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From Amsterdam to Vienna, the fight against overtourism in Europe is being stepped up


Venice has also introduced a tax for overnight visitors.

In the Netherlands, Amsterdam has long been trying to clean up a reputation for rowdy stag parties, drugs and sex that has been partly blamed on an influx of around 20 million visitors a year.

Crowds of tourists on a street in Amsterdam, which has implemented a number of measures to control visitor numbers. Photo: Getty Images

Amsterdam also announced this month a ban on new hotels and that it would halve the number of river cruise ships in the city within five years.

It also decided last year to ban smoking cannabis on the streets of the red-light district.

Crowds of tourists in the Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Since scenes from the TV series Game of Thrones were filmed there, the city has become even more popular with visitors. Photo: Getty Images

Croatia’s medieval walled city of Dubrovnik is one of Europe’s most overcrowded cities, with the flow of tourists sometimes making it impossible to walk inside the historic Old Town.

The jewel of the Adriatic has seen a huge surge in visitor numbers since scenes from the television series Game of Thrones were filmed on its ramparts in 2011.
In 2023, the town of 41,000 people received 1.2 million tourists, below the record of 1.4 million set in 2019. That was the year local authorities limited the number of cruise ship arrivals to two per day, with no more than 4,000 passengers each at a time.

They also launched an app that uses machine learning and weather forecasts to predict when the Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage site, will be busiest.

A message for visitors spray-painted on walls in Vila de Gràcia, an artists’ quarter in Barcelona. Photo: Getty Images

Standing on the Mediterranean coast, Barcelona is the capital of the Catalonia region, home to the architectural gems of Gaudi and one of Spain’s top football clubs.

Ada Colau, the leftist former housing rights activist who was mayor of the city between 2015 and June 2023, cracked down on illegal Airbnb rentals that were accused of pricing locals out of the property market.

The city also limited the entrance of tour groups in the historic La Boqueria market, especially during peak shopping times.

And, throughout the centre, organised groups must be limited to a maximum of 20 people and guides are not allowed to use loudspeakers.

In 2023, the number of tourists registering in hotels, homes and hostels was down 6.9 per cent compared with 2019 figures, according to the city council.

Visitors watch the hourly “The Walk of the Apostles” performed by the Astronomical Clock on Old Town Square in Prague. It is one of several European cities that levy taxes on tourists. Photo: Getty Images

Barcelona is among many European cities to charge a nightly tourism tax, which was raised this month by €0.50 to €3.25.

Paris, host city for the 2024 Summer Olympics, demands up to €14.95 per night.

Berlin, Brussels, Lisbon, Prague and Vienna are also among the European cities that set their own tourist tax rates, the levy usually added to the bill when a guest checks out, but none are as high as that in Amsterdam, which asks for 7 per cent of a visitor’s accommodation cost plus a flat rate of €3 per person per night.

Additional reporting by staff reporter


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