Belgian-born Jeroen Merchiers is Airbnb’s man in Spain, acting as the director for Eastern, Northern and Southern Europe. He moved to the country after deciding to study an MBA degree at the IESE Business School, but stayed to start a family and pursue his career.
What is your relationship with Barcelona?
My relationship with Spain started 12 years ago, first in Madrid, where I spent 2 years, and then I landed in Barcelona where I’ve established strong bonds with the city.
What one thing do you tell friends who come to Barcelona they must do while here?
If you’ll like to see the city in all its dimension, you should visit Carretera de les aigües. It is a 10 km road that goes across the bottom of the mountain Collserola all along the seaside. Views are spectacular and all architectural details from the different neighbourhoods in the city can be spotted. It is a very popular location among Barcelona locals, where they go for a walk or to work out. Access is relatively easy from the train that goes to the Tibidabo, but it is not very known for tourists and hardly appears in guides or recommendations.
What are your favourite restaurants, bars and cafés in the city?
I like to have lunch or dinner in a small place in Born called La Estrella. As a tapas bar I recommend Quimet & Quimet, in Poble Sec. In the centre, one of my favourite spots is Laie, a bookstore with a cafeteria where you can also grab something to eat.
Where do you go shopping?
I recommend a place called Mercantic, in Sant Cugat. It’s a labyrinth of surprises for those that like antique furniture and second hand items. In Mercantic there are a couple of bars where you can eat very well and the atmosphere on Sunday mornings is unbeatable.
What’s your Barcelona guilty pleasure?
Everything that happens in Barcelona at night is a shameful sin.
If you could be a fly on the wall in Barcelona where would you choose?
Without a doubt, in the Raval neighborhood. The color, diversity and buzzy streets are really attractive.
Describe your happiest moment in Barcelona?
Definitely when my kids were born.
Is there anything you don’t like about the city?
I chose this city for a number of reasons, it is very well connected to the rest of Europe (and to international flights too), food, culture, seaside and mountain proximity. However, humidity during summertime is too much for a northern body like mine.
What’s it like to do business in Barcelona?
When Airbnb opened its offices in Barcelona we were discussing about whether to choose Barcelona or Madrid. We chose Barcelona due to the attractiveness of the city, but also because of the innovative and entrepreneur spirit of Barcelona people.
Sum up Barcelona in one sentence.
“Barcelona és casa teva”, which means: “Barcelona is your home”