Barcelona: When to go

On a serious shoestring budget? Then you’ll want to plan to avoid high season in Barcelona when hotel rates and even restaurant prices go up.

But how do you know the "high season" from the "low"? Read on...

Barcelona Rambla in Spring

The Rambla during the month of May. Photo by BikeTrouble

Season by season

Summer: The summer is by far the most expensive season in Barcelona, and indeed throughout most of Europe. Not only is this a popular season for North American travelers, it is also a top season for European travelers. Many cruises also make port calls in Barcelona come June, July and August.

Barcelona locals go on vacation the entire month of August. This is probably the worst month to come to the city, in that it is hot, humid, high-season prices are applied in hotels and restaurants, and many bars, eateries and shops will be closed. Avoid August if you can.

Spring and Fall: Our favorite months for visiting Barcelona are May, June and September when the weather is agreeable and there aren’t many tourists.

Winter: By far, the cheapest months to come are "off months," such as October, November and then February through April. Inexpensive flights can be snagged during these months as well as deals on hotels and rental cars. It is typically too cold to swim in the Mediterranean during these off months.

More reading: Planning an upcoming visit to Barcelona? Read our overview of accommodation in Barcelona.

Visiting during Christmas, New Year's and Spring break

Apart from the season, take holidays into consideration when planning when to visit Barcelona. The Christmas and New Year’s holidays are an expensive time when many Europeans descend upon the city to celebrate.

New Year's: The 31st of December is definitely one of the priciest times to visit Barcelona, and hotel rates go up and the few restaurants open will be charging an arm, a leg, and your first-born child for dinner and festivities.

Heading to celebrate in a club? They, too, will be taking a premium. Many locals avoid downtown on New Year’s because it’s so exorbitant. We would also warn that around Christmas time many shops and even some sights might be closed, which could hinder your Barcelona experience.

Spring Break: Easter Holy Week ("Semana Santa") is also a high-priced period to visit the city. Normally, Easter Holy Week does not coincide with the North American Spring Break, as Easter dates change from year to year. Check ahead of time to make sure you’re not coming over Easter. While culturally Easter Holy Week is an interesting time to visit Barcelona (and perhaps even more so the South of Spain), you should plan for higher rates and book hotel rooms in advance.

Conference dates to avoid

Apart from holidays and seasons, international conferences also cause hotel rates to skyrocket. Admittedly, it is hard to know when a big conference is coming to town, as dates change every year.

One of the "worst" conferences to coincide with is the Mobile World Congress which is commonly held in February. If you plan to be in town over Mobile World Congress dates, book your hotel way in advance. The 2013 dates are Feb 25-28.

Jamming away during Barcelona's carnival. Photo: Nyuudo

Reasons to visit Barcelona during the off-season

We've already mentioned that visiting Barcelona in the off season will save you money on hotel rooms and restaurants. And while we prefer May, June and September, there are several lesser-known reasons to visit Barcelona in the off season. These include:

February/March - Carnaval time!

Also known as "Mardi Gras," this is one wild party in many parts of Spain. Sadly, it’s cold in Barcelona in February, but that doesn’t stop party-goers from putting on their skimpiest costumes and staying out all night on the beach.

While there are always Carnaval festivities in Barcelona, the real "fiesta" happens in Sitges, about 45 minutes from Barcelona by train. People come from all over the world to party down in this tiny seaside community. It’s not Rio, but it’s still a blast.

February - April - Calçot time

Is an onion enough of a reason to visit Barcelona? Maybe not, but if you are in the city during these chilly dates, make sure to experience a "calçotada" at a Barcelona restaurant or out in the nearby Catalan countryside.

This totally delicious and traditional feast, the "calçotada," revolves around a sort of barbecued green onion/leek. It’s an all-day affair with plenty of wine, meat, cava, and desserts to go with the onions.

October and November - Wine and Mushroom time

Not far from Barcelona is wine country. Hop on a train and you’ll be in Penedès, where excellent cava is produced, in about an hour. To the north, up-and-coming vineyards are located around the region of Girona and the Costa Brava.

To see grapes harvested or hanging heavy on the vine, you need to visit during October and November. Keep in mind that the harvest has to do with weather patterns, and changes a bit year to year.

Fall is also wild mushroom season. Locals head to the hills to their secret patches to collect delicate fungus, and then return to cook it up with garlic and cilantro. While we don’t recommend taking to the highlands in search chanterelles, you might look out for fungus at Barcelona tapa bars, markets and restaurants. The Catalan kitchen is very much seasonal, and wild mushrooms are not to be missed.

Related articles

Accommodation in Barcelona: What to expect from the city's hotels, hostals, hostels, pensions and more.

• All Barcelona hotels inspected and reviewed by EuroCheapo.

• Choosing a neighborhood in Barcelona for your upcoming stay.

• Our favorite youth hostels in Barcelona.

About the author: Regina W. Bryan is EuroCheapo's Barcelona-based correspondent. Read her reviews of hotels in Barcelona and her regular posts in EuroCheapo's Barcelona blog.

Follow Us