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The Complete Travel Guide to Mobile World Congress (MWC)
Barcelona is magical. Perfectly set between mountains and the sea, it’s always been a center for innovation, whether in Gaudí’s unique architecture, Ferran Adrià‘s crazy molecular cuisine, or the new Mobile World Capital growing in the center of the city. Palm tree-lined streets connect winding medieval alleyways with modern towers. Around every corner there’s a surprising new sight or a great snack. And when Barcelona parties, it parties all night.
You’ll be working there for a week. Lucky you.
Mobile World Congress has been held in Barcelona since 2006, when it outgrew its former digs in Cannes, France. This year, it finally outgrew the historic Fira de Barcelona and moved to the Fira Gran Via, a much larger convention center on the border with the city of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, about 4km southwest of downtown.
While there are plenty of guides to Barcelona online, there’s relatively little about L’Hospitalet. L’Hospitalet is actually Catalonia’s second-biggest city (after Barcelona), but it’s for locals; it’s a working-class suburb of apartment blocks, corporate headquarters, and light industry. But L’H and the Fira Gran Via area also hold a major shopping mall, plenty of places to eat and drink, and some striking modern architecture within a 15-minute walk of the convention center.
Barcelona itself is just a quick bus or train ride away. The goal of this guide is to familiarize you with the area around the convention center and give you some quick tips for what to do if you find some free time before, during, or after the world’s busiest mobile technology convention.
I’ve traveled to Barcelona eight times, including for five Mobile World Congress shows, and worked on guidebook chapters for Frommer’s guides about the city. The suggestions in this guide were informed by experts at Turisme Barcelona, Fira Barcelona, Mobile World Capital, the GSMA, and the Renaissance Fira hotel. I’m grateful to all of them.
For more on Barcelona, I’d strongly suggest buying a guidebook. Frommer’s, Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, and Rough Guides all have comprehensive guides to Barcelona online and in print.
• The Fira Gran Via
• Neighborhoods of Barcelona
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
• Airports and Access
• Official Hotel Shuttle Buses
• Getting to The Fira
• Getting Around
CONNECTIVITY: SIM CARDS, HOTSPOTS, AND WI-FI
EATING AND DRINKING NEAR THE FIRA
• Eating and Drinking Tips
• Restaurants Near The South Entrance
• Restaurants Near The North Entrance
• Dietary Restrictions
WHERE TO STAY
WHERE TO SHOP
MOBILE WORLD CAPITAL
• Official Side Tours
• Right Around The Fira
• If You Have 1-2 Hours
• If You Have 2-4 Hours
• The Passeig de Gràcia
• Montjuïc and Museums
• If You Have A Half Day Or More
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Note: The opinions in the article are solely those of the author. While we’ve done our best to deliver accurate information here at the time of publication, GSMA is not responsible for any misstatements or inaccuracies in this guide.
Country Code: +34
Time Zone: GMT+1
Currency: Euro (Here’s a helpful currency converter.)
Electrical Plugs: 220V, two round pins (continental European). If you need a plug adapter, they’re available at hardware stores (ferreterías), but I advise buying them before you leave home. I recommend the Wonpro series of universal adapters and power strips, which you can buy at Europlugs.
Business Hours: Most businesses are open from roughly 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Major shops are open Monday through Saturday, usually from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Dining Hours: Breakfast generally runs from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., lunch, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and dinner from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. No one goes out clubbing until midnight.
Language: Barcelonans speak both Spanish (Castellano) and Catalan. Most signs will be in both languages.
Hotlines: For emergency services call 112.
Tax: Sales tax is 10 percent on food and 21 percent on most other goods; it’s included in prices shown.
Tipping: Round up to the nearest euro.
Mobile World Congress will have its own app for iPhone and Android—make sure to take a look in your platform’s app store under “GSMA.” The official event app allows you to access all the event information such as the event schedule, exhibitor listing, venue map, social networking, and more. Download these other apps as well to get the most out of Barcelona.
Android and iOS Apps:
Windows Phone Apps:
Bing Translator supports Spanish and Catalan, and it accommodates voice, text, and camera input.
iBus Barcelona may not be the official Barcelona transit app for Windows phones (there is none), but it does let you punch in bus stop numbers to find out when the next bus is coming. For transit directions, point your device browser to: www.tmb.cat/en/.
XE Currency comes from a well-known name in foreign exchange, converting easily between Euros and your home currency.
First of all, let’s deal with directions. All maps of Barcelona are rotated, so what appears to be east on a map is really compass north. (That’s why the convention center’s North Entrance is where it is.) I’ll use “map directions” in this guide.
The city of L’Hospitalet lies between the airport (which is in another suburb, El Prat de Llobregat) and the main city of Barcelona. The border between the two is invisible; the north entrance of the Fira is actually in Barcelona, while the south entrance is in L’Hospitalet.
The Fira Gran Via convention center is on Granvia de L’Hospitalet, a long road that runs right through Barcelona. South and west of the Fira are industrial areas, tailing off to the working port; north and east are neighborhoods in L’Hospitalet and Barcelona.
The bulge of Montjuïc, a small mountain covered in parks and museums, separates the Fira area from most of the rest of Barcelona. The distance is too far to walk, and it’s dull, but it’s a quick bus or train ride. Both the area around the Fira and Barcelona itself are very walkable, though.
The Fira Gran Via
The new Fira center will make your convention experience a lot more comfortable. Unlike the old Fira, in Fira Gran Via you never have to go outside; if you remember MWC 2010 when it rained the entire time, you’ll understand how nice a change that is.
Designed by prominent Japanese architect Toyo Ito, the Fira is supposed to resemble an undulating undersea world, with coral-reef walls and a “jellyfish” atrium. The eight halls are connected by an enclosed spine with moving walkways. At the middle of the structure, two outdoor avenues open up for eating, drinking, and networking; there are also several patios (GSMA calls them “networking gardens”) lined with artificial grass scattered around.
The Fira is about a mile long and has two entrances, one on either end. Because the Fira Gran Via is so long, it’s best to think of it in two halves: focus either on the South Entrance (closest to Hall 1 and Hall 2) or the North Entrance (by Hall 8.1, App Planet, and Hall 8.0, Theatre District). Restaurants and attractions in this guide will be listed by proximity to either the south or north entrances.
Mobile World Congress offers a full guide to the Fira, including a video you can watch called New Venue Orientation.
Neighborhoods of Barcelona
The Old Town
Bisected by the famous La Rambla, Barcelona’s Old Town is a golden Gothic gem. This is an area of small, winding streets with hundreds of years of history. The more tourist-friendly neighborhoods of the Barri Gotic, Ribera, and Born are northeast of the Rambla, between that street and the Parc de la Ciutadella.
The Barri Gotic, between the Rambla and Via Laietana, includes the city hall, cathedral, and the remnants of the Jewish neighborhood, El Call; if you want to stay somewhere that feels ancient, this is where you should stay. Across Via Laietana are the hip Born (below Carrer de la Princesa) and somewhat sleepier Ribera. The Born has come up in the past 10 years as a neighborhood of cafes, boutiques, and bars in historic buildings, ideal for shopping.
The Rambla itself is one of Barcelona’s most famous tourist attractions, but I consider it overrated: it’s a tourist trap, in more ways than one. Leading from the sea to the Plaça Catalunya, it’s overrun by visitors, people who sell things to visitors, and people who take advantage of visitors. It’s a constant jostling crowd, and not always actually fun. While it’s an unmissable Barcelona experience to walk along once, I greatly prefer the Passeig de Gràcia (below) for a promenade.
On the other side of the Rambla is the Raval neighborhood, a multicultural, working-class barrio that the city has been trying to redevelop for years. Most of that redevelopment can be seen north of the Carrer de L’Hospital, where you’ll find the Museum of Contemporary Art, the CCCB arts center, hip hotels near the Gran Via and multicultural restaurants along the Rambla de Raval. The area south of L’Hospital,—confusingly called the “Barri Xines” (Chinatown) even though it isn’t actually a Chinatown—is still a bit seedy. Be cautious there.
Down by the waterfront is the entrancing neighborhood of Barceloneta, a former fishing village with streets so narrow that people living across the street from each other can shake hands out their windows. Barceloneta is pockmarked with great little restaurants and ends at the beachfront promenade, which is still busy in February. My favorite tapas place in Barcelona is at La Bombeta (3, carrer Maquinista).
The most beautiful street in Europe, the Passeig de Gràcia divides the two halves of the gracious Eixample. Along here you’ll find sidewalk cafes with room to breathe, as well as La Pedrera and Casa Milà, two of the city’s iconic Gaudí buildings. Make sure to look down at the beautiful fresco sidewalks.
The Passeig de Gràcia divides the Eixample into the Esquerra (left) and Dreta (right). Both neighborhoods have long, straight streets with blocks cut off at the corners. Deep in the Dreta you’ll find the iconic Sagrada Família, the unfinished cathedral that’s the single greatest work of Modernist architecture. Just south of Passeig de Gràcia in the Esquerra are the Rambla Catalunya as well as Balmes and Enric Granados streets, prime streets for shopping and dining.
Barcelona gets wealthier as you get closer to the mountains. As a visitor for Mobile World Congress, you’re most likely to visit two neighborhoods uptown. Gràcia was an independent village until 1897, and it reminds me of New York’s Greenwich Village. The Plaça del Sol is one of the city’s best places for bar-hopping, and streets like Torrent d’Olla and Verdi are clogged with restaurants and boutiques. North of Gràcia is Parc Guell, famous for a huge cache of Gaudí’s architectural confectionery, and above that, on the mountain, is Tibidabo, home to a charmingly run-down amusement park, a gigantic church, and a luxurious hotel. Sarrià-Sant Gervasi is a quieter, upscale residential neighborhood.
You’ll likely attend events in the Vila Olimpica, 22@ or Diagonal Mar areas on the other side of the Parc de la Ciutadella from downtown. These are recently redeveloped, relatively synthetic new parts of town. The Vila Olimpica is packed with nightclubs and beachfront restaurants. The 22@ area is a formerly run-down industrial neighborhood that’s been turned into a high-tech incubator, and Diagonal Mar is an alternative convention district by the water, with hotels and a medium-sized convention center.
Anchored by the grand Plaça Espanya, Sants-Montjuïc is a popular neighborhood for visitors, as everyone traveling by Metro has to change trains at Plaça Espanya to get to the new convention center. This is also where the older Fira de Barcelona is, along with the Hotel Fira Palace, Hotel Catalonia Plaza, and several other venues sure to be used by MWC exhibitors. That said, the neighborhood immediately north of the Plaça Espanya isn’t the most charming, and I’ve ended up spending evenings in the brand-new Arenas shopping mall just because it was convenient.
The old Fira backs onto the hill of Montjuïc, home to a beautiful, rambling park with great views of the city. You’ll find several museums up here including the unmissable Fundació Miró. As Montjuïc separates the old city from L’Hospitalet, this is also a great place to take a long, thoughtful walk while staying close to business.
L’Hospitalet de Llobregat
Just on the other side of Montjuïc, Barcelona bleeds into the city of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat. While the densely populated L’H has a quarter-million residents and seven official districts, the one you’ll be spending most of your time in is Granvia L’H, one of the area’s new business districts.
Since 2000, the Catalonian government has been encouraging skyscrapers to crop up along the Gran Via between Montjuïc and the edge of the urban area. There are two major business clusters: the Plaça Europa, home to the Hotel Porta Fira, Renaissance Hotel, the convention center and several large office buildings; and the City of Justice, an array of imposing legal buildings near the Plaça d’Ildefons Cerdà closer to the main city. The two areas are basically bridged by Granvia 2, a large shopping mall. Several commuter train lines and a frequent bus run along the Gran Via, connecting the neighborhood to Barcelona. If you’ve ever been to La Defense in Paris, it’s similar.
The H12 bus runs the length of the Gran Via every seven to eight minutes and is the best way to connect parts of the district with the city center.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
Airports and Access
Barcelona-El Prat is the city’s most-popular airport. It’s located about 10km southwest of the Fira Gran Via.
Barcelona airport has two widely separated terminals: the newer T1 and the older T2. You can’t walk between the terminals; they’re connected by shuttle bus.
The free MWC Airport Shuttle Bus will run continuously between Airport Terminal 1 and the Fira Gran Via South Entrance every 15 minutes during the times listed below:
Saturday, 23 February: 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, 24 February: 9:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Monday, 25 February: 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday, 26 February: 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Wednesday, 27 February: 2:00 p.m to 8:30 p.m.
Thursday, 28 February: 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Should you need transportation between the airport and Fira Gran Via outside of the hours shown above, use the #46 bus or another option on this page.
The #46 local bus (€2) stops outside Terminal 1 arrivals and Terminal 2 departures between 5:00 a.m. and midnight, connecting the airport directly to the Fira Gran Via every 15 to 20 minutes. The ride takes about 15 minutes from T2 and 25 minutes from T1. If you’re going to the city center, the Aerobus (€5.75 one way, €9.95 round trip; ) is the most convenient route, leaving both terminals every 10 minutes for the Plaça Espanya and Plaça Catalunya. The ride takes 35 to 40 minutes.
Taxis are plentiful at both terminals and should cost €20 to the Fira Gran Via or €25 to €30 to locations within the city. The ride to the Fira takes 15 minutes.
There’s a train station at Terminal 2, but the train is infrequent and inconvenient enough that if you’re going to a hotel in central Barcelona, the Aerobus is your best bet.
Official Hotel Shuttle Buses
If you’re staying at a hotel booked through the Barcelona Business Pass website that isn’t near public transportation, the show will run an official shuttle bus from your hotel to the North Entrance.
This is by far the easiest way to get from areas like Sitges and Castelldefels to the show; there are also buses from hotels in other suburbs and along the Barcelona waterfront. The buses have limited hours, though. Check out the full list of shuttle routes.
Getting To the Fira
MWC attendees will likely be staying in all of Barcelona. Fortunately, all of Barcelona is pretty well connected to the Fira.
For the South (Hall 1/Hall 2) entrance, take Barcelona Metro lines 1 or 3 to Espanya and switch for any FGC train to the Europa Fira station (follow signs with a pink square marked “L8″). You have to go out of a security gate and then back in another one, but it’s a free transfer. If possible, take Line 1, which has a much shorter walk to transfer than Line 3. Get off at the third stop, Europa-Fira, and take a right at the exit for the Fira. The entrance will be straight ahead. Assume travel time of 25 to 30 minutes from the city center or 15 minutes from Plaça Espanya.
If your hotel is near the Gran Via, it may be easier to take the bus. The new H12 bus runs every seven to eight minutes down the Gran Via, with reserved lanes and signal priority, and that way you don’t have to change trains. The bus is almost as fast as the train, 30 minutes to Plaça Catalunya.
Taxis to the city center take about 15 minutes with no traffic and cost about €15. You’ll find a taxi rank outside the south entrance.
To or from the airport, a taxi takes 15 minutes and costs €20. You can also take the free MWC shuttle bus to the airport or public bus 46, which leaves from a stop right on Plaça Europa; it leaves every 20 minutes, taking 15 minutes to Terminal 2 and 25 minutes to Terminal 1, and costs €2.
To get to the North (App Planet/Theatre District) entrance, take bus 9 from Plaça Catalunya or buses 9, 37 or 109 from Plaça Espanya to the corner of Passeig de la Zona Franca and Carrer Foc, and then walk along Foc to the entrance.
From uptown Sarrià or the Reina Maria Cristina Line 3 Metro station, take bus 72 directly to the north entrance of the Fira.
Taxi information is the same as above. If you’re going from the north entrance to or from the airport, just take a cab.
As an MWC attendee, you’ll get a four-day pass for Barcelona’s public transport. Use it! For travel on other days, dip down into any Metro station and use the multilingual ticket machines. A single ride costs €2. The most economical pass is the T-10, which allows 10 single journeys for €9.80. A one-day pass, called the T-Dia, costs €7.25. Zone 1 tickets cover all forms of train and bus travel in Barcelona, L’Hospitalet, and other nearby towns.
Barcelona has two metro-like systems: the Metro (lines 1 to 5 and 9 to 11) and the suburban FGC trains (lines 6 to 8 and anything starting with an “S”). Both systems are fast and frequent, with trains departing every few minutes. To enter the system, insert your magnetic-coded ticket into a slot in the entrance barrier; make sure to take it out, and then you can go through into the train.
One warning: Some inter-line transfers on the Barcelona metro involve lengthy walks down very long hallways. The transfer between Line 3 and Lines 2/4 at Passeig de Gràcia, for instance, is nearly two blocks long. Pay attention to the way connections between lines are drawn on the subway map: if there’s a long, narrow line connecting two train lines, that’ll be a walk.
Barcelona’s bus system is a great way to see the city, and buses cover a lot more of the Fira area than the train does. Google Maps on your smartphone is a good bet to give you an accurate route within Barcelona by bus.
When you get on the bus, either pay the driver your €2 or dip your magnetic-coded ticket into the validator slightly farther into the bus.
If you can only remember one bus, the new H12 is the one to think about: it runs in a simple, straight line, right across the Gran Via throughout the city. Running every seven to eight minutes, it’s a no-brainer to connect the Fira to everything else Barcelona has to offer.
Barcelona taxis are relatively plentiful and metered. There are taxi ranks outside both entrances to the Fira Gran Via venue. Elsewhere, look for a green light in the front window and a sign saying “Lliure.” To call a taxi, dial 902 222 111 or 932 933 111.
Different rates apply at different times of day, but rates must be posted in the window. You can use World Taximeter to estimate rates, or consult the official fare chart. For more details on traveling by taxi to and from the Fira, see the official MWC Web site.
(View Health and Business Services in a larger map)
Mobile World Congress has a deal with Workcenter, a chain of office centers with five outlets across Barcelona. The onsite Workcenter at the Fira Gran Via (CC2, Level 1, Room 2.12) is open starting Saturday for vendors, and Monday for everyone else. That’s by far the most convenient place to print your documents during show hours.
From batteries to SD cards and USB cables, many small-scale gadgets are available in the Granvia 2 mall across from the South Entrance (open 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday). The Carrefour superstore has pretty much everything, but there are also dedicated photo stores (such as Fotoprix) and electronics stores (such as Miró). Just remember that since these aren’t official show vendors, you’ll need to take anything you buy home with you, yourself.
Mailing and Shipping
The official freight forwarder, EF-GSM Ltd, is the only company allowed to deliver items directly to and from the Fira Gran Via. You can find full details in the exhibitor manual. The company requires three to seven days advance notice for most deliveries. If you’re shipping something to the show last minute via UPS, FedEx, or a similar company, exhibitors can send it to a special delivery address at Fira Montjuïc. It’s all in the exhibitor manual linked above.
Of course, if you aren’t an exhibitor, you won’t be able to use these services. For ordinary visitors, the five Workcenter locations in Barcelona (as referenced below) can also do shipping and package receiving via DHL. The nearest post office to the Fira is at Alts Forns 65, 08038 Barcelona. That’s walking distance from the North Entrance. It’s open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Saturday.
Computers, Printers and Workspaces
Outside show hours, hit the five Workcenters in town. Three are open on Sundays, and the one on Avenida Diagonal (Diagonal 437, 08036 Barcelona; +34 (93) 390-1100) is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. To get to the 24/7 Workcenter, take metro lines 3 or 5 to Diagonal, take a left on Avenida Diagonal and walk about five blocks. Several buses also serve that location.
The Granvia 2 mall just across Plaça Europa from the convention center has next-day laundry and shoe repair services, as well as hair salons and pretty much every tier of clothing store. Whether you’ve broken a heel or poured wine on your last shirt, the mall holds your solution.
CONNECTIVITY: SIM CARDS, HOTSPOTS, AND WI-FI
Check your wireless carrier’s roaming plan before committing to a local solution. Most European operators, as well as AT&T and Verizon in the U.S., now have reasonably priced smartphone roaming plans including data, and it’s always easiest to be able to keep your “regular” phone number to give to contacts at the show.
The Granvia 2 mall, just across Plaça Europa from the convention center (open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday), has more than a half-dozen mobile phone shops. I went to the Carrefour Mobile desk on the ground floor, which sells all the major Spanish brands.
The simplest tariff for data-hungry business travelers is Vodafone Yu, which comes in three varieties. “Yu 8″ (€12 for the SIM plus one month service) gives you 200MB of data, 20 minutes of calling, and 20 local SMS messages. “Yu 12″ (€15 for SIM plus service) gives you 600MB, 60 minutes, and 60 SMS. “Yu 16″ (€20 for SIM plus service) gives you 1GB, 100 minutes, and unlimited SMS. When you pop the SIM in your phone, have the salesperson type in the activation code to put it on the appropriate plan.
On Sundays, the best place to buy a SIM card is the Movistar kiosk on the ground floor of the Maremagnum mall (Moll d’Espanya 5, Barcelona 08039; Tel. +34 (93) 225-8100; open daily 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.). To get to the mall, take Metro line 3 to Drassanes, then walk down to the end of the Ramblas, across the traffic circle and along the pedestrian bridge.
A basic prepaid Movistar SIM costs €13, including €10 credit. For prepaid data, choose €4/week for 100MB, or €2.39/day for 250MB/day.
In any case, make sure to bring your original passport to buy your SIM card; they’ll need to make a copy for ID purposes.
For more intensive, multi-device Internet use, you may want to rent a hotspot. Typically, hotspots support up to five devices and offer you about 300MB/day, up to 7GB/month.
In Barcelona, the tourist board officially recommends TripNeter (+34 (668) 893-310), which provides 250MB/day of 3G service for €5.99/day. The company will deliver a hotspot to your hotel or let you pick it up at a tourist office downtown.
Wi-Fi is not widespread in Barcelona, although it’s available at major hotels. Fortunately, the GSMA is running Wi-Fi at hotspots all over the convention center, so you should be covered during the show itself.
Outside the venue, Wi-Fi is available in the lobby of the Porta Fira and Fira Congress hotels (buy a coffee and ask for the password), as well as in many local restaurants. I’ll note which restaurants have Wi-Fi in the “Eating and Drinking” section.
If you don’t want to go to a restaurant, head to the Granvia 2 mall across the street, where free Wi-Fi is available anywhere near one of the two Jamaica coffee shops or the Carrefour superstore. The McDonald’s on Plaça Europa also has free Wi-Fi.
FOOD AND DRINK NEAR THE FIRA
(View Restaurants Near the Fira Gran Via in a larger map)
Eating and Drinking Tips
Coffee and a pastry make for a typical breakfast in Catalonia. Ordering coffee can be a complex art, but the most common varieties are “café solo” (espresso), “café con leche” (plenty of milk) and “café cortado” (just a bit of milk). Expect to pay around €2 for a coffee and croissant; it’ll cost more in a hotel, of course. Breakfast hours run from around 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Most restaurants have a set three-course lunch menu that’s good value, but you can always order à la carte or just nosh on “bocadillos,” the sandwiches that are a Catalan national treat. Lunch runs from about 1 p.m. or 1:30 p.m. until 4 p.m.
Catalans, like all Spaniards, eat dinner late; 8 p.m. is considered early.
Almost all the restaurants below feature full bars. Expect to pay €2 to €3 for a beer and around €5 for harder stuff. The local beer most commonly on tap is Estrella Damm; ordering a “caña d’Estrella” gets you a glass of the good local stuff.
Where to Eat and Drink
The new convention center has 49 restaurants, including fast food and sit-down options, different international cuisines, vegetarian, Kosher, and Halal food. You still might want to leave the convention center, though—whether you arrive before the venue opens in the morning, you want to take a break, or just want to try out a local business.
Fortunately, the Fira is surrounded by restaurants, mostly north and east of the venue. We got local recommendations and tried the best.
The city of Barcelona has world-class dining, of course. The city tourism board offers a free restaurant booking service at a kiosk just inside the Fira’s North Entrance and the South Entrance, letting you book tables at 170 restaurants. Once your reservation has been confirmed, the restaurant will welcome you with a free glass of cava when you display your Mobile World Congress pass.
Restaurants Near the South Entrance
Avenida Joan Carles I 58, L’Hospitalet 08908
+34 (93) 233-4989;
Hours (Monday to Friday): 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Lunch menu: €26.50, Tasting menu: €49.20
Right by the entrance to the convention center, the award-winning Nuclo offers world-class, international cuisine using local, seasonal ingredients. Chef Jordi Narro worked with the legendary Ferran Adrià . Expect creatively reinvented Spanish cuisine, with dishes like crayfish tartare with corn foam being followed by a fish of the chef’s choice in a crayfish jus. See what he did there? There’s even narrative. Reservations are absolutely essential, as far in advance as possible.
In the Porta Fira Hotel, Plaça Europa 45, L’Hospitalet 08908
+34 (93) 297-3500;
Hours: Lunch 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Dinner 8 p.m. to 11:15 p.m.
Entrees: €10 to €21
If you can’t get into Nuclo, Spiral, on the ground floor of the Porta Fira hotel across the street, is your next best bet. Like Nuclo, Spiral offers wittily reinvented traditional Spanish food: a forest of asparagus dusted with Parmesan “dirt,” for instance, or little pasta pockets stuffed with a mildly sweet pear jam. When I went, service was attentive and occasionally delivered surprises, like an unexpected amuse-bouche of strawberry sangria. Reservations are strongly recommended.
In the Renaissance Hotel, Plaça Europa 50-52, L’Hospitalet 08902
+34 (93) 261-8000;
Hours: Lunch 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., Dinner 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Lunch menu: €24, Entrees: €13 to €28
The most dramatic setting in the area, Palmer perched up on the 14th floor of the Renaissance Hotel and promises truly business-class service. When I ate there, though, both service and food were off; there was no host to greet me, and my monkfish “all cremat” (a popular local sauce with garlic and white wine) was unpleasantly chewy. Things are sure to improve with time, though, as the hotel is brand-new and just getting on its feet. Reservations strongly are recommended.
In the Fira Congress Hotel, Carrer de José Agustín Goytisolo 9-11, L’Hospitalet 08908
+34 (93) 267-1800;
Hours: Lunch 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., Dinner 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Lunch menu: €24
The hotel restaurant in the Fira Congress Hotel, Narandam has a long wall of bright windows, letting light in. The menu combines Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian influences, so you can get Galician octopus, steak with Port wine sauce, or pasta puttanesca. The approach to the hotel is a little less classy than with the Porta Fira or Renaissance, though, and the Fira Congress looks like it could do with a bit of a sprucing-up. Reservations are strongly recommended.
In the Hotel Solvasa Barcelona, Carrer Ciencies 98-100, L’Hospitalet 08908
+34 (93) 503-5090;
Hours (daily): Breakfast 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Lunch 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., Dinner 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Entrees: €9.95 to €21
The least imposing of the local hotel restaurants, Atlantida is in the basement of the Solvasa hotel a few minutes’ walk southeast of the Fira. The menu is basic, hearty and simple: steak, sausage, grilled fish, and squid, for instance. Free Wi-Fi is available.
Carrer Blas Fernandez Lirola 82, 08908 L’Hospitalet
+34 (93) 431-9205
Hours (Monday through Friday): 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; (Saturday): 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Lunch menu: €9.95
A very traditional, family-run restaurant right near the South Entrance, Casa Varela gets very good reviews from locals. The menu is a mix of local specialties and European favorites; you can get pasta, roast chicken, fish stew or even Wiener schnitzel. While the owners don’t speak much English, they’re used to doing corporate events for the companies in the area; make a reservation if you want to make sure there’s room.
Carrer Arquitectura 20, L’Hospitalet 08908
+34 (93) 421-1203
Hours (Monday through Saturday): 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Entrees: €7 to €20
Highly recommended by the staff at the nearby Marriott AC Hotel Som, Piripipao is an upscale neighborhood restaurant with a classy Spanish menu. Expect the usual tapas and entrees like sesame-crusted tuna and beef tenderloin in a port wine sauce.
Panaderia Bolleria Cabré
Carrer Aprestadora 106, L’Hospitalet 08902
+34 (93) 422-6610
Hours (Monday through Saturday): 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Most pastries: €2 and under
This family-run establishment offers pastries so fresh and light, they practically float into your mouth. While it’s a bit of a walk from the convention center, it’s worth it for specialties like an apple tart cuddled in a buttery cloud of phyllo dough. The owners also run a small sit-down cafe down the block.
Plaça Europa 41, L’Hospitalet 08908
Hours (Monday through Saturday): 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Breakfast: €2.20-€5, Lunch: €11
The pleasures at Glub aren’t necessarily the food: this relatively nondescript neighborhood restaurant is right across the street from the Fira and has both plenty of seating and Wi-Fi. Breakfast there wasn’t much to report about, but as I said: plenty of seating, and Wi-Fi. It’s a good place to base yourself if you’re too early to get into the show. Bar Mediterraneo, next door, is very similar, keeping the same hours and also featuring Wi-Fi.
Bar Restaurant Maxi
Carretera del Prat 30bis, Barcelona 08038
+34 (93) 296-8410
Hours (daily): 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Entrees: generally €9.75 to €18; tapas: €4 and up
Want to eat and drink like a real local? Stop by this better-than-usual tapas joint (shown above) right down the street from the convention center. It’s full of locals, but has an English-speaking waiter and menu, and the patatas bravas and piquillo peppers are a significant notch above the quality you can get at the tapas places at the mall. Entrees focus on shellfish, with a massive mixed-seafood “marisco” platter feeding four for €42. Reservations are recommended if you don’t want to end up eating at the bar.
Mangia e Bevi
Gran Via 16, L’Hospitalet 08908
+34 (93) 259-0972;
Hours (Monday): 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., (Tuesday through Thursday): 8 a.m. to midnight, (Friday and Saturday): noon to midnight
Pizzas: €11 to €14; meter-wide pizza: €48
Pizza is the specialty at this clean, brightly-lit neighborhood restaurant on the other side of the mall from the convention center. And if you’re bringing a party, the pizzas get big: they showed me the wooden board on which they cook pizzas 36 inches in diameter. Like any good pizza joint, this one delivers, if you can’t manage to leave your booth. A full bar and coffee are also available.
Carretera del Prat, off Carrer Energia
+34 (647) 809-580
Need a snack? This food truck has been serving churros since 1952. Churros start at €2, waffles at €3 and you can get french fries, too. The truck is out during daylight.
Cafe Glacé and Muxia
Amadeu Torner 40 and Aprestadora 113, L’Hospitalet 08902
Cafe Glacé +34 (93) 263-5364, Muxia +34 (93) 263-0594
Cafe Glacé Hours (daily): 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Muxia Hours (daily): 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Sandwich and beer: €5.10; Muxia lunch menu: €13.80
Up Amadeu Torner street across Plaça Europa you’ll find these two neighborhood cafés with an important specialty: they both have Wi-Fi. As you’d expect from the name, Cafe Glacé is mostly ice cream and crepes, with a small indoor area and many tables out on the street. Muxia is a more traditional Galician tapas restaurant with a full bar, lunch and dinner menus, including a menu translated into English.
Carrer de la Literatura 1, L’Hospitalet 08908
+34 (93) 259-0050;
Hours (Monday through Saturday): 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Entrees: Prices vary, but usually €10 to €20
The gigantic mall opposite the convention center has an unusually pleasant food court. Unlike most mall food courts, it’s outside, with a series of heated tents protecting diners. Food options include an udon bar, two Italian pasta restaurants, a decent Basque restaurant called Baskonia, and an entirely industrial tapas place, Barnatapa. It’s not exactly a meaningful cultural experience, but it’s food, and it’s easy.
Within the mall, the main highlight is Wi-Fi. The mall’s two Jamaica coffee shops and giant Carrefour supermarket radiate free Wi-Fi to everything nearby, including the tasty Andreu jamón bar on the basement level directly across from Carrefour. I’d go back to Andreu.
Restaurants Near the North Entrance
Paseo Zona Franca 228, Barcelona 08038
+34 (93) 332-0241
Hours (Monday through Saturday): 7 a.m. to noon, (Monday through Friday): 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Entrees: approximately €20
The best restaurant in the area, Granja Elena (shown above) has the atmosphere of a small local bar but offers world-class food. Expect traditional Catalan dishes like fish croquettes and roasted artichokes, but raised to the next level. My croquettes were cloud-light, and my artichokes were fork-tender and fell apart into a black sausage soup, giving a bit of a feeling of noodles in gravy. The restaurant sources ingredients locally whenever possible. With only 28 seats and a faithful clientele, reservations are essential, at least a week in advance.
Carrer Foc 44, Barcelona 08038
+34 (93) 289-6347;
Hours (daily): 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Lunch menu: €15.30
The huge, practically brand-new La Vid restaurant sits right across from the North Entrance of the convention center, making it a prime target for corporate events. You’ll pay a little more for the atmosphere and location than you would at other similar restaurants in Barcelona, but I was happy for the business-friendly ambiance and multilingual menus. The traditional Galician menu is seafood-heavy, and I had a melt-in-my-mouth whole sea bass with a very citrusy vegetable ragout on the side, and chocolate crepes for dessert. A full bar, tapas and sandwich menus are also available.
Acquit Ibèrics i Café
Avenida Granvia de L’Hospitalet 1, L’Hospitalet 08908
+34 (93) 432-8483;
Hours (Monday through Friday): 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Lunch menu: €9.35 to €12.20
Right by the City of Justice complex, the brand-new Acquit bistro clearly caters to health-conscious lawyers. (Also, with the name.) Expect traditional tapas but also a lot of fresh salads and fish.
La Sal Del Port
Carrer Foc 84, Barcelona 08038
+34 (93) 007-5988
Hours (daily): 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Lunch menu: €10.50
A new breakfast and tapas bar just off the Passeig de Zona Franca on the way to or from the North Entrance, La Sal Del Port is friendly and clean, although nobody there speaks English. Breakfast is run-of-the-mill pastries, lunch a range of traditional specialties like roast chicken or monkfish in romesco sauce. The usual tapas are also available, along with a full bar. It’s a good place to meet people on the way to App Planet or the Theatre District.
Forn de Pa Praga
Corner of Energia and Foneria, Barcelona 08038
Hours (Monday through Friday): 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., (Saturday and Sunday): 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Pastries: €1 to €2; sandwich and juice: €3.40
Looking for coffee and a croissant on the way to the North Entrance? This bright, sunny cafe on a nearby corner is a good bet. The pastries are of decent quality, and they’ll slap together a range of sandwiches, too.
Vegetarians: The main tourist office on Plaça Catalunya has a free booklet called “Guide to Vegetarian Restaurants in Barcelona,” with 63 vegetarian-friendly restaurants listed throughout the city. Restaurants are tagged as vegetarian or vegan. In general, it’s not hard to get tasty meatless food in Barcelona, as items like potatoes, piquillo peppers, sautéed mushrooms, asparagus, and artichokes are mainstays of any tapas menu. However, ask a waiter to make sure animal oils aren’t used in preparation.
Kosher: There’s one Kosher restaurant and one Kosher grocery store in Barcelona. They’re both in the Sarrià neighborhood. The restaurant is Delicias (Santaló 125, 08021 Barcelona; (93) 201-0904;) and it will deliver to hotels. The supermarket is Isamar Kosher (Avenir 29, 08021 Barcelona; (93) 200-3375;)
Halal: Halal diners shouldn’t have a problem in a city where fish rules many menus. For halal meat, Gràcia is honeycombed with Turkish and Lebanese restaurants, and there’s a large Pakistani presence in the Raval neighborhood.
Gluten-Free: The Carrefour supermarket in the Granvia 2 mall directly across from the convention center has a gluten-free section. You can also get a list of gluten-free restaurants from SMAP Celiacs de Catalunya.
WHERE TO STAY
Mobile World Congress sells out Barcelona. Most of the hotels in town make exclusive contracts with Barcelona Business Pass, MWC’s official hotel booking supplier, which gives you one-stop shopping at competitive prices for places to stay. You can book hotels at www.mobileworldcongress.b-beyond.com or by emailing email@example.com.
One thing to know about the BBP list is that it changes with time; new rooms become available as others disappear. If you don’t see anything you like, e-mail BBP and they’ll try to help.
Below, I’ll stick here to giving you some guidance as to where in the city to book your hotel. In terms of easy access to the convention center and Barcelona attractions, your picks should be:
Plaça Europa area: If you can get one of the half-dozen hotels near the venue, you’ll be within walking distance.
Plaça Espanya area: The only Barcelona neighborhood with quick, nonstop train service to the Fira, as well as being close to everything Barcelona has to offer. Expect a 15-minute commute from Plaça Espanya.
Near the Gran Via, Plaça Universitat and Plaça Catalunya: Hotels along Metro Line 1 between Plaça Espanya and Plaça Catalunya offer quick Metro and bus access to the Fira, as well as being close to major sights and shopping. If you want to stay in the old city, try to be near the Plaça Catalunya, Universitat or Urquinaona metro stops. The commute from these parts of the city should be 25 to 30 minutes.
Sarrià: This quiet, upscale neighborhood has several small, affordable hotels. The #72 bus connects some of them directly to the Fira. That’s also about a 25-minute commute.
Elsewhere: Try to be near Metro lines 1 or 3, which connect at Plaça Espanya to the train to the show. Otherwise, try to be near the Gran Via, which has a direct bus link. Hotels in other locations, such as Vila Olimpica and Diagonal Mar, will take significantly more time getting to and from the venue than others.
If you’re bringing a team or a family, you might want to consider an apartment rental. That’s what I do every year. MWC’s official apartment rental partner is Aspasios, and you can get quotes by filling out the form.
Every year I bring my family to Barcelona and we stay in a local apartment. It’s a great city for kids, with terrific museums and playgrounds seemingly every two blocks. For me, it’s relaxing and centering to be able to come back and see my daughter asleep after a long day’s work. If you’d like tips on making MWC a family holiday, contact me on Twitter as @saschasegan.
WHERE TO SHOP
If you need to buy gifts and can’t get into the city center, the obvious choice is the Granvia 2 mall opposite the Fira. Granvia 2 (shown below) has dozens of shops, including three toy stores and the holy trinity of Spanish mainstream fashion brands: Zara, Desigual, and Mango. The Carrefour superstore also sells pretty much everything.
But if you have the time, I’d strongly recommend heading into Barcelona to shop. Specifically, head to the Passeig de Gràcia, in the Eixample neighborhood just north of the old city, or to the neighborhoods of Gràcia and El Born.
To get to the Passeig de Gràcia, take the H12 bus from the Fira to the Passeig de Gràcia and Gran Via, and walk north.
On the Passeig de Gràcia you’ll find a mix of global flagship brands and upscale boutiques. For techie gifts, my favorite is the Vinçon design shop (Passeig de Gràcia 96, Barcelona 08008; +34 (93) 215-6050, Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; www.vincon.com), with dozens of laptop and smartphone cases and tech-themed lamps. (You can get a giant, lighted “ctrl” key for €14.)
Across the street, the Bulevard Rosa mall (Passeig de Gràcia 53, 08007 Barcelona; +34 (93) 215-8331; open Monday through Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; www.bulevardrosa.com) is a maze of little boutiques, each one unique, with antiques galleries on the second floor.
The Passeig de Gràcia is also one of the world’s most beautiful streets, so you’re a winner even if you don’t buy anything.
Where the Passeig de Gràcia gives you an elegant shopping experience along a grand boulevard, the neighborhoods of Gràcia (shown above) and Born let you discover tiny shops along narrow pedestrianized streets, with beautiful plazas erupting around every corner.
For Gràcia, take metro line 3 to Fontana and walk along Carrer Asturies to Carrer Verdi, then turn right. On Verdi and its neighboring streets, between Asturies and Terol streets, it’s a nonstop riot of boutiques, cafes, bars, and Lebanese restaurants with pretty good shawarma. The Barcelona tourism board has a catalog of shops run by young designers in Gràcia.
The Born is the hippest part of Barcelona’s old city, where gorgeous medieval buildings meet designed boutqiues and the Picasso Museum. To get to the Born, take metro line 4 to the Jaume I station and walk down Carrer L’Argenteria, then take a left on Passeig del Born and a right on Carrer Rec to pass the hottest shopping streets. Make sure to check out the Church of Santa Maria del Mar, too. Barcelona Tourism has an official guide to shops in the Born.
Be aware that most of Barcelona is closed on Sundays. Limited shops remain open, including the entire Maremagnum mall at the base of the Rambla (Moll d’Espanya 5, Barcelona 08039; Tel. +34 (93) 225-8100; open daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.), the Opencor chain of convenience stores, various random-object shops generally run by Chinese people, and ten pharmacies (see “Health and Safety,” below).
Tax Free Shopping: If you buy more than €90.15 of products from stores displaying the “Tax Free Shopping” logo, ask for a Tax Free Form when you’re buying your items and have the shop fill it out on the spot. You can claim the tax back at the airport. Find out more at www.global-blue.com.
Barcelona has a raucous nightlife scene, with bars typically closing at 3 a.m. and nightclubs staying open well after that. If you have the energy to enjoy it, you can stay out all night and knock back a few café solos on the way back to your booth in the morning.
Almost all the restaurants and hotels listed in this guide have full bars. The restaurants in the Granvia 2 mall stay open until 1 a.m., and after 11 p.m. they basically become giant drinking establishments. A couple of other neighborhood locations I left out because they don’t offer food include:
The Marriott AC Hotel Som (Arquitectura 1-3, L’Hospitalet 08908, +34 (93) 445-8200; ) has a cozy lobby bar seating about 30.
Tirsa (Rafael de Campalans 174, L’Hospitalet 08903, +34 (93) 431-2302) is the classiest cocktail bar in L’Hospitalet, where the mayor drinks. Presided over by tuxedoed second-generation owner Manel Tirvió (shown above), a connoisseur of global cocktail culture, it’s a true local find. The bar is by the Santa Eulalia Metro station, a 10-minute taxi ride or 20-minute subway ride from the Fira.
Barcelona Business Pass runs evening city events starting at 7:30 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the show. They generally take three to four hours, and you can find details and book online. They require groups of 10 or more, however, and cost between €87 and €212 per person.
If you’re traveling on your own, Thursday at 7 p.m., the tour company Architour takes people on a three-hour walking tour of the Gothic Quarter for €50 each. It’s a great way to close out your show. Expect places to sell out quickly, so make sure to reserve.
Five cinemas in Barcelona show foreign movies in their original language, which is usually English or French. Remember to check showtimes.
The local English-language city magazine, Barcelona Metropolitan, has a comprehensive event calendar in English.
Time Out has an excellent list of nightclubs.
MOBILE WORLD CAPITAL
In 2011, Barcelona beat out Milan, Munich, and Paris to become the first Mobile World Capital: a showplace city for mobile technologies, where new mobile solutions are devised to change the way people do things in their day-to-day lives.
The most prominent element of the Mobile World Capital is Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile technology tradeshow. But there are also three other major components, two of which you’ll be able to see at the show.
Mobile World Centre
Part museum, part event space, part retail store, the Centre is the public face of mobile technology 365 days a year. It’ll be housed on Plaça Catalunya in central Barcelona, and it’ll be open in time for MWC 2013.
I haven’t gotten to see the exhibits at the Centre, but I’m sure they’ll be a thrill for any mobile geek. Head to Catalunya station via Metro lines 1 or 3, or bus H12 direct from the Fira.
Mobile World Hub
Barcelona is transforming itself into a hotbed of mobile development. The “Mobile World Hub” is a combination of industrial incubator services, university programs and even legal frameworks designed to speed up the development of new mobile solutions.
How can you experience the Mobile World Hub? Ask any of the companies exhibiting at the Catalunya Pavilion at the show, many of which will be involved. Many new companies will be housed in 22@, Barcelona’s innovation district. Find out more about that neighborhood at www.22barcelona.com; you can visit by taking Metro Line 4 to Llacuna.
The Mobile World Hub idea has already started to pay off for consumers, with Barcelona developing an impressive, useful array of mobile apps. To find them, search for “ajuntament de Barcelona” on your smartphone platform’s app store.
Mobile World Festival
We get MWC. The Mobile World Festival is what everyone else gets. Mobile World Festival’s focus is Barcelona Mobile Summer Week, a week of entertainment events with mobile technology angles, but other Barcelona events and festivals now have mobile components, including the Sonar and Primavera Sound music festivals, Formula 1, and FC Barcelona.
Here’s an example: last year, Mobile World Capital helped add on a “Phonetastic Sitges Mobile Film Festival” to the annual Sitges film festival outside Barcelona, with awards for the best short films produced on mobile phones.
For more on the Mobile World Capital, see www.mobileworldcapital.com.
Official Side Tours
Barcelona Business Pass has organized special side tours for attendees, their families, and other groups with free time. In general, these tours require that you summon a group, mostly groups of 10 or more (although the personal shopper tour only requires three). Tours run from Saturday before the show all the way to Friday, with different events on different days, and there are both morning and evening events.
These are pretty extraordinary experiences, like balloon rides, heli-skiing, sailing, and getting to see the inner workings of FC Barcelona. Rates start at around €110 per person for things like chocolate and cava tours, and lead up to more than €1,700 per person for the heli-skiing. Check out the full list.
Right Around the Fira
Immediately around the Fira’s South Entrance, there’s an impressive collection of first-rate modern architecture.
Start your quick tour with the bright-red Hotel Porta Fira, just across the street from the South Entrance. Designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito, the Porta Fira and its accompanying office tower are supposed to echo the two Venetian towers by the entrance to the older Fira Montjuïc.
Just north of the Porta Fira, across Plaça Europa, is the new Renaissance hotel, designed by Jean Nouvel. You’ll recognize it by the palm tree-shaped windows. The whole hotel has a garden theme. There are little seating areas with indoor gardens on the 14th floor, and the ride up in a glass elevator facing the outside is fun.
Other notable buildings on the Plaça Europa include a black office building by RCR Architects that looks like a radiator and the award-winning Torre Plaça Europa apartment building, another block up Carrer Herrero at the corner of Carrer Juan de Juanes.
If You Have 1 to 2 Hours
(View Short Side Trip in L’Hospitalet in a larger map)
Even with less than two hours away from the show, it’s possible to get a glimpse of real Spanish life in the city of L’Hospitalet. A quick walk will take you to a traditional covered market, a gorgeous crumbling ruin and a 12th-century church, with a stop for pastries.
From the Plaça Europa, walk up Carrer Natzaret to Carrer Igualtat. Take a left there and walk up to Carrer Aprestadora. Ahead of you slightly to the right is Panaderia Cabré, a family-owned bakery. The pastries there are spectacular; make sure to get one.
Proceed up Carrer Pi i Margall to Carrer Santa Eulalia. There, take a left and walk two blocks to the Parroquia Santa Eulalia Provenzana (Carrer Santa Eulalia 203, L’Hospitalet 08902; +34 (93) 422-4219; parroquiasantaeulalia.org), a peculiar two-sided church.
From the front, it’s a grand 1950s building. But walk around the back to find the 12th-century Romanesque hermitage, with a Latin inscription from 1201 above the door and a beautifully dim, vaulted interior. The sanctuary is open daily, but you have to be lucky.
Double back down Carrer de Santa Eulalia, one of L’Hospitalet’s main shopping streets. At Carrer Gasometre you’ll pass Can Trinxet, a beautiful, crumbling ruin of a 1910 textile factory destined to become a cultural center.
Proceed to Carrer Pareto and take a right. In two blocks you’ll reach the 1929 covered Santa Eulalia Market (ppen Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Carrer Josep Anselm Clave 35, L’Hospitalet 08902; +34 (93) 331-4694; www.mercatdesantaeulalia.com/), a traditional market built in 1936. The market has clothing and flowers around the outside, and food vendors within, including meat, fish and fresh fruits. You can stop at Bar L’Antic, at stall #4, for coffee.
Leaving the market, continue down Carrer Pareto until it becomes Carrer Alhambra. You’ll pass a plaza with a fun local landmark, giant red metal letters reading “L’HOSPITALET.” Turn into the Alhambra Gardens park beyond Carrer Aprestadora to walk through some greenery or sit a while. At the base of the park, you’ll be back on the Gran Via.
You can take a left down the Gran Via to return to the South Entrance of the convention center, continue straight ahead across the street and down Carrer Alumini to the North Entrance, or enter the Granvia 2 shopping mall across the street.
The whole walk should take well under two hours.
If You Have 2 to 4 Hours
With two to four hours, you can take a bus into Barcelona and get a glimpse of some of the city’s attractions.
The Passeig de Gràcia
(View Passeig de Gràcia Side Trip in a larger map)
My top pick is to wander up the Passeig de Gràcia, the city’s most fabulous promenade, and get a glimpse of the Sagrada Família, the city’s signature building.
Take the H12 bus to Passeig de Gràcia and take a right. One block down at the far end of the Plaça Catalunya, you’ll find the Mobile World Centre, the global mobile industry’s showplace for technology. It’ll have some major exhibits running during the show, and it’ll be fun to see how our industry presents itself to the public.
Turn around and proceed back up the Passeig de Gràcia. You’ll pass several major Modernist buildings and a lot of great shopping. Between Carrer de Consell de Cent and Carrer Aragó is the “Block of Discord,” with signature modernist buildings by four different architects; Gaudí’s Casa Battló is a common site for MWC corporate events. At Carrer Provença you’ll see La Pedrera (open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; adult admission €16.50; www.lapedrera.com/en/home), another great Gaudí building, and one you can tour.
At Carrer Roselló, pop down into the Diagonal Metro stop and take the Metro two stops to Sagrada Família (open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; adult admission €13; www.sagradafamilia.cat) The peculiar, spectacular Sagrada Família is the single iconic image of Barcelona, a crazed modernist dream of a church that’s still under construction; it only got its roof a few years ago. Make sure to see all sides of the building, as they were designed by different sculptors in different styles.
When you’re done at Sagrada Família, take metro line 2 back to Passeig de Gràcia, where you can catch the H12 bus back to the Fira.
Montjuïc and Museums
(View Montjuic Side Trip in a larger map)
If you’re just feeling overwhelmed by a crazy week, a trip into the Montjuïc park may be what the doctor ordered. In Montjuïc, you can enjoy some top museums or just wander through the greenery.
To get to Montjuïc, take a taxi (€10) or catch the TMB 125 bus from the corner of Metallurgia and Foc, just by the North Entrance of the convention center.
Montjuïc is one of those parks where everything’s windy and it’s very, very easy to get lost, but that’s fine. If you need a goal, three great ones are the Miró Foundation Museum (open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; adult admission €10; +34 (93) 443-9470), with hundreds of paintings and sculptures by native son Joan Miró; the tram up to the 17th-century Montjuïc Castle (Carretera de Montjuïc 66, Barcelona 08038; open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; free admission; +34 (93) 256-4445), which offers you a terrific view of downtown and the sea; and MNAC (open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; adult admission €10; +34 (93) 622-0376), the city’s main art museum.
If you find your way down to MNAC then you’ve made it into the old Fira area, which means you can walk straight through the old convention center to Plaça Espanya to grab the trains back to MWC. Otherwise, bus stops around the Montjuïc area let you hop on the TMB 150 bus, which will take you to Plaça Espanya for the train.
If You Have a Half-Day Or More
With a half-day or more, it’s time to head into Barcelona and enjoy all it has to offer. Frommer’s, Fodor’s, and Lonely Planet, among others, all have full online guides to Barcelona.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Every year, I hear about somebody who lost their wallet in Barcelona. Sometimes it’s pickpockets, sometimes it’s just the discombobulation of jet lag and convention exhaustion. In any case, it’s good to take some simple precautions against theft to best enjoy your Barcelona experience. I’ve been to Barcelona eight times now, and I’ve never had a problem.
- Remove your convention badge when leaving the Fira.
- Keep your wallet in your front pocket if possible.
- Bring one credit card, a photo ID, and a photocopy of your passport ID page with you; leave the rest in your hotel room, along with your passport and some cash.
- Do not hang a bag or coat containing any valuables on a chair behind you.
- Use inside jacket pockets, if possible, for cameras and smartphones. Do not carry your camera around your neck.
- On the Metro, shift any backpacks or bags to be in front of you.
- Beware of people “distracting” you by asking for directions or squirting a substance on your clothing. Do not let them touch your person.
If you’re the victim of a crime, during the show call 900 772 013, a special security service phone number set up for show attendees. An assistance team will come to you to help you complete paperwork and offer personal help.
On other days call 902 102 112, an English-speaking police hotline open from 8 a.m. to midnight daily. There will be a police station located on the grounds of the Fira so you can report incidents.
Feeling under the weather? The nearest pharmacy with long hours is at Carretera del Prat 30, and it’s open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The Carrefour superstore in the Granvia 2 mall (open Monday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.). also has a wide range of personal health and beauty products, although it stops short of selling drugs.
There are ten 24-hour pharmacies in Barcelona, although none of them are near the convention center. Here’s a full list.
Need a doctor? The U.S. Embassy has an official list of English-speaking doctors and hospitals in Barcelona.
By Sascha Segan, PCMag