’ll cover my head completely, leaving a little opening so I can still properly breathe. On really cold nights, I’ll take special care to wear heavy socks, tuck my shirt into my pants, or even wear a hoodie, with the hood over my head!

Pro-Tip: Leaving your estufa within an arm’s length of your bed may be the golden ticket to motivating yourself to get out of your toasty bed come morning. Mine consists of a heating lamp so the warmth/light combination is enough to get my lazy butt going!

5.) Get out and enjoy the sunshine: This may sound counter-intuitive to many of us, but trust me―if you get out of the house at midday when the sun is warmest, you will spend a MUCH warmer winter than the homebodies. Obviously, moving around helps but simply relocating to a spot in the sun could make a huge difference. Plus, your body is not gonna complain about the vitamin D! Personally, following this tip could be the difference between a chilly mood and a positive outlook. If everything else I told you about the Spanish winter has got you down, this one is sure to be the trick!

Sincerely,
Spain