I spent a week in Barcelona for work. I wish it could have been a month. It was a gorgeous city, and I felt so at ease there: we could walk anywhere, dined at amazing bars and restaurants, and enjoyed the beautiful architecture that surrounded us.
Here were some highlights…
Sagrada Familia – the biggest landmark in Barcelona, and it was easily the most spectacular space I’ve ever been in. The best description came from my co-worker, who said it was an “intensely emotional space.” Construction began in 1882, and will be complete sometime around 2026. “My client is in no hurry,” Gaudí once said. He meant God.
FC Barcelona v Atlético de Madrid – I’ve never been to a soccer match like this. Sitting in a stadium with nearly 100,000 fans, everyone waving flags and yelling. I have to thank my colleague Matt for taking us to this, because I would have never gone otherwise. He’s a huge fan and wanted to share the experience with us (here’s a video!).
Parc Guell – The sheer magnitude of Gaudi’s work is astounding. We wandered around Parc Guell for nearly two hours, and there were still crazy shattered tile facades and biomorphic forms that we had not yet seen.
Casa Mathilda – we were very lucky that we received an amazing recommendation from colleagues who had traveled to Barcelona before. The place that we stayed was beautiful, but more than anything I was so impressed with the owner, who helped take care of every detail and gave us delicious dining recommendations.
El Nacional – One of the recommendations shared with us was El Nacional, a former industrial building (printing press?) converted into a beautiful dining hall. It features four restaurants and a few bars, and every detail is carefully designed.
Bogart Bar – This place is so new, they don’t have a Foursquare / Trip Advisor / Yelp I can link to. But here’s their Twitter. My colleague Stéphane and I spent an evening there chatting with the bartender about his wild life. It’s easily one of my favorite memories from Barcelona, and I’d recommend this lovely bar / music hall to anyone.
Can Cisa – We dined at a number of places as a group… Guru, El Velodromo, Pez Vela, Tapas 24, but Can Cisa was by far the biggest hit. Gorgeous wine, exciting food, terrific atmosphere, and the food kept coming :)
Gothic Quarter – what is it about non-grid streets that people find so charming? I have no idea, but the mysterious streets and quaint plazas won me over.
This was the third trip I’ve planned for my colleagues at Automattic. Some things I’ve learned about planning big group trips:
- Have a local help you out. I planned meetups in Chicago and Boston because I’ve lived there, but for Barcelona, the owner of Casa Mathilda was indispensable to putting together our trip itinerary.
- Walk everywhere. Trying to sort out transportation for a group larger than 8 people is a headache. Look for accommodations and activities that are walking distance, to make it easy on your guests. A 20 minute walk with a group of 10 or more, while chatting the entire way, feels like nothing, and is stress-free.
- Plan meals ahead of time. When folks are in a big group, they don’t want the stress of finding a table for 15 or ordering. Also, you will always have at least one dietary restriction. We had breakfast and lunch affordably catered by the hotel, and then dinner reservations made in advance. Break up into smaller dinner groups if you have to.
- Take care of the little things. Making sure there’s coffee. Having wifi and international adaptors. Sim cards. Extension cords. A pharmacy/supermarket nearby. Extra currency on hand. Snacks around. It seems “small,” but can be super important to making sure your friends / guests / colleagues are comfortable.