"The 2004 Forum of Cultures" Barcelona Tourist Trap Tip by nancyread

Barcelona Tourist Traps: 201 reviews and 121 photos

  Forum Open Day - the concrete jungle
by nancyread

Friends of mine asked why there was nothing about Barcelona's 2004 Forum of Cultures on my site. Well, I've visited it and I am sorry to say it goes firmly in the tourist trap category.

The Forum is costing some US $ 2.5 billion (i.e. 2.5 x 10 to the power 9) and is a big fair-cum-theme festival lasting 5 months. It is supposed to promote "peace, sustainable development, and multiculturalism". It features exhibitions, stalls, shows, and "bien pensant" debates by political heavyweights. But I've rated it as a tourist trap because critics (Greenpeace, Amnesty, and others) say it is a thinly-disguised scheme to market Barcelona. Tickets are also expensive - 21 Euros (1 day) to 42 Euro (3 days) - and entry to the debates (which is why it is called a "Forum") is much dearer (assuming they will let you in). Catering will also bump up the cost - visitors are forbidden to take any food or beverages in. Spain's consumer association (OCU) has complained that the Forum's catering prices are a rip-off. Around 2000 police, SWAT teams, sharpshooters, and an anti-aircraft battery will be in heavily armed attendance.

Several NGOs complain about the Forum's corporate sponsors, specifically: El Corte Ingles (sweat shops in Morocco), Nestle (infant formula sales in the third world, responsible for 1.5 million baby deaths a year according to UNICEF), Indra (arms), Coca-Cola (pollution of village wells in India), etc. The NGOs argue that these firms do not practice what the Forum is preaching. I mention the fact for environmentally-conscious tourists.

The venue itself also looks a bit dodgy - a site that is built over an old but fully-functioning sewage plant (visitors complained of the smell on the Open Day) and right next to a waste incinerator and power station is not exactly a crowd-puller.

News flash 11 May 04: The brand new tram service to the venue has been suspended (technical difficulties); monumental queues at some of the electronic barriers; key speakers cancelling (Clinton, Chomsky, Sontag...) [See FORUM 2 update]

Fun Alternatives: If it is festivals and music you are looking for, there will be plenty going on in the rest of the city. Events in the "Grec" festival (particularly those held on summer nights in Montjuic park) can be sheer delight.

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated May 12, 2004
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