With over eight million overnight visitors last year, Barcelona was the in Europe in 2016, beating out even Spain's capital Madrid.
While that might sound like good news for a city that depends on tourism for about 12 percent of its $77 billion GDP (according to 2014 figures), Barcelona passed a law last week to limit the number of tourists. Apparently the onslaught of visitors is overwhelming the city's 1.6 million residents.
Known as the Special Urban Plan for Tourist Accommodation, the new law issued a moratorium on the construction of new hotels and a stop to new licenses for tourist apartments. The city currently has 75,000 hotel beds along with 50,000 beds in tourist apartments ( an estimated 50,000 beds in illegal ones).
The new law has local support, since the high number of tourist apartments has caused a shortage — and consequent rise in rents — in the city, but the tourism industry is not happy.
"The focus of the plan is wrong," Manel Casals, director general of the Barcelona hoteliers association, . "Of the 32 million people who visited Barcelona last year, only eight million stayed in hotels. Twenty-three million were day-trippers who spend very little money in the city. You're not going to regulate tourism by limiting the number of beds. They're not regulating tourism, they're only regulating where people sleep."
Since several new hotel projects are already under way, the law isn't expected to have an impact on travelers until 2019. Until then, keep in mind that July and August are the most popular months to visit Barcelona so plan your trip in the off season to avoid the crowds.
But if you want to skip Barcelona all together, Spain has plenty of other beautiful seaside cities to visit. Here are a few of our favorites:
This low-key Basque city on Spain's northern coast has not just one, but two beaches right downtown so there's plenty of room to plant your towel and umbrella for the day.
Want to visit a coastal city in Spain with noteworthy modern architecture? Sure, Barcelona has some of Gaudi's best work, but Valencia has Calatrava's futuristic City of Arts and Sciences.
The Catalonian town of Sitges has those small beach town vibes you'd miss out on if you stayed in Barcelona — which is only 30 minutes away by train.