Welcome to the first of EMP’s new City Series! In these upcoming City Series, we will explore the special ins and outs of cities around the world that may be beneficial to your company for corporate travel, incentive events, company retreats or even annual client meetings.

In our inaugural piece, we will discover the Spanish city of Barcelona. With more than 200 hotels and state-of-the art meeting facilities it is no surprise that Barcelona tops the list of conference destinations in Spain. The cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, Barcelona has undeniably camera-friendly looks and irresistible charisma. Along with some wonderful beaches, the city’s artists have a long tradition of street art, pop graffiti and sculpture. The best way to enjoy Barcelona’s creative food scene is by ordering plenty of tapas (small plates) and washing them down with a cool, refreshing glass of cava, Spain’s delicious answer to champagne.

Population

1.602 million

Airport

Barcelona-El Prat Airport (www.aena.es). Getting to Barcelona has never been easier with the continued development of Barcelona-El Prat Airport. Since the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992 this airport has continued to grow into a significant European Hub. Aena is the Spanish public body that owns and operates the majority of airports in the country. Aena is currently investing $3.4 million in improvements to the airport terminal Tenerife Norte.

Currency & Tipping

Spain officially operates on the Euro. Tipping: Restaurants- Catalans typically leave 5% or less at restaurants. / Taxis- Optional, but locals round up to the nearest euro. / Bars- It’s rare to leave a traditional western tip in bars, though a token of small change is always appreciated.

Time of Year to Visit

The high heat of summer (July and August) is peak tourist season, when crowds swarm the city and its beaches. For more pleasant weather, come in late spring (May).

Hotels & Convention Center

Typical prices for a mid-range room costs about €80 to €140 per night. If you plan to travel around holidays like Christmas, Easter or in the summer, reserve a room at least three or four months ahead of time.

Barcelona International Convention Centre is located by the waterfront and well connected by metro and bus. With 100,000 sqm of space for events and has two inter-connected buildings: the main Centre, with a capacity for 15,000 people and the Forum Building Auditorium, seating 3,140. Among its key features: 11,340 sqm of flexible exhibition space, a great banquet hall and 36 meeting rooms complete with on-site catering.

Local Culture

Checkout the Mercat de la Boqueria. This famous indoor market hall is a colourful explosion of fruit, vegetables, seafood, rows and rows of cured jamón and some mind-boggling butchers’ displays. There are tapas bars, pizza stalls and all manner of produce you can try before you buy.

Historical Sights

The architectural gem, La Sagrada Familia (www.sagradafamilia.org), is a must. The mind-blowing workmanship of architect Antoni Gaudí’s magnum opus, is still under construction after more than 100 years! The medieval cathedral attracts around 2.8 million visitors a year and is the most visited monument in Spain. Although essentially a building site, the completed sections and museum may be explored at leisure. General admission is €14.80 and fifty-minute guided tours (€4) are offered.

Activities for Groups

All the city-run museums including the Museu Picasso, the Museum of History of Barcelona (MUHBA) and the Museum of National Art of Catalonia (MNAC) are free on Sunday afternoons, from 3pm to 8pm. Others are also free on one given day of the month, often the first Wednesday or Sunday- check individual websites for details.

Get your selfies ready for the Font Màgica. Built for Barcelona’s 1929 World Exposition, this water, sound and lightshow has been drawing tourists ever since. The Font Màgica (literally the Magic Fountain) borders on the kitsch side, but what’s not to love about jets of multicoloured water rising in sync to show-tunes?

Festivals

Festivals offer a fun and fresh perspective into a culture, not to mention unique opportunities for special group bonding. Late September don’t miss the Festes de la Mercè, which brings the city to life with free concerts, dancing, fireworks, acrobatic feats and lively ‘correfocs’ (parades of drums, colorful devils and firecrackers). Try the summer extravaganza Festa Major de Gràcia, best known for its fierce competition of decorated streets, along with a packed program of free outdoor concerts.