The following article was written by Ralf, Editor in Chief of AIDA User Group, who lives in Barcelona since 2008.
In general Barcelona is one of the most visited cities of the world offering a great variety of cultural, leisure and professional activities. The metropolitan area of Barcelona has 1.5 million inhabitants while in 2021 more than 15 million visitors staid an average of 3 nights in the city (source: summary of Barcelona Tourism Council in catalan).
Did you know that Barcelona Eixample is one of the most dense quarters in the world? Denser populated than New York, London, Berlin and most cities in Asia!
The best guide from tourism point of view is the Barcelona Tourism Guide.
Read further for my personal recommendations about Hotels, Restaurants and Bars.
At the end of this post, you can learn about the Barcelona High Performance Cluster “Mare Nostrum” powered by IBM Power9 and Nvidia machines.
A few words as Introduction to your stay in Barcelona
If a hotel in Barcelona has a 5 star ranking, it probably would only have 4 stars in other countries. So, do not expect too much.
Have in mind that people working in the hotel and service sector usually have a fixed salary of around €1.000,-/month and usually do not receive tips. Therefore the motivation to excel in the service provided is probably below from what we see in other countries like Mexico or the United States. Just have in mind, that people in Spain even have a name for the workers earning around one thousand Euros: Los mileuristas, like Twixters in the US.
Before going into details about Hotels, Barcelona is a relatively small city providing above average public transport and private taxi drivers.
Separate lanes for public and private transport prevent you from being stuck in the normally very heavy traffic in the City center.
The underground metro will not let you wait more than 2 minutes for the next train to arrive. The public transport is a cheap and safe (do not confuse with “secure”) way to travel around Barcelona.
This being said, you could probably book any hotel anywhere in the city and easily arrive at the Convention Center at the “Port Forum” in less than 30 minutes.
Here is a list of curated hotels for your stay
- Best Front Maritim hotel has four stars, offering decent service, clean rooms, some with sea view in only 11 minutes walking distance to the convention center.
- Vincci Bit – hotel also has four stars, it’s newer than the before mentioned, but a little bit further away (900m, 13 minutes walking distance)
- Casa Fuster is one of the most emblematic hotels in Barcelona and Ralf’s personal recommendation if you prefer luxury combined with cultural heritage. The hotel is located next to Gracia, the bohemian part of the city, that is not overcrowded by tourism, offering countless bars and restaurants to explore. It’s 35 minutes using the Barcelona metro to the CCIB.
Let us know your preferred hotel in the comments below and I would be happy to add them to the list.
And special tip: Do book your hotel with breakfast, if you prefer the American Buffet style. But, you can always walk into the typical Spanish bars all over the place, offering extraordinary good coffee, the “Cortado”, together with a “Bocadillo” (spanish word for french baguette with something inside like Iberian ham or cheese). Combine it with a fresh orange juice and you are ready to go for less then 10,- €.
Recommended Restaurants and Bars
The following tips are very personal recommendations from Ralf, which you will not find in any traveler guide.
Starting: Where to eat?
Visiting the city center and looking for homemade food comprising the Catalan cuisine at a normal price level, then you want to visit “El Nou Celler“. It is located right on one of the axis dividing the very city center “El Gotico”, the street called “Calle Princesa”.
Here, you will find the owner cooking real homemade Mediterranean-style food.
Being in the city center you might want to walk over to the famous market “La Boqueria“. In the back part there are a variety of Bars offering local food in a market type atmosphere. Locals also eat there. You will also find freshly made fruit juices to provide the little portion of energy for your visit.
Looking for awesome fresh seafood? “La Paradeta” and “El Puertecillo” makes you choose right from the fresh offering, your choice is then prepared, while you sit down and wait for the cook to call your number. The atmosphere is again market like, often a little loud – but will definitely provide you with real and fresh food.
Where to have a good cocktail?
Bluesman Cocktail Bar is the most hidden gem in the basement of The Palace Hotel, offering world class cocktails by renown mixers together with Live music and extraordinary service. An absolute must-go.
In the city center, the old part of town, visit “Dr. Stravinsky” for a good cocktail. Dr. Stravinsky has been on the list of the worlds Top Bars for various years. In a dark ambience with strange decoration it offers the most exotic drinks for serious money. See: Dr. Stravinsky homepage.
Tapas and more
Ralf discovered “La Alcoba Azul” back in 2008, when living around the corner near the Barcelona Cathedral. It’s a tapas bar with only 8 tables, super cozy, super small. The kitchen has a limited offering due to being only 3 square meters of size. The food is of high quality. If you do not find a seat in “La Alcoba Azul“, the tapas bar next door “Brugarol” is also very good. And afterwards, you might want to have a coffee around the corner in a bar where the owner sits in the middle of the room watching television as if it was his home.
The restaurants on the list of “Barcelona-Tourism Guide” is not bad – of course more touristic but for sure offering more space for higher number of visitors.
Let us know in the comments for anything you personally recommend. Happy to add it to the list.
⚠️ A small warning for your personal belongings
Like in any other big city with high number of visitors, the economic and cultural offerings of Barcelona attract not only business and private visitors but also pickpockets. Barcelona is well known for being the home of very professional thieves.
Leave your original travel documents, passport, and money in the hotel safe. Walk around with a paper copy of your ID card.
Only carry essential items, and it’s better to use hidden pockets to store your credit cards and cash.
Ralf himself, as well as any family member, also relatives and friends – all have been pick-pocked.
Please take care and stay vigilant.
And, I probably should mention: DO NOT WALK AROUND THE CITY ALONE, AT NIGHT, AND AFTER HAVING SOME DRINKS!! This is a very dangerous invitation.
Remember to always and at all times take extra care for your personal belongings when walking on public streets.
Extra food for nerds and nerdettes
Barcelona’s Super Computing Center is located inside a church. Yes, you are reading right. It is called “Mare Nostrum”.
Of course, you should not leave Barcelona without having seen “Mare Nostrum”. It is located in the area of the University of Barcelona, one of Europe’s top ranked place to study.
AIDA User Group member, Ulises Moya, has conducted some of his studies on Artificial Intelligence here, a 13.7 Petaflops HPC powered by a couple of IBM Power9 and Nvidia machines.
The Barcelona Supercomputing Center can be visited from Monday to Friday, 83:0 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. – see BSC webiste for booking.
Background information: read on Wikipedia about “MareNostrum“
Exposition about AI
The Center of Contemporary Culture Barcelona (CCCB) has prepared an exposition about AI in the very same Barcelona Supercomputing Center – it is open from 18th of October 2023 until March 17th, 2024.
The location is again close to “Mare Nostrum” – see on GoogleMaps.
Last but not least
Have a safe, beautiful and nerdy stay in Barcelona, home of IBM TechXchange 2024.
May the data and intelligence be with you.