19 Jul 2022

4 ways to enjoy Barcelona during #EAIE2022

4 ways to enjoy Barcelona 2022


The 2022 EAIE Conference and Exhibition is bringing the international higher education community together in one of the most vibrant and colourful corners of Europe. As usual, the conference programme is packed with more than enough to keep you busy, but all work and no play makes for missed opportunities in Barcelona. Be sure to feast your eyes on the awe-inspiring architecture, sample the local cuisine, stroll through urban green spaces and venture into the Catalonian countryside while attending this year’s conference.

Barcelona is a city whose name conjures up images of bright colours and bold architecture, Mediterranean cuisine and sandy beaches, modern cityscapes backdropped by formidable natural landscapes. The overlapping layers of culture – Spanish, Catalan, Mediterranean, European, cosmopolitan – make it the perfect setting for Europe’s biggest annual gathering of international education professionals, as we emerge from the dreary days of the pandemic and refine our vision for the full-colour future ahead.

As always, the EAIE Conference programme is more than enough to keep you stimulated and inspired: with more than 200 activities including sessions, workshops, Campus Experiences and networking events, it will be all too easy to never venture beyond the Fira Barcelona conference centre and the confines of your hotel room. That’s one reason we’re happy to have partnered with International Experience Canada to provide free public transit cards to all conference attendees and encourage you to get out and explore all the city has to offer – all with a minimal carbon footprint.

While it's impossible to condense this global city into a single week’s worth of sightseeing and activities, busy conference-goers can get a feel for the city by touring its magnificent architecture, tasting its exquisite cuisine, strolling through green spaces within the city, and visiting the majestic natural landscapes that envelop it.

Marvel at modernist architecture

Perhaps the first thing most people think of when visiting Barcelona is breath-taking modernist architecture, and rightly so. The home of Antoni Gaudi is like one big open-air museum for the architecture connoisseur, and indeed you could spend days just touring the city’s impressive modernist architecture. The best example of this is Parc Güell, a green corridor in the north of the city featuring many of Gaudi’s works sprinkled among gardens and woodlands.

The Barri Gòtic or Gothic Quarter is the natural starting point for architectural sightseeing, a centrally-located neighbourhood that lends itself to aimless strolls through winding streets and city squares. Just north of the historic centre lies the Sagrada Familia. This Gaudi-designed basilica is 140 years in the making, and despite its unfinished state (currently projected to be completed in 2026) it is one of the most famous emblems of Barcelona.

Closer to the conference venue at Fira Barcelona Gran Via is Montjüic, a hill rising close to the beach where you can use your free public transit pass to take the Montjuïc Funicular Railway for a panoramic view of the city below. The musical light and water shows of the nearby Font Màgica are also well worth a visit, and an easy stroll from hotels located near the conference venue.

Indulge in Catalan cuisine

Spanish cuisine will set your mouth watering with paella, seafood and endless tapas, and Barcelona is no exception. However, Catalonia has its own regional cuisine, and there’s nowhere better to indulge yourself in it than the region’s capital.

Start any meal with a traditional pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomato), and top it with some Iberic ham or butifarra sausage for a more filling snack. Veggie-lovers can also rest assured that their tastes will be catered to in Catalonia. From escalivada (blackened eggplant, red peppers and onions), to espinacs amb panses i pinyons (spinach with raisins and pine nuts), to the uniquely Catalan calçots (a unique kind of green onion local to the region) in Romanesco sauce, it’s easy to keep your taste buds satisfied and your belly full without consuming meat in Barcelona. For the pescatarian visitor, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a friendlier city than Barcelona, with choices like esqueixada (a salad featuring salted cod) or the saffron-seasoned fish stew suquet de peix. For dessert, treat yourself to a crema catalana, the egg-thickened Catalonian cousin of crème brûlée.

More traditional restaurants will offer a set menu del día (menu of the day), usually a small appetiser and a few different options for a main course. If you’re looking for something affordable and down-to-earth and want to spare yourself the stress of choosing between limitless delicious options, this is the way to go. Just looking for a light snack? Many bars will treat you to free tapas with a drink, so just sit down for a cold glass of sangria and let the bartender serve you up something delicious.

Unwind in the urban outdoors

Few urban spaces in the world are as harmoniously interwoven with the natural landscapes that surround them as Barcelona. Famously one of the best beach towns in the world, the beaches of Barcelona are among the city’s highlights. The 2022 EAIE Conference will also feature a ‘netwalking’ activity in which volunteers will spend an afternoon beautifying a beach and helping keep our host city clean. Even if you didn’t manage to sign up before it filled up, you can still reach most of Barcelona’s marvellous beaches easily by metro.

Look away from the coast and you’ll see the hills that cradle the city, many of which are accessible via the metro lines which are freely accessible with your Barcelona public transit card. The previously-mentioned Montjuïc is the largest park in the city in addition to being a seaside hill with stunning views, and further inland, Tibidabo offers some of the best panoramic views of the city below.

When it comes to parks, Montjuïc is just the beginning: with 60 municipal parks, a walk in the trees is never far away in Barcelona. Parc de la Ciutadella features a small lake and houses the Palace of the Parliament of Catalonia and the Barcelona Zoo, as well as several museums. For more greenery, visit the garden maze of Labyrinth Park or the compact but tree-filled Turó Park.

Explore the Catalonian countryside

Arriving early for the conference, or staying longer after it’s over? From mountain hikes, to nature preserves, to quiet beach towns, you can find a seemingly endless variety of natural landscapes within a two-hour radius of Barcelona, most of which is easily reachable via the excellent public transit network. What’s more, short- and medium-distance trains run by Spanish national train operator Renfe will be free to use until the end of this year.

A number of regional train lines – particularly the S1, S2, S5 and S6 – make for easy travel north out of the city and into the mountains, where hiking trails and panoramic views await. Montserrat is the most famous of these, but also consider a visit to Montseny, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve just 40km outside the city and reachable by a combination of bus and train.

Additionally, despite the undeniable excellence of Barcelona’s beaches, you can find quieter alternatives with a more authentic feel outside the city. Sitges and Tarragona are popular destinations to the south, and small towns of the Costa Brava – like Sant Feliu de Guíxols or Palamós – offer peace and quiet that contrast the urban bustle of Barcelona’s shores.

Finally, for the adventurous, the Pyrenees mountains lie a mere 150km north of Barcelona, even further removed from the tourist hotspots of Catalonia and full of mountain peaks, lakes, natural parks and more.

This year’s conference programme is more than enough to keep you busy, but all work and no play makes for missed opportunities in Barcelona

After two years apart, the 2022 EAIE Conference and Exhibition will mark the long-awaited reunion of the international higher education community, and Barcelona couldn’t be a better host. Be sure to get the most out of our host city this year by appreciating its architectural wonders, delicious dishes, relaxing outdoor spaces and enchanting countryside at #EAIE2022!

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