THE CULTURAL TIGHTROPE
THE WORLD’S BEST CITY
Barcelona claimed top spot in A study on the World’s Best City to Visit VISITING AND LIVING IN A CITY CAN CERTAINLY NOT BE VIEWED IN THE SAME LIGHT
Areport in a British broadsheet at the end of April provided further proof, if it were needed, of what a wonderful city Catalonia’s capital is. Barcelona claimed top spot in the largest independent destination study since the pandemic on the World’s Best City to Visit, carried out by the British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. The reasons given for our beloved city’s victory were: its world-class architecture, thriving arts and culture scene and more than 2,500 hours of sunshine per year.
The rest of the top five were made up by Sydney, Cape Town, Lisbon and Venice, with Los Angeles, Dubai, London, Vancouver and Florence also ranking in the top ten. The criteria used to decide the winner included number of Unesco World Heritage Sites, air quality, green space, LGBT+ safety ranking, disabled access and the number of Michelin-starred restaurants, among other criteria rewarding safety, practicality and cultural prowess (just a quick aside here: air quality in Barcelona? I don’t think so, we must have done really well in the other categories...). To give some background to the study, a shortlist of 50 cities had been selected by Telegraph readers, and combined with selections from its own panel of experts.
Interestingly, the newspaper also divided the results into sub-categories, which saw Paris named as the best option for an indulgent escape, Rome the top pick for culture, and Dubai celebrated for sun, sea and sand.
In reference to the accolade, Marian Muro, General Manager of Turisme de Barcelona, said: “This is a significant recognition of our city as one of the friendliest cities to visit, and also to live in. Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city, with the Mediterranean Sea as a backdrop, and this, combined with its welcoming, friendly and inclusive attributes make it completely unique.”
So far, so good, then. Except that Ms. Muro decided to add “and also to live in”, when the survey explicitly referred to Barcelona as a tourist destination. And the two – visiting and living in – can certainly not be viewed in the same light, as most local residents would be quick to point out.
In my opinion, Barcelona was a weirdly wonderful place without tourists during the pandemic, and we were able to appreciate it in a way we may never be able to again. Personally speaking, as restrictions were gradually being lifted, I benefited from a tourist-free city by revisiting the Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell, strolling down only a semi-packed rather than a chock-a-block Rambles, walking by the sea and sitting down at a seafood restaurant without having had to book eons in advance or fight my way through the throng just to get to the end of a very long queue.
Of course Barcelona needs the revenue it receives from tourism, and of course we should be thankful it is such an amazing place to visit (Number One in the World, no less!), but now that the tourists are returning in record numbers, and will do so even more, when more surveys like the Telegraph’s are published, there are times that I long to have the space to enjoy the city for myself, one luxury that the pandemic did give us, albeit only briefly.