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Why autumn is the best time to visit Barcelona

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 10/10/2018 Katie Strick

a river with Sagrada Família in the background © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited The air is heavy with the smell of gunpowder and we hear it before we see it: thundering drums, white hot sparks flying through the night sky, screaming crowds running down the street.

This is Barcelona’s biggest party of the year, Festes de la Mercè, and the highlight is an all-night “fire run”, or Carrefoc, in which revellers dressed as devils spray onlookers with flames. Join the stampede if you dare.

Fire and demons not withstanding, we’re here on an early autumn mini-break in a bid to escape London’s plummeting climes. In Catalonia, it’s still in the high twenties and low thirties — perfect for picking up a healthy tan before winter in the capital. Not only is the Med at its warmest — 22 degrees — but the beaches aren’t overrun with sun-seeking tourists.

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We treat ourselves to a lie-in and still have the pick of umbrellas at midday. It’s a similar story for all the hotspots: Las Ramblas feels like the buzzy boulevard it is meant to be, rather than a pickpocket’s paradise, and Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia both have bookings left on the day. We sail straight into both and the lack of crowds makes for Instagram opportunities galore: autumn’s golden hues marry magnificently with Gaudi’s dreamlike colour palette.

Gallery: 50 Charming Small Towns to Visit in Autumn (The Active Times)


The earlier sunset at around 7.30pm means we can make a longer night of it in the evenings too. We start with pre-dinner sundowners on the rooftop at the Edition Hotels’ new Barcelona outpost in the artsy El Born district, which features a 10th-floor seawater pool filled with water-lilies.

Created by illustrious hotel designer Ian Schrager, it’s just one of the city’s hip new openings, including the glamorous adults-only Hotel Rec, just steps from Barcelona’s Arc de ​Triomf and Ciutadella Park, and The One, a five-star offering with a rooftop plunge pool and Finnish sauna.

a living room: paper-upload-barcelona-.jpg © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited paper-upload-barcelona-.jpg Once the sun dips behind the mountains we hunt out a tapas spot in the Gothic Quarter. Bolets, or wild mushrooms, are the ubiquitous Catalan food in autumn and you can find them fried with garlic and parsley, while roast chestnuts (castanyes) and sweet potatoes (moniatos) are an unmissable seasonal delicacy. Ask for a table in the fairy-lit courtyard at La Bona Sort and feast on sauteed mushrooms and grilled artichokes as locals stream past for a night on the town.

There’s a buzz about Catalonia at this time of year. Sitges International Film Festival (largely horror and fantasy) is down the coast during October — there’s a special late-night train back to Barcelona after each night’s final screening — and on October 27 and 28 there’s a 48-hour open-house event across the city with access to more than 150 of Barcelona’s buildings.

This month also sees the start of one of Europe’s most respected jazz festivals in Barcelona, with everything from traditional flamenco to big band concerts and swing dancing in the city’s Ciutadella park.

The line-up lasts until December, while the end of October brings a treat for foodies — the ancient celebration of La Castanyada, famous for panellets (traditional Catalan almond balls) and a sweet wine called moscatell.

It’s the city’s sweet spot in more ways than one — summer has nothing on this autumn feast.

DETAILS

British Airways (britishairways.com) flies from London from £33 return.

The Barcelona Edition hotel (editionhotels.com) has doubles from £330, B&B.

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