How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Barcelona

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    What to Do in Barcelona and Where to Go Next

    Taylor McIntyre / © TripSavvy

    If you're planning a trip to Spain, chances are you'll be landing in Madrid, Barcelona or Malaga, the three mainland cities with the biggest airports. If you're landing in Barcelona, read on to learn how to plan the perfect trip.

    Barcelona's location in the north-east of the country means it's generally easier to plan a trip to Spain from centrally located Madrid. However, as most visitors to Spain plan on visiting Barcelona at some point, it doesn't matter greatly whether you start there or visit later in your vacation.

    We'll show you how to:

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  • 02 of 14

    Where to Stay in Barcelona

    Gracia, Barcelona
    Damian Corrigan

    Barcelona is a more spread out city than Madrid when it comes to areas visitors will want to see. Where you stay will have a big impact on the kind of trip you will have.

    The top recommendations on where to stay are:

    • Gracia: A former village that became a part of Barcelona when the two were connected by the Eixample district, Gracia still feels like a village, albeit the hippest village you'll ever visit.
    • Poble Sec/Sant Antoni: Between the Raval and the Montjuic mountain, Poble Sec and Sant Antoni are fast becoming the coolest districts in Barcelona, with bars and restaurants opening on a weekly basis.
    • El Born: It looks a lot like the Gothic Quarter, but with a more residential feel. More a neighborhood than a tourist trap.
    • Eixample: The bit of Barcelona that really feels like a city. Wide, tree-lined avenues and home to most of Barcelona's accommodation, you're in the middle of everything here. (Plus it's here where most of the modernist architecture is.)
    • Barceloneta: Former fishing village and home to the nearest beach to the city center.
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  • 03 of 14

    How Many Days Should You Spend in Barcelona?

    Taylor McIntyre / © TripSavvy

    How long you should spend in Barcelona depends on your interests, how long you have in total in Spain and where else you want to visit. So here are a few ways of dividing up your trip.

    What Proportion of Your Trip Should You Spend in Barcelona?

    For shorter trips, it makes sense to stay in Barcelona the whole time (and do day trips if you're getting bored).

    • Fewer Than Five Days: Consider spending the whole time in Barcelona. Fill your time with day trips (you can even do a day trip from Barcelona to Madrid on the high-speed AVE train).
    • Five to Seven Days: Spend a little over half of your time in Barcelona, and the rest in Madrid, or the Basque Country. You could also go from Barcelona to Seville and explore there, perhaps with a day trip to Granada, but no more. However, you could easily fill your time by staying in Barcelona the whole time and doing day trips.
    • Eight to Ten Days: Spend four days in Barcelona and the rest of the time elsewhere. Six days split between Madrid, Seville and Granada would be a great way to fill your vacation. If you wanted to spend more time in Barcelona, you could limit your other trips to just one out of Madrid, San Sebastian and Seville.
    • Eleven to 14 Days Spain is your oyster! Stay as long in Barcelona as you think you need (see below) and spend your other days in the rest of the country.

    How Long Will It Take to See All the Sights in Barcelona?

    • Start with three days to explore the center of Barcelona. See the Gothic Quarter, El Born, the Raval, Barceloneta and Gracia, as well as seeing the outside of Gaudi’s buildings in the Eixample (La Pedrera, Casa Batllo and the Sagrada Familia). Spend the first day on a sightseeing bus tour: though Barcelona is smaller than Madrid, its sights are more spread out, making a tour bus a great way to get an overview of the city.
    • Add a half day to go inside the Sagrada Familia. However, we don't really think it's worth the time or money to go inside.
    • Add a half day to go inside La Pedrera and/or Casa Batllo
    • Add a half day to visit the Dali Museum in Figueres
    • Add a half day to visit Montserrat
    • Add a day to visit Tarragona and Reus
    • Add a day to ​visit Madrid. This is a tough day trip and not something we normally recommend, as Madrid deserves a lot more than a single day's visit, but the AVE train makes it possible, so if you don’t think you’ll be returning to Spain any time soon and want to at least see one of Madrid’s big museums before you go, then it’s at least possible.
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  • 04 of 14

    Best Day Trips From Barcelona

    Montserrat, near Barcelona
    Damian Corrigan

    Catalonia, as the locals love to tell you, is different from the rest of Spain. It has a different culinary tradition, its own architectural style, its own drinking culture. And then there are the beaches!

    One of the best things about the day trips near Barcelona is that the best two, Montserrat and the Gaudi museum in Figueres, can be visited as a half-day trip.

    Best Day Trips from Barcelona

    • MontserratThe jagged mountain has a famous monastery and some fantastic walking trails. Don't forget to pop into the Colonia Guell on the way.
    • Gaudi Museum, Figueres: See the fantastically surreal art of Dali in a bizarre building that is the perfect backdrop for his work. You can also visit Cadaques nearby too.
    • Tarragona: Some of the best Roman ruins in Spain. Nearby is Reus, with its Modernist architecture and a great vermouth museum.
    • Sitges: Good beaches and one of the largest gay communities in Spain. 
    • Visit a WineryThere are some excellent vineyards around Barcelona.

    Food and Drink Day Trips From Barcelona

    It's not easy to find good food in Barcelona (all the restaurants are either tourist traps or fully reserved when you arrive). But that's not the case outside the city, where there are some excellent places to eat and drink.

    Combine Sights on a Great Guided Tour

    Even if you normally don't do guided tours, sometimes they can be great if you're short on time. Having someone else do the logistics for you can make combining more than one sight on the same trip much easier.

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  • 05 of 14

    After Barcelona: Where to Next?

    The Alhambra, late afternoon, from Rambutan guest house
    Damian Corrigan

    If your trip is to Spain, not just Barcelona, then you'll need to plan where you'll go next. Andalusia or Madrid are the most obvious choices, with the gastronomy of the Basque Country and the green hills of Galicia and Asturias also a good choice. Fans of the beach might want to head along the east coast down towards Valencia and Alicante.

    Guided Tours or Go by Yourself?

    Guided tours can be a great way of fitting a lot into a short period of time. If you only have five days in Spain and you doubt you'll ever be back, only a tour could take you to Granada, Seville, Cordoba and Toledo is such a short period of time. 

    Straight to Andalusia

    Not the easiest to get to from Barcelona (try a stop in Madrid on the way!) but full of the most iconic sights Spain has to offer.

    • Visit the Alhambra in Granada and eat tapas as it was supposed to be eaten: for free, one for each drink you order.
    • Catch a flamenco show in the historic districts of Seville 
    • Visit the wonderful mosque-cathedral of Cordoba
    • Drink sherry at its birthplace, Jerez
    • Eat great fried fish in the port city of Cadiz

    South-West Towards Madrid

    The easiest option, with the high-speed AVE train whisking you between Spain's two biggest cities in no time at all.

    • Take the high-speed train to Madrid, Spain’s capital and home to some of the best art museums in the world
    • Perhaps stop in Zaragoza on the way, home to two cathedrals.
    • Take a detour via the wine regions to the north of Madrid
    • Take a day trip from Madrid to Segovia or Toledo.

    North West Towards San Sebastian and Bilbao in the Basque Country

    Travel from one region that wants to break away from Spain to another and get an insight into how varied culture, cuisine and landscape can be on the Iberian peninsula.

    • Visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
    • Eat the best tapas in the world in San Sebastian
    • Taste the best Spanish wines in the Rioja wine region
    • Go surfing in the Atlantic

    Try this Five-Day Gourmet Food and Wine Tour of Rioja, San Sebastian and Bilbao

    South Towards Valencia

    If Spain for you is about the beaches, slink along the sandy east coast and stop in at the sights along the way. A great option if you want to spend less time on the road and more time sunning yourself.

    • Visit Reus, home of Gaudi, modernist architecture and the Spanish vermouth revival
    • See Tarragona’s Roman ruins
    • Go to Valencia, where paella was invented

    North-East Towards France

    Barcelona is very close to France, meaning you can easily pop across the border to experience another European country (you can even add in Andorra and visit three countries in one day.)

    • Take the high-speed train to Figueres for the Dali Museum
    • Visit Girona
    • Go skiing in the Pyrenees
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  • 06 of 14

    After Barcelona: How to Get From Barcelona to Andalusia

    Seville Cathedral
    Damian Corrigan

    Spain's most famous sights are, unfortunately, at opposite ends of the country: Barcelona in the north-east and Andalusia in the south. So how should you go about joining those dots?

    Fly Straight to Seville - Or Take the Train!

    Though subject to change, at the moment Ryanair has very cheap flights from Barcelona to Seville. However, when adding in the time (and cost) in getting to the airport (and the fatigue resulting from the ungodly time the flight leaves in the morning), you may be better off taking the train instead. The AVE train from Barcelona to Seville follows the trajectory of the Barcelona to Madrid route and then the Madrid to Seville route, covering the whole journey - city center to city center - in five-and-a-half hours.

    Guided Tours of Andalusia from Barcelona

    There are so many sights to see in Andalusia, split between Seville, Granada and other cities, that the logistics of getting around by yourself can be problematic, especially if you're trying to cram a lot into a short period of time. A guided tour (with the added bonus of an expert guide) is the only way you could see so much in so few days.

    Go to Andalusia via Madrid

    Why not break up your journey with a stop in Madrid? The Barcelona to Madrid train journey follows the same high-speed rail route as the direct Barcelona to Seville. Atocha train station, where you would arrive and depart from, is centrally located, just a couple of minutes' walk from the Reina Sofia and Prado art museums and a 20-minute walk to Puerta del Sol. Get a hotel close to Atocha and you can have a hassle-free short stay in Madrid en route to Andalusia.

    Then, it's a short train journey from Madrid to Cordoba to see the Mosque-Cathedral, and then an even shorter one from Cordoba to Seville (or you can just go direct).

    Avoid Going via Valencia

    It might be tempting to head south along the east coast and then cross from Valencia to say, Granada, but we don’t recommend it. The bus journey is long and there are no direct trains. If you do want to go to Valencia on the way, continue on your journey by going via Madrid. The Valencia to Madrid train takes under two hours.


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  • 07 of 14

    After Barcelona: South-West Towards Madrid

    Madrid Plaza Mayor
    Jim Anzalone/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    The most obvious place to visit after Barcelona, as long as you’ve already done some day trips, is Madrid. Spain’s biggest city and home to some of the world’s best art museums, Madrid is a vibrant place that feels much less like it is constantly trying to sell you something than Barcelona. And it’s also much, much easier to eat well in Madrid than in Barcelona.

    What to Do in Madrid

    • Visit Picasso's Guernica painting at the Reina Sofia Museum
    • Go to the Prado art museum, Spain's answer to the Louvre
    • Experience the exciting hipster cafes and nightlife of the Malasaña area of town.
    • Eat in some of Spain's best restaurants 

    Where to Stop on the Way

    The only sensible stops if traveling by high-speed train are Zaragoza and Lleida. Personally, we don’t think they’re worth getting off the train for. Take advantage of the speed and efficiency of the AVE and go straight to Madrid.

    However, if you have a little more time, you could take a slower train and ​head up to Logroño on the way. Logroño is the capital of the Rioja region, home of the country's most wines, and one of the best cities in Spain for tapas. There are no direct trains to Madrid from Logroño, but there is a direct bus. (You can also take the train, with a transfer, and be in Madrid in under four hours).

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  • 08 of 14

    After Barcelona: Head South Along the East Coast

    City of Arts Valencia
    papagnoc / Pixabay

    Beach lovers may want to hug the coastline and travel south along Spain's east coast. Traveling along the coast to Valencia is also a good detour for travel to Madrid.

    As you head south, you'll come across the following cities and resort towns.

    • Sitges: Beach town with a vibrant gay nightlife
    • Vilafranca del Penedès: Cava wine-producing town, with a wine museum
    • Tarragona and Reus: Tarragona has some of the best Roman ruins in Spain. Nearby Reus is famous for its modernist architecture and vermouth production
    • Valencia: Spain's third biggest city and the home of paella. 
    • Altea and Benidorm: Both are beach resorts - Benidorm is the eternal cheap beach vacation spot, while nearby Altea has a beautiful old town.  
    • Alicante: A great tapas scene and good beaches make this a popular short break destination.

    How Long Should You Spend Exploring Spain's East Coast?

    Spain's east coast is mainly about the beaches. You could see the sights of each destination - even Valencia's - in a day. In which case, your itinerary should be dictated by how long you've got and how long you like to spend lying on beaches.

    Travel From Valencia to Madrid

    A lot of visitors to Spain forgo the high-speed AVE train from Madrid to Barcelona and instead go to Valencia and take the train from there instead.

    The train route from Valencia to Madrid has a great stop in Cuenca, home to the famous Hanging Houses. If you are going to Madrid via Valencia, a stop here is highly recommended.

    Day Trips and Short Stays South of Barcelona

    Sitges, Tarragona and Reus are all close enough to Barcelona to be visited as day trips. Transport is good between Barcelona and Tarragona and Barcelona and Sitges, but visits to Reus are easiest from Tarragona.

    To visit two of these cities in one day, you'll probably want to either stay the night or do a guided tour.

    Getting Around Spain's East Coast

    It takes around five hours to take the train from Barcelona all the way to Alicante. The train stops at Tarragona and Valencia along the way. Hit the link to book train tickets in Spain.

    For the smaller stops along the way, you'll need to take the bus. Check out Movelia for timetables and tickets for most buses in Spain.

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  • 09 of 14

    After Barcelona: Head North-West to the Basque Country

    San Sebastian Tapas
    Damian Corrigan

    The cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian are a fantastic destination for those heading north from Barcelona. When traveling from Barcelona, you can also make stops en route.

    The biggest city between Barcelona and the Basque Country is Zaragoza. However, apart from its two cathedrals, it doesn't rank particularly high on our list of places to see in Spain. Instead, try a stop in Logroño, capital of the Rioja wine region and one of the best cities in Spain for tapas.

    So, if you're planning on visiting Logroño, note that there are trains from Logroño to Bilbao, but not to San Sebastian.

    If you're planning on driving, make a stop in Montserrat (if you've not already visited it on a day trip from Barcelona).

    Suggested Itinerary

    • Head to Logroño, perhaps stopping in Montserrat on the way. Get to Logroño in time for lunch and head straight to Calle Laurel and Calle San Juan, two streets that are filled with great tapas bars. Stay the night so you can rest after all that wine (and go back out again for dinner!) and visit a winery or two nearby. But bear in mind that you should book your winery visits in advance.
    • Continue by train to Bilbao. It's worth a stay overnight in Bilbao, to check out the Guggenheim and explore the 'Siete Calles' old town. But if you're planning on going to San Sebastian too (which you really, really should!) then you could skip Bilbao's old town and just go to the Guggenheim (or at least see the Frank Gehry architecture from the outside).
    • San Sebastian is just over an hour away by bus from Bilbao. If you do stay the night in Bilbao, you could visit San Sebastian as a day trip, but San Sebastian is worth staying in, particularly because you'll be so bloated from all the excellent food that you'll find it hard to make it back to the bus station in time to go back to Bilbao.

    Wine Tours North-West of Barcelona

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  • 10 of 14

    After Barcelona: Head North Towards France

    Round tower and low building topped with egg shapes
    Photo by Luca Quadrio / Getty Images

    The train from Barcelona to Perpignan takes just one-and-a-half hours, while Marseille is just four-and-a-half hours away. But why not stop at a few of the places along the way?

    Where to Stop on the Way From Barcelona to France

    The two most obvious stops along the way are the walled city of Girona, with its famous Jewish quarter, and the Dali Museum in Figueres. Both can be visited as day trips from Barcelona but they make ideal stops en route to France.

    There are other smaller sights along the way. Places like the fortress town Pals and the fishing village Calella de Palafrugell are good places to stop by in, but you'll need your own car or to take a tour.

    The Pyrenees and Andorra

    Between France and Spain there is, of course, the Pyrenees mountains and the tiny country of Andorra. Even if it's not ski season, there is plenty to do in the Pyrenees. There are plenty of hiking trails from Andorra, while the Spanish exclave of Llivia is a curiosity that is worth a stop.

    Costa Brava Beaches

    The Costa Brava is littered with popular beach resorts. Some of the more famous places include:

    • Lloret de Mar: With its cute castle, sandy beaches an proximity to Barcelona, Lloret de Mar is a great beach getaway from Barcelona
    • Blanes: Visit in July for the annual Blanes Fireworks Competition
    • Cadaques: See the birthplace of Salvador Dali.
    • Roses: Visit Roses Citadel, a mid-16th-century fortress.

    Transport to Girona, Figueres, the Costa Brava and France 

    Northern Catalonia is well served by both bus and train.

    • There is a high-speed AVE rail service that connections Barcelona to France via Girona and Figueres.
    • There are bus services throughout the Costa Blanca. Pujol for getting around the various resort towns and Sarfa/Sarbus/Moventis (the company seems to change names depending on which page you are on) for getting between Barcelona and the Costa.
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  • 11 of 14

    When to Visit? Spring in Barcelona

    Primavera Sound Festival 2017
    Roberto Ricciuti/WireImage

    When should you go to Spain? Check out your options over the next few slides.

    Weather in Barcelona in Spring

    It's unlikely you're going to be able to sunbathe in Barcelona at least until April, and even then it's hardly guaranteed. Even by the end of May, it's rarely warm enough to sunbathe.

    It tends to be dry, but this is far from guaranteed, so pack a light raincoat just in case. Barcelona has lots to do, but sunbathing in spring is not necessarily one of them.

    March Events in Barcelona

    • Sant Medir Festival
      When? Early March 
      Where? Barcelona 
      What? Costumed processions in the Gracia area of Barcelona
    • La Passio
      When? Run-up to Easter
      Where? Esparraguera, Catalonia
      What? Famous performance of the Passion of Christ
    • Spannabis
      When? Mid-March
      Where? Barcelona
      What? Cannabis trade fair! Promotes the legal use of cannabis in Spain

    April Events in Barcelona

    • Mostra de Cinema Llatinoamericà de Lleida
      When? Early April
      Where? Lleida in Catalonia
      What? Latin American film festival
    • Barcelona Beer Festival
      When? Early April
      Where? Barcelona.
      What? Second beer festival of Barcelona, with over 300 limited-availability beers.
    • Salon del Comic
      When? Early April
      Where? Barcelona, at the Montjuic exhibition center.
      What? Major comic convention
    • Semana Santa
      When? Easter
      Where? All over Spain
      What? Semana Santa completely dominates Spain in March, so no matter where you are, there'll be something to commemorate the Resurrection. Seville and Toledo are popular places to experience Semana Santa.
    • Sant Jordi Festival
      When? April 23
      Where? Barcelona
      What? A type of combined Valentines Day and celebration of the deaths of Cervantes and Shakespeare (who both died on the same day) as well as a celebration of St George's Day. Also celebrated in Caceres as the San Jorge Festival.

    May Events in Barcelona

    • Tapantoni
      When? Throughout May (see website for exact dates)
      Where? Barcelona.
      What? Tapas route. Get a drink and tapas for 2.5 euros in bars in the Sant Antoni area of Barcelona.
    • Spanish Grand Prix
      When? Early May
      Where? Barcelona
      What? Formula One (F1) motor race
    • Girona Flower Festival
      When? Mid May
      Where? Girona, near Barcelona
      What? See the best displays of flowers, gardens and patios in Girona.
    • Snail Festival
      When? Late May
      Where? Lleida, Catalonia
      What? It's not just the French that eat snails - they're also a delicacy in Catalonia too. This festival celebrates the culinary delights of the little mollusks. Mmm, tasty! 
    • Ciutat Flamenco
      When? Late May
      Where? Barcelona 
      What? Flamenco festival
    • Primavera Sound
      When? Late May
      Where? Barcelona
      What? Biggest alternative music festival in Europe
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  • 12 of 14

    When to Visit? Summer in Barcelona

    Gay pride barcleona
    Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

    Weather in Barcelona in Summer

    Daytime temperatures in Barcelona in early June tend to hover around 24C (75F), rising to around, to at least 30C (86F) in August. Summers in Barcelona tend to range between 'comfortable' to 'just a bit too hot'. 

    Be aware that, thanks to the Mediterranean Sea, temperatures at night in Barcelona don't fall very far, making air conditioning really important if you want a good night's sleep. 

    June Events in Barcelona

    • Sonar festival
      When? Early June
      Where? Barcelona
      What? Dance music festival with big-name headliners
    • Pride Barcelona
      When? Mid-June
      Where? Barcelona
      What? Barcelona's Gay Pride

    July Events in Barcelona

    • Grec festival 
      All of July
      Where? Barcelona
      What? Culture festival
    • Fiesta Mayor Del Raval
      When? Mid-June
      Where? Barcelona
      What? Local festivities in the Raval area of Barcelona
    • Benicassim Rock & Pop Festival
      When? Mid-June
      Where? Benicassim, near Castellon de la Plana (between Barcelona and Valencia)
      What? One of the biggest music festivals in Europe. On the mainstream side of the alternative music scene, featuring some of the biggest bands from the UK, the US and the rest of Europe. 

      August Events Near Barcelona

      • Tomatina Tomato Fight  
        When? Last Wednesday of August
        Where? Bunyol (Buñol), near Valencia. 
        What? The world's most famous food fight.
      • Gracia festival 
        When? August
        Where? The Gracia district of Barcelona 
        What? Fireworks, children's drawing contests, dancing, drinking and more in Gracia's festival.
      • Festa Major de Sitges 
        When? Late August 
        Where? Sitges, near Barcelona
        What? The biggest festival after Carnival
      • Vuelta a España 
        When? Late August or early September
        Where? Stages take place largely in the north of Spain (Galicia, Navarra, Basque Country and Catalonia) and around Madrid. 
        What? Spain's version of the Tour de France. Dates vary year to year but tend to straddle August and September.
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    • 13 of 14

      When to Visit? Autumn/Fall in Barcelona

      Cavalcada, Festa de la Merce - Barcelona, Cataluna
      Damien Simonis / Getty Images

      Weather in Barcelona in Fall or Autumn

      September can, by and large, be considered still a part of summer, with temperatures remaining high for most of the month. By the end of October, temperatures will have dropped to the low 20s (70F). It tends to stay dry but rain is always possible. 

      September Events in Barcelona

      • Festa de la Mercè
        Where? Barcelona
        What? Local festival, one of the biggest fiestas of the year in Barcelona.
      • Festa Major de Vilafranca del Penedés
        Where? Vilafranca, Catalonia 
        What? Castells (human castle-building) and more traditional festivities.
      • Diada de Catalunya
        Where? Barcelona and throughout Catalonia
        What? Catalonia's national day commemorates their defeat to Castillian forces in the 18th century. Expect partying and nationalist propaganda in equal measure.
      • Festa de Santa Tecla
        Tarragona, Catalonia
        What? Castellets (human castle building) and other local festivities. The 22nd and 23rd are the biggest days.

      October Events in Barcelona

      November Events in Barcelona

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    • 14 of 14

      When to Visit? Winter in Barcelona

      Three Kings Day
      Artur Debat / Getty Images

      Weather in Barcelona in Winter

      As long you aren't planning on visiting the beach, winter can be a good time to visit Barcelona. The crowds are much reduced, making it much easier to get into the big sights. 

      Temperatures from December to February tend to be around 10C to 16C (50F to 60F), which though perhaps not quite T-shirt weather, makes for pleasant conditions for walking around the city. Nighttime (and early morning) temperatures in January and February tend to fall more. If you're staying in an older apartment you might need to bring PJs!

      December Events in Barcelona

      • Christmas Lottery in Spain - 'El Gordo'
        When? December 22
        Where? All over Spain
        What? El Gordo, the massive Spanish lottery, is drawn. This lottery is so big, they start selling tickets in August! 

      January Events in Barcelona

      • La Ciutat dels Somnis
        Where? Around New Year
        Where? Barcelona, at the international exhibition center (FIRA).
        What? Children's festival. Music, animals, technology and more for the little ones.
      • Tradicionarius Festival
        January - March
        Where? Barcelona
        What? Traditional music festival in Barcelona. Check out the link for concert dates.
      • Three Kings Day
        When? January 5-6
        Where? All over Spain
        What? On the night of the fifth, there'll be processions featuring the three kings on their way to Baby Jesus, giving out candy to children waiting for them in the streets. The 6th is a public holiday.

      February Events in Barcelona