Doing business in Barcelona: the healthy way

If you’re heading to Barcelona on business, then you’re in luck when it comes to making it a healthy business trip.  Barcelona has plenty to offer in the way of facilities, transport and accommodation which support a healthier lifestyle.  Kathy Lewis, Registered Nutritionist and Travel Wellbeing Specialist, recently paid Barcelona a visit to try out various approaches on how to make it a healthier business trip.

Beach front iStock_000076271337_SmallHealthy ways to get around Barcelona

Walking –  Although it might appear the city is spread out, it actually isn’t very big to get around. Over the years it has been redeveloped into a grid-like format, making it easy to walk around.   What’s more, the city isn’t very far from the beach, and you can walk to Colom at the end of the Ramblas in about 15 minutes.

Biking –  If you travel frequently to Barcelona on business, you might like to take advantage of the very popular biking scheme ‘El BicingThe Barcelona City Council launched their bicycle borrowing scheme in 2007 and now has over 120,000 subscribers, mainly permanent residents.  The scheme is intended as a public transport service for short journeys around Barcelona.  There are over 400 biking stations with 6,000 bikes available to ‘borrow’.   Borrowing is based on an annual subscription (currently 47.15 Euros) for unlimited biking trips of 30 minutes each free.  You pay extra if you go over 30 minutes on a journey.  For more information on the borrow yellow bike scheme, click here 

If you don’t have a residential address to enable you to become a El Bicing subscriber, then there are other places you can hire bikes including: Barcelona Folding Bikes, Ajo Bikes (budget bike shop in El Raval) and Barcelona Biking.

Metro System (Subway or Underground) – It’s very easy to get around Barcelona by Metro.  I found it was quick, convenient, very clean and air conditioned.  Trains arrived frequently about every 3 to 4 minutes and stations are located quite close together.  I travelled in winter and found it was surprisingly warm on the trains and in the train stations.  Comparatively during the summer, with large air-conditioning units, it is reportedly cooler down under the streets than above.   Food wise, there is usually a small café or shop which sells baguettes, coffee and bottles of water.

Healthy Ways to relax in Barcelona

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain.

Take a stroll – There are plenty of places to take a stroll in Barcelona.  If you like culture, then the Parc Guell (in Northern Gracia neighbourhood) offers Guadi architecture and an excellent view of the city.  If your business is in the financial district, then there are plenty of park areas to stroll through (e.g. Jardin de Piscinis I Esports, Parc de Monterois or Jardin de la Vil-la-Amelia).  Alternatively, make your way to the marina and beach front where there is 4.5 km of sandy shoreline and is extremely popular for strolling along the large, well-maintained promenade.

Rent an apartment –  Most people visiting Barcelona think of hotels, yet there are plenty of apartments close to the beach front available for short and mid-term stays.  Apartments are an ideal alternative to hotels if you feel a need to exert greater control over your relaxation, food and exercise.  Supermarkets and small shops are plentiful and offer lots of fresh products, including seafood, milk, cheese, lean meats and vegetables.  Also, there is an abundance of exercise and leisure opportunities (see below)

Do as the Barcelonians do   There is the old cliché “when in Rome you do as the Romans do”.  The same could apply to being in Barcelona.  You’ll probably find many shops and retail businesses shut mid-day, they open up again later in the afternoon or early evening.  While this may make it difficult to schedule business meetings, unless you find a good place to meet for lunch, then it could make the afternoon a natural gap when you can collect your thoughts and relax before the next meeting.

Healthy Eating in Barcelona

When in Barcelona you can’t help noticing the range of fresh food to enjoy.  Seafood is plentiful, lean meats, rice, beans, olives, milk, cheese, bread, fruit and vegetables appear in various outlets.  Even some of the streets are lined with orange trees!  Choosing to eat healthily in Barcelona is an easy option if you know where to find the best deals.

lobsters, shrimps and prawns for sale at La Boqueria market in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain


There are a number of large markets in the City which sell a range of fresh produce in Barcelona.  One of the most popular is Mercat de Sant Josep/La Boqueria, situated on La Rambla.  The food sold here ranges from ready-made nibbles and fruit salad to fresh out the sea or garden including live crabs, lobsters to a range of vegetables and fruits.  Being in the centre of the tourist area, Mercat de Sant Josep is not necessarily the cheapest.

Other food markets include Sant Antoni Market, which is full of locals frequenting the eateries, and Fira Artesana, which is mainly local produce from the Catalan region, but only opens on the first Friday and Saturday of each month.

Cafes – breakfast

A typical breakfast in Barcelona can comprise simply of a milky coffee or orange juice and a pastry en route to work.  You can substitute the croissant for a breakfast baguette very easily.  But generally, you will find fried eggs, sausages, and hash browns a difficult breakfast to track down.  If you’re a late breakfast person, then brunch is a good option with more variety to choose from.

Restaurants – lunch and dinner

Various Spanish Menus. List of tapas in a bar in Barcelona - Spain

I found many of the restaurants served a variety of foods, including some very healthy tapas.  If you avoid the deep fried items, and the menu’s specially designed for tourists which generally comprise pizza, meat or fish and chips, you can eat very healthily.  Spanish omelettes, marinated artichokes, fresh asparagus, grilled vegetables with balsamic vinegar, grilled skewers of chicken, grilled baby octopus or squid, fresh seafood, grilled fish, paella, lentil soup, barbecued lamb, bean based stews, fish and potato stew, and even chocolate grapes, sautéed banana with ice-cream or roasted pears are all good options for a healthier diet and are usually on offer when choosing from a restaurant menu.

City stores – for those with self-catering facilities

From small corner stores to larger supermarket- type stores, there always is a variety of food to choose from. Most corner shops will sell the basics such as bread, cereals, milk, cheese, olives and ham as well as fresh tomatoes, avocados, onions, oranges and various other fruits.  Larger stores are scattered closely together with only a few minutes walking distance between.  These sell a larger range of fruit and vegetables, lean meats, fresh fish and seafood, along with other staple foods.  There appeared to be an abundance of fresh food in comparison to convenience foods.

Exercise in Barcelona

Outdoor – If running or outdoor exercise/sports are your preferences, then there is plenty on offer near the beach front.  With 4.5 km of shoreline, running is very popular, as well as biking, swimming, skateboarding, volleyball, table tennis, to name a few free activities. You will also find set fitness areas along the promenade where you can work out.

Barcelona, Spain - September 5, 2015: Barceloneta is one of the most popular city beaches of Barcelona. Many tourists come here to sunbathe, swim and play sports.

Alternatively, community orientated organisations such as FitNet BCN  which offer a wide range of outdoor small group-based activities such as running, yoga, walking, pilates, and strength training guided by highly skill professional trainers.  So if you haven’t found a jogging partner, then FitNet BCN could be a good starting point to keeping fit when away on business.

Fitness Camps

There are plenty of fitness instructors and companies offering a fitness boot camp at reasonable prices.  UK based charities are also now offering trips out to Barcelona.  Tessa Sanderson Foundation offers a women’s Wellness Escape Weekend to Barcelona to coincide with International Women’s Day, with any surplus going to support young UK athletes.   So if you’re doing business there already, you could enjoy the fun and contribute to supporting up and coming Olympic athletes at the same time.

Fitness Centres

There are a number of popular and well-known fitness centres in Barcelona.  Club Natacio Barcelona is reportedly one of the more popular private sports and swimming clubs, located near Sant Sebastia on the beach.  David Lloyd Club Turo, is a prestigious tennis club and sports club in Barcelona brought by David Lloyd Leisure in 2003.  If you prefer alternative ways to keep fit, then you might like to try Fess LaSalle which has a climbing wall, with 500 holds, as well as a pool and fitness rooms.

Hotel Gyms

It isn’t difficult to find a hotel which offers a gym and/or a swimming pool on the roof!  Five-star hotels often have state of the art facilities, with personalised training programs overseen by professional coaches, as well as activities such as pilates and yoga classes.  Hotels, such as the Ritz, will also offer additional services such as specialised physical preparation for tennis, golf, marathons, windsurfing and surfacing.  Whereas lower budget hotels, such as Andante Hotel in the heart of Barcelona, may also offer a rooftop swimming pool with sunny deck and also a fitness centre.  Most booking guides will allow you to search via gym or pool.

©  2016  Extravitality




Kathy Lewis, R.Nutr, BCApSc, MSc, MBA,
Author: Kathy Lewis, R.Nutr, BCApSc, MSc, MBA,
Kathy Lewis, Consultancy Director, enjoys a multidisciplinary career based on a portfolio of achievement.  Kathy is a Management Consultant for Executive Travel Wellbeing and Stress, Health Promotion Specialist, Consultant Nutritionist (Registered Nutritionist and World Public Health Nutritionist) and a Chartered Marketer with over 25 years of experience.   Her specialist areas include executive stress and wellbeing (including jet-lag and travel wellness),  travel nutrition, travel policies, corporate vitality, employee engagement, marketing and internal communications. Kathy holds several relevant degrees, Masters in Applied Psychology (MSc) with distinction for her research in Executive stress and maladaptive coping behaviours looking specifically at clinical work-based stress and the impact on healthy lifestyles, Masters in Business Administration (MBA), with distinctions achieved in Management Accounts, Statistics and Project Management, completed with a research-based dissertation in the marketing of healthy options in catering establishments, and a Bachelor degree in Nutrition and Food Science.Over the last 25 years, Kathy has worked as a consultant and advised in various industries, from travel, health and food to financial services and telecommunications, on nutrition, executive wellbeing, workplace health, change management, internal communications and employee engagement. She has worked with a variety of clients across local government, NHS, educational institutes, NGO’s, national and multinational companies. As a Management Consultant (post-MBA) Kathy was required to travel to several locations each week and in 2002 began her masters in Applied Psychology (& Health Promotion) as a result of observing the stress in senior managers.  She was awarded a distinction for both her research on work-related stress and maladaptive behaviours and her course work.  Prior to this, Kathy spent many years working with catering establishments to provide healthy options, and prior to this working in diet and fitness centres, following her degree in Human Nutrition and Food Science in 1989.   Combining all areas of experience and expertise was the obvious way forward, and subsequently founded the concept of business travel vitality and wellbeing. Kathy is a former Consulting Editor for Readers Digest Association Inc (USA) and Readers’ Digest UK (Vivat), as well as the former founding Non-Executive Editor for the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Food, Drink and Agriculture group. As an author, she has written a number of publications and a variety of articles in consumer publications and professional journals, with guest media appearances on a number of radio shows, including the BBC, London and regional radio.  She enjoys public speaking on a range of topics and is a regular speaker at professional events. Kathy is also the Vice Chair of The Caroline Walker Trust, Founder of the International Forum for Health Promotion and Education, a board advisor for the Tessa Sanderson Foundation and Academy, the Vice-Chair/former Chair for the Financial Services Board at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, former Trustee/Non-Executive Director for the Association of MBA’s (where she chaired the Governance Committee and was a member of the HR Committee and Strategic Working Party), former Honorary Secretary for the Institute of Health Promotion and Education, a founding Council Member of the Association for Nutrition. Kathy was also a committee member for the Food, Drink and Agriculture group at the Chartered Insitute of Marketing and a current Non-Executive Director at NZ Engineering. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Association of MBAs, Institute for Travel Management, Association for Woman Travel Executives, Nutrition Society, SENSE, World Public Health Nutrition Association, Association for Nutrition (UK) and International Travel Writers Alliance.  She is a former member of the Institute Institute of Directors, Royal Society of Arts and Institute of Health Promotion and Education.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *