It took some time. But as of mid October, Spain finally lifted all remaining COVID restrictions on international travelers entering the country.
While most other destinations across the world, and certainly in Europe, had long since done away with COVID rules, Spain was still holding out. Its caution was mostly centered around unvaccinated tourists, who still had to take a test and prove they were COVID-negative before being allowed in.
But now that has all been swept away, which is great news for the millions of British holidaymakers who choose Spain as their destination of choice every year. Or it would be if we weren’t now looking down the barrel of winter.
Spain might be best known as a summer holiday destination, famous as it is for its golden sandy beaches, lively coastal resorts, and, of course, its fantastic weather. But if you are getting itchy feet and feel the need to get away somewhere before summer comes around again, there is no shortage of things to see and do in Spain over the winter, too.
In fact, the cooler temperatures are perfect to tick off some of the things that you might just feel it’s too hot to bother with at the height of summer.
Here are our top four things to do in Spain over the winter months.
Party in Europe’s Best City for a Night Out
There are no shortage of reasons to visit Barcelona at any time of the year. But high on the list is immersing yourself in the Catalonian capital’s vibrant nightlife, which is regularly voted the best in Europe.
While in summer much of the late night revelry spills out onto the streets, with regular outdoor fiestas, concerts, festivals, and more, the cooler weather sees everything move indoors. That gives you the opportunity to find out just how great Barcelona’s bar, club, and restaurant scene really is. And with fewer tourists about, it’s a much more pleasant experience than packing into hot, sweaty spaces while it’s still upwards of 20 degrees outside.
And after a heavy night, what better way to come round the next morning than with Spain’s traditional winter breakfast treat – churros and hot chocolate. Barcelona just happens to have a street in the Gothic Quarter that specialises in the doughnut-like delicacies, the Carrer de Petritxol.
Take in the Sights of Spain’s Stunning Southern Cities
The southernmost region of Spain, Andaluscia, is also renowned for being its hottest. Away from the coast, temperatures regularly top 40oC in summer, which understandably puts many tourists off exploring in the stifling heat.
That’s a shame, because Andaluscia is also home to some of Spain’s most mesmerising cities. The likes of Seville and Granada are architecturally and culturally among the most captivating the country has to offer, blending as they do Islamic and Christian influences from the region’s rich and varied history.
The cooler months are certainly the best times to take in Seville’s giant Gothic cathedral, the third largest church in the world, and Moorish Royal Alcazar Palace, while Granada’s Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And when you have done exploring the landmarks, both cities boast plentiful options for sampling authentic Spanish tapas and other fine local cuisines.
Go Skiing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
For many people, skiing is just about the last holiday activity you’d associate with Spain. But while the country is blessed with sunshine for most of the summer, it’s mountainous regions get no shortage of snow in winter – the northern Cantabrians, the uplands around Madrid (itself on a high plateau that is no stranger to snow fall), and of course the immense Pyrenees separating Spain from France.
But arguably the most mind-blowing place to hit the pistes in Spain is the Sierra Nevada range. Towering out of the otherwise arid and often swelteringly hot Andaluscian landscape just to the southeast of Granada, the highest peak Mulhacén soars to 3,481 metres, making it the highest point on the Iberian peninsula and not far off three times the height of Ben Nevis!
Just remember, if you like the sound of combining a skiing trip with a tour round the rest of Andaluscia or a city break in Grenada, you will need to plan ahead. For a start, you will need to add ski cover to your travel insurance for Spain, otherwise any kind of accident could end up costing you more than your holiday in medical fees.
Visit the Cider Houses of Donostia-San Sebastian
The Basque city of Donostia-San Sebastian, tucked up close to the French border in the north of the country, is widely acclaimed as the food capital of Spain. It has one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-starred restaurants of any city on Earth, there are food markets practically everywhere you turn, and in every bar you walk in, you will find delicious pintxos lined up waiting – a Basque type of tapas that takes the idea of an open sandwich to another level.
All of these things can be sampled at any time of year. But one of Donostia’s signature contributions to food and drink culture can only be experienced during the winter months – its cider houses.
Cider making is associated with the Basque region of Spain the same way it is with the south west of England or the Normandy and Brittany regions of France. Every year between October and May, many of Donostia’s traditional cider houses throw open their doors to the public, offering tours, tasting and, in many cases, excellent dining options, too.