Winter is a fun time to visit Barcelona. You can enjoy the magic of the city without all the annoying tourists, and everything is cheaper! There isn’t a lot of rain either, so you can still get outside and enjoy the mesmerising architecture and street art. Ready to book your flights? Oh, you’ve booked already? Before you set off, there are a few things to know that will make it your best winter break ever. This guide to visiting Barcelona in winter brings together the best things to do, what to pack, and some insider tips.
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Why visit Barcelona in winter?
Looking for a winter city break, but in a place where you aren’t going to freeze? Somewhere you can still enjoy some sightseeing with a bit of sunshine, and where there’s a lot going on, and plenty to see and do?
Stop the search now, because Barcelona is the place you are looking for. In the Catalan capital, temperatures still reach about 15°C from December through to February. It rarely freezes, and you’re no more likely to get rain than if you visit in May or September.
It’s not just about the weather though… I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Barcelona is beautiful! This is where you’ll find some of the most stunning architecture in Europe, as well as luscious green parks and hilltop views.
If you’re the kind of traveller who gets annoyed by crowds, Barcelona in winter is the dream. It’s the quietest time of the year, which means less queueing and more space to yourself.
The people of Barcelona love a good celebration too. If you visit for Christmas or New Year, you can be sure to have a lot of fun and take away some unforgettable festive memories.
Weather in Barcelona in winter
Good news: Barcelona is one of the warmest European cities in winter. Average temperatures in the city are pretty consistent from December through to February, with typical highs of 15°C and lows of around 9°C.
This means the lowest temperature in Barcelona in winter is about the same as London in May! Walks on the beach are definitely on the menu. Before you start packing swimwear, though, note that the sea is a bit to cold for swimming at this time of year.
What about rain? Barcelona is not a very rainy city, and winters aren’t usually very wet. In December, January and February, you can expect maybe three or four days of rain each month. Sure, you might get unlucky, but it’s not much different to visiting in May or June when it comes to rainfall. If you do get some drizzle, check out our ideas for things to do on a rainy day in Barcelona.
If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, though, you may be disappointed. Snowfall is very rare in Barcelona. It happens once every few years, and usually only for a few hours. Some would say that’s a bonus though… we’re here to escape the cold, right?
Where to stay in Barcelona in winter
One of the benefits of visiting Barcelona in winter is that accommodation doesn’t get booked up so quickly, and is often cheaper (unless you’re here over New Year). So, if you’re thinking of a spontaneous jaunt to Barcelona in February (yes please!), you’ll probably find a place to stay at a few days’ notice.
Hotels out of season are usually a bit quieter, both inside and outside. Naturally, less tourists in the city means quieter streets.
To decide which neighbourhood to stay in, read our in-depth guide to the best area to stay in Barcelona, which covers the main ten central neighbourhood.
Our most recent stay in Barcelona was at Sonder Casa Luz, and we can’t speak highly enough of this place. Looking for a romantic winter weekend? Then how does a hotel with a beautiful rooftop terrace restaurant sound.
Here are a few more great options for a range of budgets:
- Cheap stays and backpacking: Fabrizzios Terrace Hostel, Hostel One Batlló
- Mid-range vibes: Casa del Mediterraneo, Hotel Jazz
- Luxury winter stays: Olivia Plaza Hotel, Hotel Casa Sagnier
Usually, though, we like to rent an apartment for short stays in cities like Barcelona. Sound good? We’ve delved into what is available and picked out 25 amazing Vrbo apartments that are ideal for a leisurely winter break. It includes options in all the best neighbourhoods for a city break.
Getting to Barcelona and getting around
It goes without saying that a popular place like Barcelona is not difficult to reach by flight. The low-cost airline Vueling has connections from all over Europe to Barcelona. We tried them out last year and had one our smoothest flight experiences in recent times, so they’re now our go-to for flying to Barcelona.
Thinking of travelling overland to Barcelona? Check out Busbud to find and compare bus services to Barcelona and buy tickets.
Below we take a glance at the easiest ways to navigate the city once you arrive. You can also read in more detail in our article on how to get around Barcelona.
Barcelona by foot or bicycle
Barcelona may be an old city, but its transport infrastructure is modern, sustainable and super-easy to use. We try to get around on foot as much as we can, but it’s a big, sprawling city with many attractions spread across different districts, so that’s not always possible.
How about exploring Barcelona on two wheels? Cycling is a great way to get around the city. There are more than 200 kilometres of cycle lanes, lots of cycle parking spaces, and dozens of bike rental shops. And you don’t need to worry about ice on the roads in winter here.
Barcelona by public transport
If you are short of time in Barcelona, or maybe you’re just a bit lazy like us, then the metro system is a quick and easy way to get around. It has eight lines that interconnect all the central districts and major attractions.
The city also has a shiny new fleet of futuristic-looking electric buses, which you’ll notice everywhere around the centre and suburbs. And if that’s not enough, there is also a tram network that covers lots of the neighbourhoods where the trams and buses don’t reach.
It’s easy to buy tickets in stations, but we highly recommend investing in a Hola Barcelona Travel Card to make life easier. This gives you unlimited access to the metro, buses and trams for 48, 72, 96 or 120 hours.
Some of the higher points in Barcelona are trickier to reach, in particular the hills of Montjuïc and Tibidabo. These are where you will find some of the most incredible views of the city. While it’s possible to climb either by foot (they’re steep), both can also be accessed by a funicular ride. For Montjuïc, you can reach the very top of the hill by taking the scenic Montjuïc by cable car, from the upper station of the funicular.
Things to do in Barcelona in winter
Tourist attractions in Barcelona don’t close in the winter like some destinations. So, a Barcelona itinerary for a winter trip can be similar to visiting at other times of year. In our Barcelona 3 day itinerary you’ll find lots of ideas for how to spend your time.
Having said that, there are a few Barcelona activities that are either specific to the winter months or have a different appeal at this time of year. Here are some great things to do in Barcelona in winter for you to consider.
See Gaudí masterpieces (without the queues!)
One of our best friends lives in Barcelona, and he has to pass La Sagrada Familia every day on his way to work. He always says he can tell what season it is just by looking at the queues outside.
La Sagrada is an astonishingly beautiful building, but it sure can be a drag to be caught in the spring and summer crowds. That’s not the case in winter, when the queues are shorter and sometimes non-existent. This is a great time to treat yourself to a full Sagrada Familia and tower tour for a special perspective of its marvellous interior.
The still-unfinished cathedral is the most famous work of Antoni Gaudí, the legendary Catalan architect. Many more of his dazzling works are dotted around the city, all of which are wildly popular, and less stressful to visit in winter. Here are some you should definitely visit:
- Casa Batlló
- Park Güell
- Palau Güell
- Casa Mila
Bad weather day? See the city’s incredible museums
Barcelona has some of the world’s best museums. There’s tons of variety too… Art? Science? Football? Chocolate?? Yes, there’s a museum here dedicated to it.
A personal favourite for us is the Picasso Museum. A young Pablo learned his craft in Barcelona, and fell so in love with the place that he eventually left hundreds of his early works to the city. The originals of many of these can be seen hung on the walls of this museum.
If you want to visit several of the city’s museums, you can save a lot of money by purchasing a Barcelona Card. It gives you free access to most of the museums as well as many other attractions around the city. You can buy one for three, four or five days. And yes… it includes the Chocolate Museum!
Witness city views from Montjuïc (and see the light show)
We already mentioned the hill of Montjuïc, which stands to the west of Barcelona city centre towering right above the sea. The view from here is a glorious one, especially on a crisp winter’s day when the sun is hanging a bit lower in the sky.
Take the Telefèric de Montjuïc cable car and you’ll be treated to a magnificent view on the way up as well. We walked up the hill once… never again! Seriously though, if you like your exercise, this is also a beautiful spot to go running at sunrise.
One of the best free things to do in Barcelona is to come the the Magic Fountain Light Show that happens at Montjuïc. It is a spellbinding display of light, colour, water and music. Throughout winter you can catch it on Friday and Saturday evenings from 7pm to 9pm. It does get a bit colder then, so wrap up warm!
Visit Barcelona’s oldest Christmas market (Santa Llucia)
There is barely a city in Europe that doesn’t hold Christmas markets these days, but in Barcelona you can explore one that has been running since the 18th century.
Fira de Santa Llúcia is held in the heart of the picturesque Gothic Quarter, in the huge plaza that stands in front of Barcelona Cathedral. The plaza is filled with an array of festive-themed stalls, selling trees, wreaths, mistletoe and other decorations. Look out for caganers, a peculiar tradition in Catalan nativity scenes, figurines that are depicted squatting to take a poop. (Yes, you read correctly.)
On some days there are also dances, puppet shows and musical parades on around the clock.
The market usually runs from late November until 23 December, from 10am to 9pm. Visiting after the New Year and will miss the boat? You can still come along to the same plaza every Thursday to see the Gothic Antiques Market.
Walking tours are always a good way to explore a city too, so consider taking the fabulous Gothic Quarter Walking Tour for a close-up exploration of the historic neighbourhood.
Eat grapes at midnight on NYE
Christmas in Barcelona is quieter and less commercially driven than many other cities, but on New Year’s Eve the whole place comes alive. Some stay at home for a traditional family dinner, but many hit the streets, bars and clubs for the biggest party night of the year.
The midnight NYE fireworks are a great spectacle to see, whether you’re here for the party or not. There is usually a quirky creative twist to the display. During Covid lockdowns, for example, palm-tree-shaped fireworks were set off at midnight from ten districts across the city so people could watch from home. And 2023 was drawn in with an epic 12-minute firework and drone display.
Placa d’Espanya at the foot of Montjuïc is the location for the biggest firework display, and from here you can also see a great view of the best Magic Fountain Light Show of the year. When the clock strikes midnight, it’s tradition in Catalonia to eat 12 grapes – one for every month of the year – one on each chime of the clock. Also be sure to wear red underwear, as it is said to bring you love and good luck for the year ahead!
See FC Barcelona play at Camp Nou
Winter comes midway through the Spanish football season, and so it’s the ideal time to catch a game at FC Barcelona’s iconic Camp Nou stadium.
With a capacity of nearly 100,000, Camp Nou is the largest stadium in Europe. The enormous capacity also means it’s usually easy to get tickets! You can buy FC Barcelona football tickets via Barcelona Turisme.
What if there isn’t a Barcelona home game during your trip? Try the Camp Nou stadium tour instead. It’s not quite a match-day experience, but still well worth doing.
Live music in Barcelona: see a flamenco or jazz show
Some people will tell you that flamenco music belongs to southern Spain. Yes, the genre did originate in Andalusia, it has also been a part of Barcelona’s story for many decades.
Flamenco clubs in the city are called tablaos, and there are many around Barcelona. The oldest is Los Tarantos in Plaça Reial, which opened in 1963 – the same year that the flamenco musical of the same name was released and came parading through city. The club celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2023.
Flamenco fuses guitar, song and dance for a show that is full of the passion and artistic flair that you will come to expect in Barcelona. You can book to see a show at Los Tarantos to make sure you don’t miss out on the spectacle.
Barcelona has also become an international hotspot for jazz music. And what better way to spend a cool winter evening than in a smoky jazz club? Well, they’re not so smoky any more, but still warm and full of entertainment.
Next door to Los Tarantos is Jamboree, one of Europe’s most famous jazz clubs. Book ahead to see a show at Jamboree.
Eat all the amazing Catalan food
Think Barcelona and you think tapas, seafood, paella and wine. Well, we do, at least! In winter, the city’s streets are not quite the al fresco picture that you will find in spring, but the restaurant scene is still thriving.
Remember Casa Sonder Luz hotel that I mentioned earlier? Well, their rooftop restaurant serves some of the best Catalan food you will find in the city, which you can wash down with delicious wines from the Penedès region.
For something a bit more rough and ready, head to Barcelona’s street food markets. Mercado de La Boqueria just off Las Ramblas is one of the oldest and busiest in the city, but you’ll have a bit more room to manoeuvre and less queuing time in the height of winter.
Go skiing for a day in the Pyrenees
Winter in the Pyrenees mountains is time for adventure sports. But wait, I hear you ask… doesn’t skiing need a dedicated week’s holiday? Not here. Barcelona’s close proximity to the mountains gives you the opportunity to hit the slopes just for a day if you’re an experienced skier.
Alp 2500 is a Catalonian ski resort with nearly 150 kilometres of slopes located just a couple of hours’ drive outside Barcelona. A return skibus to Alp 2500 is doable in a day trip, and you can be back enjoying tapas and wine in El Born before bedtime. That sounds like my kind of après-ski.
Take a sailing trip on the Med
The Mediterranean waters that lap Barcelona’s beaches get a bit cold in winter, so swimming and watersports will be off the menu for many.
Maybe you’re happy to brave the cooler waters, but if not, a Barcelona sailing experience is a great alternative way to get out in the sea without getting wet. And there’s vermouth (with regular top-ups) and snacks included as well!
Just remember to wear a coat, as the temperature is quite a bit cooler out there.
Barcelona events in winter
Did we mention that people in Barcelona love a celebration? It seems there is always an event going on in the city no matter what time of year you visit.
Two of the biggest festivals in the calendar take place during winter: Epiphany and Carnival. Here’s a quick look at what you can expect…
Epiphany / Three Kings Day (5–6 January)
Christmas in Barcelona extends well into the new year, culminating with Epiphany on 6 January. The main celebration actually takes place the day before, on the eve of Epiphany, when a huge parade known as the Cavalcada is held to mark the arrival of the Three Kings.
Beginning at Port Vell at the bottom of La Rambla, three costumed kings arrive by boat and are then led by a procession of acrobats, clowns and elves through the city streets towards Montjuïc. There is a lot of music and dancing, and the kings give out sweets to children.
Parties go on into the evening, so it’s just as well the next day is a national holiday!
Sitges Carnival (February)
Barcelona joins many cities around the world to mark Carnival in February with a week-long extravaganza before the 40 days of Lent begins. But the biggest party actually happens a half-hour train ride away in the seaside town of Sitges.
About a quarter of a million people descend on Sitges for a non-stop, around-the-clock festival. It is known for being raucous, flamboyant, colourful, and generally lots of fun! See more on Sitges Any Time.
When Carnival is not in town and things have quietened down, you could take a winter day trip to Sitges to see its beautiful old town. See our guide to visiting Sitges to plan it into your itinerary.
Work remotely from Barcelona in winter
With the city much quieter than peak tourist season, winter is a great time for a remote working trip to Barcelona, also known as a ‘workation’. The infrastructure for working remotely here is one of the best in Europe, with dozens of coworking spaces and laptop-friendly cafés to choose from.
For us, the Barcelona climate is definitely an improvement on the dreary UK East Midlands in winter! How about you – would you swap your desk at home for the Mediterranean and Catalan mountain views?
Our guide to taking a workation in Barcelona covers everything you need to know to start planning your remote working escape.
What to pack for Barcelona in winter
Barcelona is mild in winter, but you’ll still want to pack a little differently to how you would for visiting in spring or summer. You can leave the beachwear at home for a start – it’s pleasant, but not shorts and swimwear weather!
It’s a good idea to pack a mixture of lighter winter clothes and some warmer garments for cooler days or when it gets chilly in the evenings. Here are a few things to add to your Barcelona in winter packing list:
- Warm coat or jacket
- A couple of warm sweaters or fleeces
- Scarf and gloves (you might not need them, but better to have them in case!)
- Layers to wear, e.g. some long-sleeved shirts
- Comfy shoes for sightseeing
- Boots if you plan to head inland to the mountains
- A travel umbrella
Have you visited Barcelona in winter? Let us know in the comments below if you have any tips to add.
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