Barcelona in the fall and winter is most often cold. It’s not frigid, freeze-your-fingers-off weather like in parts of Northern and Eastern Europe, but it’s not a warm winter escape, either. Don’t be fooled by the sunshine and palm trees, you’ll need to cover up to stay warm. That said, very rarely does it dip below freezing in the city proper, and rarer still does it snow, so you can skip the fuzzy boots, heavy wool coats and snowsuit, which is a big relief for most travelers.
Here are some tips on what to bring along on your fall or winter trip to Barcelona to stay stylish and comfortable and make the most of your trip.
As far as the rest of Europe is concerned, Barcelona is a pretty casual city. That said, locals don’t often wander around in tracksuits and sneakers and pretty much no one wears sandals past November. During the fall and winter months, dressing in layers is a good strategy, as temperatures vary quite a bit by geographic area and time of day. It’s usually colder at the top of Montjuïc than in the city center, and it’s much warmer in the middle of the day than first thing in the morning, or after last call.
1 lightweight coat (think something that will keep you warm in 40, 50 and 60 degree weather without being too heavy to carry around)
2 cardigan sweaters – For layering. Breathable fabric is best, as are solid colors that coordinate with multiple outfits.
5 long sleeved tops – For layering
1 pair jeans
2 pairs slacks, skirts or winter shorts.
2 pairs tights that coordinate with your dresses, skirts or shorts
2 bras, one light, one dark, that go well under tops and dresses you bring along.
>> The team at Her Packing List recommends shooting for a smaller clothing list. Perhaps 3 long sleeve tops and only 1 dress.
Heed the advice of experts. Barcelona is a walking city. Make sure your shoes are comfortable. Because even if you plan to take transport and taxis you’re likely to be walking and standing on your feet a fair amount of time in the Catalan capital.
1 pair boots, comfortable for walking that go well with your dresses
1 pair comfortable heels for going out
1 pair comfortable flats for walking (please don’t walk around in sneakers, everyone will assume you’re a tourist or someone escaping from the gym without showering).
1 pair flip flops for pools and shared bathrooms.
Even name brands you know and love will be slightly different. While buying toiletries after you get here is definitely an option, if you have sensitive skin or allergies, you’re better off bringing your own stash of products from home.
Soap or body wash
Brush or comb
Tampons – They’re available, but bringing your own means not having to struggle through a conversation in broken Spanish (or English) in a busy supermarket about where to find them.
>> The team at Her Packing List recommends trying the Diva Cup.
The right accessories are more important than they seem. Far from just bringing a look together, the right accessories can keep you warm, dress-up an outfit, and protect your valuables.
Sunglasses — You’ll want them. Not just to protect your poor eyes from the overpowering sun, but also so you can gawk at things or people without anyone knowing.
1 belt that coordinates well with the clothing you bring.
1 scarf that coordinates well with your clothing and coat
1 umbrella for rain (it does happen)
1 smaller purse that zips or clasps closed with a strap that can be worn across your body.
Jewelry—go with inexpensive, but fun pieces.
Electronics are more expensive in Barcelona than at home for most visitors, so you should definitely bring your own.
E-book reader for comfortable reading on the plane, the metro and buses.
European converter to charge electronics.
Chargers for your phone, camera, e-book and computer.
Here are some practical odds and ends you should add to your packing pile.
Reusable water bottle with filter. Barcelona’s water tastes terrible. Bottled water in supermarkets is cheap, but filling up your own bottle with tap water is even cheaper, not to mention more convenient.
Room in your suitcase. Trust me when I say you’ll want to shop in Barcelona. From Spanish leather goods to wine, cheese and hand-made items, you’ll be happy for the space later on.
Earplugs or noise cancelling headphones for light sleepers — Barcelona is a noisy city year-round, all week-long, especially in the more centrally located neighborhoods.
Coin-purse for change – Euros are coins up to 2 Euros, so a separate compartment for change is very useful, as you use it for all sorts of things. Paper money starts at 5 Euros, so tons of things are paid for in change, and you’ll find that lots of little places, the bar or coffee-shop around the corner, for example, never seem to want to make change from large bills.
Barcelona apps and guidebooks. Instead of a guidebook, download a guidebook or app to your phone before you go. Many have maps that can be used with no data connection. It’s much subtler to be looking at your phone like everyone else than whipping out a massive guidebook to find your way around the city.
A good read set in Barcelona. There’s Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Shadow of the Wind or the Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones. My personal favorite is Barcelona by Robert Hughes, part history, part travel guide, mostly discourse from a cranky art critic.
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About the author: Chris Ciolli is a Barcelona-based writer, translator and artist. A Midwesterner at heart, she’s been living in Spain for over 8 years, and flitting around Europe whenever the opportunity presents itself. She writes about Barcelona at BarcelonaforIdiots.com and her experiences everywhere else at Midwesternerabroad.com. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
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