Consistency is the name of the game for this popular city that has delegates and tourists alike making a beeline for its shores. Barcelona led the way in 2013 as the top city for attracting the most congress delegates: 122,877 delegates at 179 conferences.
The city has been ranked among the top five cities in the world since 2001, and according to the latest statistics, it is ranked 4th by International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and 6th by Union of International Associations.
The figures are higher if the city includes Mobile World Congress, which attracts 80,000 delegates yearly. However, ICCA only qualifies conferences that rotate among three international venues.
The Conventions Hub
Setting the scene for international events is the Gran Via and Montjuïc, both occupying over 400,000sqm of floor space that provides 14 pavilions and two congress centres. These venues are as emblematic as they are cutting-edge, with facilities that play host to a full calendar of events.
Gran Via will continue to be the venue for IBTM World until 2019, according to a recent announcement by Reed Exhibitions. The organiser renewed its contract, which is due to end in 2016. IBTM World director Graeme Barnett elaborated, "I would highlight the Gran Via exhibition centre, the quality of the hotels and the improvements to infrastructures such as forthcoming opening of the Metro's Line 9 at Terminal 1 of the airport, the high-speed train and the positioning of the Port of Barcelona as the Mediterranean's leading cruise-ship port. For all these reasons, Barcelona has become one of the great places in Europe for holding events."
Opened in January 2015, Hotel Cotton House is the latest addition to Marriott's Autograph Collection Hotels. This 83-room hotel occupies a landmark building that originally housed the Cotton Textile Foundation built in 1957. Totally refurbished while preserving the intricate details of its neoclassical style, the reborn building now welcomes guests as a luxury five-star hotel complete with a library, a gym and beauty salon, a tailor's atelier, private meeting rooms and the Batuar restaurant and bar.
The Serras Hotel, a Spanish-owned member of Design Hotels, opened in January 2015, and enjoys a prime location in Passeig de Colom in the Gothic Quarter, with a view of Port Vell and the Mediterranean Sea. Occupying a 19th century building with a historic façade, the hotel features 29 rooms and suites, one of which is the Picasso Suite - a tribute to Pablo Picasso, who had his first studio on the premises. The interior is modernist in style, fitted with abstract art and the latest technology for a young professional crowd.
Closer to the convention centres, there is the Crown Plaza Barcelona Fira Center, which reopened in February 2014 after an extensive refurbishment and a franchise agreement between InterContinental Hotels Group and Hotel Fira SAU. The hotel enjoys a Montjuic location, placing it close to Plaza de Espana and Gran Via Avenue. It has 256 rooms and 3,000sqm of meeting space.
Due to open in 2017, a new ME by Melia hotel will be designed by famous personalities such as Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid and Aldo Rossi. It will be a mixed-use 15-storey building with retail outlets. The hotel will feature 173 rooms designed to appeal to the trend-setting and social crowd.
While Antoni Gaudi landmarks such as Casa Batllo, Casa Mila and Palau Guell continue to be popular options for events, the spectacular Saint Pau Hospital is a much-lauded venue as well. It is a UNESCO Heritage Site and is a sprawling complex with gardens and pavilions that showcase exquisite art and sculptures. Corporate events have been held there with stunning results.
If there is one tourist attraction that you must make time for, it is the Sagrada Familia. The architectural ingenuity of the basilica is amazing and begs contemplation. Book online prior to your visit as they have a limit to the number of daily visitors. The adult entrance fee is €15 and €19.50 (with audio guide). All proceeds from entrance fees go to the building fund for the cathedral's completion.
Just walk and take in the sights, sounds and vibes of the city. Whether it is the stylish Passeig de Gracia, lively Las Ramblas, buzzing La Boqueria Market, charming Gothic Quarter or eclectic Eixample district, walk day or night and feel free and safe in the city.
Good tapas bars are aplenty in the city, and they needn't be the expensive ones. Small bars such as Quimet&Quimet and Bar Celta, will surprise you. When at La Boqueria Market, head to Bar Pinotxo, Kiosk Universal and El Quim de la Boqueria.
To splurge on a memorable culinary experience, book a table at the famed Ferran and Albert Adria's restaurant Tickets. Book way in advance.