Tech City Spotlight: Barcelona
5 years ago there was basically no startup ecosystem in Spain. It was one of the European countries that suffered most from the financial crisis of 2007, but since then the Spanish startup and tech scenes have turned it around, and are more ambitious than ever. Many of these Spanish entrepreneurs created startups out of necessity and were forced to become independent, creative and innovative very quickly. Today the situation couldn’t be more different though. In particular Barcelona’s entrepreneurs have succeeded in establishing their city as a startup hub with more than 200 active digital startups in thriving areas including mobile, ecommerce, gaming and fintech.
2015 was a record year for investment in Spanish startups, exceeding $0.5 billion for the first time ever, and the number and quality of Spanish startups is increasing year on year. The growing support system of accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces and increasing investment opportunities have meant Barcelona has beaten Madrid as the biggest startup ecosystem and the startups here receive much more attention from investors. Typeform, Edreams and UppTalk are just a few of the successful startups to come out the city so far.
Startups certainly aren’t the only thing to get excited about though. Spain is also home to global leaders in several sectors including banking, telecommunication, fashion and tourism. HP, Skyscanner and King for example have all set up offices in Barcelona.
With 20% of the population made up of foreigners Barcelona is a truly international city that draws in global talent. There is a great culture of respecting a healthy work-life balance. Only 6% of employees work more than 50 hours a week on average and Spaniards devote the most amount of time pursuing leisure and personal care than any other country in the world. Perhaps down to the fact that there are 286 days of sunshine every year.
It’s also worth noting that the cost of living in Barcelona is significantly cheaper than most other European cities. In fact as one man discovered, it is actually cheaper to live in Barcelona and commute by plane to London for work…
Where to live:
Although sometimes described as touristy, the Gothic Quarter (the center of the old town) has by far the most spectacular buildings with many restaurants and bars tucked away in winding side streets. The area is mainly pedestrianised and is an ideal location for getting to the beach. Slightly further from the beach but still very central is Eixample, a bohemian and free spirited neighbourhood with beautiful streets and restaurants. This is also the gay district so expect to find gay bars and clubs here too. In Raval you’ll get more for your money – a cool hipster area with plenty of edgy bars and cafes. Sant Antoni is the most cosmopolitan area. It’s a bit further from the centre but it has many sophisticated wine bars and restaurants.
Where to eat:
In Barcelona there’s a restaurant to suit every occasion – from budget to Michelin, tapas to mexican. To try authentic tapas and avoid tourists visits Lateral, Bormuth or Mirilla, all delicious and reasonably priced. Sensi Bistro offers beautiful international tapas served by equally beautiful waiters. La Malandrina is the one for those on a budget – it does decent steaks for €8 with bottles of wine starting at just €6.50. Cheese lovers should not miss Cheese Art – everything is cheese and live music every night. For group dinners try Never More where a quirky room with a bathtub in the middle can be hired for private dining. €25 per person for 4 courses plus wine and the chef cooks in front of the group. Elsa y Fred is a slightly more pricey French restaurant, but the prices are 100% worth it for the good food. Barcelona is also huge on brunch! At Timeline you can make the most of the all you can eat buffet as well as 2 tapas, pancakes and unlimited mimosas for €18! Fun vibes inside and card games make it the perfect place to spend a morning.
Where to drink:
La Champaneria is a must see. Cava is made in house and it’s €1.05 per glass (Rose is the best) and it is always packed with locals. In Summer Museu d’Història de Catalunya’s rooftop is the perfect spot to lounge with a drink and enjoy views over the port. For cocktails go to Boca Chica – more expensive but very cool interiors (make sure to check out the bathrooms). El Soplo is a cute wine bar where they serve free tapas with every wine, so well worth the slightly higher prices. Carlos y Matilda is a relaxed hangout where you’ll get chatting to the owners and glasses of wine are only €3.50.
Where to party:
The techno scene is big in barcelona. The best day party during Summer is Brunch Electronik which takes place in Poble Espanyol in a big outdoor square every fortnight. La Terrazza is another outdoor venue up Montjuic and is also only open over the Summer months. It’s the best place to head after Poble Espanyol. Macarena is for those in the know – tiny club with charm and good music. Apolo and INPUT High Fidelity Dance Club always have good lineups and are a standard destination at the weekends.
What to do:
Barcelona is one of the few cosmopolitan cities set right by the beach, so an obvious thing to do is take advantage of that or go rollerblading/cycling/picnicking on the beach front. Stop at Xup Xup or Sal Cafe for some good paella on the beach. Wander up to the bunkers to watch the sunset over the city with some beers and hang out with young locals. Montserrat is a mountain an hour outside of the city where you can get a cable car up to the top for the most amazing view. Barcelona markets make a great day out. Palo Alto in Poble Nou is all outdoors and you can always find some great clothes alongside food stalls and good music and Lost&Found is a vintage market that pops up all over the city – sometimes on the beach – with some real bargains.