Escape the crowds of tourists for some more relaxed locations in the city. Photo: Quique Garcia / AFP
Barcelona has been included on a list of destinations to steer clear of in 2018. But The Local isn't quite ready to give it up.
When CNN travel included Barcelona at the top of the list of destinations to avoid in 2018 it wasn’t because of the political crisis engulfing Spain’s northeastern region.
Nor was it because of last summer’s terror attacks, when a van ploughed down pedestrians strolling along the bustling Las Ramblas in Barcelona, killing 14 people in what was the first Islamic State inspired attacks on Spanish soil.
Although both would be valid reasons to make visitors think twice about a visit to Barcelona, CNN explained that the primary reason to avoid Barcelona was because it has become “too touristy”.
It warned that the “34 million tourists visiting in 2016, a 25 percent jump from 2012” had led “to anger from locals, with anti-tourist graffiti emerging across the city”.
And although it is true that the city has become overwhelmed with tourism, prompting a backlash and new measures by City Hall to curtail mass tourism, should tourists be avoiding the city altogether?
Unhelpful clickbait from @CNNTravel suggesting people avoid #Barcelona (and other destinations) due to over tourism. How about giving travellers tools to help them visit these destinations more sustainably (rather than just pushing the problem elsewhere). https://t.co/Adq4NKkMzs
— James Blick (@theSpainGuy) January 22, 2018
So has Barcelona really had its day or is it still possible to enjoy a visit to the city by tourists without provoking anger among the locals?
The Local asked independent tour organizers in the city for their tips on how tourists can behave in a responsible and sustainable way.
Thanks to their feedback, this is our guide:
Ramble away from La Rambla!
Las Ramblas is always heaving with tourists. Photo: AFP
One of the challenges in Barcelona is that the historic centre (including the famous Las Ramblas) is very small area and it’s understandably where most tourists head. But keep in mind the city is full of beautiful neighbourhoods and by exploring them you’re not only taking the pressure off the centre, but also you'll likely enjoy a more local experience, explains James Blick, co-founder of Devour Tours.
Additionally, you’ll be helping to support businesses in areas that generally see less tourism and thus you’ll be spreading the impact of the tourist dollar across the city. Devour Tours suggest you try exploring the Sant Antoni, Gracia or Poblenou neighbourhoods.
Go Beyond the Boqueria
Of course, visiting the Boqueria Market is an unforgettable experience. But keep in mind that the city is packed with neighbourhood markets which allow possibly a more authentic and certainly a less crowded insight into market life in Barcelona. Each mercat possesses its own unique charm and atmosphere. Meet the local characters behind the bustling stalls and pick up some produce for a picnic. The Santa Caterina market in the Born or the Ninot market in the Eixample are great options.
Lisa Grace, founder of Hidden City tours, which offers tours of Barcelona with a homeless guide, has this tip: “When visiting any food market, it´s important to respect the stalls as living, breathing businesses. Don´t just look, make sure you buy something when you are there, if you´re self-catering then buy fresh meat, seafood or fish, even if you´re in a hotel then buy some olives, cheese, ham and other snacks to nibble on. If the markets are crowded by tourists that just come to look then they will turn into museums.”
Get out of the crowded city and into the fresh air
See the city from Montjuic- Photo: Patrick Down/Flickr
Visit the beautiful pine forests of Montjuic surrounding the castle of Montjuic with views to the harbour and picnic spots up at the Mirador del Migdia. Montuic is also the home of the 1929 expo and 1992 olympic games. Avoid the long queues for the teleferic and stroll up through the unique cactus gardens of Jardins Mossen Costa i Llobera and Jardins Miramar. Visit the ornate hispano arabic jardines de Laribal with its own theatre built into the rocks.
Even the Collserola hills are only a 10 minute metro-ride away from the city center, and will show you some untouched nature at the doorstep of Barcelona. There is a huge coastline as well. The further you go from the center, the more tranquil and authentic the beaches get. And the less you'll be perceived as a tourist.
Avoid high street stores
"If there is one thing that can lower the negative impact that tourism brings to the city, it's making sure that your money goes to local businesses instead of major chains,” said Julien Simon, founder of Good Goal.
"Barcelona is full of sustainable projects and businesses. From neighbourhood grocery stores offering ecological fruits and vegetables from the region, to sustainable souvenir and fashion shops, where the staff know everything about the production of your item.
Choose Your Accommodation Wisely
Banners reading "No tourist flats" hang from a balcony in Barceloneta to protest against holiday rental apartments. Photo: AFP
Locals in Barcelona are rightly concerned that home rental platforms like AirBnB are driving up property prices and making the city an unsustainable place to live. Tourist rental properties must have a council license to operate, but unfortunately there are still many places for rent that are unlicensed and therefore illegal. Check this council website to find out if the place you’re looking to rent is legal.
And don’t forget – if you are staying in a residential area, there are people living above and below you – be respectful and don’t make too much noise (especially at night).
Choose you method of transport respectfully.
Don´t clog up the gothic quarter narrow streets with bikes or segways or the beach front with motorised scooters. The city is best seen walking at a leisurely pace..
Dine like a local
Go to small, local and family run restaurants, advises Guillaume of Barcelona Slow Travel. Avoid restaurants with English menus or with pictures, and try to order something you have no idea about. If you get a chance, try to ask a local sitting nearby for a recommendation of their favourite.
Visit less popular museums
Photo: Erotic Museum Barcelona
Runner Bean Tours, which offers free walking tours of Barcelona suggests that sometimes, the best museums are not necessarily the most publicised.
For example, why not visit MNAC instead of the Picasso Museum,Casa Amatller instead of Casa Batlló, Casa Vicens & Bellesguard instead of La Pedrera.
If you don’t want to miss out on the a visit to the most popular ones, then try and choose the quietest times (just before closing at Casa Batlló or very early in the morning for Park Güell).
Have an authentic experience away from the crowds
Visit a Catalan vineyard. Photo: Angela Llop/Flickr
All the tour groups we contacted offer “experience tours”, whether it’s visitng a family-run vineyard or dining on the Catalan speciality calçots.
Learn some words in Catalan
A great way to interact better with the local community and get a less negative impression of tourism is always to exchange one or two words in the local language.
Choose a Responsible Tour Operator
Tourists pull their suitcases along in Barcelona. Photo: Quique Garcia / AFP.
Research the tour operators you book tours with. Read their about page to see where they stand on responsible tourism. Do they work with local businesses? Are they a local business themselves? Do they have values that connect with yours?
Go with a group that believes tourism should have a positive impact on a city or country, and it’s only when the industry is not appropriately regulated and when tourism providers eye short terms goals over long term sustainability that the locals lose out and turn against tourists.
For the purpose of this article The Local consulted five differnet independent companies over sustainable tours in Barcelona for their tips; Devour Tours; Good Goal; Runner Bean Tours;Barcelona Slow Travel; and Hidden City.
Sitges Mayor among others arrested in police investigation of alleged corruption
Aurora Carbonell, the mayor of Sitges and from the ERC party, has been arrested in connection with an alleged corruption investigation, that has also implicated 12 other people, including eight local councillors from the period 2017-2022.
At least four people have been arrested as part of the case, including the local ERC councillor Jaume Monasterio, who was responsible for public works in the last legislature.
The group are being investigated for the crimes of misuse of public funds, embezzlement, and falsification of documents in the awarding of grants and minor contracts in the previous two mandates.
The Spanish National Police and officers of their Economic and Fiscal Crime Unit (UDEF) carried out several searches on Wednesday morning in Sitges, including municipal offices and the homes of two people. The investigation is focused into the process of subsidies granted by the Sitges Town Council to the social entity ‘Taula del Tercer Sector’ (Third Sector Board) and another local co-operative. The police seized documents relating to the entities under investigation.
According to local sources, the police would be investigating, among other elements, if the entity was paid twice for the same service, or received a subsidy and a minor contract, for example.
According to El Pais, police sources have said that the investigation affects the local departments of Beaches and Social Welfare. The police are analysing various specific grants, some of €45,000, €100,000 and €120,000, among others, which may have allegedly gone to the entities under suspicion. According to reports, the total sum under investigation is €600,000.
The starting point of the case stems from a police report detailing the alleged irregularities in May 2022, discovered by the council’s own inspectors.
Carbonell, who was recently re-elected as mayor, has been mayor of Sitges since 2019. The court has ordered for Carbonell and eight councillors to be investigated, in addition to four others who were part of one of the entities and cooperatves also under investigation. The period of alleged corruption is over four years, and also affects the government team prior to Carbonell, according to reports, under the leadership of Miquel Forns (CiU).
The Sitges Town Council has since issued a statement to say that the investigation is connected to ‘external irregularities’ and that it denies any type of wrongdoing.
‘The facts under investigation had already been analysed internally,’ the statement read. ‘The Town Council, once possible external irregularities were detected, commissioned legal professionals to clarify the facts, stopping the subsidies, reviewing the files and starting the process for the return of the subsidies that were not fully justified. The Council has reports that ensure the absence of administrative and even less criminal responsibilities, and which demonstrate the diligence of the Sitges Town Council.’
The statement went on to say that the council ‘is a transparent institution, which has a rigorous code of ethics that ensures the highest standards of integrity’.
It said that it would be making itself ‘available to the authorities in order to show our full collaboration in whatever is necessary’ and ‘reiterates our willingness to cooperate with justice at all times’.
Spain’s far-right Vox seek to make gains in 28 May local and regional elections
Spain’s third largest political group in the national parliament, the far-right Vox party, is looking to make gains in the local and regional elections due to be held across the country on 28 May.
Since it entered a regional government for the first time in Castilla y León last year, Vox has attacked the unions and pushed polarising positions on social issues, including abortion and transgender rights.
It is now poised to spread its influence beyond the sparsely populated region near Madrid, with the party hoping to make gains in the elections at the end of May.
Surveys suggest the main opposition, the right-wing People’s Party (PP), could need the support of Vox to govern in half of the 12 regions casting ballots, just as it did in Castilla y León last year.
Polls also indicate the PP is on track to win a year-end general election but would need Vox to form a working majority and oust socialist (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his coalition government from office.
Vox leader Santiago Abascal [pictured at a recent rally in Chinchón, near Madrid] has called the PP-VOX coalition government in office in Castilla y León since March 2022 a ‘showroom’ and ‘an example of the alternative Spain needs’.
It is Spain’s first government to include a far-right party since the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
In Castilla y León, Vox has slashed funding to unions, which the party has vowed to ‘put in their place’ if it comes to power nationally. Trade union UGT was forced to lay off 40% of its staff in Castilla y León last month and scale back programmes to promote workspace safety. Spain’s other main union, the CCOO, is reportedly preparing to follow suit.
Vox has also angered LGBTQ groups by refusing to allow the regional parliament to be lit up in the colours of the rainbow, the symbol of the gay rights movement, for Pride festivities as in past years when the PP governed alone.
In addition, the regional vice-president, Vox’s Juan García-Gallardo, has railed against a law passed by Spain’s leftist central government that extends transgender rights.
The 32-year-old lawyer warned earlier this month that women would now be ‘forced to share locker rooms with hairy men at municipal swimming pools’.
Vox’s most contested initiative was a proposal that doctors offer women seeking an abortion a 4D ultrasound scan to try to discourage them from going ahead with the procedure.
The idea was swiftly condemned by Spain’s leftist central government, and Castilla y León’s PP president Alfonso Fernández Mañueco stopped the measure from going ahead.
The issue highlighted the hazards for the PP of joining forces with Vox, which was launched in 2013 and is now the third-largest party in the national parliament.
Spain – Gas falls below 90 euros per MWh for the first time in almost two months
The price of TTF natural gas for delivery next month has fallen below 90 euros on Friday for the first time in almost two months and closes a week marked by the decision of the European Commission to cap gas with a drop of 29, 36%.
According to data from the Bloomberg platform, gas closed this Friday at 83 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh), 8.9% less than the day before and the first time it has lost 90 euros since last October 31.
After months of negotiations, the EU agreed on Monday to set a cap of 180 euros on contracts linked to the Amsterdam TTF index with a price difference of at least 35 euros above the average price of liquefied natural gas in the markets.
EU countries agree on a cap of 180 euros for gas with the support of Germany
In a report this week, the Swiss investment bank Julius Baer indicated that the chances of the mechanism being activated are low and pointed out that the chosen formula was not very effective in avoiding the multiplier effect that gas has on the price of electricity. However, he reiterated what was said in other previous reports: “Energy supply risks are minimal and prices should continue to decline in the future” due to the availability of raw materials from Asia to offset cuts from Russia.
Gas tends to fall during the hot months due to lower demand, but this summer it has reached historic heights as European countries were buying to face the winter with their tanks full and reduce their dependence on Russia. The price fell in September and October due to lower demand once the warehouses were full due to the high temperatures at the beginning of autumn, but in November it picked up again and 66% more expensive.
This article was originally published on Público
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