'It kills the city': Barcelona's youth protest against mass tourism

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
'It kills the city': Barcelona's youth protest against mass tourism
Protests against mass tourism have been taking place in Barcelona for at least a decade now. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

Around 2,000 young people took to the streets of central Barcelona on Saturday in what started off as an anti-capitalism protest but ended up becoming a cry against mass tourism.


Under the slogan “Health, Land and Future - Let's defend the territory”, the march was organised by left-wing youth groups with a variety of grievances and demands, from housing to environmentalism, Palestine to anti-capitalism and not least a change to the Catalan capital’s mass tourism model. 


“We find ourselves in the context of an unprecedented eco-social crisis,” Miquel Roca, spokesperson for the 8J (8th of June) collective told reporters at the march, adding that “when there’s no future, as young people we have to go out into the streets”.

Police, who were present at the march that started off at Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf, estimated 1,700 protesters took part, whilst organisers said it was closer to 3,000 people at the first youth-driven demonstration in Barcelona since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even though the focus of this demo was not just mass tourism as in the case of numerous marches across Spain over the past two months, the rhetoric did turn to this divisive matter.

Demonstrators chanted “Tourists go home” and “Tourism kills the neighbourhoods”, while holidaymakers on Las Ramblas took photos of the march as if it were another city attraction. 

“Tourism kills the city” and "Guiris go home" was graffitied on bus stops and walls in English, as flare-wielding protesters held banners reading “Sorry, tourist. BCN is already sold out”.

READ ALSO: Good tourist, bad tourist - How to travel responsibly in Spain

A number of anti-tourism demonstrations have taken part in Barcelona over the past decade before overtourism was considered a ‘national’ problem, from protests against the number of cruise ships spilling thousands of tourists into the city centre every day to demos against the noise disturbances city centre residents have to deal with at night.


Barcelona was in essence the first city in Spain to suffer the consequences of its own success in the context of mass tourism - becoming 'too popular', a path the southern city of Málaga is now following.

It’s the first anti-mass tourism protest in Barcelona in 2024, after other protests in the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands, Madrid, Girona, Cantabria and soon Málaga making national and international headlines. 

READ ALSO: 'Gentrified out of existence' - Madrid protest adds weight to Spain's anti-tourism wave

Making ends meet as a young person in Barcelona is particularly hard currently, as average rents for a 80 sqm flat are €1,700, around €800 more than decade ago. 

The minimum amount of money needed every month to get by in the Catalan capital is €1,516, according to a recent study by Barcelona authorities. That’s €550 more than in 2016.

Spain’s main daily El País ran an article in October 2023 titled “Barcelona is even expensive for expats now: ‘If they don’t earn €50,000 they can’t afford to live here”.

According to Barcelona City Hall, 25 to 29 year olds in Barcelona earn an average annual salary of €22,348 gross, making their emancipation very hard.

The average age to leave the nest in Spain is 30, Eurostat reports, one of the latest ages in the EU only ahead of Italy, Greece and some Balkan countries.

READ ALSO: Where in Spain do locals 'hate' tourists?



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also