Our history

Fira de Barcelona has a long history dating back to the large exhibitions of 1888 and 1929. Constituted officially in 1932, it has always been a reflection of the country's business activity and social changes, a showcase for the innovations in the different industries and a driver for economic promotion and international exposure of companies.

Its development is closely linked to market demands and the evolution of society. The trade fairs held in the mid 20th century evolved towards specialisation and the current format of shows was established.

Today, it is one of the most important trade fair organisations in Europe with two venues -Montjuïc and Gran Via-, which have over 400,000 m2 of exhibition floor space and a it hosts over 120 trade shows, congresses and corporate events per year.

Fira combines commercial tradition with innovation, competitiveness and technological development to face the challenges of globalisation and anticipate the changes in the trade fair market with creativity and leadership.

The institution's documentary legacy can be found in its Archives, one of Europe's most important centres in terms of trade show and exhibition material. It is open to researchers and those who would like to know more about the history of Fira and Barcelona city.

Download the Guide to the Historical Archive (PDF)
 


19th century

Background

1844 - 1877
Throughout the 19th century, the economic strength of Barcelona and Catalonia was reflected in various trade fairs, such as the General Exhibition of Barcelona (1844), Exhibition of Industry, Arts and Trades (1860), General Catalan Exhibition (1871) and Exhibition of Catalan Products (1877).

1888
Nonetheless, the Universal Exhibition of 1888 in Ciudadela Park had a very special significance for Barcelona's international exposure, its emergence as a metropolis and the start of modern trade fair activity. The Exhibition occupied 450,000 m2 and was visited by 2.5 million people during a five-month period.

 

1920 - 1936

First trade fairs and International Exhibition

1920-1923
In 1920, the first trade fair was held in the old exhibition centre in Ciudadela Park, thanks to a joint initiative of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, the Barcelona City Council, the Barcelona Diputació and the Mancomunitat of Catalonia. Nonetheless, important events, such as the International Motor Show of 1919, had already been held in previous years.

The 1920 trade fair was the embryo of the future Fashion Show. In 1923, the first International Furniture and Decoration Exhibition and the Building Technique Exhibition, considered predecessors of Construmat, were held.

1929
The old aspiration of holding a major electrical industry show materialised with the International Exhibition of Barcelona of 1929.

Despite the fact that it was held at a time of world economic crisis, over 40 countries took part and it had a big impact on the city's development and modernisation (metropolitan railway, urbanisation of Plaza España and of Montjuïc mountain and the construction of monuments, such as the Palau Nacional, the Venetian towers, the Magic Fountain and the Poble Espanyol, among others).

1932-1935
Three years later, in 1932, Fira Internacional de Barcelona was officially constituted and declared for public use by the republican Generalitat.

Traditional annual industry and service events were suspended in July because of the Spanish Civil War. During the last fair before the conflict, a television set was exhibited for the first time in Spain.

 

1942 - 1978

Towards specialised shows

1942
In 1942, Barcelona resumed trade fair activity in a very difficult economic and political climate. Nonetheless, the City Council and the Chamber of Commerce saw it as an opportunity to reactivate the damaged local economy and open up a showcase to the world.

The Trade Fair held in June was, for many years, an genuine social event in Barcelona, since it showcased new products and innovative ways of understanding trade, transport, domestic life and work organisation. For the first time, elements as diverse as Coca-Cola, the Seat 600, the modern supermarket concept and computers were shown to the public.

Very soon, specialised areas were created which became monographic shows in the following years. In tune with liberalisation, the trend for specialisation became unstoppable.

1954-1965
In 1954, the first Packing and Packaging Show was held and, in 1960, the first Travel, Sport and Tourism Show was created.

The sixties saw the birth of important events such as Hogarotel-Expohogar and the National Clothing Manufacturing Show (1961), the National Technical Textile Machinery Show (1962), the International Boat Show, the Spanish Textile Exchange, the Sonimag - Imaging Show and the Children's Festival (1963), the Cosmetic Chemical Week and Expo Química and Graphispack (1966). In 1966, the Motor Show became independent from the June Trade Fair.

1972-1978
In 1972, the first edition of Hispack, packing and packaging show was held and, two years later, with the first knitwear show, Fira de Barcelona's portfolio had a total of twenty monographic shows.

In subsequent years, the trade fair calendar incorporated Anticuarios and Expo Avícola (1975), Alimentaria, major food and beverage industry show which was to become a world benchmark (1976), and Hostelco, hotel and catering show (1977).

 

1979 - 1999

New phase, new exhibition centre

1979-1999
In 1979, the trade fair institution's government organs adapted to the new reality of democratic city councils. At the same time and in line with new social and business needs, new shows were created.

The same year saw the creation of Construmat and Expominer and, in successive years, the Second Hand Vehicle Show (1980), Comic Fair (1981), Caravaning (1989), Liber (1982), Auto Retro (1983), Mediterranean Show (regarded as a predecessor of the Tourism Show), Education Show 1990 and Sonimagfoto (1991).

1991
In 1991, the last traditional general Trade Fair of June was held to be replaced by larger, professional specialised shows.

1992
In 1992, Fira de Barcelona's facilities were turned into the centre of operations of the Olympic Games. The same year as the Olympics, Noviaespaña and the Pasarela Gaudí Novias were launched.

1993-1999
In 1993, various measures were adopted to create new exhibition spaces and to improve existing ones. Fira 2000 S.A., commissioned to build the future Gran Via venue, was created, and an agreement was reached to remodel the Congress Centre. The first phase of the Gran Via venue was inaugurated in 1995.

At the same time, new shows were created, such as the Swimming Pool Show (1994), Maquitec (1996), Ecomed/Pollutec (1997), Barcelona Meeting Point (1997) and International Logistics Show (1999).

During the last decade of this period, Fira de Barcelona underwent a complex situation, partly due to competition from other Spanish exhibition centres, the new phenomenon of globalisation and the lack of institutional consensus about the trade fair project.

 

2000 - 2009

Re-foundation

2000
2000 saw the re-foundation of Fira de Barcelona with the incorporation of the Catalan Generalitat in its government organs, in addition to the Barcelona City Council and the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, and the adoption of a management system based on company participation through the Governing Board and a professional and independent management.

Fira renewed its vocation to provide a platform of activity and economic promotion for companies and their international exposure and a generator of wealth for Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain.

2001-2003
2001 saw the approval of the 2001-2010 Strategic Plan centred on improving trade fair venues, finalising the Gran Via venue, increasing services, international exposure, investing in new technologies and utilising synergies with the city of Barcelona.

One year later, Alimentaria Exhibitions, joint venture between Fira de Barcelona and British multinational Reed Exhibitions was created to ensure the continuity of Alimentaria, one of the world's most important food and beverage fairs, in Barcelona, as well as Barcelona Tecnologías de la Alimentación (Barcelona Food and Beverage Technologies), Bta.

In 2003, the Japanese architect Toyo Ito won the international tender for the design of the Gran Via venue, its surroundings and towers. Toyo Ito's design is based on organic, natural, light shapes and opts for rational use of energy and sustainability.

The first edition of Globalgeo, show specialising in geoinformation, an activity with a great future potential, was held that same year.

2004-2006
In 2004, the institution hosted the first Barcelona edition of EIBTM, the world's leading business travel show. Attracting large shows and international events was one of the priorities in Fira's revised strategic plan for the 2006-2015 period.

As a result of this policy, Fira de Barcelona hosted the Mobile World Congress, global mobile phone event, in 2006, as well as the World and European Cardiology Congresses (2006, 2009), Carbon Expo (2009), ITMA (2011) and the urban and contemporary fashion show, Bread&Butter (2005) which, after four years and eight shows, returned to its city of origin, Berlin, in January 2009.

2007-2009
2007 saw the official inauguration of the Gran Via venue with an exhibition floor space of 200,000 m2. Together with Montjuïc, Fira then had 365,000 m2, one of Europe's largest exhibition areas.

The following year, 2008, the photovoltaic plant on the rooftop of the Gran Via venue was inaugurated. It was the sixth largest rooftop solar operation in the world and one of the biggest in Spain. It is an example of Fira's commitment to sustainability and the environment.

Between 2008 and 2009 new shows linked to emerging sectors appeared: BcnRail (railway industry), HiT/Bizbarcelona (innovation and entrepreneurship) and The Brandery (urban and contemporary fashion), among others.

 

From 2010 until today

New value proposal

 

2010
Fira again revised its strategic plan, through the New Value Proposal, which established the guidelines to anticipate the future demands of the market based on reinforcing the positioning of its shows, strengthening innovation and know-how and giving a new boost to international business.

2011
Expansion of the Gran Via venue concludes with the addition of two new pavilions giving an extra 40,000 m2 of exhibition floor space to reach the current total of over 400,000 m2.

In September, the largest textile machinery and technology fair in the world, ITMA, was held, occupying the entire recently completed Gran Via venue for the first time.

In 2011, Fira announced that Barcelona had been chosen as Mobile World Capital for the 2012-2018 period, having won the international contest held by the GSM Association, beating Milan, Munich and Paris. 

Two highly specialised shows were also created the same year: Smart City Expo World Congress and FM&BS, Facility Management and Business Services World Summit (outsourcing services).

2012
The appearance of new shows continued in 2012 with MIHealth Forum, created to be a benchmark in innovation, sustainability and management of health care and Seafood Barcelona, a replica of the most important seafood fair in the world, the European Seafood Exposition, based in Brussels.

Following its international business strategy, Fira worked and continues to work on promoting the presence of international exhibitors, organisers and visitors and attracting large European and world events. It is also committed to helping Spanish companies penetrate new markets, through participation in events abroad, as well as offering services, technology and advice to other organisers and exhibition centres.

As a result, in 2012, various Barcelona shows were present in events in Shanghai (Hostelco), Singapore (The Brandery), Dubai (Swimming Pool Show) and Recife (Construmat). An agreement was also signed to advise the Montreal fair (Quebec, Canada).

At the end of this year, Fira de Barcelona became the only shareholder of Alimentaria Exhibitions, after acquiring Reed Exhibitions 50% share.

2013
In 2013, Fira reinforced its trade fair leadership in Spain, its role as economic driver and its benchmark position in Europe.

The institution incorporated new shows, such as Pharmaprocess, dedicated to processes in the pharmaceutical institute and Body Life Bcn, on the fitness sector. The list of itinerant events includes EVS, the world's leading electric vehicle event, held for the first time in Spain.

Worthy of note is the importance of medical and technological congresses held in the Montjuïc and Gran Via Exhibition Centres with over 100,000 highly qualified attendees.

The institution enhanced its international profile by holding and attracting events with a high level of foreign exhibitors and visitors and also organising Fira de Barcelona shows in various cities. The list includes Smart City Expo in Bogotá.
 

2014
In 2014, Fira de Barcelona achieved the best results in its history with a turnover of more than 150 million euros. The excellent positioning of its trade shows, the diversification of its activities, innovation, the organization of major congresses, corporate events and international medical and technology events and its international presence all enabled the corporation to achieve these results and position itself even further as an event organizer of global standing.

As well as its regular portfolio of trade shows, Fira de Barcelona hosted the following events for the first time: Denim by Première Vision, the jeans fashion event from Paris; Handmade, targeting craft enthusiasts, and XD Young Fest, the multimedia leisure and experiences event aimed at young people which was held at the same time as the Children's Festival.

Internationally, the Fira teamed up with local partners to organize the International Motor Show and Jewellery and Watches in Qatar, the Smart City Expo in Kyoto and Alimentaria in Lisbon and Mexico, and also managed Construmat's participation in Ficons (Recife, Brazil). It also signed agreements to provide consultancy service on trade fair management in various countries such as Canada, Chile and Mongolia.

 
2015
Fira de Barcelona closed 2015 with revenue of over 148 million euros, the second best results in its history, thanks above all to the growth of its trade shows, the launch of new events and its international activities in both its own venues and in other countries. This took place in a context of an improved economic climate.

Reflecting Fira's policy of innovation, the IoT Solutions World Congress was held for the first time, organized in conjunction with the Industrial Internet Consortium which promotes the use of the internet in industrial processes. It also recovered Barcelona Degusta, the gastronomic show aimed at the general public which has not been held since 2011.

Fira also continued to promote its presence in other countries to help companies find foreign markets. The institution jointly organized the Qatar Motor Show and the Doha Jewellery & Watches Exhibition with local partner Elan, with which it won the tender to manage the new exhibition and conference centre. It was also involved in organizing the Smart City Expo in Kyoto and Montreal, and Alimentaria in Lisbon and Mexico, and signed agreements with the Cuban state company Palco to organize a new portfolio of trade fairs, as well as rolling out consultancy services in Asia and Africa.

In October, the report on Fira's economic and social impact was presented, produced in collaboration with the ESADE business school, which rated its economic impact at more than 2,600 million euros per year, as well as generating some 40,500 jobs and creating public and social value in areas such as business development, public spaces, metropolitan centrality, social cohesion, positioning and identity, and knowledge and innovation.
 

2016
Fira closed the year with the highest volume of business (165 million euros) in its history, surpassing the 2014 figures as a consequence of its intense level of activity: 65 trade shows and congresses in its own venues and nine abroad, along with 50 corporate, marketing and sports-related events reaching an overall total of 120.

Especially worthy of mention are the events related to technology and Industry 4.0. In(3D)ustry, based on Additive Manufacturing, was held for the first time and was added to the second edition of the Internet of Things Solutions World Congress (Iots). The Smart City Expo World Congress coincided with the launch of Iwater (integrated water cycle), Circular Economy (waste reuse) and the roving event European Utility Week, putting the Gran Via venue at the very heart of sustainability and innovation.

Also notable was the first edition of Barcelona Games World (video games), organised in conjunction with the Spanish Association of Video Games (AEVI), as well as the re-emergence of the show Motoh! dedicated to a sector with a huge following in Barcelona and Catalonia.

Over the course of 2016 Fira engaged in a significant amount of activity abroad, jointly organising nine trade shows in various countries: Alimentaria in Mexico; Smart City Expo in Kyoto, Puebla (Mexico), Istanbul and Casablanca; the Car Show and Jewellery Exhibition in Doha, and HostelCuba (hotel equipment) and Alimentos Cuba (food) in Havana. Work also continued on co-managing venues such as the Doha Convention Centre as well as the consultancy services provided in Morocco and Ethopia.