Spain is a fantastic place to visit. It has culture, beaches, beautiful architecture and lovely people. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Historically, Spain is one of the top tourist destinations in the world and its number one industry is tourism. A lot of people decide to come down for a visit in summer. With hot weather comes big crowds and major complications for a vacation. Here are some tips and tricks to know before you venture to Spain for your next summer holiday.
Stay by the coast – As most of my readers know, I live in Cartagena in the south of Spain. Last year, I was in Zaragoza (above) during the summer. For me, it was unbearable. Sure, it was a dry heat but there was no wind and it could get above 100 degrees during the day. I wanted to die. And Zaragoza isn’t really a tourist destination, so it wasn’t crowded. Add ridiculously hot temperatures with lots of sweaty bodies – it’s not fun. I think it’s much better to visit Madrid in literally any other season than summer. Same with Seville. You’ll find mild temperatures and possibly smaller crowds.
However, most of the coast is a lot more mild in the summer. There’s usually a decent breeze. I’ve spent time in the north in San Sebastian and Santander (photos above) during the summer and obviously now I’m in Cartagena. The weather is actually perfect every day. Highs are usually 80-85 degrees (27-29 C) and at night, it’s very comfortable. It’s perfect to go to the beach and relax. Just do a little research on which beaches should be avoided on the weekend.
Plan some day-trips – no matter where you plan to go, don’t stay in the big city the duration of your trip. Many of my favorite memories in Spain come from visiting smaller towns. A good way to do this is to ask locals about local places they like to visit. There are tons of gorgeous small towns around Spain which offer a more authentic look into Spanish life than the big bustling tourist centers. This is especially true in Andalucia and Cataluña in the south. It’s so much fun to explore winding lanes in peaceful towns.
In smaller cities and towns, embrace the siesta – Unless you are in one of the major tourist cities (Read: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia or Seville), you are probably going to run into the mid-day break for most shops and some attractions. There’s no reason to get frustrated by this. Just embrace it. Grab a lazy lunch around 1:30 or 2 and then rest up in your (hopefully) air conditioned hotel, hostel or airbnb until around 5 when everything opens again. Spanish cities and towns are accustomed to having later nights for the everyday person and you’ll often see kids outside until past midnight. It’s because they rested during the hottest hours and can now enjoy the cooler temperatures. (The photos above are from Murcia).
In large cities, try to hack the hours of siesta: You can really cover a lot of ground in Barcelona, Madrid or Valencia by doing a lot of activities right in the hottest part of the day. In particular, I like to go shopping during these hours or try to duck into a church to see it. Usually, shops are air conditioned anyways and if I have something I’m looking for – I’ll go when everyone else is eating or resting. Same sort of thing for churches – usually they are pretty cool thanks to the stone and marble and you can enjoy at your own pace without crowds.
Water, water, water – Ok. This isn’t groundbreaking advice. Drink water. But the thing I’ll add is never be without a bottle of water when making your way somewhere really touristy. You can obviously pack your own bottle and fill up wherever or if you are desperate go into a supermarket for a water. Personally, I need freezing cold water so I’ll pop into a small supermarket and grab a .5 or .75ml bottle and try to drain it well before it sweats off all the cold. If you forget a bottle of water and find yourself desperate in a major tourist spot – be ready to pay upwards of 2 euro for a bottle.
Mark everything you want to do in an online Google Map – I think this is a good idea for traveling in general but especially in summer. When it’s hot and suddenly you are hungry, things can go downhill fast. I recommend marking restaurants, shops and sites in a Google map so you don’t spend tons of time wandering around in bad spirits trying to find a museum or decide where to eat. I often mark a restaurant near every major plan I have just to make sure I have a plan for eating.
For major attractions, book well ahead of time: A great way to end up sunburnt and annoyed is to show up at the Prado or the Sagrada Familia in summer without a ticket. You can waste hours waiting in a line in the hot sun for the chance to get in. Every major attraction in Spain has the ability to book tickets online. I highly recommend using this – especially since now you can have the ticket in your phone without a huge hassle (or wifi).