Barcelona is an extremely popular destination for all manner of events and incentives; full of culture, food and beautiful architecture. But Madrid has its own offerings, with bags of character and event potential that may be little known to the public. That’s why Team Venues were so excited to be hosted by Hilton in both locations in a 3-day whirl wind tour, to really explore what offerings each has for events. Here’s what they got up to as told by Venues Sourcing Specialist, Ian Brown…
Arriving late night into the capital, we headed straight to the Hilton Madrid Airport Hotel where we kicked off the Educational Trip with a fascinating introduction to the tradition of tapas at the Ferrum Bar. The head chef joined us for dinner and explained the history of the dishes and the provenance of the ingredients. This was followed by Cocktails at Florida Park – giving us a taste of the awesome menu on offer within the hotel walls.
The next day began with a breakfast served at another of the hotel’s restaurants, Reserve Grill, before commencing on a show around of the impressive hotel.
The Hilton Madrid Airport has 284 guestrooms and suites split architecturally into two towers, giving you the opportunity to book out an entire tower block exclusively for guests – a fantastic bonus. The venue is full of further interesting architectural traits; for example the ballroom features design retractable screens in the ceiling, offering natural daylight and in the corners of each floor there are water features, which reflect light throughout the day. This hotel could fit to a number of event briefs especially with the convenient location of being right in between Madrid Airport and the city centre.
The journey to the heart of the capital is only around 15 minutes transfer – something we took advantage of, as on the second day we took to the city for a walking tour. Hosted by Sean our fabulous Irish guide, we were given some fantastic tips for making the most of Madrid, showing us round El Retiro Park, the Royal Palace, and all of the best spots for outdoor wine and dining; which was fantastic in helping us get a feel for the culture and vibe of city.
We also got to sample some of the local cuisine during lunch, when we ate at the fantastic Arzábal Restaurant. Dynamic in its offering the restaurant feels like a secret garden and provides traditional dishes with a contemporary edge, using the best, fresh and local ingredients – but what stole our hearts was the Torrijas… a traditional milk soaked bread delicacy that you can definitely fit in even if you are “stuffed”!
Arriving late into Barcelona, the Hilton Diagonal Mar Hotel was an unexpected piece of tranquillity amongst a bustling city centre. After a busy day in Madrid and the journey to Barca, the venue hosted the perfect, relaxed evening at the onsite Purobeach Barcelona. The food was incredible with Salt Baked Sea Bass, Octopus Skewers and BBQ’d steak followed by a private masterclass from the resident mixologist who took us through the hotels newly launched Cocktail Menu exclusive to Purobeach Barcelona. Each recipe relefcts a different area or district of the city. This was definitely a highlight and the perfect welcome – Catalonian style.
A fantastic sky-high breakfast in a corner suite at the Hilton the next morning, with incredible views across the city, prepared us for a busy day in the city, after a show around of the hotel.
Following a recent and extensive renovation project, the Hilton Diagonal Mar now offers 433 rooms and suites, as well as a roof top bar, restaurant, gym, bar and lounge. A fantastic and unusual outdoor event space only added to the hotels charm, as do the smaller conference rooms which are enhanced with brand-new event technology to support the investment to create innovative spaces for meeting. On the flipside, the Ballroom offers the perfect environment for large scale conferences and can be split into several individual spaces.
A surprise planned by Hilton, we were then taken on an eBike trip up Mountjuic; a prominent hill overlooking the Barcelona harbour. The tour also revealed some real hidden gems, such as colonial Spanish ruins and the gothic district which were things we didn’t know about or expect from Barcelona.
To refuel – we were treated to lunch at El Nacional – a “must do” if ever in Barcelona. The former market is made up of several bars, coffee bars and seating areas with different food vendors, delivering different tapas dishes. Essentially you have to shout for your dinner – or go hungry. A great experience and opportunities to host groups here too.
We found Madrid to be a hub of political, financial and commercial activity like other capital cities. With traditional Spanish architecture combined with cosmopolitan districts; the city offers a taste of both old and new town Spain. Which asks the question, why does Barcelona have over 10 million more visitors annually than Madrid?
The fact is, the two cities were completely different but both amazing and unique in their own right. If we were comparing to somewhere perhaps closer to home; I’d say that it’s similar to London and Manchester – both fantastic destinations, but with obvious differences. Madrid has a focus on finance, business and politics which alters the tone of the city, whereas Barcelona; the atmosphere is more relaxed than its capital counterpart and, I felt, there’s a soul to the place.
From this I would say that I can see Madrid being more fitted to a corporate meeting style of event, whereas I’d place a conference in Barcelona because of the feeling and energy of the city – and this is in no way detrimental to either location. I’d take an event to both any day and each captured a part of Spanish culture that any delegate would be lucky to see.
A huge thank you to Hilton for hosting Team Venues on our Spanish getaway, you went the extra mile to indulge us in both locations and have really opened our eyes to the event potential in each city.