Summer in Spain: 9 things all expats know about Spanish summertime

Summer is a great time to visit Spain on holiday and get away to the beach. Temperatures soar above 40⁰C in the hottest months of July and August in some areas, mostly in the south of Spain, and life takes on a slower pace.

As any expat living in Spain will know, there are certain things that only happen in summer in Spain. If you want to do like the Spaniards do and live in true Spanish style this summer, read this guide of what summer is like in Spain.

1. The temperature goes up (and up and up!)

Spain is at its hottest in July and August, with cities like Seville, Madrid and Barcelona seeing sweltering temperatures of over 40⁰C, and this is set to rise even more with the heatwaves Europe is seeing thanks to climate change. The north of Spain, in regions like Galicia and Asturias, tends to always be four or five degrees cooler than the rest. The temperature on the Canary Islands manages to stay at a fairly even 21-28⁰C all year round, which makes it the perfect holiday destination in both summer and winter.

2. People go to the beach or their village

Many Spanish people have grandparents who still live in a small village in the country or know someone with a beach house, and summer is the time when they spend up to several weeks away from the big cities to visit family and friends. You may be surprised to find some cities relatively empty of Spaniards at this time of year, but there are more tourists from abroad.

3. Operation bikini

In the run up to summer, you may hear a lot of talk about ‘Operación bikini’. This is what the Spanish call their yearly diet to be able to fit into, and look good in, their swimsuit when they go to the beach or the local pool, and it’s a fixture of any Spanish conversation to note how badly you’re failing.

4. Working hours get shorter

Many Spanish businesses change their opening times in summer and workers often start earlier in the morning and finish by early afternoon. This is to avoid being caught in the worst of the heat and enjoy the afternoons. Instead of trying to do your shopping at 3 pm when everything’s shut, why don’t you do as the Spanish do and take a siesta?

5. Terrazas

Spain is a very social country. With more free time on their hands and the weather being so good, people in Spain generally head out to socialise more, and this means going to sit at a terraza, which is an outside table of a bar, as soon as the weather permits. In the most popular places, it may be difficult to find a spot after 8 pm, but there’s always the option of going up to the terrace of a rooftop bar in Barcelona or Madrid.

6. What to drink in Spain in summer

Going to a terrace in Spain and meeting friends means drinking. Here’s a pro tip to seem more Spanish: don’t order sangria, which has red wine and fruit, but ask for a tinto de verano instead, which is a mixture of red wine and lemonade that Spanish people often order. By no means do you have to drink alcohol, either – it’s also not uncommon to get an alcohol-free beer or a cup of iced coffee (café con hielo).

7. Summer food in Spain

Warning: this is salmorejo, not gazpacho! / xurde/Flickr
Warning: this is salmorejo, not gazpacho! / xurde/Flickr

One of the best things about summer in Spain is the excellent food. Gone are the heavy cocido stews, making way for fresh, tasty salads and top-quality seafood. A very typical Spanish summer dish is the well-known gazpacho, a liquidy tomato soup with garlic, onion, peppers, cucumber and many other ingredients. Don’t confuse it with salmorejo, which is thicker and contains only tomato and bread, but may be served with bits of jamón or hard-boiled egg.

8. The fans come out

Another distinctly Spanish tradition in summer is seeing people waving their hand fans about. These are called ‘abanicos’ in Spanish and are popular among ladies of a certain age, although they can be used by anyone to cool down. Be sure to buy one with a pretty pattern to really impress people in public.

9. Dive in to summer in Spain!

Last but not least, if you can’t get out of the city this summer and get to the beach, there’s always the option of going to the pool. People who aren’t lucky enough to have a private swimming pool in their house may have a community pool that is shared by everyone in their apartment building which opens from around June to September (depending on the rules of the condo). If not, there are public pools that open at the same time and normally cost just a few euros to go for the whole day. Alternatively, you can go to a natural pool in Spain to really make the most of your summer!

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