Should You Give Barcelona The Cold Shoulder This Winter?

Hace frio.


It’s a Spanish phrase which you probably already know. It means, “It’s cold.”

Hace frio is something you’ll hear a lot in Barcelona these days as neighbors pass each other in the street, bundled up in thick jackets, scarves and warm hats.

For the locals, the cool winter weather is just part of the meteorological mosaic which makes up the Mediterranean city.

For visitors, however, Barcelona’s cold winters make you wonder how cold the weather gets here, whether it’s worth it, and, perhaps most important of all, is Barcelona a good cold-weather city?

The Christmas lights on display in Barcelona's Plaza Catalunya.

How Cold Does It Get In Barcelona?

Barcelona’s temperatures start to ease off their searing summer heights around the last part of September.
From there, the average maximum temperatures drop steadily, starting with 25C (77F) degrees Celsius in September to 21C (70F) in October, 16C (60F) in November, 13C (55F) in December and then on to the  coldest month of the year, 
January, where the average high temperature is the same as December but the average low is three degrees lower. 
Barcelona’s rainfall peaks in October then sees a steep drop off as the climate descends into the winter months. In November and December, you’re likely to see six rainy days. That number drops to about five rainy days a month in January and February.

The city rarely sees snow. However, that doesn’t stop the Catalonian capital from being a winter wonderland!

Is Barcelona Worth A Visit? Is It Really A Cold Weather City?

Whether you’re retreating from the gray days of the United Kingdom or you’ve had enough of the frigid East Coast winters, you’re bound to wonder if it’s really worth it to go in the winter to a city known for its beaches and subsequent bronzed Mediterranean bodies. 
We say, YES!, Barcelona is a fantastic city to visit in the winter for several reasons. 

Reason #1: Less People

The winter is Barcelona’s off seasons, and when we say off we mean O-F-F. Streets normally crowded with tourists slow to a trickle in some places, while the overall foreign presence you feel in the city’s neighborhoods is noticeably lower.

Barcelona's Barceloneta Beach is conspicuously empty during the winter months.
Barceloneta Beach…a winter ghost town

The subways aren’t as packed with people. The restaurants aren’t as busy with foreigners. The tourist attractions like Sagrada Familia and the Picasso Museum see their fair share of people, but what you won’t sense is the overwhelming crush of crowds you’d normally feel when you come in the mega-popular summer months. 

Reason #2: More Locals

The holidays bring a lot of foot traffic to Barcelona’s shopping areas. For example, Carrer Portal de l’Angel is fairly busy during the summer but the bustle doesn’t match the sea of locals who converge on the wide road to do their Christmas shopping.

Barceloneses do their Christmas shopping downtown, creating big but festive crowds.
The holiday shopping rush

If you want a more local experience, step out into this main thoroughfare any night during December and you’ll be amazed at the sea of people before you.
Cold weather also drives more people to local bars — not that they’re anywhere near empty during the year — to catch a cup of coffee, a chupito of whiskey to warm the belly and sweet pastries and breads.

Reason #3: Barcelona is Cafe City

Quick; when someone says they visited the most amazing city for cafes, what comes to mind? Most likely you’ll say Paris, Rome or any number of other French and Italian cities. 
Barcelona is the most underrated cafe city in Europe.

Locals enjoying coffee and newspapers at a cafe in Barcelona during a cold day.
Coffee and newspapers; the perfect cold-day remedy

The city’s charming Old Quarter is replete with cafes of all types of cuisine, drinks and atmosphere. There are the garish gathering places like London Bar, the coffee champions like El Magnificio and Satan’s Coffee Corner, the divey digs like Bar Mingus and Marsella, and the whimsical likes of Caelus and Pudding.

#Barcelona is the most underrated cafe city in Europe. #travel #coffee

— Barcelona Experience (@bcn_exp) December 18, 2014

Couple that with the maze of back alley cafes which seem to always pop up in the Gothic Quarter and you’ve got yourself a never-ending selection of places at which you can sneak in during a cold day and enjoy a warm cup of awesome as you watch the city’s countless characters traipse by. 
If it’s bars you want, you’re in luck. Spain is home to more bars than any other country in Europe. 

Reason #4: Christmas Culinary Cheer

Catalan’s love the Christmas season, and in no aspect of the yuletide season is this appetite for celebration more prevalent than in food. 
The winter is the season of a variety of eats which are guaranteed not only to turn up the temperature in your body but also immerse you a warm aura of local culture. 

Sweet Potatoes and Chestnuts

On any given day during winter you’ll be able to walk by local vendors selling sweet potatoes and chestnuts cooked over open coals and flames.

Vendors roasting chestnuts over hot coals during a cold night, a common sight in Barcelona in the winter.
Nothing like warm chestnuts on a cold night

The smell is amazing, the food is hot and the experience is one you probably never thought you’d get in the fashion-forward, sand-soaked images you see of the city.

Chocolate and Churros

Don’t forget chocolate and churros, a year-round favorite of local residents but also a delightful treat during the cold winter months.

Chocolate and churros are the perfect snack on a cold winter day in Barcelona.
Chocolate and churros in winter? Yes, please.

Turrón

Also, turrón is another favorite food in Barcelona during the cold part of the year. Turron is a bar of a variety of nougats and nuts which come in various sizes. It comes in various styles, but the most popular is agramut, a combination of a white, taffy-like candy mixed with almonds. 

Turron is one of Barcelona's favorite wintertime delights.
Turron agramut and turron blanda with coffee

Carajillo

Looking for a drink to wash down all this wintery goodness? Try a carajillo, a Spanish favorite which combines whiskey and espresso and is served in a shot glass.

The carajillo is a strong-but-delicious drink you can enjoy during the winter in Barcelona.
Carajillos will warm you up in a hurry
Each bar tends to make their carajillos differently. Some will offer you a trifasico, which is a carajillo with milk.
Word of advice: as the carajillo is the kind of drink that can knock you clear off your stool with its alcoholy goodness and flat-out bearish bitterness, mix yours with some sugar.

Beach photo credit: Nicolas Boullosa, Flickr Creative Commons
Busy street photo credit: Ajuntament BarcelonaFlickr Creative Commons
Cafe photo credit: marimbajlamesa, Flickr Creative Commons
Churros and chocolate photo credit: Matt Biddulph, Flickr Creative Commons
Castañas photo credit: Andres Nieto Porras, Flickr Creative Commons
Carajillo photo credit: Carlos Escrig i Royo, Flickr Creative Commons
Turron photo credit: Jonathan Pincas, Flickr Creative Commons
Christmas lights photo credit: Ajuntament Barcelona, Flickr Creative Commons

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