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Cities that are left empty during holiday periods

Electricity consumption tells us the truth. When it falls drastically, it is because people have gone away. When it goes up, it is because they are back. With this data we can find out the dates when cities are deserted.

There are places in Spain that are empty almost all year round. Large areas with little population which, at most, experience a brief rise on the occasion of the local festivity.

But even the big cities experience their moments of absolute calm. Cities are left empty when their inhabitants head off to enjoy the few days' holiday.

With the data from the electricity meters of millions of Spaniards, we can discover the few times of year when cities feel like towns. When their electricity consumption drops is when the cars horns give way to silence.


Easter Week: processions and some time at the beach

The first dates when the big cities (Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia…) are left empty are at Easter.

The tourist exodus causes cities like Seville, Valladolid and Zamora to reach annual peaks of electricity consumption. But the rise is also very marked in coastal areas without any tradition of processions.


The long Spanish summer

It is when the hot weather arrives that people move around the most, being distributed among a variety of destinations and activities:

Short breaks in June: long weekends on the coast and highly popular festivities such as Corpus Christi in Seville (15 June) or the feast of San Juan with its bonfires (24 June). The latter shows a clear impact on electricity consumption throughout the Levant, including Aragon and the Pyrenees.

Closed for holidays: we are a summertime country, with some 90 million car trips between July and August (according to data from the General Traffic Directorate). At these times Madrid and Barcelona lose one third of their population, but at a very different rate: Madrid suddenly, in a very marked way that reaches its peak in August; Barcelona in a smoother and more gradual way. Some leave and others arrive: around 2 million tourists visit Madrid in summer, compared to 4 million in Barcelona. Places close to these great capitals (Segovia, Toledo, Figueres, Cadaqués) receive some of these visitors, who take advantage to go on day trips.

“In summer 1 out of 3 residents of Madrid and Barcelona leave the city and go away on holiday.”

Sanfermines: San Fermín (7 July) deserves special mention: during this week Pamplona goes from 190,000 to over 1 million inhabitants.

Above all a lot of time at the beach: although holiday destinations are very diverse, the beach is the absolute winner. If we focus on the Costa del Sol, there are more than 7 million tourists there. From the third week of August the return home begins and the cities start to fill up again.


Local festivals that have a lot of influence

Each place has its own particular festival, but in all they are usually experienced in the same way: taking advantage of the fact that there is a public holiday to get away. Although it cannot be compared to the great summer absences, some patron saints have the power to empty their cities:

  • The May long weekend in Madrid: added to Workers' Day (1 May) is 2 May as the feast day of the autonomous community.
  • San Isidro in Madrid: on 15 May, electricity consumption shows a great tradition of people going to spend the day outdoors.
  • Second Easter in Barcelona: at the beginning of June the people of Barcelona do the same as the people of Madrid a month earlier and relax in countryside areas close to the city.
  • Big Week of Bilbao: around 19 August many residents of Bilbao leave their holiday destination to return to their city and enjoy the festivities. Some will stay in Bilbao to start off the new academic year; others will take it as a brief break before returning to the beach/mountains.
  • Day of Santiago in Galicia: 25 July is a date that brings the people of Galicia together in their towns. If it falls on a Sunday, a Holy Year is declared and the number of pilgrims multiplies.
  • Diada and Mercé in Barcelona: between 11 and 24 September, Barcelona enjoys festivities to make the return to the routine more enjoyable.

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