102 square kilometers with a population of 1.6 million, Barcelona is the second most populated city, and now one of the third most visited destinations in Europe. The latest figures for arrivals in 2015 predict that there will be just short of 8 million visitors. Its urban area extends further and rests with a resident population of 4.8 million people, being the 6th most populated in the EU. For a variety of reasons, Barcelona has become one of the most visited and successful cities, and has gained much-deserved international recognition. It’s now looked at as a similarly competitive tourist city in the likes of Rome, Paris, and London. In a recent article written by the Economist titled “Barcelona: Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded,” it dictates the changes that have occurred due to the massive influx of people within the past 20 years and particularly in the last 5.
Without a doubt, Barcelona is one of the greatest cities on earth. We want to help you enjoy it as possible and see it in its truest self. We’ll get explain the roots of the tourist “problem,” the speculation as to how to solve it, and our local tips to have you make the most of your stay!
What put Barcelona on the map?
The 1992 Olympic Games changed everything — they left their impact and legacy on the city. The city was transformed architecturally and culturally in countless ways. The games most importantly reinvented the image that was previously held about the city by both dramatically changing the architecture and the accessibility to tourists to access the city and see it as the gem that it is. News spread fast and this has only continued, causing a bit more of a detriment on the city and its residents than previously expected.
What makes Barcelona so enticing that this problem has multiplied?
If you’ve been to Barcelona, the answer is self-explanatory — it is a vibrant, multicultural, cosmopolitan city on the sea in which fiestas, beautiful landscapes, fantastic seafood, incredible architecture, and countless cultural events are too easy to come by. Its energy is contagious, and those that make a visit to Barcelona are left with a lasting impression, thus continuously drawn back for more. The number of different neighborhoods in their uniqueness draws every kind of tourist. Ease of transport, tours, and the availability of hundreds of different kinds of low-cost accommodations allow Barcelona to be the perfect holiday.
What impact, exactly, is the excess tourism having on the city?
If you have been to the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter in high season, it’s clear as day to see that the city cannot uphold the number of tourists and residents in coexistence. Local residents, especially in the areas of Ciutat Vella (the old part of town — particularly the Gothic Quarter, Born, Raval and La Barceloneta) are left with a drastically different Barcelona than that of which they had grown up in. The famous “La Rambla” used to be a place in which local residents could have a nice afternoon stroll, while passing by La Boquería to grab some fresh seafood for lunch. Now, its an art to weave through flocks of tourist groups that only continue to become more in number as the tourist season continues. Protests are common in contention with youth hostels and Air BnB apartments, as well as the harmful impact of disrespectful tourists on particular neighborhoods. Excess noise, littering, and price increases are a few of the most prominent to name.
What is being done to aid a more sustainable tourism to preserve Barcelona?
Recently elected Barcelona mayor Ada Colau Ballano is looking to reduce the number of visitors to the city. She has already cut off the ability to obtain licenses to build up new tourist apartments, hotels, or hostel-pension-type accommodations. She’s an ally for residents living in these particularly tourist infested areas, as she will continue to find ways to preserve the city for what it once was. Talks are being had to reduce the amount of cruise ships that are allowed to port in Barcelona– as they are arguably a “less valuable” group of tourists that visit the city, only staying in the city for the day and not using any hotel service and often times not stimulating the restaurants of areas outside of Ciutat Vella. Time will tell.
NOW… our tips for visiting the city to avoid the tourist traps:
- Barcelona is an international, cosmopolitan city. You can hear a plethora of different languages at any moment in the old part of town. If this isn’t what you’re keen for, venture out to some of the less-traveled neighborhoods, where you’ll be in touch with a truer Barcelona.
- When it comes to eating, follow tip #1! If you notice a restaurant is full of foreigners, as is true for any big city, head to another area where you’ll find a place packed with locals.
- Beaches: Barceloneta is crowded. Take the train 15 minutes either direction (Badalona to the north or Castelldefels to the south) and you’ll be rewarded with white sand beaches, clean , mediterranean blue waters.
- Don’t want to pay too much for drinks? Head to some of the small bars in Eixample or Raval in any one of the plazas. If you see steel chairs outside and some locals drinking bottled beer, you should be alright.
- If you’re not a fan of crowds, use La Rambla just as a crossing point to move into and out of Raval. In high season, you’ll be brushing up arm and arm at essentially all hours of the day. If you do want to see the beauty of the Rambla with its trees, ended by the Colom statue at the port, head out early, before 10h. You’ll be rewarded with space and truly see it for what it is.
- Use our receptionists as an unlimited resource — you will be rewarded! They have a wealth of information and time to help you find what you’re looking for, whatever it may be.
- Hunt out things on our blog before leaving on your holiday to get ideas from our local point-of-view. We simply want you to enjoy your holiday, so we write articles that are conducive to this.
Stay with us for your visit to Barcelona! Our beautiful apartments located in the city center are an excellent choice to stay at during your holiday. As you walk out the door, you will find yourself just steps from the main tourist attractions. At our Ramblas Building Apartments, we have everything you need to allow you to fully enjoy your holiday: friendly, helpful staff and fully-stocked apartments in the most central location.