Visiting Barcelona in October
Fun things to do after the summer is over…
By Jessica Bowler
The beach weather may be over, but it should still be dry and sunny in October, making it the perfect month to not only visit the city’s most popular attractions, but also check out some of these fun events, festivals and activities….
Much like visiting Barcelona in September, experiencing the city in October has the twin benefits of a large helping of warm and sunny days and a noticeable slowdown of the summer tourism rush. You’ll have plenty of space to enjoy the city and take in its sights against a backdrop of blue skies and sunshine, and with a little bit of luck you’ll still be able to walk around in a t-shirt (average temperature is 22 degrees Celsius by day, and 15 by night).
Culturally speaking and there’s a few things to get excited about, be they horror film festivals, jazz shenanigans or the local take on Munich’s Oktoberfest… keep reading for all these and many more things to do this autumn!
1. Visit Montserrat
Not too cold, and not too hot, makes this the perfect time of year to make Barcelona’s number one day trip to the sacred Montserrat abbey and mountain. The abbey’s church is the home of the famous Black Madonna statue, as well as the angelic voices of L’Escolania Boys’ Choir. But this is more than a religious pilgrimage, as the jagged mountain range is a natural park of jaw-dropping beauty. Get Your Guide run a number of great tours that leave daily from the city centre, or select the Tot Montserrat train ticket option if you prefer to be more independent. Oenophiles can actually combine a trip to the mountain with a wine tasting in a nearby castle on this tour.
2. Explore by Bike…
Barcelona is a city perfect for exploring from the saddle, as it’s flat and dry and has plenty of bike lanes – at least once you get out of the overcrowded Old Town – and October is one of the best months to go for a pedal without dying of heatstroke. Whilst the red and white “Bicing” public network of shared bikes is only available for residents you’ll find plenty of companies that will rent you a set of pedals, and many more that will show you some of the secrets of the city. Our favourites are the friendly folk at Steel Donkey bike tours!
3. Sitges Film Festival
Sitges is one of our top recommendations for a quick and easy day trip from Barcelona. This pretty beachside town makes the perfect spot to visit anytime, but it’s especially fun in October when it hosts the Sitges Film Festival. The festival specializes in fantasy and horror films, and airs a selection of the best ones and also awards prizes to actors, filmmakers, and films. For movie buffs, it’s a must-do – but even if you’re not into horror flicks it’s worth stopping by just to see the Zombie Walk, where locals dress up in their goriest. There’s a special shuttle train from Barcelona to Sitges for the event.
4. Take a Walking Photo Tour
Explore Barcelona’s back streets, hidden locations and authentic culture, at the same time as improving your skills behind the camera, by signing up for a photo tour with Shutter Kings. In the company of a professional photographer you’ll learn about the exposure triangle, adjusting your aperture, shutter speed and ISO to get the perfect shot. Whether you’re an experienced DSLR owner, or just a keen learner with an iPhone, their experienced guides offer tailored tips for your level and ensure you go home with some stunning photos of Barcelona. You can even hire them to stage a photoshoot with you as the models if you prefer!
5. Feel the Passion of a Flamenco Show
This gypsy folk song and dance originated in the south of Spain, but has been a mainstay of Barcelona culture ever since Carmen Amaya danced her way out of the Somorrostro shanty town in the 1960s. Most travellers to the Catalan capital want to catch a show during their visit, and arguably the best place to do is El Palacio del Flamenco, a wonderful 1920s theatre that sits 380 people and offers several different meal options. For more ideas check out our comprehensive article on all of the best places to watch flamenco in town.
6. 48h Open House
Part of a series of events all over the world, the 48h Open House is an architecture festival celebrated in cities like New York, Tel Aviv, and Dublin. The cities open up spaces and buildings that aren’t normally accessible to the public. It’s been going on in Barcelona since 2010, and has proved to be a huge hit with the cities residents. Notable buildings you can enter during the festival include the top of Arc de Triomf, the glamorous old palaces of the Gothic Quarter, and the city’s archives room (the Casa de l’Ardiaca).
7. Sign Up For a Cooking Class
Travel and food are inextricably linked, but what if you could take home some of the flavours of the country you visited and make them part of your life forever!? If that sounds like a grand design, then consider signing up for a cooking class with market visit, where you will learn how to prepare a four course Catalan meal – before of course eating it! A great way to learn a new skill and enjoy a local lunch / dinner at the same time.
8. Head to a Halloween Party
While not a local tradition by any stretch of the imagination, Halloween celebrations are increasingly popular in Barcelona. Lots of clubs and bars put on special events, particularly Irish pubs and clubs, that draw in lots of students. Costumes here are decidedly scary rather than sexy, so party supply shops do a roaring trade in fake blood and fangs on the days leading up to the holiday. Once you’ve got your outfit sorted, check out our page on Halloween parties and events, including an awesome ghost hunt that gets organised every year.
9. Get into the Alternative Culture Scene
Don’t be surprised if you round a corner and suddenly see a square full of people in full costume on a random day in October. They’re probably just attending one of the conventions held this month in the city. The Tattoo Expo, the Barcelona International Comic Fair and the EuroSteamCon steampunk festival all take place in October in Barcelona, so there’s plenty of exploring to do on the city’s alternative culture scene.
10. Say “Hasta Luego” to the Beach Bars
Barcelona’s beachfront bars (or “chiringuitos” as the locals say) shutter their doors in October, not to be opened until the following spring. While drinking on the beach itself is technically illegal (the local police tend to take a lenient approach), you’re well within your rights to enjoy a cocktail whilst comfortably seated at one of these makeshift bars pumping out only the trendiest tunes from their speakers. Enjoy it while it lasts!
11. Oktoberfest Barcelona
Say a hearty “proust” to the Barcelona edition of Germany’s famous beer festival which (depsite the name) starts in September but carries on into the start of October. Held in Placa Espanya at the Fira de Montjuic, the double attraction of free entry and copious amounts of beer to be purchased within its doors lure in a huge amount of people. Get there early if you want any chance of getting your hands on a “bier”.
12. Take a Wine Tour to the Priorat Region
There are 12 official wine regions in Catalonia and the nearest one to Barcelona is the Penedes region – home of Cava producing. However the zone that creates the very best Catalan wines is Priorat, which is second only to Rioja, anywhere in Spain, in terms of prestige. Sign up for this Private Wine-Tasting Tour and you can choose to visit either the Penedes, or for a little bit extra, the Priorat, and your sommelier and guide will pick you up from your hotel by private transfer.
13. International Jazz Festival
Held in various locations across the city, the International Jazz Festival hosts top jazz artists from around the world, including Diana Krall, Chick Corea & The Vigil, and the Angue Jazz Quartet. There are also a handful of classes and special events, like the Jazz & Food celebration in the Parc del Poblenou. Check their Facebook page for more info.
14. Be a VIP for the Night…
If you fancy exploring all that Barcelona’s legendary nightlife has to offer then get your hands on a VIP Card that gets you free entry into all of the most happening spots in the city… our partners will deliver the cards straight to your hotel or apartment!
15. Bring Out Your Inner Geek at RetroBarcelona
The aim of RetroBarcelona is to bring people back to the good old days of retro video games (in this case, the 80s and 90s, which may make some of our readers suddenly feel very old!). You can talks about all things retro, play old video games yourself, visit a museum of classic gaming systems and find a marketplace where you can buy things for your own gaming collection.
16. See the Castellers Perform
“Castell” translates to “castle”, and the “castellers” work together to build a human castle or tower. It’s pretty impressive stuff to see in action – the “castells” can reach upwards of nine stories of people high. The season tends to slow down significantly in November, so see if you can catch a performance in October while there are still plenty going on. The traditional time for castellers performances is Sunday at midday at the local town hall.
17. Primavera Club
Don’t mix up Primavera Club with Primavera Sound (the massive music festival that takes place in late spring in Barcelona); instead, this is a supporting festival focused on helping music fans to discover new, up-and-coming bands. The bands playing generally haven’t released more than one album, and they may not have even released one.
18. Visit Sant Antoni Market on a Food Tour
The historic food market of Sant Antoni has recently re-opened, after years of refurbishment, and picking up some delicious cured hams and Spanish cheeses there is the first point of call of Food Tours Barcelona’s ‘Evolution of Catalan Gastronomy’ experience. The tour continues by visiting a bodega, tapas bar, restaurant and cafe and includes 20 delicious tastes and four drinks in the price. If you’re curious about how Barcelona’s food scene has developed, from market dishes to the molecular cuisine of Ferran Adria, this is the activity for you.
The Rest of Autumn
Right, that’s plenty of tips and ideas to keep you going! And if you’re coming later in autumn then check out our favourite festivals, events and activities for November, as well as what’s going on in December.
About the Author
Jessica was born in England and grew up in California before moving to Seville to study Spanish. She now lives here in Barcelona, where she works in communications, studies for her masters and still finds time to update her award-winning blog Barcelona Blonde – as well as being a regular contributor to Barcelona Life!