If you’re headed to Microsoft Convergence this November, you have more to look forward to than just hearing from industry leaders who are driving change.

While gaining those great insights into business applications, you’ll also have the chance to explore one of Europe’s most famous cities.

While the weather in Barcelona over November and December isn’t the typical beach climate that attracts thousands of visitors each summer, it provides the perfect temperature to explore incredible architecture and stunning cityscapes illuminated by the glitter of festive Christmas lights.

While you’ll no doubt be spending a lot of time at the different sessions, if you do get out and about, you may be wondering where to start. To help, we’ve compiled a handy guide with top attractions and fun facts about this charming Mediterranean city. Enjoy!

Fun facts

  • Barcelona’s beaches are artificial. The now stunning sand-filled stretches were once all populated by local industries and buildings swept away in 1992 when the tourist-friendly beaches were created for the Olympic Games.
  • Barcelona has 12 abandoned metro stations, and rumor is they’re all haunted. A special scary metro tour started in 2001 that went through the Lau Pau and Sagrada Familia line in search of ghosts.
  • La Rambla, the most popular avenue in Barcelona, is actually five separately-named streets; Canaletes, Estudis, Sant Josep (also named Flowers Rambla), Caputxins and Santa Mònica.
  • Barcelona is not a flamenco-loving city. While Spain is well-known for its flamenco dancing, it’s not all that practiced in Barcelona or Cataluña. Catalans prefer the more contemporary rock-n-roll scene.
  • Barcelona was the first and only city to receive a Royal Gold Medal for architecture, which was awarded in 1999 by the Royal Institute of British Architects on behalf of the monarchy.

Top five attractions

Basilica of the Sagrada Familia

The most popular attraction in Barcelona, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia welcomes nearly 2.8 million visitors each year. The stunning building was designed by Antoni Gaudi and while construction began in 1882, its still continues to this day. Predicted to be completed within the next 30 years, visitors are often left in owe of the vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows and general grandeur of the building, both inside out. A must for any visitor to Barcelona; it’s like nothing else.

Camp Nou

One for the sports fans amongst you. Camp Nou, Europe’s largest sporting arena, is home to formidable football champions F.C. Barcelona, and can be experienced in all its glory during a tour of the grounds. If you really want to learn all the club’s secrets, including a rich history linked very closely to the politics and people of Barcelona, you can get an audio tour for just €5.

Museu Picasso

Housed in five adjoining medieval stone mansions, the Museu Picasso’s pretty courtyards are just as charming as the collection inside. The artwork on show includes more than 3500 pieces from Picasso’s earliest years, which is apt considering he spent his formative creative years in Barcelona. If you’re an art lover or simply enjoy the history of the art world’s most prominent influencers, this is definitely one for you.

Casa Batlló

Another stunningly-original Gaudi entry, but one we couldn’t leave off. Designed for a wealthy aristocrat, Casa Batlló was built between 1904 and 1906 and takes residence in the heart of Barcelona. Boasting a facade that is original, fantastical and full of imagination, and a rooftop designed to look like an animals’ back, the building is a masterpiece of shape, color and light.

La Fira de Santa Llúcia

Barcelona’s old city is a wonderful place to be as we edge closer to the festive season, so if you find the time, you really should pay a visit to the oldest, biggest and most traditional Christmas market Fira de Santa Llúcia. Occupying the Avenida de la Catedra in the Gothic quarter, the market has over 300 stalls — offering the perfect place to pick up a unique gift for someone back home.

Useful local knowledge

  • While the Spanish can seem abrupt, using ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ minimally, it is simply because they don’t want to seem insincere. The locals place more emphasis on tone and delivery, rather than how often it is said.
  • Tipping is rather relaxed, and simply rounding up to the nearest euro in a bar, café or taxi is common practice.
  • The worst drivers in the world are considered to be in Barcelona. So, take care if you’re on the roads or walking near busy traffic.
  • The city has two languages, not just one. While Spanish is spoken widely, there is a strong tie to Catalonian culture, and therefore many residents to speak Catalan.
  • Walk down the Portal de l’Àngel and you’ll be among the other 3500 strollers who pass down the street every hour. It’s well known for being the busiest street in Spain.

Are you going to Convergence 2015 EMEA? We’d love to hear what you have planned for your trip.