Barcelona in Spain is the third most visited city in Europe according to recent statistics. For many years, it has been a favorite city break destination for young Europeans who like the free bar culture of the Catalonia capital. Even more tourists come to Barcelona for its architecture, art and history. Massive Mediterranean cruise ships bring loads of tourists to the port of Barcelona for day visits.
Barcelona is an exciting destination to explore, there is no question about that. Gaudi’s architecture, tapas bars, Las Ramblas, old town, cathedrals, the port and the beach. There is something for everyone.
Recently, some residents of Barcelona have become fed up with tourists taking over their city, and have begun openly protesting against mass tourism. Some radicals have made violent attacks against tourism infrastructure of the city. For instance, Spanish newspaper El Mundo reports of several incidents in 2017. A tourist bus was painted with slogans and the driver attacked in Barcelona in July. City bicycles that tourists (and residents) can borrow have been systematically sabotaged.
In Palma, the capital of Mallorca, tourist restaurants have been attacked. Palma and Barcelona are the hotspots of “Tourist Go Home” movement that is frequently in the news in Spain. A group called Arran is behind many of these violent activities.
Ordinary residents may protest by posting “Tourist Go Home” posters on their walls or balconies.
Perhaps all this has something to do with the movement to make Catalonia independent, separating the province from Spain into a state of its own. A referendum is planned for October 2017.
Travel industry analyst Skift has produced a video that explores Barcelona’s rapid rise to one of the most visited cities in the world and its consequences. View the video at Skift’s web page.
Is Barcelona safe? There are no reports of violence against visitors – at least, not in Spanish media. Tourists have to hold on to their wallets and purses just like in every tourist destination.
Here are two tips if you want to visit Barcelona, but want to avoid the crowds.
1. Visit Barcelona in winter, spring or autumn. There will be tourists, but it is possible to move in the city and get inside the biggest attractions, like Gaudi buildings without queuing for hours.
2. Stay outside Barcelona and make day trips into the city. For instance, Blanes is a large beach resort that lives on tourism. Tarragona is a historical city with a fantastic old town, and has beach resorts as neighbors on both sides. Driving from these cities to Barcelona is fairly easy, and driving in Barcelona is surprisingly easy. Or better yet, take a bus or train.