Seasonal Planning for Spain Travel
Although Spain is typically warm and mild, the weather varies by region. The Pyrenees and Castile and Leon are some of its coldest areas, with average temperatures in the winter around 30°F - 40°F. Andalusia is one of Spain’s hottest regions in the summer, with temperatures frequently exceeding 100°F. Regardless of where you’re going, it’s a good idea to pack sweaters and light jackets for the winter, and shorts and T-shirts in summer.
In summer, beach resorts and big cities like Barcelona will be crowded. However, beyond the main tourist spots, smaller cities and towns can be surprisingly quiet year-round.
Winter can be a good time to escape the crowds and high prices, although some attractions have reduced opening hours. The chilly weather brings on a cozy feeling, and you can enjoy winter sports such as skiing, or partake in Christmas festivities.
|Pros||Cons||Best for||Where to Visit|
|June through August (Summer)||Good weather for beach time, long daylight hours, extended opening hours at tourist attractions||Peak season crowds and prices, weather in southern Spain can be very hot||Enjoying the beach, visiting northern Spain, attending festivals||Buñol and Pamplona, for summer festivals. Ibiza and Barcelona for nightlife. Basque Country and Galicia for pleasant weather.|
|September through November(Fall)||Cooler weather, fewer crowds and cheaper prices than summer||Parts of northern Spain can be cold in late fall||Exploring cities, outdoor sightseeing, sampling tapas||Andalusia for good weather, whale watching, and sherry-tasting|
|March through May (Spring)||Cool weather, blooming flowers, and Easter festivities||Easter can mean higher prices and crowding||Watching Holy Week parades, attending bullfights, hiking, flamenco||Seville for Holy Week and Feria festivities|
|December through February (Winter)||Off-season deals and discounts, Christmas festivities, cold-weather outdoor activities||Cold in northern Spain, damp and rainy in southern Spain. Limited opening hours for some attractions.||Skiing and snowboarding, New Year’s Eve celebrations, Christmas markets||Madrid for New Year’s Eve, Zaragoza or Granada region for skiing|
Summer (June through August)
Summer is the high season in Spain. Vacation time and warm weather draw crowds of travelers to cities like Barcelona, Valencia, and Malaga. Nightlife in the resort towns of the Balearic Islands is at its peak (see here for a great summer itinerary for Mallorca). If you plan to visit at this time, it’s a good idea to make arrangements well in advance, especially in Spain’s most popular areas. Note that August is a particularly popular month for vacation in Europe; things will be slightly quieter in June and July.
The sizzling summer weather is good for visiting beaches, and locals as well as travelers head to the coasts to cool off. Spain’s beaches are bustling at this time; when visiting a popular beach in July or August, you’ll want to arrive early to beat the crowds. If you can, bring your own sunscreen from home: this summer essential can be surprisingly expensive in Spain, especially in beach cities and towns.
Those looking for a more low-key vacation can head away from the coasts and towards some of Spain’s inland areas. In northern Spain, you’ll find the coolest temperatures (usually around 75°F). This is a great time to explore Basque Country—try a food tour of San Sebastian, famous for its pintxos (small slices of bread piled with meats, vegetables, and cheeses, all held together with a toothpick). You could also check out the fascinating museums in Bilbao.
Haro Wine Festival (June): Try some of the Rioja region’s famous red wines at this unique festival in the town of Haro, where participants throw wine on each other and watch “bullfights” fought by heifers.
Festival of San Fermin/Running of the Bulls (July): In Pamplona, bulls are let loose during this festival to run through the streets of the city, with residents running amongst them.
La Tomatina (August): In the small town of Buñol, near Valencia, festival participants pelt each other with tomatoes during this summer celebration. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
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Fall (September through November)
If you don’t care for crowds, fall can be a good time to visit Spain. At this point, the weather is still fairly hot, although it’s a few degrees cooler than in summer. This is shoulder season, and prices will be lower than in the preceding few months. In southern Spain, the weather is still warm enough for the beach, and you’ll have an easier time finding a spot.
The reasonable weather makes fall a good time for urban sightseeing, too. This can be a good opportunity to explore the highlights of Barcelona, Madrid, or the cities of Andalusia (Cordoba, Granada, Jerez de la Frontera, and Seville, among others—this itinerary includes Andalusia's top places). Many attractions still run on their summer schedules in September or October, meaning you’ll get to enjoy them for the whole day without the August crowds.
Festivals are a year-round affair in Spain, and there are plenty of interesting ones going on in the fall. Fall is also the perfect opportunity to enjoy whale-watching in Tarifa on Spain’s southern coast, as sperm whales will be migrating at this time.
La Mercè (September): This bustling festival is dedicated to the patron saint of Barcelona. It features parades with papier-machê “giants”, dancing, fireworks, and a wine fair.
Fiesta Nacional de España (October): Celebrated throughout the country, this national holiday marks Christopher Columbus’ journey to the Americas.
International Sherry Week (November): The city of Jerez de la Frontera, in Andalusia, is the birthplace of sherry. This weeklong celebration includes sherry tastings and special pairing menus.
Spring (March through May)
Spring in Spain is also part of the shoulder season, with moderate weather. After the wet and chilly winter, spring is marked by blooming flowers and abundant natural beauty, making it the perfect time to enjoy hiking, biking, and other outdoor sports.
In the western Andalusian city of Seville, spring is when the orange blossoms come out: the trees are covered in white buds, making for an attractive and sweet-smelling experience in the region’s parks. Another good reason to visit Seville in the spring is for its famous Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions, taking place in the week preceding Easter Sunday. During this traditional festival, members of the city’s religious brotherhoods wear capes and pointed hoods. They parade between Seville’s most important churches, carrying painted religious figures and crosses.
Two weeks after Semana Santa, the Feria de Abril kicks off. During this festival, women wear colorful flamenco dresses flowers in their hair, and men don specially-tailored suits. A fairground is set up, with tents serving drinks and tapas—some Sevillanos rent a private tent for their family and friends. Other Andalusian cities, like Malaga and Cordoba, also have Semana Santa parades and hold Ferias in different months of the year; Seville’s, however, are the largest and most famous.
Note that the springtime events in Seville are very popular; last-minute prices are high, so booking in advance is essential.
Las Fallas (March): In Valencia, this festival is marked with processions and fireworks. It culminates in bonfires, where ninots (papier-machê sculptures) are burned.
Semana Santa and Feria de Abril (April): Two large festivals taking place in Seville. The dates vary slightly each year, so check before booking.
Feria de Cordoba (May): If you’re traveling to Spain in late May and want to see a Feria celebration, head for Cordoba: their version of the popular flamenco festival happens a few weeks after the one in Seville.
Winter (December through February)
Winter is the off-season in Spain. By this point, the weather is no longer beach-friendly, and parts of the country are rainy and cold. However, there’s still plenty to do in these months, from winter sports to Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.
If you’re dying for a beach vacation in Spain in the winter, there is one place you might be able to find it—the Canary Islands, off the coast of Morocco in northwest Africa. While the weather is cool in these islands in the winter, places like Lanzarote have some of the warmest weather in the country, with highs around 70°F in December. Here, you can find an eight-day itinerary to explore Lanzarote.
Otherwise, if you’d rather embrace the cold weather with some winter sports, you can head up to the country’s snow-capped mountains for skiing and snowboarding. In southern Spain, the Sierra Nevada Mountains offer a fine ski resort near the city of Granada. Further north, there’s plenty of snow to be had in the Pyrenees. If you base yourself in Barcelona or Zaragoza, you’ll find ski resorts just an hour or two’s drive away.
Don’t forget about Christmas and New Year’s—while shops and attractions may be closed on those days, Spain’s major cities are home to parties and Christmas markets where you can join in the celebrations.
Christmas (December): In major Spanish cities, you’ll likely find restaurants open on December 25th. The larger celebration happens on Three Kings Day, which is on January 6th.
New Year’s Day (January): Celebrate the night before, then use January 1st to relax; most shops and attractions are closed.
Andalusia Day (February): You’ll see the green-and-white Andalusian flag flying if you visit this southern Spanish province in late February. The holiday is celebrated with festivities and live music in Cordoba, Malaga, and Seville.