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What Not to Do in Barcelona

by Suzanne Wales

Don't…
Visit Barcelona in August

This dictum could apply to pretty much anywhere in Spain. But in Barcelona, it should be a mantra. Okay, so global warming has made the weather harder to predict (in 2011, only half of August was icky-humid), but the general lack of rain dulls the city's fanciful architecture and mosaic surfaces with dust, and in an effort to save water, taps to the fountains are often turned off. So what does it matter if, in the current economic climate, more and more small-scale businesses are staying open rather than shuttering during this traditional time to get away? Judging from their troll-like mood, waiters and hotel staff would rather be vacationing with their families in the inland pueblos. After a day or so battling the hordes of tourists on the overrun beaches, you'll wish that you'd gotten out of town, too.

Instead…
Arrive in September

If you want to experience the fun-loving, madcap soul of the city, visit in the last week of September during the festival of La Mercè. Officially a celebration of Barcelona's patron saint (she reportedly rid the city of a plague of locusts), La Mercè is a joyous week. The timing helps: With the kids finally back at school, coffers full after the tourist season, and less oppressive temperatures setting in, locals are in a party mood. The program is so packed, you'll wish you had a teletransporter. In the evenings, live music—from salsa to rumba and Bollywood—turns the old town into one big block party, while circus performances, dancing, and street theater are staged in the parks and at the beaches. Local traditions include the spectacular castellers, or human towers (pictured), and the correfoc, a hair-raising parade of devils, dragons, and a truckload of fireworks.

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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