When it comes to cities in the world that are most popular for international meetings, Barcelona consistently ranks among the top.
And Barcelona is one of the most popular travel destinations for Europeans and Americans — especially when it comes to conventions. So it’s not surprising to me that about 41% of those who visit Barcelona arrive for business travel. And many business travelers often extend their stay or return for personal visits. More than 7 million people each year, according to Barcelona Turisme, and the vast majority are international. Top markets include USA, UK, France, Italy and Germany. What’s great is that while you will definitely notice others from around the world, you will not feel like you’re in a tourist city.
It’s understandable as to why. This city has a privileged spot on the Mediterranean, built up on seven hills. Each neighborhood has its own personality, but my favorites are the Gothic Quarter and L’Eixample. The architecture is beautiful, and the weather is warm and welcoming — and so are the people.
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and one of the top 10 largest in Europe. This 2000 year old, international port city occupies a prime location on the Mediterranean. More than 1.6 million people live in the city of Barcelona, and about 5.5 million people live in the greater Barcelona area.
Catalan is the official language for this region while Spanish is the official language of Spain, but most places visited by travelers will also have information available in English.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning a meeting or visiting Barcelona, Spain.
Culture and Modernism
Barcelona has a rich history. A city with many modernist and Gothic buildings, particularly influenced by Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona has inspired those with a passion for architecture. But it’s also filled with important monuments and landmarks.
You can feel as if you’re stepping back in time when you walk the narrow, winding streets of the Gothic Quarter in the old town area. There, boutique shops and restaurants line the streets, and cars aren’t allowed inside. It’s really an experience of stepping back in time, getting a chance to wander the historic streets where the walled-city once stood, and is now filled with boutique shops, restaurants, artist studios and more. The Gothic Quarter is also where you’ll find city the Barcelona’s Mayor’s office and the Governor’s office for Catalunya.
Shopping in Barcelona can average substantially less than other European cities. It has amazing gastronomy and culinary experiences, museums, sports and other attractions. (Note: if you’re searching for interesting gifts for your attendees or those back at home, check out the gift shop at Gaudi’s Casa Mila).
This is a dynamic and creative city where you shouldn’t have much difficulty finding something to do.
Hotels in Barcelona
There are 380 hotels in Barcelona, including 27 in the five star category and 159 in the four star category. So, there are plenty of choices available to you. Where have I stayed?
Located at one of the corners to the Gothic Quarter, most recently I stayed at the H10 Cubik Barcelona, a hotel with a colorful and mix of modern architecture with geometric shapes that are reminiscent of the mid-20th century and contemporary furnishings — complementing Barcelona’s modernistic and futuristic reputation.
Majestic Hotel & Spa is a classic, 90 year old, five star grand luxe hotel that caters to American and European executives and business travelers (I’ve stayed here twice, and the hotel offers a great rooftop view of the city). It’s located in a perfect spot within the fashionable Eixample, and just steps away from the two famous and touristy Gaudi houses (which you must visit). Claris Hotel is also a five star grand luxe hotel, and it’s located just two short blocks from the Majestic. This is a more contemporary hotel and each room is decorated with pieces of original Roman, Egyptian and Hindu art. The third hotel where I’ve stayed is Hotel Fira Palace which is a four star, business-friendly meetings hotel (with large guest rooms). The hotel lobby is a great place to relax and meet up with others. All three are great options whether you’re looking for a business hotel for yourself or if you’re looking for a meetings-friendly hotel.
I’ve also visited several others which you’ll want to consider. They include Le Meridien Barcelona (which is located just off La Rambla), Melia Barcelona Sky (which is in a new business district neighborhood, and the hotel offers amazing service and views), the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona (this hotel is in a former bank and seems to have the best spa I’ve seen so far in Barcelona) and Casa Fuster Hotel (a Leading Hotels of the World property). And while I haven’t had a chance to visit the W Barcelona yet, it enjoys a great focal point along the water and near La Rambla and the Gothic Quarter.
The other hotels I want to see on my next visit include OMM (a five star contemporary hotel) and Hotel 1898 (a four star hotel that seems to rank highly by its guests, according to TripAdvisor).
Meetings in Barcelona and Things to Do
Barcelona — the permanent home to EIBTM (an international meetings industry event) — is known for international meetings. It consistently ranks in the top spots, according to data provided by ICCA.
When in Barcelona, walking tours are probably one of the most popular activities, and options include Gothic Quarter, La Rambla, Passeig de Gràcia, Sagrada Família, Park Güell, Montjuïc and the seafront. I particularly enjoy the group tours of the Gothic Quarter. It’s a great way to learn about the city’s history, and you’ll get some greatideas along the way. Museum tours, shopping and dining (the Catalan cuisine is based on the Mediterranean diet, and there’s 18 restaurants featured in the Michelin Guide) are also popular.
Places to visit include La Sagrada Familia, L’Aquarium de Barcelona, Museu Nacional d’Art Catalunya (a great event venue), Poble Espanyol de Barcelona (another area that planners will want to consider for meetings and private events), and Museu Picasso (which has the best display of Picasso’s work). And as it relates to sports, well, Barcelona is a host city for European and world championships as well as the 1992 Olympic Games. And then there’s the internationally recognized FC Barcelona. On a future visit, I’d like to make it to a game — its suites and stadium (which I think will be a great option for meeting planners).
Barcelona Convention Centers (Highlights)
- Fira Barcelona
Montjuic: 8 halls (115,000 m2 / 1.24 million sq ft.)
Gran Via: 6 pavillions (180,000 m2 / 1.93 million sq. ft.)
- Convention Centre International Barcelona
1,076,400 sqare feet / 100,000 square meters
16,0000 maximum delegates
Two linked buildings
- Palau de Congressos de Catalunya
32 meeting rooms (three levels)
Auditorium holds 2,027
Exhibition room (2,050 m2 / 22,066 sq. ft.)
Barcelona Logistics and Weather
Barcelona is accessed by Brisbane Barcelona International Airport, and accessed by rail. Barcelona is also Europe’s leading cruise port. Once you’re in Barcelona, it’s very easy to get around by taxi, private car services, the underground metro, bus, and my usual favorite — walking (although this is a very big city so you may want to use a mix of options).
Barcelona has a subtropical climate with lower humidity, so this is a great city to visit in the fall, winter and spring (summers get a bit warmer).
- January: 45F / 7c
- February: 44F / 6.5c
- March: 50F / 10c
- April: 57F / 14c
- May: 66F / 19c
- June: 74F / 23c
- July: 76F /24c
- August: 74F / 23c
- September: 71F / 21c
- October: 66F / 19c
- November: 53F / 11c
- December: 50F / 9c
The U.S. Department of State Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs has published additional background information about Spain.
(For more in-depth travel tips, check out our review, Travel Journal in Barcelona.)
Updated. Previously published December 9, 2013.