What to expect from Spain in 2023

Brendan Boyle
Brendan Boyle
What to expect from Spain in 2023
From emerging wines to buzzing cities, there's more than political changes in store for 2023 in Spain. Photo: Moritz Knoringer/Unsplash

2023 looks set to be another tempestuous year in Spain. There’ll be high points and low blows, joy and drama — Spain being very Spain, writes Brendan Boyle.


Spain was Spain again in 2022. This year saw the return of fiestas, festivals, and ferias — such profound economic and emotional stimulants for Spanish society — return in their full capacities, filling the country’s streets and squares with colour, vigour, and alegría (happiness).

REVIEW: Ten stories that shaped the news in Spain in 2022

However, no sooner had the battle with an invisible enemy in Covid-19 begun to wane than Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine. Spaniards quickly learned the meaning of cost-push inflation — in July, it hit a 38-year high of 10.8 percent.


As Spain enters a bumper election year, attention will move away from the ideological debates that fill the airwaves and column inches here toward a subject we can all understand: the money in our pockets.

Here is just a flavour of what’s to come in 2023, from the expected to the unexpected.

1. All eyes on Spain
Spain will assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the fifth time during the second half of 2023. Coinciding with the run-in to the general election, there will be lots of nice opportunities for handshakes and soundbites for PM Pedro Sánchez when Charles Michel, Ursula von der Leyen, Emmanuel Macron, and company visit Madrid. Like the French president, Sánchez feels more loved in Brussels than at home, and we can expect him to use these gatherings to cement his position as the face of modern Spain in Europe. Of the four leaders present at the last general election debate in 2019, only Sánchez is left standing — his allies in Europe will be hoping he secures a second term.

READ ALSO: How Spain's PM Pedro Sánchez is set to become 'King of the Socialists'

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (R) welcomes European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the EU-MED9 Euro-Mediterranean Group Summit on December 9th 2022 in Alicante. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP)


2. Election fever
Towards the end of the last decade, Spaniards faced four gruelling general elections in four years. They’ll be sick of the sight of their local polling stations come this time next year. With municipal, regional, and general elections on the horizon, those living in Spain will be force-fed politics for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Will Spain’s first-ever coalition government pass the litmus test? If it doesn’t, the progressive block will be replaced by another coalition — this time from the opposite end of the political spectrum in the form of the conservative Partido Popular (PP) and far-right party Vox. Pedro Sánchez and his PSOE party have bounced back in the polls and the incumbent prime minister looks bullish and ready for the fight. His main rival Alberto Núñez Feijóo (PP), meanwhile, looks content to say little in the hope that the fragmented Left cause their own downfall.

READ ALSO: Who will win Spain's 2023 election – Sánchez or Feijóo?

Will Alberto Núñez Feijóo govern Spain by the end of 2023? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)


3. Madrid to have a new mayor?
It’s highly unlikely that the conservative Partido Popular will relinquish their grip on the Madrid regional government anytime soon — they’ve been in power since 1995 — but the battle for the mayor’s office looks to be anything but a formality. Rita Maestre of Más Madrid, the region’s left-wing Green party, looks well positioned to build on the impressive momentum generated during 2021’s regional elections and push current mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida all the way. The municipal elections will be the only opportunity for immigrants without Spanish nationality to vote in 2023, a factor that should not be overlooked, especially in Madrid. Más Madrid have put in the hard yards on the ground to further the interests of many impoverished barrios in the city — their efforts could be rewarded with Maestre as mayor.

Rita Maestre's has been gathering support in Madrid throughout 2022. Photo: Montserrat Boix/Wikipedia

4. No more talk of tax cuts
“Liz Truss has shown the dangers of tax cuts during times of turbulence. Tax is no longer the go-to play for Feijóó,” said Enric Juliana in La Vanguardia. The devastating market impact caused by Britain’s decision to take from the poor by giving tax cuts to the rich reverberated across Spain’s media. The lettuce was on the news, and prime minister Pedro Sánchez even brought a copy of The Economist to parliament. With Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng on the cover, the title was a pointed message to the opposition’s obsession with trickle-down economics: “How not to run a country.” The Partido Popular hasn’t mentioned tax cuts since. Viva la lettuce!


5. Adiós face masks
With an election year fast approaching, the Spanish government finished 2022 on a positive note. Their package to tackle the cost-of-living crisis included the temporary elimination of VAT on basic foods, a one-off payment to the lowest-income families, and the continuation of caps on rent increases and public transport subsidies. Now, with the third anniversary of the start of the Covid-19 pandemic looming, it appears likely that mandatory mask-wearing on public transport will soon be no more once flu season passes. While they have generally been exceptionally tolerant with regard to face coverings, the move would be greeted with a collective sigh of relief by Spaniards. As Pedro Sánchez seeks to keep the drip feed of good news flowing, this looks like low-hanging fruit for early spring.

READ ALSO: Masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

Spain looks almost certain to ditch face masks on public transport in the first half of 2023. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

6. The new-look Santiago Bernabéu
The newly-renovated home of Real Madrid is on track to be unveiled next summer. While locals living in the area will hardly lament the conclusion of the drilling and traffic disruption that began in 2019, the finished project will have been worth the wait for Madridistas. The 81,000-seater arena will have a retractable pitch to facilitate music events and, according to The Athletic, “more iron is being used to hold in place the futuristic retractable roof than is contained in the entire Eiffel Tower.” That said, a recent letter published in El País branded the Bernabéu “an attack on the environment,” citing the construction of new parking lots for 1,600 private cars. It seems that the already congested Chamartín area is about to become even more choked up.

new real madrid stadium 1 Will the new Bernabéu be the best stadium in Europe? Render: Real Madrid


7. New wine to shine
While La Rioja and Ribera del Duero continue to dominate the red wine scene in Spain, 2023 could see consumers look to other regions and grape varieties for something different. Along with red wine from Portugal’s Dão region, the quality and price of Mencía, a grape variety native to northwest Spain, has seen it gain real traction in the Irish and UK wine markets. Guímaro and Algueira — both from Galicia’s Ribeira Sacra region — are just two names that offer outstanding value. For many, wine is art, and throughout history, many artists have had to make a name for themselves abroad before being recognised at home. Might Mencía be the next Joyce or Picasso?

Mencía, known as Jaen in Portugal, is a grape variety native to the western part of the Iberian Peninsula.(Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)


8. Year of Málaga
It’s Spain’s worst-kept secret. Chosen by El Mundo as its City of the Year, non-Spaniards are finally realising that Málaga is much more than a pit stop on the way to Costa del Sol resorts. “It’s a well-connected city that combines quality of life, culture, and new technologies,” says El País. This year, Citi announced the creation of a hub for new investment bankers in Málaga, fully confident the allure of sunshine, beaches, fine dining, and cultural offerings would attract top professionals. While the inevitable threat of mass tourism and property market inflation may be a concern for locals, there’s little doubt that Málaga is primed for a big 2023.

READ ALSO: Málaga voted world's second best city for foreigners

In 2021, Málaga was voted the second best city in the world to live if you're a foreigner. Photo: David Becker/Unsplash

Brendan Boyle is an Irish journalist based in Pontevedra, Galicia. You can follow him on Twitter: @BrendyBoyle


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