Barcelona - A Lively But Struggling City

December 02, 2017

My expectations before visiting Barcelona weren’t high. In fact, I couldn't understand why my mother had booked a family trip there. It isn't the capital of Spain and what else would there be apart from sun, sea, and shops?

Scrap that, we were travelling in November, so there would be no dips in the sea or sunbathing on the beach and whilst I like shopping, I don't need to travel over 1000 miles to go to Forever 21.

But, come November 3rd, 2016, I was on a flight heading towards the Catalonian capital, leaving the snowy and grey Manchester behind.

Two hours later, we had landed. Before I got off the plane I wrapped myself up in a thick puffer jacket, complete with scarf and gloves waiting for the cold wind to hit me as I departed the plane.

Looking back, I view the weather almost as a catalyst for events to come, the first of many changes in my perception of Barcelona.


As I headed towards the exit, the heat struck, my head to toe covered body felt like Abu-Dhabi, not a winter European city. Suddenly, a feeling of dread came over me, all I had packed was jumpers, maybe I would be needing Forever 21 after all?

As a typical tourist does, we haggled for a taxi to take us to our apartment for the weekend, located just off Passeig De Gracia. I’d heard a lot about this street, how it was filled with Chanel, Dior and only the best restaurants around. You had to be somebody if you were shopping on this street.

However, Passeig De Gracia shocked me. The vibrancy of the colours, the immersive café culture, and the architecture was unlike anywhere before, it was more than just a street full of shops. On one side of the road, you were greeted with Gaudi’s Casa Batllo and the other a magical fountain.

Decadent was an understatement.


Yet, I don’t want it to seem like Barcelona is a place of luxury. At times, it was quite the opposite. Step 100 meters away from the famous Gothic Cathedral and you will find extreme poverty. Beggars on the street, who are severely disabled, desperate for any spare change you have. Apartments have stripped walls and live electric wires dangle in a disorganized chaos.

Similarly, in and around Las Ramblas and Park Guell there was an atmosphere of desperation, groups of men constantly swarmed by you, eyeing up your camera and smartphone.


Although petty crime is common in most cities, Barcelona was different, there was emotion behind it. Your eyes were opened to the political situation of the regional state. You could see the economic divide within the city as tourists benefited and locals left behind.

Barcelona was not London, nor New York or Paris, it had its own identity. By the time I’d left all my preconceptions had disappeared, instead I was left with a deeper and new understanding of this lively, but struggling city.


Have you ever been to Barcelona, what are your thoughts about the city? 

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