A couple weeks ago I found an old Surface Tablet that had some pictures and writing from a trip to Spain in 2016. I’ve booked plenty of meetings in Spain before and since but it was a great reminder to me of how much I love Spain for personal travel and conferences. And, since Spain and Italy are distressed and on sale right now, it’s a great time to re-look at some of these destinations for late 2021 and 2022.
I’ve been to Spain for fun leisure and booked meetings in Spain. The culture is diverse and there is something for every type of attendee. The three cities I want to focus on are: Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. Don’t get me wrong, the whole country is great for meetings. I have also done meetings in Bilbao and Alicante, Spain. Both are great too, but for this post, let’s focus on just three cities. All three of these cities can host any type of meeting but based my experience in the destination, below are the types of conferences I would recommend in each.
Madrid: Larger meetings (up to 600), Global Sales Meetings, Larger incentives, Internal meetings with a business focus, External customer focused.
Keep in mind, meeting space in all of Europe is scarce. It’s difficult to find more than three hotels in any given area that can hold more than 300 people under one roof. We stayed at Melia Castilla which is one of the larger convention hotels. I like this property because it was easy to navigate, the space was ample for my group, and it was clean. Melia as a brand does a great job, especially in Spain where they have most of their properties. The location was great. There was not a temptation to leave and walk about the city. You need a cab to do that in this location, but a cab is only 5 minutes away from the nearest square with cafes and entertainment. You can keep attendees semi captive here while giving them a nightlife experience after work is done for the day.
Madrid is a big city. All the train lines for Spain go straight through Madrid so it’s a great launching point for any adventure. It’s rich with history, museums, grand parks and squares. The bus system is easy to navigate, and the cars are fast. My favorite part of Madrid was Mercado de San Miguel. It’s a huge open market where we grazed from booth to booth sipping on delicious red wine and eating meats, cheeses and pastries that were local to the area. Museo del Prado was a close second. We hit that as soon as we arrived in Madrid, jetlagged and no sleep, we were there right when it opened. This area has a lot of great options-indoor/outdoor and unique/park like offsite venues for large and small functions. I like Madrid for big meetings because you feel the hustle and bustle of business but there is fun and action at night. I also like this for larger incentives as a starting spot because it’s easy to fly into, and to launch from.
Barcelona: We took a train from Madrid to Barcelona. It took two and a half hours and was easy to navigate and reasonably priced. We stayed near the center of town next to Plaza De Catalunya and stayed at Olivia Plaza Hotel. It was a convenient launching spot to explore the city. It’s also a perfect hotel for a smaller meeting of 10 – 45 attendees. This location was great because it was just a couple blocks away from Las Ramblas, the touristy street with a ton of action-some good and some bad. We could get to it if we wanted, very easily by foot, but if we didn’t want to be mixed in with the nonsense, we never had to see it. I did a site inspection of The Mandarin Oriental and saw their gorgeous rooftop. The view from the top shows the entire city, lights, the hills and gorgeous gothic and historical buildings. That, is a gorgeous, luxury property. I have since sourced it for meetings of 100 or less, specifically incentives since the experience is so high end and would be such a special treat for any attendee—especially the more discerning, experienced traveler. Next to Mandarin is a super rad spot for an offsite yet indoor “dine-around.” It’s called El Nacional. This is an indoor—upscale food hall with small restaurants in each corner. It’s like an Eataly but Spanish and with more bars. The food is diverse with seating vignettes at each spot. We did a Gin tasting at one of the cafes that was out of this world. Aside from the great hotels, food and beverage experiences, Barcelona has some amazing historical experiences worth exploring. Sagrada Familia, Picasso Museum and Park Guell are just a few of the many artistic and historically interesting spots to explore. I really like Barcelona for an incentive trip, high end executive meeting or customer appreciation event. There is so much to do, outside of the hotel involving high-end food and beverage, art, water and land that it provides a memorable experience for each guests.
Seville: We took a quick flight from Barcelona to Seville. It took us a little over an hour to get there and we booked it last minute. We stayed at Melia Seville which was a great property for meetings. A meeting for 150 or less is perfect there to have all the space and almost half of their guest rooms. Seville is perfect for a leg of an incentive trip, internal and external meetings for 150 to 200 people or a milestone conference (10, 20, 30 year-etc) Hosting a meeting here would be special and different than other cities you hit in Spain. I’d reserve this city for a special occasion meeting or if you’ve already done Barcelona or Madrid, this is different than other Spanish cities. You could go back to Spain and come here without feeling like you’re repeating the same Spanish trip. The vibe of Seville is different than Barcelona and Madrid as it’s more authentic Spain, slower paced & less tourists. Given it’s southern location in the country and it’s proximity to Africa, the décor in all of Seville has hints of a Moorish vibe which is a little more ornate, with deeper design. It’s beautiful in Seville and I felt very comfortable there. The Melia Seville as a great property and there was not much within walking distance to this hotel. However, within a quick cab ride we found ourselves at Royal Alzacar which is the palace, museum and lush gardens to explore. The same day we found ourselves scavenging for food around 12:30 but nothing was open due to “siesta” so we had to wait to eat lunch until about 2:00 pm. That night, we went to an amazing Flamenco Show at a place called Tablao Del Arnal. The venue was small and about 100 people could fit in it so it would be a perfect offsite venue spot if you bought the venue out for the night.
Spain and Italy have been hit worse than some other European sisters with Covid. I wouldn’t do anything there in 2020. However, I would start looking now, in 2020 for 2021 or into the future. They are super accommodating and pricing now for Spring 2021 and later looks really good, if you can find availability. If you want to talk about your next meeting in Spain, reach out to me anytime. I am happy to share the meeting types we’ve placed there and the personal experiences I’ve had there too.