First, a bit of context: I was born and raised in Barcelona, but now live in the USA, I try to return every year or two to see family etc. The last time I was there for an extended period of time was in 2017. Now I'm back in Barcelona for a few weeks and honestly I can say the city has changed for the worst. The city has deteriorated more in these past 2 years than in the past 2 decades.
I wanted to share some recent observations and insights for fellow travelers who may not get a local's perspective of the city:
The city is overflowing absolutely with tourists. In August of 2017 it was no where as bad as now, now there are tourists everywhere, even in places where I never saw them before. And most are not the good kind of tourist (RS Type), but the ones who come for a cheap thrill to drink some sangria, see Flamenco and leave.
Barcelona is as dirty as never before, there is trash and dirt every where on side walks and streets, I never remember it like this.
Barcelona is definitely not as safe as it was, there has been a sharp increase in not only petty theft but also violent crime, muggings and murder, not sure what the cause is but it's serious. Now neighborhoods like Raval and around Camp Nou who where once considered just "seedy" are now actually dangerous at night. Raval is just across the street from the Barri Gotic. Barcelona is now Spain’s leader in crime rates, violent robberies have increased 30%.
The transportation in Barcelona has deteriorated, while the metro is still good, the taxis are now more difficult to find and much more expensive. Instead of allowing fair competition of Uber and Lyft to fill this need for plentiful transportation, the "Taxi Mafia" of Barcelona has collaborated with the local government to impose ridiculous regulations on ride share companies to run them out of town.
The unregulated proliferation of these electric scooters and bikes has made being a pedestrian in Barcelona a dangerous affair. There have been a number of accidents with crazy tourists riding these things into other unsuspecting tourists. With the new bike lanes, which takes up half the roads, electric scooters and bikes go both ways, so people have to dodge bikes coming opposite directions, I don't know who designed these new bike lanes, but they should be thrown in jail.
Instead of actually taking steps to tackling these problems, the city government put together these "Orange Shirts" groups or Civic Agents as they are called, of unemployed young people who go around in packs with their smart uniforms, harassing locals and making sure locals don't get "in the way" of the tourists.
Conclusion: apologies if this report is blunt, but I had to get this off the chest and call out the things as they are. My local friends have all moved away from Barcelona and would now never want move back to Barcelona. At this point I find it hard to recommend Barcelona for any extended amount of time for travelers, just enough time to see the Sagrada Familia and a few other buildings before moving on to greener pastures. My hope is that the local Govt. gets their head out of the tail and really get to work on these problems, until then there are much nicer places to visit in Catalonia and the rest of Spain.
PS: the positive thing I can say is that the food in Barcelona is still very good, if you know where to go ;)
Further reading on the current deterioration of Barcelona, from local newspaper El Pais:
Barcelona authorities admit city is suffering from “security crisis"
Residents in Barcelona’s El Raval suffer the hell of living next to drug dens
Barcelona becomes Spain’s leader in rising crime rates