Barcelona

Visiting Barcelona: A tourism dilemma?

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Spain's second city and the capital of Catalonia has been in the news quite frequently in recent years, and unfortunately not for the most positive of reasons. Leaving the whole complicated issue of the Catalan independence movement aside (we're just lowly travel writers after all, not esteemed political pundits), the topic of mass tourism and more specifically the backlash against it is more near and dear to our hearts. Are the signs held by protesters at anti-tourism rallies in the city - such as 'Tourist you are a terrorist', 'All tourists are bastards', 'Stop destroying our lives!' and 'Why call it tourist season if you can't shoot them?' - a bit hyperbolic if entertaining? For sure, but they've also got a point, as low cost budget flights and home sharing sites (aka unregulated, semi-legal rental facilitators) such as Airbnb and Homeaway have driven up both tourism arrival and local prices to dizzying degrees. Will you let any of this stop you from visiting one of Europe's most buckety of bucket list destinations? Most likely not, which is why we've gone through the trouble of putting together this guide to Barcelona.

Now that that unpleasant business is out of the way, where were we? Oh yes, telling you about all the things to do and experience in Barcelona! Full disclosure, when we first visited the city way back in our halcyon backpacker days of the early aughts (that's the early 2000s), we'd perhaps never been more disappointed with a destination. The city was overcrowded (even then), La Rambla was full of beggars and prostitutes, Gaudí's strange creations just didn't really do it for us, the beach was dirty and wholly uninviting and as the final insult to our injurious tourist experience, what had hitherto been our infallible travel bible, the venerable Lonely Planet, completely screwed us by saying that the Dali Museum was open on Mondays, which we only found out was not actually the case at the end of a two-hour train ride to Figueres. However, in terms of silver linings, this whole experience did at least teach us to keep our expectations low lest we be disappointed - a lesson that has served us well till this day.

Of course, if political upheaval and massive local protests explicitly imploring you not to visit aren't going to dissuade you, then neither should the curmudgeonly ramblings of a former backpacker turned travel writer. And visit you should, as Barcelona is one of the continent's most visited cities for a reason. The climate, the food, the atmosphere (especially out of the main tourist nexus), the culture and even those crazy buildings, sculptures and massive unfinished church conceived of by one Antoni Gaudí i Cornet are all perfectly excellent reasons to book that 20 quid Easyjet flight, reserve that cosy couch in the corner of someone's living room and plunge into the tourist fray. And if you do so, good luck and Godspeed!
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