Barcelona is one of the top holiday destinations in Europe. But that doesn’t need to stop as soon as the parasols have been packed away and the woolies come out. Winter is one of the most beautiful seasons in the Catalan capital: mild climate, crisp mornings with blue skies for many days, matched with orange hues from the tree leaves. Not only is it a welcome relief from the thousands of visitors who descend on the city during the hottest months, it is also a time when the cultural calendar swings into action. Here are our top ten things to do in winter in Barcelona.
- Hot chocolate with churros All year
The staple diet for many during the colder months – and there is nothing better! Imagine a thick, hot, sweet, chocolaty drink with a long, doughnut-type treat to dip in. This can also be found at other times of the year but is mostly consumed during the winter months while sitting in cosy cafes, on terraces or from the street (impossible to resist).
- In Edit Film Documentary festival October 29th – November 8th
If you like music and documentaries, the In-Edit Documentary Festival will get you hot-footing it to Barcelona in no time. It features the cream of the crop in music documentary film-making and since its creation in 2003, it has shown more than 6000 documentaries and attracts over 80,000 spectators every year. You can even get to meet or participate in a question and answer session with some directors. Not bad for €6.50.
- World Press Photo Exhibition November 12th – December 13th
Just as the leaves are falling from the trees, the annual Wold Press Photo Exhibition opens its doors at the CCCB in the Raval district in central Barcelona. “We inspire understanding of the world through visual journalism” is the motto and it never fails to impress. Barcelona is just one of the stops of this travelling exhibition so if you are unable to check it out while in Barcelona, be sure to check the website for an exhibition near you.
- Christmas Market December and Early January
Some of the most picturesque plazas in Barcelona come alive during December and the first part of January as shoppers stroll around looking for unique Christmas presents. Visit Fira de Santa Luria (metro: Jaume I), Fira Nadal de la Sagrada Familia (metro: Sagrada Familia) or the Fira de Brocanters (metro: Catalunya) for some of the best stalls selling artisanal gifts, Christmas trees and decorations. Don’t forget to buy one of the famous ‘caga tios’ and stop off for hot chocolate with churros before home!
- Kings night / day January 5th / 6th
This is the biggest parade and Christmas celebration in Spain, the beloved Three Kings who originally brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Children and adults alike line the streets to follow the procession around the city atop heavily decorated, glistening floats. Be prepared to be hit by sweets and knocked over by children scrambling to catch them, filling their bags with sweet treats for the following day and weeks. Kings Day, January 6th, is filled with presents, traditional food and family fun before back to school and work the next day, the end of the winter holidays.
- Calçots January to April
Barbecued vegetables aren’t usually the things first to be snatched from the barbecue. But the whole of Catalunya goes calçot-crazy between January and April when calçots are in season. This long vegetable is between a leek and a spring onion, and grown mostly in the areas surrounding the cities of Barcelona and Tarragona. After barbecuing for a few minutes, peel the outer, blackened layer to reveal the tasty interior and dip it in romesco sauce (a tomoato, almond, hazelnut, garlic and vinegar recipe). Getting messy is part of the game. Don’t forget your bib!
- Go skiing December – March
Ok, technically this isn’t IN Barcelona, but some great ski slopes are pretty close to the city at just two hours away by car/ bus in the Pyrenees. There are plenty of organized groups and companies offering budget deals, as well as options to travel there off your own back by public transport and cosy hostels for warming up after a day on the slopes.
- Visit the museums Any time
It’s time to take advantage of the slightly quieter months. If you have been putting off visiting some of the Gaudi sights or visiting one of the many museums and exhibitions, now is the time to stop procrastinating. Queues are considerably shorter and venues less crowded. Take your pick from the wide variety of options in this vibrant city! Note: The first Sunday of each month is free entry to museums (queues are likely to be longer on these days).
- Get fit Any time
A popular resolution for many after one-too-many at Christmas, Barcelona has gyms a-plenty for very reasonable prices. The winter months may be more popular for attending the gym but it is by far better in the winter than in the heat of summer. Most gyms in the city provide classes as well as the machines and a workout room. If you are looking for a good pool, try the Club Natació de Barcelona in Barceloneta.
- Take a course Any time
Barcelona is a multicultural city. And with that, you can find different backgrounds, skills and interests. From capoeira to sevillanas, from photography to sculpture, from graphic design to cookery classes, there is endless choice when it comes to learning something new. And winter is one of the best times to take a course as many reduce their prices, classes are smaller and we may choose to spend more study time at home.
So you can see, Barcelona is not just a summer city. Visit it for yourself to find out what else it has to offer!
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