Visiting Barcelona in May
What to do in the Catalan capital, as spring turns to summer…
By Duncan Rhodes
The F1 Grand Prix roars into town, nearby Girona is showered with flowers, and Primavera Sound Festival brings some of the world’s best music acts to Barcelona. Not only that, but there should even be a few days of bikini-worthy beach weather. May, you’re bloody marvellous!
Is May a good time to visit Barcelona? Yes, it’s one of my top four months to be in the city, along with June, July and September. The weather is balmy, the events calendar is packed and the air is tinged with the scent of summer.
If you’re looking for a comfortable city break, during which you can explore the city without needing to wrap up warm, nor smother yourself in sunblock and carry a portable fan everywhere you go, then late spring (or early autumn) are the best times to visit Barcelona – with the added bonus you may well be able to spend a day or two on the beach as well.
The weather is balmy, the events calendar is packed and the air is tinged with the scent of summer.
Some travellers will be coming to the city with a specific purpose this time of year… to catch all the racing action at Montmelo, during the Spanish Grand Prix, or to experience the world-famous Primavera Sound Festival in all its glory. If you’re one of them, I suggest spending a day or two either side to take in the city too.
Otherwise there are lots of one-day events and cool activities and things to do visitors can experience, along with all of the city’s year-round attractions like La Sagrada Familia (skip the line tickets here!), Park Guell, Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter. Keep reading to find out our favourite suggestions for this time of year.
What’s the Weather Like in May?
Before we continue, we answer all your weather-related questions…
Is it hot in Barcelona in May?
The average high temperature during May is 22.5 degrees Celsius, whilst the average low is 16 degrees. That’s the average remember, so give a take a couple of degrees on either of those and you can get a good picture of what the weather will be like during your visit.
Can you swim in Barcelona in May?
Sea temperatures this time of the year vary between 18-20 degrees Celsius. That’s a bit chilly by Mediterranean standards, but if you’re willing to do the awkward “cold water shuffle” up to your vital bits then make the splash, you’ll be fine… you big wimps! Otherwise come back in July / August when water temperatures get up to 25 degrees.
What are the chances of rain?
There are on average five rainy days in May… so getting our calculator out that’s a 16% chance of rain on any given day.
What should I pack for May?
You’ll need a bit of everything this time of year, from full length pants (to borrow an Americanism) and a spring jacket, to shorts, t-shirts and – if you’re feeling optimistic – your budgie-smugglers and bikinis. A small, easily-portable umbrella is never a bad idea.
Festivals & Things To Do
What to do in Barcelona in May? Standby for inspiration…
1. Party at Primavera Sound Festival
Kicking off at the end of the month, Primavera signals the start of summer. A glorious festival of 100s of international music acts, on a dozen or so stages, over the concrete sprawling Parc del Forum, Primavera attracts music fans from across the world so celebrate the most pioneering artists in rock, indie, pop, rap and dance, and every genre in between. A favourite with jet-setting hipsters, the festival resembles a fashion show during the day, but doesn’t lose its mojo when the sun goes down. The headliners for 2019 features Solange, Tame Impala, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe, Carly Rae Jepsen, James Blake, Jarvis Cocker’s JARV IS, Snail Mail, Interpol, Suede and Stereolab. Tips for attending here.
2. Casa Mila By Day
One of Gaudi’s unmissable masterpieces, this biomorphic mansion on Passeig de Gracia has to be seen to be believed. Such was the genius of our Antoni, he designed this palatial building without a single straight line. Talking about lines, you’ll want to avoid them too… they can be hours long. So buy your skip-the-queue tickets via Get Your Guide. The ticket includes an audioguide that will help you appreciate the interior, plus you get access the the Espai Gaudi and the building’s undulating rooftop, with its magical chimneys.
3. Casa Mila by Night
If you want to see “La Pedrera” (The Quarry), in a new way, then instead of signing up for the day visit above, head there at dusk for a evening tour that finishes on the rooftop. Here, under the spring night sky, you’ll enjoy a glass of Cava and an audiovisual show projected onto the building’s famous chimneys. From up here you can also enjoy spectacular night views over central Barcelona. The experience is called La Pedrera: The Origins and you can book tickets via Get Your Guide.
4. Bottle Your Own Cava!
Spring is the perfect time to take a day trip to the nearby Penedes wine region and find out all about how the famous local Cava is made. Cava is, of course, Catalonia’s much more affordable answer to French Champagne (and still equally as tasty!). During this creative workshop you get to taste three different blends of Cava, before choosing and bottling your favourite, using the ‘disgorging’ method. You can read more about the activity here, and it’s well worth staying for the rustic lunch at the winery’s millennia-old farmhouse. To book you just need to send us an email with your group size and preferred dates. When the sun is shining this is a simply wonderful day out.
5. Book Yourself onto a Boat Party!
The warm daytime weather make it the perfect time of year to set out off Barcelona’s ports on a glamorous catamaran full of young party people and dance, mingle and drink under the sun. This is the closest you’ll get to being in Ibiza, without jetting out there, and the after the cruise is over the party continues on dry land as you’ll get free club entry with your ticket. As well as the Original Barcelona Boat Party (€45), there’s also a more Chilled Out BBQ Boat Party (€50) that includes swim-stop and a few sizzling sausages, best enjoyed with a refreshing cerveza. Check all your options here, or click the button if you’re ready to book already.
6. Night of the Museums (18th May)
For one evening in May virtually all of Barcelona’s museums will be open and free to the public. If you’re a short-on-cash culture-vulture, or just like the idea of wondering around the city’s most hallowed vaults at an hour they’re usually closed, then you’ll enjoy this event (that is mirrored in cities all around Europe). A piece of advice… it’s better to pick the lesser known gems, than visit the big-hitters where excessive queues will have you questioning whether saving a few pennies was really worth the hassle of waiting in line. In 2019, the Night of the Museums take place on the 18th May. Find participating museums here.
7. Take a Walking Photography Tour
Explore the narrow streets of Barcelona’s beautiful Old Town districts, like El Borne, Gotico and Raval, at the same time as you learn how to photograph them. Shutter Kings offer fun and insightful photo tours of these colourful barrios, rich in fascinating details from the past and present, and their guides are professional photographers who will teach you how to use all those tricky functions on your camera you’ve been avoiding up until now. In fact, even if you’re quite an advanced photographer they’ll have some tips on how get holiday pics that really stand out.
8. Grab Tickets for the Spanish Grand Prix
Won by Lewis Hamilton in 2014, 2017 and 2018, the Circuit de Catalunya is a favourite with British race drivers (Jenson Button, Nigel Mansell and Jackie Stewart all enjoyed success here as well) – as well as British F1 lovers, who fly over to enjoy some sunshine and cervezas. If you’re flying over to enjoy the fun, check our guide to attending the race, with tips on getting to and from Montmelo and hotel options. For tickets, try Book F1.
9. Watch Barca Win La Liga
Keeping on a sporting theme, this is the time of the year when FC Barcelona make a convincing push for the finishing line, in the race to be La Liga champions. They play Getafe at Camp Nou on the 11th May (date not 100% confirmed at time of press) in the penultimate game of the season, and a result here could well see them crowned champions. If you’re not in town for the game, then you could always book yourself tickets for Camp Nou Experience that includes a visit to the FC Barcelona Museum.
10. Discover The Local Cuisine on a Food Tour
Take a walking food tour of the Sant Antoni district (the very place where Ferran Adria plies his trade), and chart the Evolution of Catalan Gastronomy from simple ‘turf and surf’ cuisine to the avant garde gastronomy the region is known for now. You’ll visit the newly opened Sant Antoni market and sample tapas from some of the city’s most authentic bodegas and tapas bars.
11. Head Over to the Handmade Festival (early May)
Fans of arts and crafts will enjoy this festival which attracts a whopping 20,000+ visitors to Fira Barcelona exhibition space for three days at the start of every May. With over 300 exhibitors and activities, making art, accessories, homeware, jewellery and much more, as well as entertainment, music and food trucks there’s plenty to keep you occupied. Tickets start at €10 for a day pass, and you can find out more on the festivals’s official website.
12. Girona Flowers Festival (mid-May)
There can hardly be a more fitting way to celebrate spring than by hopping on a train up to Girona to see the picturesque town decked out with flowers. Temps de Flor runs from 11th to the 19th May in 2019, and visitors will have the chance to enjoy the city enhanced by hundreds of different floral displays. Running concurrently is the A Cappella Festival, ensuring there’s plenty going on at this time. For those not familiar with the city, Girona is a stunning medieval town that features heavily in the epic fantasy Game of Thrones TV show, and is one of our favourite day trips from Barcelona. You can even do a Game of Thrones tour.
13. Take a Cable Car Ride up Montjuic
The coastal rise of Montjuic is home to an abundance of cultural attractions, from Barcelona’s castle to the Joan Miro Museum and not forgetting the Olympic Ring. The best way to ascend is via the Teleferic de Montjuic, a modern cable car that whizzes you up the mountain with great views back over Barcelona. From there you can check out the castle and then wander down to explore some of the hill’s other treasures.
14. Enjoy a Sunset Cruise
No trip to Barcelona can truly be considered complete without taking advantage of its glamorous coastal location. This sunset cruise sets sail every evening during the warmer months, allowing you to finish your day in the best way possible… bobbing gently on the water with a glass of Cava and a cool Mediterranean breeze in your hair. You can read more about the experience here, which is also available with live Spanish guitar music. Or if you want to book a private boat just for yourself then head here.
15. Join a Hipsters Bar Crawl
Barcelona’s nightlife races year round, but things speed up around spring, when long warm days entice people out in the evening too. There are plenty of ways to experience the local nocturnal scene, from this VIP party tour, to this classic pub crawl, but one of the most authentic is on this “Hipster Bar Crawl” which takes you around several cool venues in the Borne district and shows you how locals like to party. It’s done in a small group, so you won’t feel like a big crowd of tourists kicking up a racket.
16. Head to the Beach…
If the sun has got his hat on, then you can pack some factor 30 and head down the beach. Barceloneta is the city’s most famous stretch of sand, with plenty going on in terms of people watching, beach bars and hawkers selling everything from drapes to iced mojitos. Meanwhile, Nova Icaria, Bogatell and Marbella tend to be a little bit less crowded (but still busy), or you even could train it out of town to somewhere like Sitges or Castelldefels.
About the Author
Duncan established Barcelona Life in 2009, whilst freelancing for the likes of Conde Nast, The Guardian, Easyjet Magazine, CNN Traveller and many more. From interviews with Ferran Adria to revealing the secrets of the city’s poetry brothels, he knows the city inside out… and shares all his best tips right here.