BARCELONA (CATALONIA, SPAIN) IN AUTUMN
It’s the end of the summer: autumn in Spain is just begining. Soon the leaves of the platan trees in la Rambla will become yellow and fall down covering the boulevard with a crunchy natural carpet. This time of the year is full of local traditions, it’s time for the harvest, nature transitions to a quiet sleep changing its colors, and the calendar is dotted with important dates and events in our history.
These are the best things of coming to Barcelona, Spain, in Fall
Although the coincidence is unlucky, Catalan people celebrate our National Day (“La Diada”) on September 11th in memory of the defeat we suffered against the Bourbon army in 1714. For us, it is a day to think about what being Catalan means, rather than a celebration day. There’ll be political events around the Fossar de les Moreres, beside Santa Maria del Mar in the Born district.
Autumn Local Festivals
- Festa Major de Vilafranca del Penedes. Early September. Famous for its Castellers human towers.
- Festa Major d’Istiu de Cadaqués. Early September. Because you should take any opportunity to visit the gorgeous seaside town of Cadaques.
- Fira dels Indians in Begur. This charming town in Costa Brava pays tribute to the ancestors that emigrated to Cuba and came back wealthy to contribute to the community.
- Fires i Festes de Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. The main event is the Festa de la Fil·loxera, based on the story of how the locals got rid of a yellow insect that destroy vineyards all over Europe in the late 1800’s. It’s one of the wildest correfoc-style events in Catalonia.
- Festes de Santa Tecla in Tarragona. Late September. The most traditional part is the theater and dance representation of the life of the patron saint of the city, Saint Tecla.
- Festes de la Mercè in Barcelona. Late September. An entire week of celebrations in honor of Our Lady of Mercy. Human towers, sardana dancing, folk shows, traditional parades for children, the exciting fire run correfoc, concerts and street shows, and the spectacular firework and music festival Piromusical. In Plaça Catalunya near Portal de l’Àngel you will find an information point. And in this blog we also have a guide of La Merce Festival.
- Cavatast. Early October. A week of cava sparkling wine tasting and wine-related events in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia.
- Fira de les Bruixes in Sant Feliu Sasserra. Late October. This medieval villages pays tribute to the ladies that were executed in the 1600’s, accused of being witches. A theater play explaining their story takes place in different corners of the village.
I won’t tell you to visit a Barcelona graveyard (as locals will do to honor their beloved lost ones), but do visit a pastry shop and buy some panellets, delicious marzipan and nut sweets that are the traditional desert for this day. The night before, friends and relatives will be gathering to eat them to celebrate one of our favorite fall family traditions: La Castanyada.
Summer is over and juicy fruits little by little disappear from grocery shops. Nuts and root veggies become the stars of Autumn recipes. Want to know what locals love to it when the cold months start?
- Chestnuts and sweet potatoes. One of my personal fall rituals is at least once a year buying roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes to the “castanyeres”, ladies selling this autumn products in their street stalls. There is usually one of them in the crossing of la Rambla with the street Cardenal Casañas.
- Hot chocolate and churros. As the weather becomes colder, we start craving warmer treats. The season of hot chocolate and churros is starting! Join me eating the best churros in Barcelona!
- Soups and stews. Soon gazpacho will be gone from the restaurant menus, leaving its place to Spanish soups and earthy stews. If you don’t want to miss any of them, read his post on famous food of Barcelona.
A lot of locals are well trained to recognize at least the most popular species. But if you aren’t, don’t worry: participate of the local crave by ordering mushrooms dishes at your favorite tapas bar or Catalan restaurants.
Don’t leave Barcelona without trying at least or favorite: “rovellons“. And if you are interested in trying other fall delicacies, don’t miss our post about Fruits and Vegetables eaten in Autumn in Spain.
In Catalonia the grape harvest starts in late July and continues all the way to early October depending on the grape variety and the location of the vineyards. It is a wonderful time to head to the Catalan wine country and visit one of the wineries near Barcelona.
The cellars will be busy with trucks arriving to download the freshly collected fruit into the presses. A smell of raw must will float in the air, and the vineyards will be active with locals at work. Some cellars organize activities where you are invited to participate in the harvest or even step on the grapes to press your own artisan must.
Admiring the foliage
but they quickly go from green to yellow and immediately brown, then they fall. And while kids love stepping on their crunchy dry leaves, the Autumn colors aren’t outstanding.
But locals know where to go to see the foliage. La Fageda de’n Jordà beech wood is a popular destination that allows for beautiful easy hikes around (extinct) volcanic lands. But sometimes it gets a bit too crowded. The Montseny mountains or the Grevolosa beech forest are other less frequented destinations to enjoy the Fall forest sceneries and colors.
The Banyoles Lake is another personal favorite place to enjoy the Fall colors, reflecting on the tranquil waters. And besides beech trees, Autumn is also magic on chestnut tree forests such as the ones in Viladrau and the Baga d’en Cuc, both in the Montseny mountains.
Bird migrations (and a flying surprise)
In late September the Catalan countryside starts seeing birds of prey, such as some spices of eagles, sparrowhawks, buteos and kestrels. They cross the Pyrenees and follow the Segre and Llobregat rivers down. Many will actually stay in Catalonia for the winter.
In October arrive robins and warbles, easy to spot in many Barcelona parks as well as most local forests. And November is time for cranes and starlings. Grey Herons won’t be here until early December.
Where can you spot all these birds? The best places are water reservoirs and marshals. The parks of the Ebre and Llobregat rivers, the Aiguamolls de l’Emporda and the Estany d’Ivars are popular places for bird watchers. BTW, if you love birds, don’t miss our post on Barcelona bird watching.
And now, the surprise: Autumn is also when the Vanessa Atalanta butterflies (red admirals) arrive from Scandinavia. They take around 17 days to get here from there. They’ll lay their eggs under the nettle leaves, and the caterpillars will take months to grow until they become butterflies ready to fly back in Spring.
Black Friday in Spain
Black Friday is an American commercial tradition that has arrived to Spain these last years. And while small businesses blatantly refuse to join offering discounts just because, shopping malls and international retail brands are happy to join the party!
So if you are coming to Spain late November, you might be in for some pre-Christmas discount shopping! The date varies every year, so type “Black Friday Spain” on Google to see when it’s celebrated.
If having a holiday on Thursday makes some people take a day off to get a quite long weekend (that’s called a “puente” in Spanish / “pont” in Catalan)… having Dec 6th and 8th as local holidays often generates a whole “aqueduct”…
So what do we celebrate? December 6th is the Day of the Spanish Constitution, and it is celebrated with official events by the Government of Spain as well as military parades.
Two days later, the December 8th is the day of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, the female patron saint of Spain. Her day is a public holiday because according to the tradition, She made the miracle of freezing a river during the Eighty Year’s War so that the Spanish Army could cross it and attack the enemy by surprise, winning the battle. It looks like a soldier had been praying to a painting of the Immaculate Conception he had found…
Many people takes advantage of so many public holidays to go skiing in the Pyrenees, or go shopping for Christmas presents.
If you’ll be in Spain during these dates, take into account that some services such as bank offices will be closed, but usually shops have special permissions these last days of Fall to stay open for the holiday.
Will your spend next Autumn in Spain?
Marta is the founder of ForeverBarcelona. She is a passionate tour guide that loves Barcelona and loves writing too. She is the main author of our Blog, and is committed to sharing her knowledge about Barcelona and her best tips with our readers.
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