A Guide to the Largest Exhibition Centres in Europe
Exhibition centers are integral to the trade and business industry, serving as the home base for all industries to come together and organise. Europe boasts of some of the largest and most modern exhibition centers in the world, attracting events and attendees from across the globe.
This guide provides a brief overview of the largest exhibition centers in all of Europe. Get ready to explore facilities, capacity, locations and unique features of these remarkable venues, and find out their signature trade fairs.
Paris expo Porte de Versailles
Paris expo Porte de Versailles is a landmark in the world of exhibitions as it’s the largest in France and stands out as one of the oldest in the world, with its history dating back to 1922. The modern facilities (all 8 pavilions, 2 auditoriums, and 32 meeting rooms) were updated and expanded during the 10-year period between 1996 and 2006. The end result? A sprawling space of 228,211 m². This versatile venue hosts a wide range of events and trade shows throughout the year, and its calendar is packed.
Located in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, the exhibition centre is easily accessible by various modes of public transportation (bus, train, tram and metro); most famously the metro at Porte de Versailles. Some of the high-profile events held at Paris expo Porte de Versailles include the Paris Motor Show, Foire de Paris, International Agriculture Show, Viva Technology, IFTM, and Paris Game Week. The centre sees over 7.5 million visitors annually. Paris expo Porte de Versailles has also been selected as one of the hosts of the 2024 Summer Olympics, hosting handball and table tennis competitions.
Frankfurt Trade Fair, also known as Messe Frankfurt in German, is the largest trade fair and event organizer with its own exhibition grounds. This reputation is well deserved considering that just the indoor exhibition grounds span over 367,000 square meters. The open space reserved for open space for installations sits at 96,000 square meters. With a rich history of trade fairs dating back over 800 years, with the earliest record of a trade fair in the city being from 1240, Messe Frankfurt is one of the oldest exhibition spaces in the world.
The architecture of Messe Frankfurt stuns the visitor, showcasing the bold geometry of architects Helmut Jahn, Oswald M. Ungers, and Nicolas Grimsha. The modern look and atmosphere of the buildings have made the exhibition center a popular destination. Given the popularity of Frankfurt as a trading center and the impressive size of Messe Frankfurt, the exhibition halls and congress centers are always bustling with activity.
The events calendar is packed with some of the largest and most influential events in Europe and the world, such as CPhI Worldwide, Automechanika, Frankfurt Book Fair, and many more.
Cologne Trade Fair, also known as Koelnmesse in German, is one of the truly imposing exhibition centres in Europe. According to the German association AUMA, it ranks 5th among the largest exhibition centers in the world, thanks to its massive size of 284,000 m2. The center has a rich history, first opening its doors in 1924, and has not stopped growing since. Koelnmesse made a big move to a new building in 2005 next to its original site. Most recently, the exhibition centre is in a process of renovation that started in 2018 and is expected to end by 2030.
As a company in charge of organizing and running trade fairs, Koelnmesse stands out as a leader, hosting 80 trade fairs and over 2,000 conferences annually. Fairs visited by thousands of people like Gamescom, DMEXCO, Kind + Jugend, Anuga, Anuga FoodTec, FSB, ProSweets, International Hardware Fair, photokina, INTERMOT, Orgatec, IDS and interzum are just a few examples of the events held at Koelnmesse. When we do the numbers, we see that on average over 42,000 exhibiting companies from 120 countries and two million visitors from 175 countries fill its exhibition halls. Additionally, the company also helps to organize 30 events outside of Germany around the world.
The Amsterdam RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, also known as Amsterdam RAI, is the top exhibition venue in the Netherlands. Opened back in 1961 in the city's Zuidas business district, it boasts multiple conference and exhibition halls that span over 112,200 m². With two renovations under its belt, including the addition of RAI Elicium in 2009, the center has 22 conference rooms and 11 versatile halls. These include the Europahal RAI that can seat up to 12,900 and the smaller RAI Theatre with a capacity of 1750 seats.
Conveniently located near public transportation with a train station, metro stops, and underground parking with 4,000 spaces, Amsterdam RAI draws over 2 million visitors each year for about 50 international conferences and 70 trade shows. Notable events we should mention include Art Amsterdam, LXRY Masters, AutoRAI, HISWA, Horecava, Horti Fair, International Broadcasting Convention, and Jumping Amsterdam. With a history that includes hosting both Eurovision and the Grand Gala du Disque in 1969, Amsterdam RAI has earned its place in the hall of fame.
Back in 2001, Amsterdam RAI welcomed its 75 millionth visitor.
IFEMA - Feria de Madrid
IFEMA - Feria de Madrid is the largest exhibition complex in Spain, which opened doors back in 1980. With 230,000 m² of exhibition space divided into 12 halls, 2 congress centers, 2 auditoriums, and over 80 meeting rooms, it’s considered to be one of the most versatile venues in Europe. It can just as easily host major international exhibitions as it does private business events, and its calendar boasts well over 500 third-party events.
IFEMA - Feria de Madrid organizes 119 trade fairs annually: 57 are directly organised by IFEMA, 42 are hosted by third-party organizers, and 12 are IFEMA brands hosted in other countries. These events bring over 35,000 exhibitors and 2.5 million visitors to IFEMA - Feria de Madrid each year. Notable events include Expodental, Fitur, MadridJoya, CPhI Worldwide, SIMO, MOTORTEC, and ARCO. The exhibition centre also has the honour of hosting Madrid Fashion Week, which is why it’s installed some of the world’s best catwalks.