Spain is now the 5th largest economy in Europe. The country owes its economic growth, in part, to Barcelona, which is one of the richest regions in Southern Europe. In fact, Barcelona accounts for over ¼ of Spain’s overall GDP with a value of €177 billion per year. As a port city, Barcelona makes up almost ¼ of the country’s total exports. The Catalan capital’s economy is mainly fueled by technology and innovation, tourism and services. Significantly, the city welcomes 33 million visitors per year, contributing €2,000 million to the economy. Another major services industry is fashion, partly driven by the city’s traditional textile industry. Barcelona also has a strong high-tech industry, which is concentrated in the Parc Tecnològic del Vallès, located in the northeast. The city hosts important conferences, exhibitions and major trade fairs such as the famous “La Fira”, which takes place annually at the Palacio de las Naciones.
With a rapidly growing innovation scene, the city is now home to over 250 startups and more than 25 accelerators and incubators. Barcelona has indeed fostered some of the most successful startups, including Glovo, a 60-minute delivery service launched in 2015, which has already raised €5 million and expanded to 4 more cities. Not to mention the corporate travel booking platform TravelPerk, which has raised $8.5 million in just 3 years. Barcelona also hosts annual international tech events, such as the Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest meeting for the mobile industry, which was attended by over 94,000 visitors from 200 countries in 2015. Barcelona’s highly ambitious project of urban transformation, referred to as “[email protected]”, aims to convert barren land into a technology and innovation district, providing spaces for knowledge-based activities. Barcelona has also become a vanguard of the diversity movement, offering extensive wheelchair access at the most famous tourist attractions, facilities at museums for the visually impaired and special visits in sign language.
Whilst most businesses in Spain still maintain a hierarchy, the structure is rapidly changing thanks to many young managers being educated abroad and developing a different mindset. Professionals in Barcelona work hard, typically beginning the day at 8 or 9 am and finishing around 6 or 7 pm. In keeping with the rest of Spain, Catalonians tend to enjoy a long lunch break and generally avoid arranging meetings between 1 and 4 pm. Yet business lunches are common, where professionals can get to know clients over some tapas. Catalonians are expected to arrive on time for meetings, which can adopt a formal tone whereby professionals should shake the hand of each and every attendee. Being interrupted by fellow colleagues is a relatively common occurrence in Spain, and is usually a sign of interest and engagement rather than insolence or dismissal. In general, Spanish professionals strive to make the best impression and will dress to impress with immaculate suits and dresses.
Despite its position as the Catalan capital and a key tourist attraction, living conditions in Barcelona are largely affordable. A comfortable room in a sociable environment will cost around €300-400, whilst an entire flat is only €600-800. Getting around Barcelona is rapid and easy thanks to the reliable transport system, where a journey on the clean, punctual and air-conditioned metro will cost only €2 per journey. For an extra energy boost along your travels, you can purchase an authentic café con leche for a mere €1 – 1.50. Nor will you feel unsafe whilst out and about on the streets. You can freely amble along the wide and vibrant avenues without too much caution. Yet, should you need it, the Catalonian healthcare system is public, free and universal, providing efficient services for all European citizens, and even those outside the EU in certain circumstances.
As the Swiss-French architect, Le Corbusier, aptly asserted: “Barcelona, an admirable city, a city full of life, intense, a port open to the past and future”. Barcelona offers endless entertainment. By day you can venture to Barceloneta Beach and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere, warmed by the eternal sunshine. Or why not explore the more tranquil, white sand beaches, such as Ocata Beach, located in the north of Barcelona? Football enthusiasts can head to Camp Nou to admire the expertise of one of the best teams in the world, FC Barcelona. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, discover the Catalonian delicacies in Barri Gòtic, El Born and El Raval, where you can sip a mojito whilst grazing on patatas bravas or paella. However, following Spanish tradition, all entertainment truly begins at night. With an infinite number of bars and clubs, Barcelona offers all variations of music, from reggaeton all the way to house or techno. There is also a 3-day festival dedicated to electronic music in June, called “Sónar”. Those who fully maximize the Catalonian fiesta can end the night watching the sunrise from the twinkling blue sea.
Barcelona has been home to some of the best modern artists, including Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Dali and Antoni Tàpies, and extremely talented writers, such as Eduardo Mendoza and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. Around the city, you can marvel at the modernist architecture designed by Antoni Gaudí, which has truly left a mark on Barcelona. His most iconic designs include the world-famous Sagrada Família, the Casa Milà, which is renowned for its unconventional rugged appearance, and Park Güell, a beautiful public space located on Carmel Hill. For a complete experience in the high culture hub of Barcelona, you can watch a stunning opera show at the Liceu Theatre, or a classical performance at the Palau de la Música Catalana. Maintaining Barcelona’s standards, the cuisine is also of the highest caliber, ranging from meat-heavy dishes in the inland districts to fish-based recipes typically served along the coast. Along with the rest of Spain, Catalonians tend to eat late, consuming a leisurely lunch anytime between 1 and 4 pm, whilst dinner is eaten from 8 up until 11 pm.