Barcelona attracts visitors all year round. Summer is undoubtedly the high season, but spring is great too because temperatures are milder, and it isn’t as crowded as in July and August. There’s plenty to do in the Ciutat Comtal during springtime, here are some of our recommendations.
Listen to great live music at Primavera Sound
If you’re a music enthusiast you’ll surely have heard about Primavera Sound. Barcelona’s biggest music festival gathers tens of thousands of people every year to listen to an eclectic selection of rock, pop, indie, electronic music and many other genres. In recent years, artists such as Radiohead, The Strokes, The Pixies, and Queens of the Stone Age have played the festival’s main stage, located in the Park del Forum. Primavera Sound usually lasts between 4 and 5 days, with general passes and single-day tickets available. However, these sell out very quickly, so stay on your toes if you want to get a hold of one!
Tip from Matthias: The opening day of the festival is free, so you can go even if you don’t have a ticket. This year the main act is Belle and Sebastian.
Shop for books and roses for Sant Jordi
The legend goes that when Sant Jordi slew the dragon to rescue the princess it held captive, its blood bloomed into a rose bush, from which he picked a single rose to give to her. Traditionally for Sant Jordi men gifted women roses and women gifted men books, but nowadays both are exchanged independent of gender, and they can all be found on the streets of Barcelona, which fill up with stalls selling books and flowers. Sant Jordi takes place on April 23rd, and it’s a great day to just walk the streets, as the whole city is overtaken by a positive, friendly mood.
Go wandering on Montjuïc
Montjuïc is the large hill that brackets the city of Barcelona on its southwestern side. It is home to many of the installations built for Barcelona’s 1992 Olympic Games, as well as parks, museums, and Barcelona’s botanical garden, which you can visit for free on Sunday afternoons. Especially noteworthy are the Jardins de Mossén Costa i Llobera –the Costa and Llobera Gardens– an interesting park where you can find over 800 different species of cacti. The park overlooks the sea, so it’s a good place to pause for lunch and enjoy the views.
Visit Barcelona’s museums by night
Once a year, usually in mid to late May, Barcelona’s museums turn their opening hours on their head and keep their doors open to guests well into the night. If you’re not interested in the typical museum experience but want to get to know the Catalan capital’s art and cultural scene more closely, La Nit dels Museus is a good opportunity to do so in a more festive and lighthearted atmosphere. It’s not uncommon to see groups of patrons visiting art exhibits while enjoying a bottle of wine, or stopping for tapas between visits to one establishment and the next. The MACBA and the CCCB, in the Raval, are a good place to start, and can be followed by La Virreina Centre de la Imatge, La Filmoteca de Catalunya, and the Palau Güell.
Explore Barcelona by bike
While not comparable to cycling cities like Amsterdam or Copenhagen, Barcelona has made remarkable progress in recent years towards becoming more cyclist-friendly. With over 100 km of cycling paths already lining its streets, and 200 km more scheduled to be added to the network by 2018, a cycling tour can be a great way to explore the city. Check out El Ciclo, which offers numerous cycling tour options for all tastes and group sizes.
Dance the night away at the Sonar Festival
Every year, Sónar, Barcelona’s electronic and advanced music festival, gathers tens of thousands of electronic music fans from all over the world to enjoy killer DJ sets, but also to showcase the unconventional and the cutting edge of musical production. True to its name, Sónar isn’t only about head banging until dawn to the latest beats; it is also a window into new and emergent musical genres – experimental and niche styles that usually dwell well beyond the borders of the mainstream. The festival usually takes place around mid-June, and it is possible to get general passes or single-day tickets.
Have brunch in el Parc de la Ciutadella
Over the last few years, the the Catalan capital has become enamored with the United States’ signature meal, Brunch, and the Parc de la Ciutadella happens to be the best place to eat outdoors in the sun. If you have a sweet tooth, try the nearby Lolita Bakery, known for its cakes and cupcakes, while if you want something a bit more hearty, you can pop into Milk Bar and Bistro, which offers eggs, pancakes, smoothies, burgers and all the other essentials to go. After your meal, you can take a stroll in the park, visit the Barcelona zoo, or rent a row boat and go for a paddle in the pond.
Enjoy dinner and drinks on a rooftop terrace
Barcelona has a beautiful skyline, not because it’s chock-full of skyscrapers and monuments but because the uneven rooftops of the old city, sloping down to the sea front, form a patchwork of terraces, windows, and old TV antennas that exude character. And what better way to enjoy it than going for cocktails on one of the many rooftop terraces that dot the city. Try La Isabela at Hotel 1898 on the Rambla for good drinks in a spectacular setting. And if you want to do something a little more “underground”, check out EatWith.com, a website that offers communal dining in the homes of Barcelona locals, including many beautiful terraces in the Raval, the Gothic quarter and the Born.
Take your first diving class on la Costa Brava
The Costa Brava, a little over an hour north of Barcelona, is one of the best places to go scuba diving in Spain. There are plenty of diving schools in Barcelona offering classes and tours for of all levels, from complete beginners to experienced divers. Many schools offer pick up services from the city, so the only thing you need to do is book your class, hop in a van, and they’ll drive you right to the beach. For more experienced divers, there’s another option that can be very interesting: going for a swim in the Barcelona Aquarium shark tank.
Get to know Spain’s holy week of Easter
Due to Spain’s strong Catholic roots, Easter is a very important holiday all over the country. In Barcelona, the places to visit are the Catedral de Santa Eulalia –the Barcelona Cathedral– and the Catedral de Santa Maria del Mar both of which hold numerous masses, choir singing, and which are the destination of the procesiones –parades in which worshippers carry effigies of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary– through the streets of Barcelona while dressed in traditional garb. The dates of Semana Santa change each year, so check a calendar of festivities and holidays to know exactly when it will be happening.