You might have seen the signs: "Tancat per vacances" or "Cerrado por vac-aciones" (Closed for vacation). They're on every second store and restaurant front in Barcelona in August. The city shuts down almost entirely this month as its overworked denizens take their holidays en masse.
It might seem like a terrible time to visit the city and, in some ways, it is. Those who describe themselves as foodies, for example, will find many of their A-list restaurants closed (Gaig and Cinc Sentits until Aug. 24/25; Alkimia, Moo, Cal Pep and Quimet y Quimet until Sep.; or so I believe, please double check). In addition, a smaller selection of shops is open in city markets.
On the other hand, August is also absolutely perfect. Generally, the city is quieter, less bustling and finding a spot on a patio isn't as challenging as it is in July. While the days may be a little sweaty, the warm evenings are absolutely delicious. What's more, all the museums remain open and, between neighbourhood fiestas and free outdoor activities, there's plenty to keep one occupied.
Here's a glimpse at what's available:
Festa Major de Gracia et al. - starting today and ending next weekend, Gracia streets will be decorated with everything from plastic bottles to CDs in recreations of Wonderland, Japan and God knows what else as the neighbourhood celebrates its popular fiesta. (Last year's decorations are pictured at the top of this post.) Look for musical performances, parades and other fiesta favourites such as castellers (human castles) and gigantes (giants). For details, brush up on your Catalan and check www.festamajordegracia.cat. Note that just as the Festa Major de Gracia ends, the Festa Major de Sants begins (Aug. 22 to 29). Check the schedule here: Festa Major de Sants.
Gandules at the CCCB - As mentioned in a prior post, on Tuesdays, Wednes-days and Thursdays in August, the CCCB offers free movies; this year's theme is Playing Cinema and focuses on the connection between movies and music. Seating is limited so get there early. In fact, I would recommend that you line up before the doors open at 9pm if you are to have any hope of snagging a seat. Here's a link to the schedule: Gandules.
Movies on the beach - The Platja de Sant Sebastia offers movies every Thursday this August (a short followed by a full length feature). The shows start at 9:30pm, I believe. I say this because I wasn't able to find a link that says otherwise. You'll just have to trust me. It goes without saying that you need a blanket and a bottle of wine.
Music at the Caixa Forum - The Caixa Forum offers a free concert series at c/ Marques de Comillas 6-8 on August Wednesdays. Look for Scottish folk on the 19th and Catalan gospel-soul (yes, weird) on the 26th. There are two performances of each (8pm and 10pm). You'll find more information here: CaixaForum Summer Concerts.
Music in Ciutadella Park - While the selection is not as ample as in July, the Music in the Parks concert series continues with jazz on August Fridays at 10pm in Ciutadella Park. Bring a blanket and a picnic dinner. Here is a link to the concert schedule (see second last page; divendres=Friday): Music in the Parks.
Music at La Pedrera - Unlike the other offerings, this one carries a cost of 7 euros a ticket, but it does give you the pleasure of enjoying half an hour of classical music on any given day in August at 7pm, 8pm or 9pm at Gaudi's Pedrera. Tickets can be purchased at the Pedrera ticket office on the day of the concert or at www.telentrada.com. For more information (albeit in Catalan), click here: Mas i Mas.
Restaurants - In terms of restaurants, the Carles Abellán set remains open throughout August--that's Comerç24 (reserve early), Tapaç24 and the newly opened Velódromo. So do most of the restaurants in the Grupo de Tragaluz: Agua, Bar Lobo, and Cuines Santa Caterina have all been reviewed here. Of the tapas joints, the Bar Boquería remains humming, so does the Cerveseria Catalana, Bar Mut, De Tapa Madre and chains like Taller de Tapas and Lonja de Tapas. Also try El Salón (see address and map) for a romantic supper in the depths of the Barrio Gotico (reserve on the patio to soak in an interesting neighbourhood atmosphere that includes everything from surprisingly talented buskers to the harmlessly insane or eat in the charming dining room) and Set Portes (www.7portes.com) in the Old Port for fabulous paella. The restaurants in the Port and along the beach remain open throughout the summer; of these, I like Agua and Merendero de la Mari best.
Oh, and don't forget to picnic and gorge yourself on ice cream. There are absolutely no impediments to either of those activities in August. In fact, I would say that, just this month, they're completely calorie-free.
If you have other thoughts about what to do in the city in August, please, please, please post a comment!
(* The links provided in this article are either to prior posts on the same subject (esp. re restaurants) or to external websites providing more information on a given activity. Let yourself be surprised.)