Anyone who has experienced winter on the Costa del Sol will agree that it is a very different experience from the long months of cold and darkness typical of Northern Europe. Where evenings in the UK can start at four in the afternoon, the Mediterranean winter night starts at six at the earliest – so outbreaks of the dreaded Seasonal Affective Disorder are pleasantly rare.
Nobody can deny that the temperature dips when October arrives, but on the Costa del Sol it rarely drops below ten degrees centigrade, a bonus for those suffering from conditions like arthritis. What’s more, with sunlight still a regular companion it is much easier to carry on with life as usual – and in Marbella this includes walking, hiking, golf and basking at sunny outdoor cafés.
Though famous as a summer destination, the Costa del Sol continues to draw people during the winter months too. These include golfers, elderly visitors who prefer the mild temperatures, cultural tourists to the region and homeowners who spend several months a year here.
In summer, cafés, bars and restaurants with extensive outdoor areas are the most popular places to sit and enjoy the sun and passing show, whereas during the winter locals favour venues with large interiors. You cannot claim to have experienced the best of Spain until you have enjoyed a steaming cup of hot chocolate with churros, a delicious doughnut snack which alone is enough to make winter an attractive time. Sitting in cosy proximity in a crowded café with a voluble collection of locals is a sure-fire way of feeling like you belong in your chosen town!
Christmas is also a very different experience; the main family meal takes place on Christmas Eve, while the children’s celebration is held on January 6th and is known as Tres Reyes – Epiphany in the UK. This is when the younger members of the family receive their presents, but for many the main attraction of Reyes is the parade that takes place on the evening of January 5th in every town in Spain, no matter how small. Dressed in colourful costumes to depict the Magi kings who famously travelled to offer their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, volunteers ride through the streets on elaborate floats throwing sweets (caramelos) to the children. Kids being kids the latter often evolves into a lively competition of who can lay claim to the largest stash of sweets.
Winter on the Costa del Sol is, in many ways, a more social time than the summer for residents. It’s time to don warmer clothes, meet up with friends and enjoy the atmosphere in this place where the first and last months of the year are clearly more to be appreciated and savoured rather than merely endured.