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Barcelona bans tourists from famous market

Jessica Jones · 8 Apr 2015, 10:09

Published: 08 Apr 2015 10:09 GMT+02:00

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With its entrance just off the bustling thoroughfare of La Rambla, the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, known simply as La Boqueria, is one of Barcelona’s biggest tourist attractions.

But, in yet another move to quell the growing unrest between locals and tourists, the market has banned groups of more than 15 tourists from entering the market during the busiest times of the week – Friday and Saturday mornings.

Barcelona’s city hall has put the regulations in motion, it announced in a statement released on Tuesday.

Large tourist groups will be banned from the market between 8am, and 3pm.

For Rob Dobson, a Barcelona expert who runs the Homage to BCN blog, the new regulations are a positive step:

"I think the new plan is a good idea. I'm a bit surprised it hasn't been implemented before," he told The Local.

"Of course tourists are part of the make-up and economy of this city and a huge part of La Boqueria on any day, but there’s a difference between a couple or a family browsing and a group of 10 or 15 people being taken round, often by a guide.

"A group of 15 is still a bit large in my opinion but I think everyone will benefit from the new regulations in the end."

If tourist groups of over 15 people do visit the market during the restricted hours, security guards will inform them of the rules and escort them out, according to Catalan daily, La Vanguardia.

"As a person who does genuinely need to stop in La Boqueria from time to time, I find those huge groups of tourists a real pain," Barcelona-based writer and travel expert Sally Davies told The Local.

"Give them (the tourists) a map, point out the most interesting stalls and let them discover it for themselves, I say. That way they’re more likely to buy things, too, which is good for everyone involved," Davies added. 

The measure comes in the wake of a petition by stallholders at La Boqueria to Barcelona’s market institute requesting that group access be limited to avoid overcrowding.

The objective is to "assist the proper development of market activity and avoid blockages inside the market".

The restrictions follow a series other measures to tackle overcrowding at some of Barcelona's most famous sites, such as the Gaudi-designed Parc Güell.

But for Dobson, tackling the tourism problem in Barcelona is about striking a balance.

Story continues below…

"Of course locals get annoyed when the places they frequent on a daily basis are overrun with tourists but they have to understand they are an important part of the economy," he told The Local.

"More education about the importance of tourist income and more planning on the part of locals and tourists regarding when they visit these 'hotspots' would make it easier for everyone." 

And for savvy locals maybe the best idea is just to avoid the market at peak time.

"I would never go to either Park Güell or La Boqueria on a Friday or Saturday," said Dobson, "that would be utter madness on my part."

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Jessica Jones (jessica.jones@thelocal.com)

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