On October 31st, we celebrate UN World Cities Day and it has got us thinking about Spain’s wonderfully diverse cities, now home to some 80% of the population. Our Factor3 On Wheels grand tour of Spain will be taking us to many of these locations as we talk to industry experts about the future of events in Spain. So, please keep your eyes peeled if you want to visit these amazing cities and meet our partners with us.
M A D R I D
We start with our capital, Madrid; our most populous city, a grand city indeed with over 3 million inhabitants. Proclaimed capital city in 1561 because of it’s location right in the centre of the country, Madrid is the third biggest city in the European Union.
The capital’s charming old town, Madrid de Los Austrias dates from the early 16th century and is home to what is allegedly the oldest restaurant in the world, El Sobrino de Botin, dating from 1725 and whose fire oven has been burning since the first day. Madrid’s world-famous Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza form the Golden Triangle of art housing works by legends such as Goya, Velázquez, Picasso and Dalí. The Royal Palace is Europe’s largest and although it is the official residency of the Spanish Royal Family it is only used for state ceremonies and can also be visited.
Madrid’s residents, los madrileños, are often called ‘gatos’ or cats. Many attribute this due to everyone sleeping late but historically the nickname refers to an ancient Spanish soldier who climbed the outer walls with the agility of a cat. However, we think it might have something to with the locals staying up so late!
B A R C E L O N A
Next up is Barcelona with just over one and a half million inhabitants. According to legend, when the demigod Hercules visited where Barcelona sits today, the place was so welcoming that he decided to found a city here with the help of Hermes, the god of commerce. More solid evidence suggests a Roman colony was present in the area from 218 BC.
The city’s old town features the well-known Gothic quarter, a labyrinth of charming streets and squares and of course the first of the city’s two cathedrals, completed in 1448, after 150 years of construction. As everyone knows, our other cathedral, Gaudi’s world-famous Sagrada Familia, is still unfinished. The completion date is set for 2026; one hundred years after the architect’s untimely death, after being hit by a tram. It is perhaps Gaudi and his contemporaries who are most remembered for giving our city its unique character. Their art nouveau creations from the early 20th century, including Casa Batlló and La Pedrera, are dotted around Barcelona’s Eixample district, an extension to the old town when the city got too big for its boots.
Barcelona is also known as a vibrant beach city. Ironically, our beaches only date from 1992, the year of the Olympic Games when the city, which until then had turned its back to the sea, started to embrace the Mediterranean, creating beaches that did not exist before!
Here, we are also known for our great food, from the small tascas and tabernas to the 20 Michelin-starred restaurants for the most sophisticated palates. Anyone who wants to dance of their dinner can go to one of the many cool nightclubs in the city.
V A L E N C I A
Our third city is Valencia, home of the paella. It is a Roman City but with ultra-contemporary style. In just a short walk visitors can enjoy ancient remains, the charming old town, home to the Gothic cathedral and allegedly the Holy Grail, and the futuristic works of Valencia’s most famous architect, Santiago Calatrava. His City of Arts and Sciences is an intergalatic architectural complex like nothing you’ve seen. The site is located in the bed of the River Turia, which was redirected in 1957 after bursting its banks. The area has now been converted into a spectacular park, one of the largest in Europe, and an oasis for dog walkers and joggers!
The city’s most well-known beach is a 2-kilometer stretch called La Malvarrosa. Given Valencia’s fantastic climate, it is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike.
Just outside Valencia, some 30-minutes drive, is the beautiful rice-growing area of the Albufera. It is well worth a visit and possibly the best place to tuck into a tasty paella.
Oh, and Valencians just love to party. The annual Fallas every March is an incredible 5-day spectacle, when huge artistic constructions are exhibited around the city, competing for the grand prize, before being burned to the ground on the final night. Las Fallas is an unmissable festival of art, music and fire.