These are the best times to visit Spain

Mar 7, 2020

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Feel like indulging in flamenco, tapas and vino? A trip to Spain may just be in order.

There’s really never a bad time to visit the country. But depending on what style of vacation you’d like to have — steamy summer nights along the Costa del Sol, partaking in traditional celebrations like a massive tomato fight or seeing all the major tourist attractions and historic monuments during a quieter, less touristy season — you’ll want to visit the country at different times. Budget also can be a concern, so traveling when you can find the best flight deals, award availability or hotel prices might play a factor in when you decide to visit.

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by MasterLu/Getty Images)
Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by MasterLu/Getty Images)

I’ve lived in Madrid, Spain for 12 years now, giving me the opportunity to lap the country from top to bottom time and time again. From numerous visits to all the most typical tourist attractions like Granada’s Alhambra palace, Ibiza’s beaches or Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia to more off-the-beaten-path itineraries, like jumping over beach bonfires during Alicante’s San Juan festival or road-tripping through tiny villages in under-the-radar regions like Asturias or Extremadura, I’ve been lucky enough to experience various regions of Spain at all different times of the year.

Taking into account my travel experiences as well as flight and hotel statistics and data, these are best times to visit Spain, whether you’re motivated by cost, weather, crowds or events.

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The cheapest time to visit Spain

According to data from Expedia, the cheapest months to fly to Madrid are November and February. When it comes to lodging, January and February are when the most affordable hotel rooms are available. (August also has affordable room rates, likely because most European travelers have beelined for the beach as opposed to the city.)

Madrid. (Photo by Scott E Barbour/Getty Images)
Madrid. (Photo by Scott E Barbour/Getty Images)

If it’s Barcelona you’d like to visit, the best airfare deals can be found in January, October and March and the cheapest hotel deals can be found in January.

Those hoping to head south to Seville should fly in February, September or January for the best rates. January, as well as the ultrahot months of July and August, are when you’ll find budget hotel prices in Seville.

If it’s Iberia award availability you’re after, keep in mind that the calendar is connected to peak and off-peak dates for Spanish travelers, which may just benefit you if you’re adhering to U.S. holiday and school schedules.

For example, in 2020, all of March, much of May and the first half of June is considered off-peak for Iberia, as is the second half of September, the second half of October and almost all of November (Thanksgiving is off-peak too, and we highly recommend avoiding all the holiday hoopla in the States and jetting off to Europe instead).

Best seasons to travel to Spain

Deciding when to visit Spain, especially if you aren’t motivated by price, is best done by factoring in exactly what you’d like to do. Vacations oriented to beach time, wine tourism, hiking or city breaks each come with their own best time to visit.

Best time to visit Spain’s most popular cities and regions

Best time to visit Madrid

Madrid’s summer temperatures can rise to over 100°F in the summer, so it may be best to avoid the city during this time if you hate being hot. If you do visit, you might find the city practically void of locals — everyone is at the beach, and Spanish often tend to spend a quincena (a two-week period) or even a full month on vacation each summer (but that leads to those cheaper August hotel room rates). Visitors in the shoulder seasons such as May and October often see perfect, mild weather, and May has some of Madrid’s best local festivals. A trip in late November and early December may be rainy/chilly, but will get you in the holiday spirit, as there are a few Christmas markets around the city and the center is heavily decorated and full of holiday cheer.

Madrid. (Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash)
Madrid. (Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash)

Best time to visit Barcelona

One of Barcelona’s greatest attractions is its Barceloneta beach, which can get very crowded in the summer. It’s best to visit on the edge of the shoulder seasons like end of April/beginning of May or the end of September/beginning of October if you want to enjoy mild beach weather (hopefully) with fewer crowds. However, Barcelona is a city struggling with overtourism, so if you’d prefer to see the sites crowd-free and don’t mind chilly weather, January, February and November are likely the best times to visit.

Barcelona. (Photo by Neal Clark/Getty Images)
Barcelona. (Photo by Neal Clark/Getty Images)

Best time to visit Andalusia

Southern Spain has some of the most picturesque attractions in the country. It’s best to avoid visiting this area between June and August, when temperatures soar, and Holy Week, when accommodation costs skyrocket as visitors crowd cities like Seville and Granada. May typically has some wonderful festivals (more on that below) which may bring in Spanish travelers but not as many foreign tourists, making it ideal for travelers looking to get in on some local culture. March and November often still see warmth and sunshine and fewer visitors in general.

Best time to visit Spain’s beaches

Summer is when all of Spain (and all of Europe) descends on the Spanish coast. If you don’t mind sharing the sands umbrella-to-umbrella, visiting the beach in Spain in summer is loads of fun, with nonstop parties and events. It’s definitely not a quiet getaway, so if you’d prefer to have the beach to yourself, May, June and September are better times to visit many of the coastal regions for lower prices and fewer crowds. Beware that Atlantic beaches, like Cádiz, will have much colder waters than the Mediterranean, especially during the spring and fall seasons.

If you’re looking to avoid heat entirely but want to travel in the summer, northern beaches in spots like Asturias, Galicia and Cantabria often see much cooler temperatures in the summer. Surfers (including kite and windsurfers) should plan to hit spots like Tarifa in spring or fall, when winds and swells are optimal.

Kitesurfers in Tarifa. (Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash)
Kitesurfers in Tarifa. (Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash)

Best time to visit Spain’s wineries

Without a doubt, autumn is the best time to visit Spain’s wine regions (there are several, though Rioja and Ribera are some of the most famous), to enjoy harvest festivals, wine tastings, and of course, see the region’s beautiful vineyards and foliage changing color. However, wine tasting can be done year-round, and many wineries are in proximity to Spain’s largest cities. You can take make a day trip out of a wine tour/tasting from Madrid, a cava tour/tasting from Barcelona (the Allela region) or even a sherry tour/tasting from Seville at any time of year.

Marques de Riscal Hotel, a Frank Ghery building, Spain
Marques de Riscal Hote and Winery, a Frank Gehry building in Elciego, Spain. (Photo by Aruizhu/Getty Images)

Best time to do the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage

The famous Camino trail (in part or full) becomes very crowded in July and August. Holy Week in Spain (ending on Easter Sunday) is also a popular time to do portions of the walk. The best time to do this pilgrimage while avoiding crowed trails but also still having decent weather (minimal rain and mild temps) is in May, June or September.

When to visit Ibiza, Mallorca and the Balearic islands

The weather on the Balearic islands is best between April and October — warm and sunny. Of course, these are also the months that are the most crowded. But if you visit outside of these months, especially spots like Ibiza, Formentera or Menorca, many hotels/restaurants/nightclubs are closed.

Cala Salada lagoon in Ibiza, Balearic Islands. Spain. (Photo by Alex Tihonov/Getty)
Cala Salada lagoon in Ibiza, Balearic Islands. Spain. (Photo by Alex Tihonov/Getty)

It may best to visit these island destinations in May/June and September/October to get fewer crowds (July and August are packed) but also nice weather. If you’re looking to beat the crowds in Ibiza, avoid “opening” and “closing” weekends for the official vacation season, which often draw many European tourists.

When to visit the Canary Islands

The Canary Islands have sunny, spring-ish weather year-round. Many areas of the seven islands remain tourist-free even during the busiest times of the year, which can be Carnaval in March, or summer, when many Spanish and European tourists descend on the island.

When to visit Spain for events and festivals

Spring

February/March bring many Carnaval celebrations all over the country, but Cádiz and the Canary Islands see some of the most exciting celebrations, including costumes, contests, musical acts and parades.

Las Fallas occurs yearly in March in Valencia. Teams spend months building giant, elaborate wooden structures in the form of characters or objects, then spend five days in March burning them down to the awe and delight of both tourists and residents.

Fallas festival in Valencia. (Photo by Gonzalo Azumendi/Getty Images)
Fallas festival in Valencia. (Photo by Gonzalo Azumendi/Getty Images)

Holy Week, which culminates in Easter Sunday, is celebrated throughout the country. Holy Thursday and Good Friday are official holidays, and religious processions are held in many Spanish regions but are most famous in southern Spain. Unless you really want to view these cultural events or are very religious, it may be best to avoid southern Spain, especially Seville, around Easter due to massive crowds and expensive hotel rates.

Spring is big for festivals in Seville, as the Feria de Sevilla is held yearly in April/May. Expect wild parties all week long at the fairgrounds, but the best casetas, or private tents, are only accessible if you know someone — this festival is a big deal for local residents.

Women dancing flamenco on Plaza de Espana during Seville's Feria Festival. (Photo by leonovo / Getty Images)
Women dancing flamenco on Plaza de Espana during Seville’s Feria Festival. (Photo by leonovo/Getty Images)

May is one of the best months for festivals in Spain. Madrid’s San Isidro has festival grounds, parades, and musical events all around the city — and locals are out and about all week long partaking in the fun, which is open to everyone. Meanwhile, down south, Córdoba’s patio festival runs for two weeks, featuring special routes allowing visitors to admire the famous (and mainly privately-owned) courtyards and patios covered in colorful flowers that residents carefully tend all year long. You can even vote for your favorites.

The Patios Festival in Córdoba, Spain. (Photo by Thomas Janisch / Getty Images)
The Patios Festival in Córdoba, Spain. (Photo by Thomas Janisch/Getty Images)

Summer

June sees the famous wine fight in Haro, so if you’ve ever dreamed of dousing fellow festivalgoers with a supersoaker filled with wine, or getting drenched with wine blasted out of fire hoses, this is your chance. Wear white and prepare to be covered in purple almost immediately.

The Haro Wine Festival. (Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP/Getty Images)
The Haro Wine Festival. (Photo by Cesar Manso/AFP/Getty Images)

The end of June sees Alicante’s San Juan festival, where, in similar fashion to Las Fallas, large wooden structures are burned starting at midnight. Locals love to spend the entire night jumping over beach bonfires.

The burning begins in Alicante. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN/AFP/ Getty)
The burning begins in Alicante. (Photo by Jose Jordan/AFP/ Getty)

Madrid’s famous Pride celebrations, known as some of the wildest in Europe, last about a week in June/July and end with a giant parade that runs until almost midnight. San Fermín takes place in Pamplona each July, but we suggest watching from a balcony above — running with the bulls can be very dangerous.

Although August is more about beachcombing for Spaniards, Malaga hosts its city festival, which also features fairgrounds with casetas as well as general debauchery in the historical city center. And, Buñol (near Valencia), has its annual Tomatina Festival where everyone pelts each other with tomatoes (this may be the world’s only food fight you’ll need to have a ticket for).

Autumn

Many towns such as Logroño and Jerez (sherry), as well as smaller villages in wine regions like La Rioja and Ribera, celebrate wine harvests in September. October sees the human pyramid festival in Tarragona, where hundreds of people work together and climb atop one another to form pyramids.

TARRAGONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 07: Members of the Castellers de Barcelona built a human tower during the 27th Tarragona Competition on October 07, 2018 in Tarragona, Spain. The 'Castellers' who build the human towers with precise techniques compete in groups, know as 'colles', at local festivals with aim to build the highest and most complex human tower. The Catalan tradition is believed to have originated from human towers built at the end of the 18th century by dance groups and is part of the Catalan culture. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
Members of the Castellers de Barcelona build a human tower during the Tarragona Competition in 2018 in Tarragona, Spain. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

Winter

Although the colder weather means fewer festivals, Spain does go all-out for Christmas. Many cities put elaborate decorations up as early as mid/end of November, and the Christmas season goes all the way through Three Kings Day on January 6, where you can find locals eating a special cake called Roscón paired with steaming mugs of thick hot chocolate.

Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid at Christmas time. (Photo by Marco Cristofori/Robertharding/Getty Images)
Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid at Christmastime. (Photo by Marco Cristofori/Robertharding/Getty Images)

La Tamborrada is a drum festival in San Sebastián that starts each year at midnight on January 20 and lasts for a full 24 hours as participants march around the city in costume to drumbeats.

When to visit Spain to get the best weather

Much of Spain has a continental climate, with hot summers, cold winters and even snow in the mountainous or northern areas. The further south you go, the more mild winters become. Depending on which part of Spain you’re visiting, May usually sees spring-ish, warmer temps and little rain. October can be a lovely month to visit, where you may still have warm temperatures and can witness the autumn leaves change over.

The Alhambra in Granada, Spain. (Photo by Petr Slováček/Unsplash)
The Alhambra in Granada, Spain. (Photo by Petr Slováček/Unsplash)

One important thing to note is that the air conditioning situation in many hotels, restaurants and shops in Spain isn’t similar to what you’d find in the U.S. Some home rentals may not have it, and it simply isn’t as strong as you may be accustomed to sometimes, so plan accordingly if you’re visiting during the summer months.

Bottom Line

Valldemossa, Spain. (Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash)
Valldemossa, Spain. (Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash)

Although it greatly depends on the region, you’ll find fewer visitors overall in Spain in months like February and November, where there aren’t many festivals and the weather is chilly. The south of Spain in the summer or Madrid in August will be relatively crowd-free as many locals are at the beach. For the best weather and fewer crowds, May (apart from the big festivals) or October may be your best bet.

October is when you may encounter cheaper airfare, especially when flying to Barcelona. If you’re motivated by price, though, months like February and November are when you’ll find the absolute lowest airfare, while January is when you’ll come across the best hotel deals.

The good news is that Spain is beautiful year-round, and there really isn’t ever a bad time to visit. Just remember to consider exactly where you want to go and what kind of trip you want to have.

Featured photo of Los Gigantes, Tenerife, Spain by Jacek Malipan/EyeEm/Getty.

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