Madrid V Barcelona - which one should you visit first?

by - 12:34



Fortunately, I have an easy option to fly to Spain thanks to many budget airlines in Europe, specifically the United Kingdom. To say that I have been to both of the cities in question, Barcelona and Madrid, within the past year or 2 makes me feel lucky and privileged, especially when I remember my American friend had to pay easily £1,000 plus for a visit. I visited Barcelona before Europe, simply because it is known as being one of the most iconic cities of Europe. It has so many attractions and even has a beach. At the time, I didn't know too much about Madrid, which is why I think that although it is the capital city, it perhaps could be one of Spain's hidden gems. By all means, visit both cities, they are both amazing and I would happily go to either again, but if you are just looking to escape for a few days and can't choose which city you should visit, then maybe these subcategories of my own opinions can help you.


Food
God I absolutely ADORE Spanish food; tortillas, paella, tapas. Each region boasts their signature dish, much like Yorkshire puds or Devon scones. I remember in Madrid there was an alley that pretty much was full of tapas bars - just what I love, and I am pretty sure that I didn't see anything like this on the main strip in Barcelona. Of course, it goes without saying that I can't truly say what the food was like in Barcelona because I didn't stray far from the tourism spot of La Rambla, but even so there were some tapas spots there too. I think, for me, Madrid takes the point for food just because it is so easy to head into a bar and order tapas, whereas with Barcelona on La Rambla, you had just your generic restaurants that served the same food pretty much everywhere. No doubt, that it was still delicious however!

Shopping
Again - Madrid takes the point for this category for me just because it has the WORLD'S BIGGEST ZARA. Not only that, but the main tourist strip (??? I am assuming ???) has another 2 Zaras, a HUGE Primark and loads of little boutiques. No offence to Barcelona, but I can't really remember the shopping too well. We visited a shopping mall on the last day and I bought a denim shirt and a pink fur jacket, but it wasn't anything to rave about. Barcelona, however, is commonly known as the fashion capital of Spain - so unless I missed something? We took a stroll through the Born District in Barcelona and there were a few options, but no more than Madrid or any other Spanish city that I have been to. 

Nightlife
I can honestly say I had the best night out in Madrid that I have done for a good while - whether or not it was because there was a big group of us and we went to one of the biggest clubs in Madrid, or whether it was just genuinely a good night I do not know. Barcelona's nightlife was good, me and Twinny had such a good night - we ended up at a club on the beach beginning with S, next door to Pascha and it was full of DJs and free-pouring vodka girls who definitely made the 9 euro drink worth it. Madrid offers a big load, and I mean a big load, of rooftop bars, cocktail bars and cafes that serve alcohol until late. So it all depends what type of night out you want. Barcelona is better for the big clubs I would say, whilst Madrid is better for a few daiquiris peering over the city. The main club in Madrid is Capital, which is where we went and also had one of the best nights in a long long time.

Budget
As Barcelona is the more common tourist destination, local workers would be dumb to not raise their prices as much as they can. For this reason, Barcelona is a little more expensive in comparison to Madrid. Whilst tapas in Madrid was only 2 Euros a dish in a little place we went (sorry, I refer to the tapas a lot because food always stays in my mind, duh) it was around 8 Euros a dish on La Rambla, however we did manage to find an all-you-can-eat Tapas for perhaps 15 Euros, so maybe that deal is the better deal. In Madrid, everything seems to be walking distance too - from the park, to the market, to the square  - nothing is too far apart so you will be saving money on busses and taxis etc and getting some exercise all at the same time!

Culture
Barcelona, hands down. The stunning Sagrada Familia wins this for Barcelona as it is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen - and it isn't even completed yet! It also holds a lot of Gaudi's artwork, for example in Parc Guel (one of my favourite places) and even Gaudi's home has some amazing exterior which reflects real Catalonian beauty. Whilst Barcelona is very touristy, making the true Spanish culture of the city a bit hidden, the streets of Madrid are always full of locals drinking sangria in a cafe, munching on paella. It also has some of the most beautiful art museums in the country such as The Prado, housing art from the 12th to 19th century Europe.

So, which one first?
I don't want to put one of the cities to the bottom of the pile when writing this, so I just want to say that if you have the option to visit both cities then do so as they are both great. Whilst Barcelona has a lot more to do during the day such as Parc Guel (my fave), Madrid holds some of the best bars and restaurants in Spain, probably making it a better place for foodies. If you are looking for a true city break to escape and get some sightseeing done and you have a high spending money budget, then I would highly suggest Barcelona as it is full of fun and tourist attractions. Of course, you also do have the beach in Barcelona, so if you're looking to go in summer, then you have the option to catch some rays in the sand. Don’t get me wrong – you won’t be bored during the day in Madrid, there are still markets to visit and the Buen Retiro Park for a relaxing boat ride in the sun. It took us a day to visit the sights in Madrid and the next day was spent at a rooftop pool sipping cocktails - so we really did have the best of a city break and a holiday. I don’t mind either one of these, which is why both cities to me were great. Overall, I think Madrid has a more authentic Spanish feel due to the locals in the bars, the high number of cheaper tapas restaurants and its not over-visited by tourists. However, Barcelona had a lot more things to do where boredom was not an option, so the days were spent running around the city taking photographs of all the cool buildings, attractions and streets, just like any city break.








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