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10 Great Venues in Europe for Events with 1000+ Attendees

By Padraic Gilligan
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Here are 10 venues in 10 cities where you can comfortably cater for larger capacity events while indulging in the authentic uniqueness of European culture.

North American and Asian #eventprofs don’t realize how lucky they are. Cities in the US and China offer an embarrassment of choice when it comes to venues with capacities for 1,000 or more attendees.

In the US and China you can opt for a full service hospitality experience in super-sized hotels with acres of meetings space or choose purpose built congress centres in perfect city centre locations.

However, it’s not so easy when it comes to Europe. The architectural legacy may have left astonishingly beautiful public buildings but only a relatively small number are suitable for mid to large scale events of 1,000 attendees or more.

Europe is reliant on more recent, purpose-built heritage to meet larger meeting needs. Here are 10 of the best European venues to choose from.

10 Great Venues in Europe for Events with 1000+ Attendees

The European Convention Center Luxembourg (ECCL) - Luxembourg

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Credits: Olivimages

The ECCL has recently been hosting conferences, meetings and events associated with Luxembourg’s presidency of the European Union (which concluded in December 2015) and, in general, is closed for 3 months each year for EU related activity. Outside of these times, however, it offers a compelling solution for corporate and association conferences. The capacity of its main auditorium is 800 attendees but larger events can be accommodated by using the ECCL, the interconnected Hemicycle (700 seater auditorium) and the adjacent Philharmonic Hall (1,200 seater auditorium) to arrive at a total capacity of some 2,700 attendees.

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The Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) - Dublin, Ireland

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Credits: The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD)

Dublin may be a 1,000 year old city but the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) is a relatively new kid on the block. This iconic, award winning convention centre can take up to 2,000 delegates in its stunning auditorium with ample additional locations for dining and exhibitions. Located in the Docklands district overlooking Dublin’s fabled River Liffey, the CCD is within walking distance of the city centre, key hotel clusters and great visitor attractions such as EPIC Ireland, Ireland’s brand new diaspora museum.

Darmstadtium, Darmstadt - Frankfurt, Germany

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Credits: Fotografie Schepp

Just 20 minutes from Frankfurt International Airport, Darmstadtium is an extraordinarily flexible, contemporary congress centre with a capacity of 1,400 delegates. With exterior walls that are 80% glass, Darmstadtium is flooded with natural daylight and is as radically different from a typical hotel conference centre as Nescafe is from real coffee. Darmstadtium was the inaugural winner of the INCON Digital infrastructure award and offers WiFi speeds that other centres only dream of.

Manchester Central - Manchester, UK

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Credits: Manchester Central

Manchester is one of the fastest growing conference destinations in Europe thanks, in no small measure, to its convention centre, Manchester Central. Located in the city centre, the entire convention complex is built around a re-purposed late nineteenth century train station – like the Musée d’Orsay in Paris – which now constitutes the 10,000 sqm column-free, divisible and eminently flexible Central Hall. Adjacent to and connecting with Central Hall are a number of other distinct spaces including: the 804-seat purpose-built Exchange Auditorium; 1,800m² exhibition, conference or 1,200-capacity dining space Exchange Hall and a suite of smaller state-of-the-art conference and meeting rooms.

Square Brussels Meeting Centre - Belgium

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Credits: Square Brussels Meeting Centre

Right in the heart of the city, Square Brussels Meeting Centre can take up to 1,200 attendees for a plenary session in its Gold Hall. Extending to over 13,000 sqm and styling itself as a flexible event facility, Square is all urban contemporary with an enviable city centre location close to the Grand Place.

Centre Convencions Internacional Barcelona (CCIB) - Barcelona, Spain

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Designed by Catalan architect Josep Lluís Mateo, the CCIB is a highly versatile and multifunctional space offering 38 rooms across 3 floors and 2 mezzanines. There are two flagship spaces at the CCIB: the massive Exhibition Hall, which can be subdivided into 8 separate spaces, and the Banquet Hall, which gives spectacular views of the Mediterranean. Connected by an underground corridor is the Forum building whose auditorium caters for 3,140 attendees. This is Barcelona at its best – brilliant modern architecture in a maritime civic space.

Milano Congressi (MiCo) - Milan, Italy

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Credits: Milano Congressi

Billed as Europe’s largest conference facility, MiCo can accommodate up to 18,000 delegates across all its 70 fully appointed spaces and locations. There are two plenary spaces and an auditorium with capacities of 4,000, 2,000 and 1,500 respectively. Additional exhibition halls add another 5,4000 sqm of space to this impressive campus. MiCo is the work of Italian architect Mario Bellini whose design work can be found amongst the permanent exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Austria Centre Vienna - Vienna, Austria

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Credits: IAKW-AG Marius Hoefinger

Vienna is constantly in the Top 3 cities in Europe for congresses and no wonder. It ticks all the boxes in terms of accessibility and infrastructure in no small way due to facilities such as the Austria Centre. A contemporary structure, just 7 minutes from the city centre, Austria’s largest conference centre has a total capacity for 20,000 delegates and offers 24 lecture rooms for between 100 and 4,320 participants, 180 meeting rooms and 22,000 m² of exhibition space. The USPs here are definitely versatility and digital infrastructure: Austria Centre Vienna is the 2016 winner of the INCON digital infrastructure award.

Bella Center - Copenhagen, Denmark

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Credits: Bella Center Copenhagen

Copenhagen has positioned itself as the par excellence green conference city and all the supporting infrastructure around the city has gotten behind this aspect of the brand. The Bella Center famously hosted the COP15 back in 2009 and during the event showcased a number of green initiatives that have become the standard in conference organisation ever since. With a variety of flexible configurations, the Bella Center has capacity for up to 3,500 attendees in a plenary format. It connects seamlessly with the AC Hotel Bella Sky where there are over 800 design-led guestrooms.

Gospodarsko Razstavišče – GR Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre - Slovenia

Well known to attendees of the popular Conventa MICE trade show, the Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre (often known by it Slovene initials GR) is an immensely flexible venue capable of taking up to 2,200 theatre style for a scientific congress. Within walking distance of the city centre hotels, GR is the perfect solution for congress organisers who want something unique and different for their delegates.

In Conclusion

Choice may be more limited in Europe when it comes to accommodating larger groups and this is particularly the case when delegate numbers exceed 20,000. However, for 1,000 or more delegates there’s actually great choice of European venues, particularly in established locations like Frankfurt, Vienna and Milan. However, there are also some really unique solutions in less prominent locations like Manchester and Ljubljana where you can gift your attendees an destination experience they’re unlikely to have had before, making the most of European culture and convenience.

about the author

Padraic Gilligan
Padraic Gilligan is Managing Partner at SoolNua Marketing, a boutique consultancy offering marketing, training and strategy for MICE for destinations, venues and hotels. He blogs weekly on destinations and matters of interest to the Meetings Industry at Padraicino
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