What to do in Barcelona in January
A BARCELONA JANUARY TRAVEL GUIDE
So you are one of the lucky people that can travel when everyone else is working? Do you love to travel off season because it’s cheaper and the crowds are gone? And you aren’t specially afraid of some cold? Then January can be a great time for you to visit Barcelona!
Today we are discussing the pros and cons of visiting Barcelona on January. We’ll start with the basics (weather and what to pack), the move on to the special events taking place this month, the foods you need to try and some tips to plan your sightseeing. Enjoy!
Weather in January in Barcelona
Temperature, rainfall, snow and more
January is the coldest month of the year in Barcelona with an average temperature of 8ºC / 46.5F. During daytime it can warm up to 12.3ºC / 54F, and at night it can drop to just 4ºC / 39F. According to the statistics, January 11 is the coldest day of the year.
And it’s a cold that gets into your bones, because the proximity to the Mediterranean sea makes the air humid. In January, the relative humidity is 79%. It is also mostly cloudy: around 42% of the time, according to the statistics. And the wind often blows around 13km/h / 8mph. That means waves for local surfers.
But at least, January isn’t specially rainy: it rains an average of 5 days. And most of the time, it’s just a short shower – we rarely get long storms this time of the year. The precipitation is around 39mm / 1.5 inches (less than half the rain of the rainiest month: October). That’s similar to the rain in San Diego this time of the year.
Snow is rare in Barcelona: a single snowflake makes us cheerfully say “Look, it’s snowing!”. There are records of only one big January snowstorm. That was January 14th and 15th,… 1914! Luckily we have the Pyrenees mountains nearby where we can go skiing.
So you can’t you go to the beach, then?
Locals use the beach the whole year around… but in the winter it’s too cold for us to go swimming. Barcelona people don’t get in the water until June, and by the end of October the season is over.
The water temperature stays around 13 and 14ºC / 55-57F. So except for those brave neighbors of the Barceloneta district that swim early in the morning every day of the year… the rest of us will wait until it warms up.
What to pack for Barcelona in January
You are going to need a winter coat or a down jacket. Bonus if it’s got a hood, because it can double up as a hat if it gets really cold. Men in Barcelona rarely use wool beanies (unless it’s late at night), but women might wear them or wool berets for fashion, if it’s cold enough. Little kids wear bonnets.
It’s never a bad idea to carry a pair of gloves in your coat pockets or in your purse, just in case. Even better if they are touch screen gloves, since you’ll be taking pictures with your phone when you are sightseeing.
Scarfs and shawls are annoying (I keep loosing them all the time), so I favor tubular neck warmers and infinity scarfs. Unless your coat or jacket has a tall neck that protects you enough.
For the rest, dress in layers: a thicker sweater on top, a thinner shirt underneath. Corduroy pants work for both men and women. And ladies planning to use skirts or dresses are advised to get thermal tights.
Your feet will appreciate boots or ankle boots, specially with fleece lining. They don’t need to be waterproof, but they should be comfy for walking. As for other accessories, don’t forget a refillable water bottle and a jacket strap so you don’t have to hold your coat in your arms when entering a museum.
Barcelona January events
January 1st is a quiet day in Barcelona: everyone was partying until late the night before! And often families will gather together for lunch again, too, even if more informally than the night before.
So first things first, if you need ideas to plan your new year’s eve in Barcelona, check out all our new-year’s posts. Many people end the night by the beach with a quick dip in the sea to purify the energies and bring good luck to the new year.
Even one of the local swim clubs organize a group bathing in La Barceloneta and everyone is welcome to join (unfortunately the 2022 edition’s been cancelled due to the pandemic).
After that, you’ll have the rest of the morning for sightseeing. Just remember that most sites are likely to close around 2PM that day, and some might not even open or might open later than usual. For ideas to do in the afternoon, this post will give you some ideas. Even if it was written with Christmas Day in mind, the tips apply to January 1st, too.
While toys are the main thing in this fair, you’ll also find stalls selling handcrafted gifts for adults – perfect to scrap some souvenir from your trip! And in the corners there’s often kiosks selling hot chocolate and churros.
The busiest day is January 5, the latest the craziest: that’s when desperate parents arrived trying to find last minute presents for the Wine Men feast (see below).
The 3 wise men (January 5th & 6th)
Santa isn’t the only one to bring presents to Barcelona children. For Christmas they already had the Tió de Nadal (Christmas Pooping Log) “poop” them presents and sweets after hitting it with a stick and singing it a menacing song (yes, we do that).
But on the night of January 5th the Three Wise Men (or the 3 Kings) arrive to Barcelona and after parading across the city the kids are sent to sleep early, so their favorite King can sneak in the house to bring them presents.
The kids will leave turron and sparkling wine for the Wine Men and some old bread and water to feed their camels. And the next day the presents will be under the tree. Or hidden somewhere in the house. It depends on each family ritual.
Later at lunchtime, families will gather for the last feast of the Christmas season. There’s more present exchanges, and the dessert will be a marzipan King cake. Inside the cake there’s two things hidden: a bean and a little figurine of a king.
Whoever find the bean, pays for the cake. The one to find the figurine is crowned King of the day (the cakes come with a cardboard crown with that purpose). More about the 3 Wise Men Day in our blog.
The Sales in Spain don’t start until January 7th. And the reason is simple: until January 5th people were still doing their gift shopping for the 3 Wine Men day. And since January 6th is a holiday… then the sales couldn’t start until the next day!
January 7th is a crazy day at the shopping malls. But then usually the mornings of week days are relatively quiet compared to the evenings and the weekends.
Expect discounts of 15-20% at the beginning of the sales, that increase to 50% or more as January progresses. But of course, that also means there’s less models and sizes available… Would you come with us on a Barcelona shopping tour?
Saint Anthony festivals (mid-January)
Saint Anthony is a very popular Catholic saint in Barcelona. His day is January 17th, and that day in his honor there’s traditional parades taking place: the Tres Tombs festival. The legend says he loved animals and healed a little pig. So in these parades locals bring in their pets, who are blessed at the end of the procession.
And since there is a Barcelona district called Sant Antoni, the days around January 17th they celebrate their “Festa Major” (neighborhood main festival). It’s a good opportunity to see traditional folklore and join the locals in a non-touristy event. Plus it’s also a great excuse to visit this area famous for its huge market and a cool food scene.
Saint Anthony is also the patron saint of Mallorca, and long story short, Majorcans living in the Barcelona Gracia district started celebrating their traditional Foguerons bonfires here, too. It’s a night of fire, dancing, singing and roasting sausages. It can be fun to join!
In 2022 there’s two light shows taking place during the Christmas season and all the way until the end of January. One of them is a Christmas garden in the modernist Hospital of Sant Pau: “Sant Pau Lights“.
The other is a show inspired in nature and sustainability, with large light sculptures and special effects, “Natura Encesa“, taking place in the gardens of the Palau de Pedralbes. Reservations in advance are a must for both of them.
In 2021-2022 there’s three of them:
- Illa Diagonal shopping mall (until January 9th).
- La Maquinista shopping mall (until January 5th).
- Can Xirigoy (until January 5th).
FC Barcelona games in January
January is the last opportunity Spanish soccer teams have to reorganize their teams and hire new players for the rest of the season. The transfers are all over the media, as the new recruits are presented to the fans.
If you are a soccer fan, you might want to check if there’s any match going on during your stay and maybe get to see in person the new players in action. Otherwise, you always have the option of visiting the FC Barcelona Stadium outside of a match day.
And don’t forget there’s a second (less famous) soccer team in Barcelona – the RCD Español, who might be playing at home if the FC Barcelona is away. Or you can try and catch a game from one of the many sport bars in the city.
Palo Market Festival
A fun way to mix in with the locals, try some great street food, listen to good music and do some shopping is to attend a Festival. And the ones organized in the Palo Alto creators hub is one of the most authentic!
They happen once or twice a month, always on a weekend. And it’s best to get your tickets in advance to avoid lines. And since you’ll be there, you can take the opportunity to explore the Poblenou district nearby.
January Barcelona food scene
Last opportunity to taste Christmas treats
Christmas is one of the sweetest season in Spain. There are so many Christmas treats! The most famous is turron nougat. But there’s other such as marzipans, polvorones cakes, neules waffles…
I have a blog post about all the Christmas treats you need to try. Hurry up! You’ll still be able to find them in most supermarkets as well as in some cake shops. And if you miss them, you’ll always have the specialty turron shops open all year around.
Warm up with some hot chocolate and churros
When it’s cold outside there’s nothing better than cozying up in a café, ordering a cup of hot chocolate and a platter of churros and spend the rest of the afternoon gabbing with your friends.
Yes, churros with chocolate aren’t a quick thing: it’s a large cut of thick chocolate pudding you’ll getting. You can’t drink it and go: you need to seat down and take your time. So there’s no better excuse to socialize. Here is where to find the best hot chocolate and churros in Barcelona.
Get dirty eating calçots
Calçots are an icon of Catalan winters. It’s a green onion that has been made to grow long as a like but white and tender inside. We grill it until it’s charred outside, peel it off, dip it in romesco sauce and aim it at our mouth. Delish, but so dirty!
Locals usually gather, like you would on a BBQ party, to eat them. But you can find them in calçot restaurants when they are in season – December through March.
Winter is the game season. It’s not something you can easily notice around the city. But when you visit the Boqueria Market, make sure to head to the left edge of it and find the poultry shop Avinova. They have minor game displayed in one of their side windows.
You’ll see pheasants, hares, rabbits, ducks, wild pigeons… If you aren’t easily scared (or disgusted by dead animals with their eyes, furs, feathers and sometimes some blood dripping), it’s quite fascinating.
Mushrooms and artichokes
Besides calçots, there’s two more vegetables that are in season this time of the year. The mushroom season started in September and will last until it starts to warm up again. Many restaurants incorporate them in their menus or serve them as mushroom tapas.
Artichokes are just starting to be in season now, and trust me, I’m waiting for them the rest of the year! Head to El Quim bar in the Boqueria Market and order a plate of fried artichoke chips, or get some baked ones. Or order the pickled ones in Cerveseria Catalana (their artichoke chips are also great). Sometimes they even serve them in omelet! Yum!
Plan your sightseeing well
Things you need to know about visiting Barcelona in January
This is true for Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, La Pedrera, Casa Mila, the Picasso Museum… While in the Summer they can stay open until 8PM or later, in the winter they close around 6PM.
And speaking of Sagrada Familia: they have eliminated the physical ticket offices and you can only buy tickets online. Make sure to get them in advance and don’t trust to do it once you get there from your phone: they sell out even in the winter!
Also, La Pedrera (Casa Mila) often close an entire week during January to entertain major restoration works. Make sure to confirm it’s not during your stay! That also goes for Palau Guell as well as the Montserrat funiculars, cable car and rack train.
The Montjuic Magic Fountain also stops the shows for an entire month for maintenance works. Although that’s not a big deal in 2022 because the shows were cancelled when the pandemic started and they haven’t taken over yet… Here is the Magic Fountain schedule, so you can plan your trip.
Day trips recommendations for January
Here are some of my favorite winter day trips, instead:
- Going skiing. Did you know some ski resorts near Barcelona can be reached by train? And if you are driving, in 1.5 hours you start reaching the easiest ones. For the alpine ones you’ll need 2 to 3 hours. Or maybe you want us to take you on a ski day trip to Andorra?
- Dali Museum in Figueres. This is also reachable by train, either high speed or suburban. And the good thing is that it’s indoors, so the weather won’t affect your plans. Make sure to do some reading about Salvador Dali before going. And get familiar with the museum masterpieces so you don’t miss any of the must-see. Or just take our Salvador Dali Tour to discover the genius behind the crazy mask.
- Tarragona. Also reachable by train, Tarragona is further South and the weather is warmer even if it’s only about 1 hour away from Barcelona. Its Roman ruins and quaint medieval district will make you feel like in Italy without the crowds. Oh yes, we can also organize a Tarragona day trip for you!
- Wine Country. January is a quiet month in the Catalan wine country. Christmas was the top selling month so the boxes they were preparing in November are gone. The harvest finished in September, so the wines are now resting in tanks, barrels and bottles. And the vines are asleep, waiting to wake up again in Spring. But you can still visit the wineries, learn about wine making and (best of all) participate in a wine tasting! And all these without the crowds of other times of the year. Or take one of our Penedes wine tours from Barcelona.
What are your Barcelona January travel plans?
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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Last update on 2023-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API