Travel TV: How to beat the crowds in Barcelona
Barcelona is a brilliant city break, but it can also be a crowded one. Here's how to give your fellow tourists the slip.
Barcelona is one of the world's favourite city breaks.
That's no secret, however. From cruise ship passengers to package holidays, bar crawls and new visitors from emerging markets like China, the Ciutat Vella and L'Eixample feel like they're bursting at the seams.
This is a problem. Barcelona is due some 7.6 million visitors in 2015 (a similar figure to the entire island of Ireland), leading new mayor, Ada Colau, to put a freeze on new tourist accommodation for at least a year.
Large groups have been banned from visiting La Boqueria market. Similar to Venice, locals are frustrated with the sardine-like squeeze, fearing their beloved city centre neighbourhoods could turn into a theme park.
So how to explore this enchanting city without making the situation worse?
We've got lots of tips in this week's Travel TV (watch above).
First, I'd advise travelling midweek and off-peak where possible - saving time and money. Next, book popular attractions like the Picasso Museum and Sagrada Familia in advance online, guaranteeing a time slot for your visit.
For less-crowded beaches, look to the further reaches of La Barceloneta (Platja de Sant Sebastià, for instance), or skip the city entirely.
Early departures will give you breathing space on daytrips to Montserrat or Girona, and of course, skipping big sights for the outer reaches of El Born, Gracia and Ravel will soon see you almost alone among the locals.
The Sagrada Familia
I'm not surprised when travel agents tell me Barcelona is one of the most popular city breaks for Irish tourists this year - a brilliant spread of beaches and daytrips to the likes of Montserrat, Figueres and Girona just add to the attraction.
Independent Travel (01 539 7700; travel.independent.ie) has direct flights with Aer Lingus plus four nights in a three-star hotel from €285pp in September and October. Prices for five nights start from €345pp, or you can bag a three-night break from just €245pp. Book here.
Hotel Neri, Barcelona
Fancy a special stay? I chanced upon Hotel Neri (hotelneri.com) on a mosey through the Gothic quarter. The 22-bed property lounges across two palaces, combining exquisite period detail with splashes of modern art and several tables on Plaça Sant Felip Neri. Rooms start from around €300 per night, with a 15pc discount for online bookings at least 15 days in advance. The hotel is a member of both Relais & Chateaux (relaischateaux.com) and Mr & Mrs Smith (mrandmrssmith.com). I'm chalking it down for a special occasion... or a lottery win.
NB: All prices subject to availability/change.