As travel for events resumes, the urbane metropolis of Barcelona, which once hosted more than 200 conferences in a year, beckons anew as a welcoming destination for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions. The temperate, seaside resort city — which curves along the Mediterranean at the foot of Mount Tibidabo and a mountain called Montjuïc — sits in the northeast corner of Spain, about 100 miles south of the French border, easily accessed via non-stop flights from major gateways. Barcelona showcases an architectural legacy dating to Roman times, which visitors can view at Casa de l’Ardiaca, site of a portion of an early Roman wall and a replica of the original aqueduct.
Walkers along the narrow, cobblestone side streets winding through El Raval, Barrio Gótico, El Born and La Ribera value the centuries-old buildings, snack in family-owned tapas bars (La Cova Fumada), eat fresh seafood (Can Pepe) and admire the 14th-century Gothic basilica Santa Maria del Mar. La Rambla — the celebrated, tree-shaded, pedestrian promenade crowded with costumed street performers and lined with markets selling flowers and birds — stretches three-quarters of a mile from the Columbus Monument at the port, past the Miró mosaics to the modern city at Plaça de Catalunya. En route along La Rambla, the famous Boquería market dates to 1840. Its neighbor, the horseshoe-shaped opera house Gran Teatre del Liceu, also opened in the mid-19th century. Today the opera house offers a meeting space seating more than 2,200 within its extravagant gold and plaster interior.
Among the city’s four dedicated convention centers, where conferences convene in auditoriums, lecture halls and meeting rooms, the newest and largest is Gran Via Conference Centre — a venue of Fira de Barcelona, a major trade show organization. Designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Toyo Ito, it accommodates 1,272 in one of its 70 conference rooms. The 1 million-square-foot Barcelona International Convention Center is an avant-garde, sea- front building which hosts 15,000 delegates, while another exhibition and meeting venue, CaixaForum, resides within one of the best examples of industrial modernist architecture in Barcelona. MICE attendees also have options to meet in the seafront World Trade Center or at fairgrounds, a beach club, a fútbol stadium (Camp Nou), an Olympic stadium and various museums.
Barcelona celebrates its Catalan culture, especially the legacy of artists whose work lures visitors to the city. Two different museums house the collections of Pablo Picasso, who was born and studied art in Barcelona, and Joan Miró, who created the eponymous foundation which displays his work. The city itself serves as the backdrop for the iconic and extravagant works by Antoni Gaudí. Inside the unfinished, Art Nouveau-style Sagrada Familia cathedral, begun in 1882, spires soar as light streams through tall, Gothic, stained-glass windows. On the rooftop terrace at the lavish Palau Güell, off La Rambla, and throughout the family’s phantasmagorical Parc Güell complex, colorful broken- glass and tile mosaics range across undulating surfaces.
Several 5-star hotels welcome MICE guests with ideal amenities. Two boast waterfront settings along Paseo Maritimo, a three-mile promenade between the two busy ports. The stylish Ritz-Carlton Hotel Arts Barcelona, situated near the Olympic Port and Frank Gehry’s El Peix sculpture, features huge, perfectly appointed rooms; a 2-Michelin-starred chef at Enoteca Paco Pérez; a concierge lounge; 32,000 square feet of event space; and a fabulous spa 44 floors above the sea. W Barcelona, nearer the old port, dominates Barceloneta Beach, the fisherfolk enclave with an array of authentic seafood restaurants, including seaside huts called chiringuitos. The sail-shaped hotel offers 473 window-walled, waterfront accommodations; a spa with an indoor pool, sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi; and marvelous waterfront meeting spaces, including the Sun Deck, FIRE grill, Eclipse Asian fusion and the swank Sky Bar.
In a redecorated historic building, Le Méridien Barcelona enjoys an ideal location on La Rambla and offers fabulous street-scene views from the recently renewed Restaurant CentOnze. Schedule an event in any of seven meeting rooms, four of which combine into one; in the top-floor spa, with its outdoor deck and whirlpool; or on the Grand Terrace or Panoramic Terrace. Edition, a highly designed, 100-room, Ian Schrager hotel near Santa Catarina market and the cathedral, features meeting spaces in Bar Veraz; the speakeasy-style Punch Room; in penthouse suites; in the underground Cabaret; and on The Roof with a view, pool and fitness center.
Business visitors are lucky, indeed, when a meeting takes place in Barcelona.
On sophisticated Passeig de Gracia, in the 19th- and 20th-century Eixample neighborhood, two of Gaudí’s modernist masterworks — both UNESCO World Heritage sites — offer one-of-a- kind, fantastical settings for events. Casa Milà, an apartment house known as La Pedrera, features ornamental balconies with piecrust-pinched curves on the roof and can host 250 guests. The vibrant Casa Batlló, which houses 100 for meetings, offers a series of concerts and performances that take place on the spectacular Dragon Roof Terrace, beneath strings of twinkling lights.
From Montjuïc’s Miramar cable car station, visitors soar over the old port to the popular Torre d’Alta Ma seafood restaurant in Tower de San Sebastian, a freestanding, 200-foot-tall, latticework tower which opened in 1931 and offers 360-degree views. The restaurant serves modern Mediterranean cuisine and can accommodate 120 people; you can book the whole restaurant for private events or selected areas for smaller groups.
Once you’ve boarded Regent’s Seven Seas Grandeur, it is immediately apparent this recently launched cruise ship delivers what the name promises. Jewel box opulence dominates in most of the public areas, while quiet luxury teamed with clever function defines the cabins (save for the individually decorated top-tier suites). The ship, designed by internationally acclaimed Studio DADO and constructed by Ancona, Italy, ship builder Fincantieri, holds up to 746 guests and is serviced by a staff of 548 for optimal passenger-to-staff service.
One affordable plan can protect an entire year of trips: business or pleasure, short or long, domestic or international.
The St. Regis San Francisco recently debuted a Lunar New Year-themed The Art of Tea to celebrate the Year of the Dragon. Available for only a few more days, through Feb. 25, the afternoon menu boasts Asian-inspired sweet and savory items, a selection of tea and a complimentary welcome toast with Champgane Lallier R.018.
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After a stressful pre-holiday season and a busy work schedule, there was no better time for a relaxing spa experience than during my recent trip to Pasadena with the FXExpress Publications, Inc. team. We headed to The Langham Huntington, Pasadena for the 20th anniversary of the GT Tested Reader Survey awards, which meant a jam-packed trip, but I managed to carve a little time out of our busy schedule to visit Chuan Spa at the hotel.
Incentive travel has long been a way for organizations to drive sales and reward employees with opulent trips to exotic destinations. Today it encompasses even more.
Keep New Year’s resolutions going with a stay at The Westin Tempe. The hotel recently launched a wellness stay offer in partnership with Lululemon. The limited-time Lululemon In-Room Fitness Experience includes accommodations in a guestroom equipped with a Lululemon-branded yoga mat and yoga block.