6 great things about Barcelona in the off-season

Everybody raves about Barcelona in the summer; consider the Woody Allen film Vicky Cristina Barcelona: sexy Spaniards, summer flings, torrid heat, sunny beaches, the hot Mediterranean sun, afternoon siestas, trips to cool off in a nearby countryside villa….

I have no doubt that Barcelona is amazing in the summer, but I’ve actually never been there when it’s hot. I’ve only been for a cold, windy week in December, and a gray, chilly, rainy weekend in March. Despite my bad luck weather-wise, I adore Barcelona. Actually, I found the bad weather charming: the perfect excuse for taking things easy, not rushing from tourist sight to tourist sight, and instead holing up by the window in a cozy cafe, sipping café con leche or having churros con chocolate, watching the city go by. It’s even a good excuse for lazily sleeping in late, treating your weekend getaway as an actual vacation, rather than the Bataan death march that so many trips to a new city turn into: up early, slogging around between must-see sights and checking them off your list, so that by the end of the weekend you feel like you’ve had an art-and-history overload and subsequent meltdown, rather than really enjoyed yourself.

Besides the possibility of bad weather being a good excuse to slow down a bit, traveling in the off-season to Barcelona (or any other city, for that matter) has some other obvious upsides:

1. It’s cheaper. As any seasoned traveller knows, high season rates for flights, accommodations, and more can as much as double during the most popular months of the year. On the other hand, during the really slow months, prices drop exponentially, especially for accommodations, as they are often willing to rent rooms very cheaply rather than have them go empty.

2. It’s less crowded. Unless you dig standing in long, Disneyland-style lines, or pushing your way through crowds so thick on the metro platform that it feels like you’re in a mosh pit, the low season is great for enjoying the city without fighting for personal space. There may even be moments when you find yourself with a whole museum practically to yourself.

3. It’s romantic. For those traveling with their partner, think about it: it’s cold, so you huddle up together to keep warm. It’s rainy, so you share an umbrella, with mandatory hugging so you can both fit underneath. Sure, your view of Las Ramblas may look like this the whole time:

but it’s still quite a sweet way to pass a weekend with your loved one.

4. You don’t have to swelter. Personally, I love hot weather, but not everybody deals with heat well. I have seen many a red-faced, sunburnt, sweaty, hot and bothered tourist looking absolutely miserable while attempting to enjoy a summer vacation in a southern European city. Just say no. If you hate summer, don’t attempt to travel to Barcelona (or Rome, or Istanbul, etc…) between June and August. You’re the perfect candidate for a trip in the milder weather of off-season. And even for people like me who don’t mind heat, I’m the first to admit that it can get absolutely exhausting to schlep around a busy city in the summer heat and actually enjoy it. (An extra bonus is that less sweaty, overheated people on a bus or metro car = a more pleasant ride for everybody.)

5. Locals are friendlier. We can’t guarantee this, but just imagine if you lived and worked in customer service in a world tourist capital: whether you’re a server at a restaurant, a cashier at a shop, or a receptionist at a hotel, if you deal with hordes of demanding tourists butchering your language (or worse, not even attempting to speak it) from the beginning to the end of your daily shift, you just may get an eensy bit tired of it and not be as friendly as you might normally be. But in low season, when there are simply less tourists, and therefore less interaction, locals can be more patient, helpful, friendly, and interested, as they are physically more able to take the time to talk to you.

6. Hot drinks and hot food. Summer is great for enjoying fresh seafood and cold tapas like Spanish olives or jamón ibérico. But in winter, the array of options is completely different. Only in cool weather is it enjoyable to sit with your hands wrapped around a chocolate caliente or café con lecheCava, a Spanish champagne, is refreshing in the heat, but in the winter you can warm up with a nice glass of sangría. You can also find stands on the street selling hot roasted chestnuts or sweet potatoes. The Spanish tend to eat more heavy, sustaining meals in the winter like puchero stew with hearty meats and vegetables. When you’re out for tapas, try the warmer, spicier ones like papas bravas (fried potatoes slices with sauce),almejas rellenas (stuffed clams), or chopitos (breaded, fried tiny squid).

by Amy Knauff

2 thoughts on “6 great things about Barcelona in the off-season

  1. Amazing points! We always travel out of season in Europe to avoid the crowds and to take unspoiled photographs! The dancing fountains weren’t crowded at all in spring.

    Safe travels.

  2. Thanks for the info! We are considering visiting Barcelona for possibly at least 2 weeks next Sept or Oct to celebrate our 30th anniversary. This is great information and we would be interested in other news and ideas about Barcelona if it becomes available. Thank you!

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