When to Go
For optimal weather and fewer tourists, visit Barcelona, Catalonia, and Bilbao from April through June and mid-September through mid-December. Expect traffic at the start and end of August when locals leave for vacation. Major cities are relaxed and empty except for tourists in August, though Gràcia’s Festa Major in Barcelona and Semana Grande in Bilbao keep these two cities alive during summer. Some shops and restaurants shut down for part of the month, but museums remain open, and music and theater festivals ensure that there's never a cultural lull.
Barcelona summers can be very hot, but temperatures rarely surpass 100°F (38°C), and air-conditioning is becoming more widespread. Dining alfresco on a warm summer night is one of northern Spain’s finest pleasures. Spring and fall offer the best temperatures at both ends of the Pyrenees. Barcelona winters—chilly, but never freezing—are ideal for fireside dining and hearty cuisine.