We asked Siddhi Camila Lama, a former Barcelona local to share her tips on the best way to experience the city.
Barcelona is a perennial hotspot: In the past decade, the Catalan capital has been among the top 20 Travelers’ Choice Destination winners. For the last three years, it’s been ranked in the top 10.
Barcelona is understandably a popular city, which means at peaks times it can feel crowded in main tourist areas. Like other bucket-list destinations, Barcelona has taken measures to limit the number of visitors. But while the explosion of tourism isn’t a problem to be ignored, there are ways to see the city in a responsible way.
If you’re keen on visiting the city but would prefer to leave a lighter footprint, here’s when—and how—to plan a trip to Barcelona.
The Best Time to Go to Barcelona Is the Fall
With some two dozen festes (from cultural events like the Festes de Gracia and music festival like Primavera Sound) and perfect beach weather, summer is peak season for Barcelona. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best time to go. In fact, there are several good reasons to consider a visit during the fall shoulder season.
1. It’s Less Crowded
For starters, you can avoid busy streets, overbooked hotels, packed restaurants, and sold-out attractions. What’s worse than spending the majority of your vacation waiting on line in sweltering temperatures? Or waiting in line only to find out the Sagrada Familia is sold out?
2. The Weather Is Just Fine—and So Is the Water
As a beach city, Barcelona will always draw visitors when it’s warm. But there’s warm and there’s too warm and in August, the weather can leave you hiding in air conditioning all day. September and October are much more pleasant, still warm enough for breezy beach days, but with much lower humidity. September has highs around 80, while October has highs around 72. Even November is relatively balmy, with highs around 62.
You can also comfortably swim and surf throughout most of the autumn. September and October are best for water-related activities, like snorkeling, diving, or deep water soloing, but November is also doable. Great day trips for any of these activities can be found along the Costa Brava. Tossa de Mar, about an hour and a half from Barcelona, has some of the best beaches and deep water soloing opportunities. A bit further north, between Begur and Roses, is best for diving.
3. It’s a Great Time to Get Out of Town
If you’re not into water sports, fall is also a great time for land-based day trips. Costa Brava has beautiful coastal towns and cities, like Girona (which you might recognize as Braavos from Game of Thrones). If you make it as far north as Roses, you can also visit Salvador Dalí’s former home in Cadaqués.
Costa Dorada, in the opposite direction of Costa Brava, is home to cities like gay-friendly Sitges and Tarragona, as well as the national park Garraf, which has some of Barcelona’s best climbing and hiking routes.
Another amazing day trip you can do at any time in the autumn is Montserrat. This town has a gorgeous monastery, unique art museum, and is surrounded by surreal rock formations. There are cable cars to take you up and down the mountain if you don’t want to hike. There are also routes for rock climbing along the hiking trails. With its peak at 1,236 meters (4,055 feet), it’s best to wear layers or carry a jacket when visiting Montserrat at this time of year.
And several TripAdvisor members suggest Zaragoza, which is “very conveniently located and not so much on the radar of foreign tourists (which can only be to the good!).”
4. There’s Plenty Going On
Still, you don’t have to leave town—there are so many things to do in Barcelona! And, while many restaurants and shops actually close down in August (when locals take their vacation), by the fall, everyone’s back in business.
Some of the best food in Barcelona can be found in a neighborhood called Gràcia. Daytime is best, as many restaurants offer ‘menús del dia’ for lunch. These are typically three-course meals with wine or beer for 10-20 euros.
If you’re interested in authentic Barcelona nightlife, head over to Barri Gòtic or El Raval. Both of these neighborhoods are filled with friendly bars, hidden speakeasies, and quaint jazz clubs, most of which are open until the early morning.
And if you’re a fan of festivals, not to worry: The celebratory vibe continues in the fall. The (free!) Catalonian festival La Merce at the end of September, for example, features human towers (castells), pyrotechnic parades (the correfoc), traditional dances, concerts, and late-night museum hours.
5. It’s Cheaper
Based on TripAdvisor data on average hotel pricing, you’ll save some dinero by planning a trip in the fall compared to high-season. Average rates max out at around $225 in June and drop to to $204 and $199 in September and October respectively—that’s about 10% off. And if you decide on a visit in November, you’ll save around 36%, based on average rates of $144.
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