Summer in Spain: What to Know Before you Travel
Summer in Spain can be a lot. It is after all, the busiest season in one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Don’t let that be an excuse to stay home, though. We’ll show you what to expect (it’s more than just siestas) and how to take on all the summer has to offer. Temperatures in Spain in Summer can reach up to 40+ degrees depending on the region. Apart from wearing sunscreen, staying hydrated is extremely important. Between the chorizo and the sangria make sure you fit in a glass of water here and there. Since most Spanish people have family homes in other regions in Spain, big cities like Madrid and Barcelona can seem more empty than normal (at least in terms of locals). They escape to the coastal cities in Spain like Valencia, Alicante, Málaga or head north.
Yes, Spain is popping. Last July, 10 million people visited, and that was just in one month! So it must be said that finding breathing room in the summer can be difficult. However, most people are cooling off in coastal breezes, frolicking on the beach, and club hopping in Ibiza. And let’s be honest, you can lay out or take a dip at an equally crowded beach in the U.S if that’s all you want. As for Ibiza... endless summer nightlife can be found in Miami Beach, Cancun, or even upstate New York (thanks Diddy!). What you can’t get in Malibu or Martha’s Vineyard is Spain’s amazing summer cultural events. No matter what region of the country you’re visiting, there’s bound to be a nearby neighborhood feria or music series. Check out the annual Madrid Book Fair, the famous tomato fight festival outside of Valencia, Semama Grande in San Sebastian, or the ferias in celebration of Saint Joan across the country to name a few. When in doubt, head for the fireworks!
Cerrado por Vacaciones
Yes, businesses do shut down in Spain in the summer. Though August is the most common month to take off for a holiday, you can start to see shuttered shops and restaurants with a handwritten “Closed for the Holidays” sign in June and July (and sometimes even September). This is European vacation days at their finest, and the Spaniards take full advantage. It’s not uncommon for a restaurant to close for an entire month during the summer. I once walked to three different carefully selected bars one night to find them all cerrado. This can be an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and try something off-the beaten path or stopping at a place that looks bustling. But if you like to know what you’re getting, you can still scour Yelp and Google reviews for the perfect bite. Just make sure you look for reviews within the last week or two and you should be golden.
Yes, you will sweat. If you’ve handled an east coast summer in the States though, you’ll be fine. Lots of folks head to Costa Brava and Barcelona in the summer to escape temperatures in the hundreds, but plenty stay behind to enjoy what their cities have to offer. Spain’s world-class museums are air-conditioned and likely to be less crowded. You can take in Las Meninas in El Prado without having to stand on tip toes to see over the fifty other visitors in front of you. Most Spanish cities have a multitude of air-conditioned or cooling locales to seek out too.
The higher temperatures make it hard not to lean into the Spanish way of life. Dinner at nine or ten on a terraza sounds great when it’s still scorching out at six. And the summer staples of gazpacho and salmorejo (cold tomato-based soups) will look delectable after a morning of site-seeing in the heat. Don’t forget, dressing like a local is definitely a good idea. Here’s what we suggest packing for a holiday in Spain.
From nightly concerts at the Alcázar to Semana Grande in Bilbao, to slow and lazy strolls through the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, to outdoor concerts in Barcelona, Spain is a major summer destination for a reason. Focus on new experiences and dive into Spanish culture, and you’ll have an unforgettable trip! We recommend visiting Spain in Summer because you’ll get the best of both worlds: Spanish sun and a look into how the locals really enjoy their country. Spoiler alert: it includes cold beers on outdoor patios and beach trips with friends and family!
Melody is an east coast transplant living a west coast life. She’s currently trying to trade in sunny southern California for four seasons in Madrid. Until then, she remains an inveterate reader, a sporadic writer, and a lover of good food and good chats.