We lived in Barcelona for over a decade. Now based in Athens, we go there at least twice a year. The city has it all: sandy beaches, fantastic architecture, incredible nightlife, delicious food, and lovely people. Though any time is good to visit the city, Barcelona in winter is a sight to behold. You’ll go once and will want to come back over and over again.
Tourists from all over the world flock to the city in spring and summer. Who can blame them? To us, it is the best city in the Mediterranean. However, come winter, most tourists leave, and you can enjoy the city to the max. Everything looks better with fewer crowds and under the rays of the winter sun.
Why Visit Barcelona in Winter
Splendid Weather is Everything
Barcelona in winter has such incredible weather that it’s hard to believe it’s not spring. We have friends from northern Europe that visited in the middle of winter and couldn’t believe the weather. They would dip into the sea ecstatic with joy! It hardly ever rains, and the sun seems to find its way almost every day.
Barcelona in winter enjoys mild temperatures. From December to January, the average low temperature is 6°C (42F). The average high temperature is 14°C (57F). Barcelona in February is great too, with an average low of 6°C (43F) and an average high of 15°C (58F). Temperatures rise in Barcelona in March, with an average high of 16°C (62F) and a low of 8°C (47F). Where can you find such weather in Europe in winter, and next to the sea?
What to do in Barcelona in winter depends on your interests. The city offers just about everything! You can visit its world-class architecture, museums, and churches. Of course, you can take it easy and do nothing but wonder about its lovely Old Town. Biking across the city is another option. Party animals, fashionistas, and foodies will be in heaven too.
Let’s be honest, the only problem the city has is its popularity. Crowds can be too much in summer. So much that you may feel a bit overwhelmed. That’s why it’s much better to visit off-season. If you like your space and peace, we strongly recommend visiting the city in winter. You won’t have to elbow yourself through the crowds to enjoy great food and shops.
As every experienced traveler knows, prices in Europe skyrocket in summer. Most people in the continent take their vacation in summer when schools are off. After the cold months of winter, northern Europeans rush to the Mediterranean to bask under the sun. With so many tourists around, hotels and restaurants can charge pretty much what they want.
The latter is not the case in winter. In particular regarding hotels. Since there are so many hotels to take in the summer crowds, they have to lower prices considerably to attract tourists in summer. Shoppers will be happy to know that winter sales in the city begin January 7th and last pretty much through early March.
Things to Do in Barcelona in Winter
1 Watch the Sagrada Familia Being Built
Of all of the things to do in Barcelona in winter, visiting the Sagrada Familia is a must. Antonio Gaudi’s masterpiece is a building like no other. Towering over the city, its beauty and originality will take your breath away. No wonder it’s the number one attraction in the city. That’s why hordes of tourists queue in summer to go in.
As you probably know, Gaudi didn’t finish his creation. Construction of the temple began in 1882. When Gaudi died in 1926, only a quarter of his vision was finished. The project has been going on ever since. The latest addition is the massive crystal star placed over the main tower in 2021. Don’t forget to pop in. The interior is as dazzling as the exterior.
2 Roam the Streets of the Old Town
The Old Town is our favorite neighborhood in Barcelona. It is the oldest in the city and extends from the city’s main square, Catalunya, to the Mediterranean. Though it is not that big, it packs incredible architecture and tones of history. In addition, the atmosphere is authentic and lively. People from all over the world live and mingle in the Old Town.
As if that was not enough, the best bars and clubs in the city are in the Old Town. That’s one of the reasons we go to Barcelona at least twice a year. It’s the best city in Europe to party and dance the night away. Foodies will be in heaven too. All sorts of eateries line its streets. The one and only Barceloneta beach completes the feast.
3 Catch Some Sun in Montjuic Hill
We were lucky to live directly in front of Montjuic, the incredible hill in the center of Barcelona. Lush green nature covers the hill. Walk across its different parks and enjoy the best views of the city, the port, and the sea. If you don’t feel like walking, you can take a cable car directly from Barceloneta beach or the funicular from Poble Sec.
Our favorite place on the hill is the cacti garden, called Mossen Costa I Llobera Gardens. The place is on a slope overlooking the Mediterranean. It’s so gorgeous that the New York Times included it in its list of the 10 most beautiful parks in the world. Regarding architecture, don’t forget to check the Olympic Stadium of 1929, the National Museum, and Calatrava’s tower.
4 Attend a Concert in a Palace
The Palau de la Música Catalana is one of the greatest concert halls in the world. The art nouveau masterpiece is in the Borne borough, part of the Old Town. If you think the exterior is beautiful, wait till you get inside. With its iconic glass stained glass ceiling and 9 muses murals, it is absolutely stunning. In addition, the acoustics are perfect.
The palace hosts some of the best concerts in Barcelona. There is a performance almost every night. We are talking not only about classical music. Contemporary music, guitar masters, and avant-garde artists play at the palace. Be sure to check their website and book your ticket in advance. If you don’t have time, be sure to stop by the coffee shop.
5 Enjoy Views from a Former Bull Fight Arena
Spain is famous around the world for its iconic bullfights. The original Plaza de Toros de las Arenas from 1900 was expanded in 1927. The last one happened in the 70s, and the plaza closed in 1999. The new owners hired world-famous architect Richard Rogers to convert it into a mall. The project took 8 years to complete and looks stunning.
When we lived in Barcelona, we used to go to the gym there and enjoy some of the best views in town. Though the façade remains the same, the inside and the roof are completely modern. Restaurants and cafes line the rooftop terrace. From there, you can see the entire city. There is no need to pay for the lift. You can reach the top for free via the mall’s electric escalators.
6 Spend Some Time on the Beach
Barcelona has some of the best beaches in Europe. The city has over 3 miles (5 km) of sandy beaches. That’s why it is so crowded in summer. So much that sometimes you can feel a bit overwhelmed. However, in winter you will be able to enjoy the beach with a lot of space. The average sea temperature in winter is 14°C (57F). That’s why some people do bathe.
However, you don’t need to go into the water to enjoy the beaches. Cute bars, called chiringuitos in Spain, dot the coast. There are volleyball and football courts where you can join the locals for a match. You can also exercise in the public gyms overlooking the sea. Though you can take the metro to the beach, we recommend biking or walking along the promenade.
7 Eat Tapas in a Traditional Restaurant
Spanish tapas have conquered the world. Nowadays you can eat them almost in every major city in Europe. However, nothing beats eating the original ones in a traditional restaurant. Locals love their tapas and eat them together with friends. Therefore, it can be hard to find a place to have tapas in summer.
The best place to have tapas is in Carrer Blai, in the Poble Sec neighborhood, on the slopes of Montjuic Hill. Traditional tapas restaurants line the pedestrian street. Go from restaurant to restaurant enjoying an astonishing array of tapas. One of our favorite places is El Xampanyet in the Borne neighborhood. They’ve been serving delicious tapas since 1929.
8 Explore Park Güell without the Crowds
UNESCO included Park Guell together with other of Gaudi’s works in its World Heritage Site List. It’s not really one park, but a collection of gardens and buildings. We love it because it blends architecture and nature perfectly. Besides, you can enjoy epic views of the entire city and the Mediterranean from its terraces and parks.
The park is so popular that the local government started charging an entrance fee a couple of years ago. You still have to pay in winter, but you’ll have a lot of space. Once in the park don’t forget to look for the iconic mosaic salamander. Look out for the lovely birds that live in the park. You may be lucky and spot an eagle.
9 Discover Catalan Modernism on a Bike
When we lived in Barcelona, we used to take tourists around the city. We would hop on a bike and explore our beloved city. As you probably know, we are architects, so we focused on architecture. To go from building to building, we would cross the entire city, stopping for drinks and snacks.
Our favorite buildings are La Pedrera House, Guell Palace, and San Paul Hospital. Check out our post for a full description and a complete list of the best Catalan Modernism. Our friends from Ajo Bike have the best bikes in the city and maps to help you find your way. Stay on the bike lanes and enjoy the ride!
10 Take Part in a Local Festival
Nobody parties like the Spaniards. Their street parties are amongst the best in the world. Locals and visitors take over the streets to dance, listen to music, create art, and celebrate life. Barcelona has some of the best festivals in Spain. No matter when you visit, there is always something going on in the city.
In December, lights and public markets take over Barcelona. The quirky Christmas tree dots the city. Children and adults will have a blast in the Wise Men Parade that takes place in January. In February, the most popular festival is Santa Eulalia, a parade of dragons through the Old Town. The entire city explodes in March, with Carnival celebrations everywhere.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
If you are short of time, we strongly recommend two Barcelona neighborhoods. Eixample is the center of Catalan Modernism. Located in the middle of the city, you can go everywhere walking or by metro. The other option is the Old Town, where everything happens.
Our favorite hotel in the Eixample is Hotel America. It’s on pedestrian and chic Enric Granados Street. Rooms are comfortable, and the hotel has a sauna, gym, and a splendid roof terrace with views. In the Old Town, we recommend Casa Camper, in the heart of El Raval. It’s a boutique hotel with great design. Check out our post with a complete list of the best hotels in Barcelona.
Moving Around Barcelona
Barcelona has one of the best public transport systems in the world. There is a metro stop virtually in every corner. No matter where you are, you will have a metro stop nearby that connects you to the entire city. The bus system is great too. You can use the same card for both systems. Every station has clear signs, so you won’t have a single problem.
One of the things we love most about the city is how easy it is to bike and walk around. Since it rarely rains in winter in Barcelona, all you need is a jacket and comfortable shoes. You can walk from Gracia to the coast in no time, stopping by for a bite or drink. The city has an extensive net of safe bike lanes. One of our favorite rides is along the sea.
Nothing Beats the Mediterranean in Winter!
Since we live in Greece and visit Barcelona several times a year, we try to escape the summer peak. Granted, the weather is superb and the energy is great. However, to us, it’s simply too hot and crowded. We don’t want to sound like those locals that complain about tourism. Not at all, any time is a great time to visit Barcelona.
That said, we strongly recommend visiting the Mediterranean in winter. The weather is splendid, and the locals are more relaxed. They don’t have to put up with so many visitors. We’ve been to Istanbul, Nice, Santorini, Malta, and Mallorca in winter and autumn and had a blast. Do yourself a favor and enjoy some quality time in Barcelona in winter!