Barcelona’s charm draws in people from all corners, but its popularity already posed challenges with over-tourism pre-pandemic. Now, as more and more flock back, it’s crucial to explore responsibly, ensuring the city’s preservation for future visitors and liveability for its residents.

Dive into our travel tips to be a conscious tourist and some sustainable activities to get up to while in Catalonia’s capital.

1. Visit during an off-peak season

Barcelona is one of Europe’s top hot spots. Last year alone, the city saw over 12 million tourist arrivals.

If you’re planning a visit, whether it’s your first or not, might we suggest aiming for the quieter months? Skip the hustle and bustle from May to August and opt for fall, early spring, or even winter.

As summers get hotter thanks to extreme climate change, avoiding the peak season can be a very smart move. September offers a noticeably more relaxed vibe, with temperatures still pleasant enough to enjoy the beach and the outdoors. You might even catch a festival, but read up on those over here. And if you didn’t know, November to April is calçot season! So for anyone who’s a serious foodie, this typical Catalan dish is a must-try.

Experiencing the city when it’s not overflowing with folk can be a game-changer. Whether you stroll the streets in December or March, you’ll notice the contrast: lighter crowds, better hotel deals, and probably happier locals. It’s a win-win.

Barcelona Street Shot-min (1)
Barcelona is known for its mild temperatures all year round.

2. Discover options for sustainable accommodation

You can interpret sustainable accommodation in one of two ways. First, eco or green hotels (certified, if possible). Second, those that are ideally locally-owned or independent.

With millions flocking to Barcelona each year, finding a good place to stay is becoming a real challenge. Add to that the fact that many are taking advantage of sites like Airbnb to rent out extra rooms or spare apartments. In 2017, it was reported that as many as 50,000 beds were being rented illegally. With stricter laws coming in, the situation is supposed to get better, but it’s had a pretty negative impact on residents. Just google “Barcelona housing crisis”.

That said, some of our favorite Catalan-owned properties are Hotel Brummell (in Poble Sec), Casa Bonay (in Dreta de l’Eixample), Casa Filomena (in Sarrià-Sant Gervasi), and Yurbban Trafalgar (in El Born).

A landmark on Gran Via.
Casa Bonay: a landmark on Gran Via (there’s also a spectacular bar and cafe inside).

3. Shop from Catalan brands, artisans, and specialty stores

On to the more exciting stuff!

Although not a fashion capital like Paris or Milan, Barcelona has a wide range of homegrown labels for you to choose from. Sure, you’ve got internationally-known Spanish brands like ZARA and MANGO. Those lower prices might be tempting, but that’s just fast fashion targeted to the masses. Hardly sustainable in any way.

For stylish women’s clothing, Lola Casademunt. For everyday basics, SHON MOTT. For sneakers and other footwear, Munich. Honestly, the list is longer than you’d think. If you have the chance to befriend a local, ask where they like to source their closet picks!

Then there are the more traditional artisans and workshops mostly located in the central, older neighborhoods. La Manual Alpargetara has been handmaking espadrilles since the 1940s. If you’re not interested in adding to your wardrobe, Cerería Subirà has been handcrafting wax candles since 1741. Herboristeria del Rei is Barcelona’s first herbal shop, which opened its original store in 1818.

The city's first espadrille company.
The city’s first espadrille company.

4. Dine at local establishments

While you’ll spot the usual fast food suspects, give them a pass. You’re in a country that’s rich in traditional cuisine as well as modern gastronomy. So expose yourself to native flavors. That way, every euro you spend will also go back to the local economy.

The culinary scene in Barcelona is a real treat, and it doesn’t have to break the bank if you steer clear of tourist traps. Catalan restaurants – and Mediterranean dining, in general – are big on seasonal menus, serving up fresh, locally-sourced dishes that also lighten your carbon footprint. For starters, we love Bar del Pla and Bodega Neus. You can check our full roundup of recommendations in this post.

And of course, don’t forget the markets! La Boqueria is iconic, but there are also neighborhood markets like Santa Caterina or Sant Antoni. You’ll find a tasty mix of fruits, cheese, jamón and other cold-cut meats to munch on.

You’ll find the best fresh produce at Barcelona's local markets.
You’ll find the best fresh produce at local markets.

5. Take public transport

This one’s pretty straightforward. Reduce your carbon footprint by taking public transport whenever you can, including to and from the airport – or any main hub! Barcelona is one of the most well-connected cities in the world, internally and externally. Some of its main features include 8 metro lines, over 100 bus lines (not even counting the night ones), and two tram networks.

Road congestion is bad enough, so do your part as a short-term guest and reduce your emissions contribution while you’re there.

Reach any corner of the city with ease.
Reach any corner of the city with ease. By bus, metro, tram, and more.

6. Sit back and relax in a park

Parks and green spaces are crucial for urban environments. They’re a setting for both physical activity and a mental pause.

In a bustling metropolis like Barcelona, they provide a moment of tranquility amid the hustle. Take a stroll or jog through any of the city’s green havens to connect with nature, recharge your batteries from all the sightseeing, or simply enjoy the therapeutic benefits of being outdoors.

The Parc del Laberint d’Horta, the oldest in Barcelona, has a great maze for you to lose yourself in. The vast Parc de Cervantes is famed for its abundant roses, which bloom in late spring and summer. And the Jardins de la Tamarita, just by the foot of Avinguda Tibidabo, are a beautiful showcase of how a once-private garden has transformed into a cherished public space for all to enjoy.

Note, they’re all great for people-watching, too.

The hedge maze at the heart of Parc del Laberint d'Horta.
The hedge maze at the heart of Parc del Laberint d’Horta.

7. Go to a museum for a cultural awakening

People go abroad for many reasons. To study. To say, “I’ve been there”. But also to expose themselves to diverse cultures, to foster understanding, and most often, for personal growth.

Museums are one window to look into the history and art of a given place, offering valuable insights that enrich awareness and heighten appreciation. Like many old European cities, Barcelona doesn’t fall short of museums and sites for you to wander through. Visit any of 12 Gaudi buildings, get a glimpse into monastic life at the Monastery of Pedralbes, or have a history lesson with panoramic views at Montjuïc Castle.

The Joan Miró Foundation is one of many museums sitting around the hill of Montjuïc.
The Joan Miró Foundation is one of many museums sitting around the hill of Montjuïc.

8. A few more bonus tips

  • Recycle your trash: the city has a robust waste management system. You’ll undoubtedly walk past their massive recycling bins every few blocks or so. Plus, a bounty of your regular ol’ garbage cans. There’s really no excuse to litter.
  • Be mindful of those living in Barcelona: as welcome as tourists are, imagine having thousands of foreigners passing by the front of your home every day. It’s got to be a bit overwhelming. Be mindful of residents and fellow travelers as you go around. If you’re taking a photo outside, try not to block the sidewalk. If you’ve decided to enjoy a fun night out, avoid getting too noisy or rowdy as you return to the hotel. And please, for everyone’s sake, remember that the street is not a toilet. No exceptions.

Recycling in Barcelona in easyThese are just some of the many ways you can get the most out of your trip while positively impacting the city and its vibrant community, and engaging in greener or more conscious activities.

While you continue to plan the rest of your vacation, make sure to book a Barcelona Segway Tour! It’s also a sustainable way to see swathes of the city, while keeping emissions as low as possible on an easy-to-ride electric vehicle.