Ten things that only happen in Spain when summer arrives

Spaniards take the arrival of summer very seriously indeed. Here is The Local's guide to knowing that it is finally on its way.

Ten things that only happen in Spain when summer arrives
Photo: genius2000de/Depositphotos

The mercury starts to rise…and rise

Photo: Cristina Quicler/AFP

Ah sunny Spain. That old cliché is never truer than in summer, when the intense heat creeps up on you and refuses to leave for at least the next three to four months.

Everyone is talking Operation bikini

Photo: Classic Film/Flickr

It’s hard to escape operation bikini in the run up to summer – the diet many Spaniards start to make sure they are in shape for the beach. Cafes even have “bikini” sandwiches – low fat alternatives for those watching their figures.

Pools open

Photo: Tinnyaw/Flickr 

Many foreigners visiting Spain would happily plunge into a pool in mid-March, but Spaniards are very particular about the seasons and many pools only open during strict summer opening times – In Madrid they open on May 15th until September 22nd. So once the pools are open, you know summer is officially here.

Jellyfish arrive

Photo: GraceOda/Flickr 

Most of us would love to head to the beach at the first sign of summer but be warned, a nasty gelatinous beast awaits in the shallows. Warmer seas and the overfishing of their natural predators has led to a rise in jellyfish numbers across the Med, with the disappointing result that bathers risk a sting when they go for a dip.

READ ALSO:  Strange blue sea creatures wash up on Costa Blanca beaches

Terrazas buzz 

Photo: Jessica Jones 

Spaniards love nothing more than spending a lazy summer afternoon on a terrace or rooftop bar and they really come into their own in the summer months. A perfect way to cool down when the city is almost unbearably hot at ground level, you know summer is on the way when everyone heads to the rooftops. 

READ MORE: Madrid's best rooftop bars

Tinto de verano becomes the tipple of choice

Photo: Indra Galbo/Flickr 

When you notice everyone around you drinking big glasses of tinto de verano – a mixture of red wine and lemonade – you know summer is on its way. While tourists stick to sangria, tinto de verano is a much more authentic summer drink among Spaniards, and is guaranteed to quench that summer thirst. 

Get ready to party!

The 'Battle of the Wine' festival. Photo: AFP

You might think Spain is really a year-round fiesta and it's true, there are festivals throughout the year, but nothing beats the summer fiesta season. From epic wine battles to the traditional Pamplona running of the bulls and everything in between – Spanish summer is full of quirky festivals. 

READ MORE: 12 epic festivals to attend in Spain in 2019

Everyone eats gazpacho

Gazpacho is the perfect lunchtime refresher in the summer heat. Photo: Harlan Harris / Flickr

Gone are the hearty tripe dishes, the bean casseroles and winterwarming stews. Instead enjoy summer salads and that Spanish staple of the season – Gazpacho!

READ ALSO: Where to buy the best gazpacho, Spain's summer soup classic

Working hours change

“Closed for the month of August”. Photo: Jessica Jones 

School children head home early from the start of June and office workers shift their working hours to an early start and an early finish from July.  Wander around any Spanish city, even the metropolises of Madrid and Barcelona, and a common sight will be a shuttered-up shop with a hand written sign: “Cerrado por vacaciones” (Closed for the holidays). Many Spanish restaurants and shops close for the whole of August. 

Fans start fluttering

Photo: Angela Capitán/Flickr 

A surefire sign that summer is here is when you start to notice that most women are carrying a fan and swatting furiously to give themselves a short respite from the heat. 


LISTED: The 14 sun creams Spain wants to take off the market

If you're looking for the right sun protection this summer, then you should be aware that the Spanish Ministry of Health has requested that 14 sunscreens be withdrawn because their SPF doesn't correspond to what is advertised.

LISTED: The 14 sun creams Spain wants to take off the market
The Spanish Ministry of Health requests the withdrawal of 14 sun creams. Photo: MYCHELE DANIAU / AFP

The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) and the Ministry of Health, requested on Tuesday the voluntary withdrawal of 14 sun creams because the sun protection factor (SPF) that they advertise does not correspond to the labelling.

The results were discovered during a recent trial AEMPS carried out to guarantee that the sun protection factor is the one announced by the manufacturers. The trials focused on sunscreens with SPF 50 or SPF 50+, especially those with very light creams, mists and sprays. The agency chose 19 products from companies in different countries, of different sizes and price points.

Only five of the 19 creams analysed provided protection that was consistent with its labelling.

Five of the sun creams had an SPF much lower than that indicated on their labels, always below an SPF factor of 29.9. These are:

  • Abelay Sunscreen SPF50 from Ab7
  • Mussvital Photoprotector Spray Ultra Light 50+ aerosol from Peroxfarma
  • Eucerin Sun Sensitive Protect Sun Spray Transparent Dry Touch SPF 50 High by Beiersdorf AG
  • Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydratation Solar Mist air soft SPF 50+ (High) by Wilkinson Sword
  • Australian Gold SPF Botanical SPF 50 continuous spray by Biorius

Nine of the sunscreens were found to have an SPF of between 30 and 49.9, instead of the advertised 50. These were:

  • Les Cosmetiques Sun Ultimate Sensitive SPF 50+ sun spray for sensitive skin from Carrefour
  • Belle & Sun Invisible Sun Mist SPF 50 by Perseida Beauty
  • Isdin Photoprotector Fusion Water SPF 50 from ISDIN daily use facial sunscreen
  • Farline sun spray SPF 50+ 200 mL Very High Protection
  • Babaria Solar Protective Mist SPF 50 by Berioska
  • Seesee Transparent Sun Spray SPF 50+ by Cosmetrade
  • Piz Buin Hydro Infusion Gel Sun Cream SFP 50 High Protection by Johnson & Johnson Santé Beauté
  • Ladival Sensitive Skin SPF 50+ from STADA Arzneimittel AG
  • Lancaster Sun Sensitive Luminous Tan Comfort cream SPF 50+ by Coty

No incidents of sunburn related to any of these products have been reported, however the Ministry of Consumption has started to investigate possible illicit advertising and unfair practices, and where appropriate, will sanction the manufacturers.

According to Weather Online, the UV Index in Spain and other Mediterranean countries is a lot higher than in northern European countries. Indices of 9 and 10 are common, whereas, in the UK, the UV Index rarely exceeds 8.

If you’re looking for extra protection this summer, a new app, UV-Derma has been released by professors from the University of Malaga, which calculates how long you can stay in the sun before burning. 

READ ALSO: Climate crisis: Spain records hottest year in 2020