Your IP access to will expire on June 15

To ensure uninterrupted reading, please contact Rachel Mines, sales director, at

Best Defense

Bopping around Barcelona: Almost no Russians, but a wave of stylish Chinese

The last time I was in Barcelona, most tourists were Russian. Now there is a new generation of Chinese visitors.


I’m in Barcelona for a few days, and the biggest change I’ve noticed isn’t anything about Spain or Europe, but rather in the tourists. The last time I was here, more than a decade ago, there were lots of Russian tourists, but only a few Chinese, and almost all of the latter were dressed drably, walking in groups.

Now there is a new generation of Chinese tourists. They are younger, moving in twos and threes, and most notably, dressed quite well, even flashily. Outside the gigantic, temple-like Apple Store, I was passed by a young man, perhaps 21, wearing tight shocking pink jeans, a black sweater, a pony tail with a hair clip, and cool sunglasses. In the Parc Guell on Saturday I noticed a slightly older woman wearing an elegant triangular gray wool drape over a white silk blouse and black leggings. And when I saw an older couple clad in more traditional garb, evoking the old blue and gray cottons, even they were sporting sneakers of high color —he in blaze orange, she in fluorescent green. 

Also, the whole weekend, I didn’t hear a single word of Russian. What a contrast to about a decade ago, when I was in Rome one Easter weekend and walked the length of the Roman Forum one day and heard nothing but. 

Photo credit: Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at Twitter: @tomricks1

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola