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Barcelona is a year-round destination, as ideal for a long weekend city break as for a six-month sabbatical. It is a good idea to time a trip with one eye on events and the other on the weather. Many associate Barcelona with the summer sun, but August can be a poor choice – the city broils and swarms with tourists as the locals disappear to more salubrious climes. It is certainly better to come around mid-June or September. If beach time is not a priority, you can easily find sunny (if chilly) weather and fewer crowds in January and February. You stand a good chance of striking rain from April to May and October through November.

Rainfall is highest in autumn and winter. During September and into October the city often gets a wash down in cracking thunderstorms.

As Barcelona is downwind from the Pyrenees, cold snaps are always on the cards and the April–May period is particularly changeable. At its best May can be the most pleasant month of the year – clear and fresh.

Fun and festivals

Whether it’s being chased by fire-spitting demons or joining parades of giants, meandering through the decorated streets of Barcelona’s barris (neighbourhoods) with beer in hand, or crowding into a mega-concert at the Fòrum, the city proffers a plethora of festivals. Many are steeped in colourful tradition, while others are modern affairs focused on concerts, theatre or sport. Some envelop the entire city; other lively local festes are limited to a particular barri. Events take place throughout much of the year, although there is more activity in the warmer months.

September's Festes de la Mercè, a four-day festival celebrating Barcelona's co-patron saint, Nostra Senyora de la Mercè (Our Lady of Mercy) is a particularly good excuse to head to the city. This final burst of pre-winter madness features a swimming race across the harbour, a fun run, outstanding free concerts and a bewildering programme of cultural events. Adding to the local colour are all the ingredients of a major Catalan festa: castellers, sardanes (traditional Catalan folk dancing), parades of gegants and capgrossos (giants and big heads), and a huge correfoc.