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Barcelona at the time of the coronavirus

Barcelona at the time of the coronavirus

If it is true that the confinement has emptied the city of its tourists, the optimism of the inhabitants is heart-warming.
Tuesday 14 April 2020.

Every year about thirty million tourists visit Barcelona, located in the north-east of Spain. They enjoy its monuments, its beaches and Catalan culture. Many of these visitors are cruise passengers (almost 3.2 million in 2019) who drop anchor in the largest port in the Mediterranean.

Almost a fifth of the commercial sector's income comes from tourist spending. Yet many Barcelona residents deplore the negative impact of over-tourism.

Today, nothing is the same for travellers and residents alike. Since the coronavirus started spreading at the end of February, tourists have disappeared and the containment measures applied are very strict.

Let's take a little tour of the city...


Early April. The sun is shining on the medieval streets of Barcelona. Everything suggests that the situation is idyllic, but the silence does not bode well. The squares that were teeming with life just a few weeks ago are now completely empty. Every now and then, a resident passes by with a gust of wind, his face half covered by a mask and shopping bags in his hand. His eyes are glued to the ground so as not to attract attention.

Streets that are usually very lively, such as those surrounding the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, built in ...
Busy streets such as those surrounding the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, built in Catalan Gothic style in the heart of the El Born neighbourhood, are completely deserted since the spread of coronavirus.

Spain was quarantined on 14 March. The instructions are clear: it is forbidden to travel except to go to work, shop or for medical treatment, on pain of a fine of up to 100 euros or imprisonment. However, the legal consequences are far less worrying than the virus itself, which has claimed the lives of more than 15 000 people, making Spain the third most bereaved country in the world, behind Italy and the United States.

People are not used to being locked up in their homes. In Spain, two thirds of the population live in apartments. It is easy to understand why they spend a lot of time on the street, when the good weather and long summer evenings arrive. During periods of confinement, no outdoor physical activity is allowed. Social interactions are also prohibited. However, every evening at 8:00 p.m., residents gather on their balconies or windows to pay tribute to the nursing staff, a gesture of solidarity that is spreading to the four corners of the world.

A man returns home after shopping, one of the few activities allowed in the city.
A man returns home after shopping, one of the few activities allowed in times of confinement in Barcelona.
Endless are the queues of visitors that normally line up around the Sagrada Família, Antoni Gaudí's unfinished basilica and the city's most famous tourist attraction. Since its closure on March 13, the emblematic monument has been bathed in a sepulchral silence. "We can't predict the future, but we are convinced that the Sagrada Família will be able to reopen in a few weeks," says Oriol Llop, the monument's communications manager. "We will face all the challenges, just as the Sagrada Família has survived wars and difficulties that have hindered its path. »

Casa Milá, better known as La Pedrera, is another mythical building by Gaudí. Before it closed on March 14, the number of visitors had already fallen by 65%.

Along La Rambla, Barcelona's most famous avenue, stacked chairs await the visitor, who can enjoy the ...
Along La Rambla, Barcelona's most famous avenue, stacked chairs are waiting for customers to return.
Marwa Preston is the head of Wanderbeak, a company that organizes guided gastronomic tours. Before the outbreak of the virus, the season was going to be particularly exceptional," she tells us. However, she does not lose hope: "Unlike the financial crisis of 2008, which caused a huge loss of money, this pandemic is making us stay home and therefore refrain from spending. "When the dust settles, we'll need to quench our thirst for travel and new experiences with the money we've saved in the meantime," says Preston, who is already planning a guided wine and vermouth tasting once the lockdown is lifted to help local bars and restaurants get back on their feet.

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