The Best Time to Visit Spain, According to a Frequent Visitor
To make the most of your trip to this popular European destination, you need to get your timing right. Here's what you should know about the best time to visit Spain.
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If it seems like everyone you know is on their way to Spain this year, you’re probably not wrong. The sunny southern European destination has climbed through the ranks of the most popular countries, landing just below Portugal as the top spot to visit in Europe this summer—yes, ahead of Italy—according to a new report from eviivo and RateGain. But when is the best time to visit Spain?
When you consider the country’s 3,000 hours of sunshine every year and its reputation for being a cheap place to travel, it’s hard to find a bad time to visit. And, of course, there are so many fabulous places within the country to choose from. Barcelona, with its mix of beaches and fantastical Gaudí architecture, is one of the most popular cities in the country, and it’s ideal if you’re looking for a quick trip to Europe. It now ranks fourth on Europe’s 50 Best Cities list, with 12 million tourists visiting annually—twice the city’s population. (Madrid, Spain’s capital, isn’t far behind, clocking in at number six.)
I’ll admit that my family and I were among the millions visiting the Gaudí-dotted city this summer. In fact, it was my second trip to Spain in as many months. Over the years, I’ve popped into the Balearic Islands, explored the Moorish-influenced cities of southern Spain and strolled through Madrid on multiple occasions. And I can say without a doubt that the country’s popularity is well deserved. But, given its newfound popularity, I definitely had to plan ahead this time around, as well as keep the seasons in mind, to make the most of my trip. Here’s what I discovered.
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What is the best time of year to go to Spain?
There isn’t one best time to visit Spain, say the experts at bespoke travel company Audley Travel, because the country’s diverse offerings mean you can find something to enjoy at any time of year.
However, there is a most popular time to visit the country, according to the Spanish Tourism Board, and that’s from March to the beginning of June. This warm spring season is the best time to go to Spain because it’s before the weather turns hot in the summer months of July and August. Fall is another great time to visit the country, especially the end of September through the beginning of November, when the days are warm and the evenings are cool.
What time of year is cheapest to visit Spain?
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The best time to visit Spain to get a great deal is when the crowds are the most sparse: in the winter months. This period extends from December to March, though you can also find affordable flights and inexpensive hotels in the shoulder seasons of early spring and late autumn. Of course, holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s may be more expensive, so be sure you know the best time to book a hotel and the best time to book a flight to get the best deals.
When is the weather the best in Spain?
Spain is mostly a temperate country, meaning the temperatures—for the most part—are mild and pleasant. However, different regions of the country experience different weather patterns. For example, in southern Spain, which is closer to Africa than to the rest of Europe, temperatures soar into the 90s in the summer, and land-locked Madrid can also get pretty steamy in July and August.
In the northern reaches of the country, winter can bring cool rain and temperatures in the 50s. For the best weather, look at visiting in spring and fall. From Easter to Corpus Christi, which is 60 days after Easter Sunday (roughly late March to early June), you’ll find some of the best weather throughout Spain. Late fall, especially October, is another time you can enjoy pleasant temperatures.
What is the best time of year to go to Madrid?
I’ve been lucky enough to visit Madrid at every time of the year, and I agree with the experts at U.S. News and World Report, who say that the fall (September, October and November) and spring (March through May) are the best times to visit. This is when the weather is most pleasant, with warm days in the 70s and cool evenings in the 60s. This weather is ideal for Madrid’s popular rooftop bars, as well as long lunches on outdoor plazas. It’s also the perfect time to enjoy the city’s lovely Royal Botanic Gardens or an outdoor patio to catch a cool breeze.
What is the best time of year to go to Menorca and the rest of the Balearic Islands?
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Located off the southern coast of Spain, the Balearic Islands are some of the most beautiful Mediterranean islands. Menorca, Mallorca and Ibiza draw sun-seekers who come for the golden-sand beaches and crystal-clear aqua waters (not to mention the nightlife for which Ibiza is famed). Many resort properties on the islands are open only from April to October, with the most popular time to visit in the prime summer months of July and August.
However, having just stayed on Menorca at the stunning Villa Le Blanc Gran Meliá on Santo Tomás Beach in May, I can attest that there’s plenty of sunshine in the shoulder season of spring, and best of all, there’s lots of attentive service, since the summer crowds haven’t yet arrived. Speaking to the marketing director for Meliá Hotels, which is based on Mallorca, I learned that sunny September is another prime time to visit the islands. And prices are lower in the shoulder seasons than in the prime summer months.
When is the best time of year to go to Barcelona?
Barcelona is located on the eastern coast of Spain along the Mediterranean’s azure surf and soft sand. Summer is popular with beachgoers, and it is prime season for waterside hotels such as Hotel Arts Barcelona, the most well-known resort property in the city, where summer activities include outdoor movies and aqua fitness in the infinity pool.
However, summer also brings the largest crowds and hottest temperatures. Instead, “I recommend planning a trip to Barcelona in September or October, as the weather is still warm and sunny, and there are festivals and special events to enjoy,” says Alex Senra, a Spain specialist at Audley Travel. “The main heat will have passed, making exploring the city more comfortable, and the crowds of the peak tourist season will have left.” Similarly, she adds, “May and June are also great months to visit.”
When is the best time of year to go to Seville, Cordoba and Granada?
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Southern Spain is where to see Moorish and Gothic architectural wonders, including the Mezquita in Cordoba, Seville’s grand Alcazar and the Alhambra in Granada. (Granada is also one of our favorite European honeymoon destinations.) The best time to visit southern Spain is in the more temperate spring and fall seasons, according to Pilar Barragan, a guest-relations specialist at NH Collection Amistad Cordoba, located in the heart of Cordoba’s historic walled quarter. “March to June is when the weather is best and when there are many special events, such as the Festival of the Patio in May (a tour of the city’s flower-strewn courtyards),” says Barragan, adding that October and November are the best months for good weather without any crowds in the region.
How many days in Spain is enough?
As with travel to places like Italy and Costa Rica, the number of days you should spend in Spain depends on which parts and how much of the country you want to explore. Do you want to stick to the big cities, or do you prefer touring both cities and smaller towns? Do you want to explore the countryside or fly to an island or two? Another thing to keep in mind is how far you’ve traveled to reach Spain. If you’ve flown from the West Coast of the United States to Barcelona, you may need to budget an extra day to get over jet lag before you start exploring.
Many trips to Spain combine both Madrid and Barcelona, flying into one of the cities and departing from the other. Allowing three nights in each location is a good rule of thumb if you’re staying in two different spots. If you add a third destination, such as Seville and Cordoba in the south, or one of the Balearic Islands if you’re traveling in the summer, add another two nights to your itinerary. Don’t plan on spending less than two nights in each destination you visit.
Also remember to budget for travel time between destinations. Buying a Eurail pass and using the high-speed Renfe trains is an efficient and speedy way to get around the country. (The Ave travels the Barcelona/Madrid route, a distance of about 314 miles, in 2.5 hours.)
The bottom line? In a week, you can get a good taste of the two main cities. With a few more days, you can also visit one or two smaller locations so that you can combine city sightseeing and visits to the countryside, or a trip to the city and sunbathing on a Mediterranean island. But no matter when you visit or how long you stay, give yourself some time to relax and explore. Linger over a long, late lunch, indulge in a variety of tapas, and get a rooftop drink while watching the sun set. It’s part of the whole experience.
Book your Spanish stay
Now that you know the best time to visit Spain, turn your travel dreams into reality by booking a trip to the Iberian Peninsula. These three hotels are the best of the bunch, and they each have their own personalities and perks.
Want to enjoy beach vibes in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world? Go with the Hotel Arts Barcelona. Looking for a centrally located boutique property where everyone knows your name? The NH Collection Madrid Suecia has one of the friendliest staffs I’ve ever encountered. (Plus, Ernest Hemingway once lived in the building!) And if you want to experience the stunning beaches of Menorca with a chic setting (and eco-friendly accommodations), get a room with a view at Villa Le Blanc.
About the experts
- Alex Senra is a Spain specialist at Audley Travel, a bespoke travel company.
- Pilar Barragan is a guest-relations specialist at NH Collection Amistad Cordoba, which is located in Cordoba’s historic walled quarter.