Jen Su at a tapas cave

Join Jen Su on a whirlwind trip that captures the contrasting sides of this Spanish city of sun-drenched charm, captivating architecture, and…water gun-wielding protestors? From sipping sangria with friendly locals to witnessing the chaos of anti-tourism demonstrations, Jen shares her experience and travel tips to navigate the calm (and sometimes chaotic) Barcelona

What a difference a couple days can make, in the beautiful city of Barcelona, Spain!

On Thursday, I was sipping on sangria at a small bodega in the Gothic Quarter of the city, chatting in Spanish and laughing with some of the friendliest bar owners on the planet.

Street protest in Barcelona.

By Saturday, Barcelona descended into chaos, with protestors spraying visitors with water guns and threatening them to ‘go home’, as part of a demonstration against mass tourism!

Jen Su enjoying a drink

Over 100 local organisations, under the umbrella of the “Neighbourhood Assembly for Tourism Degrowth) were protesting that too many visitors were overcrowding the city, causing prices to rise exponentially for locals, with increased noise and pollution throughout.

In 2023, the post-pandemic surge saw 26 million visitors arriving in Barcelona, with increased revenue of $13.8 billion (R250 billion).

I had just taken off on an airplane, so I somehow (again) managed to escape in the nick of time.  Still, it was very unnerving and to me, so out of character.  I was telling everyone back home, just how incredible the city of Barcelona was (and is) and how friendly and patient the locals were.

Jen Su at the ME
The Sagrada Familia

The Hotel ME by Mélia Barcelona (C/de Casp, 1-13 L’Eixample 08010) was captivating from the get-go.  Located in the heart of Barcelona, right near the famous Passeig de Gràcia, Plaça de Catalunya and La Rambla – the ME is a cultural hotspot – modern, eclectic, and the 164-room hotel, was sleek and trendy with neutral tones and yellow hues throughout.

Upon arrival, I was greeted with a bottle of champagne and tapas, which I consumed by the pool.  Breakfast was sumptuous, served by the friendliest servers ever.  Who would have known that the next day, we would be in the line of fire from the protestors?

I paid for the “skip the line” entry (recommended!) at Sagrada Familia and it was off to experience the incredible architecture of Antoni Gaudí – one of the most famous Catalan architects and designers in history.

Gaudí’s signature ceramic, stained glass, wrought ironwork forging, and neo-Gothic use of recycled ceramic pieces in mosaic detail – has made the Sagrada Familia, the most-visited monument in all of Spain, and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Barcelona Airport

It was then off to the Barcelona Airport, and luckily I still had enough time to process my Tax-Free refund.  If you like to shop, then remember your passport when purchasing – and then be ready to stand in a long line at the airport for your tax-free refund, which is either given in cash or back onto your credit card.

Tax refund

Remember, you have to have your receipts validated, and sometimes you need to show the items that you’ve purchased, so be prepared for extra time if you need to obtain a tax refund.

And finally, get to the gate earlier than needed – because what happens is that Passport Control is located just before the departure gate – after (not before) security clearance and tax refunds.  I didn’t realize that and the line was so crazy long just to get my passport stamped, that I almost missed boarding my plane when I started out arriving really early to the airport.

Got out in the nick of time! Til the next adventure!