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Organiser's Guide to Barcelona - All-night restaurants, squares fringed with tapas bars and beguiling Gothic architecture define this fabulous Spanish city on the sea.
Summers are hot though the sea breeze keeps things bearable. The winter is as cold as London but the Christmas markets draw people outdoors nonetheless. May and September are ideal, because the summer hubbub hasn’t started and crowds are minimal.
Locals speak Spanish and often Catalan. Many speak English but all appreciate an attempt at Spanish.
Just two hours from London, numerous airlines service Barcelona’s central airport up to five time a day. Ryanair often has cheap flight deals, though be warned: they will drop you in Reus or Girona, both over 100km from the city, and at least an hour’s bus ride away. A brief taxi ride from the main airport shouldn’t cost you more than about E20 (including tip). Alternatively, a train takes you from the main terminal to Passeig de Gràcia metro station, also in the city centre.
Barcelona is easy to navigate, though local maps help as back streets are tiny. The main square of Plaça de Catalunya is a great starting point, from where you can head south to the port, north to the Segrada Família, east to the Gothic district and west to endless eateries.
Hotels are on every street corner, from boutique to the international chains, all of which cater for conferences. The restaurants and bars barely close so there are no end of options – though some don’t serve until 9pm so you’ll want to head out for early tapas if your appetite gets the better of you.
There are countless golf courses surrounding the city, while wine and cava lovers can enjoy a host of tastings both within the city and in the surrounding
Catalan vineyards. There is no shortage of cookery courses specialising in regional Catalan dishes and tapas. You can charter sailboats and yachts, all available with or without a crew, and if you want to take a group out of the city for a one-day excursion head an hour south to PortAventura, a theme park offering good business, training and teambuilding facilities.
Barcelona is a 24-hour city. Flamenco and fine food are on tap day and night and the nightclub scene is insatiable. Eixemple, the central district of the city, is the main hub for after-dark eating and activity, though any street or alleyway will lead to food and drink. Nightclubs are huge and most international music acts stop for dates in Barcelona when touring Europe.
Watch out for taxi drivers adding unnecessary extras to your cab fare. Rate 1 is the most expensive option by night and Rate 2 by day is slightly lower. If they hear an English accent they may try to get a little extra out of you. Don’t be afraid to question it!
Barcelona Convention Bureau: 0034 933 689 700
This feature first appeared in the Square Meal Venues & Events Guide 2011.