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Madrid or Barcelona

My family and I are starting to plan our next trip to Europe, and one of the new places that we would like to visit is Spain, but what city. I have read a few things about both Barcelona and Madrid, and since we only have 3 1/2 days in one of these cities, I just wanted to see what people on here think for a first time visit to Spain. I know that everyone has their differences of opinions, but it's nice to get a little insight from people that have been there. Thank you very much.

Posted by
14885 posts

It's apples and oranges. If neither tugs at you more, then perhaps just decide based on which works best logistically with the rest of your itinerary.

Posted by
1178 posts

Flip a coin...heads Madrid, tails Barcelona...or heads Barcelona, tails Madrid.. you will not go wrong with either choice....both are full of great places to visit, food to eat, things to experience. Barcelona has the ocean, Madrid does not, but Madrid is the largest Seaport of Spain...all the seafood comes to it before being sent to the rest of the country. A day tip from Madrid to Toledo can be had, but a day trip from Barcelona to any of the small seacoast cities can be made. I have been to both, Madrid more than Barcelona, but plan to go to both again in the spring.

Posted by
2705 posts

Both are good choices. Do you love art? Madrid. The best day trips? Madrid (Toledo, or Segovia). Architecture? Barcelona (Gaudi is not to be missed). Beach or seafood? Barcelona. Food in general? Barcelona, IMO. Madrid is more "Spanish", Barcelona is certainly in Spain but it has it's own Catalan thing, just its own feel.

I would do Madrid if art is a big interest (the Prado and Reina Sofia are both unmissable). If art isn't your thing, Barcelona.

If you only can visit one city in Spain, I'd do Seville, but I realize it isn't as big and therefore not as easy to reach as the two you mentioned. It has an airport with lots of flights from within Europe, and it is also a 2.5 hour fast train from Madrid.

Posted by
4534 posts

Some good insight given by the other posters. My personal preference would be Barcelona. Madrid is a nice city and a very liveable city, but it lacks the "punch" many traditional European cities have. Great art museums and the possibility for great daytrips, but if art isn't your thing... Plus with only 3 1/2 days, that won't leave time to really do daytrips.

Depending on how old your children are, they may love Barcelona more. Beaches. Lots of street-life and nightlife. Gaudi architecture can impress even them most bored-to-death teen. Beaches. The aerial gondola over the harbor up to Montjuic. Beaches.

Posted by
31465 posts


Both are wonderful cities to visit and both have some incredible sights. For example, Madrid has the Prado Museum and Barcelona has the incredible La Sagrada Familia. If I had to choose one, it would probably be Barcelona, as I really liked the waterfront area and I could spend hours wandering around La Rambla and La Boqueria market.

As someone else mentioned, pick the one that fits best with your overall Itinerary and transportation plans.

Posted by
11286 posts

First you should know that, like Dallas and Houston or Sydney and Melbourne, Barcelona and Madrid have a major rivalry. Second, you should know that they are VERY different; it's quite possible to like both, hate both, love one but hate the other, etc. And third, sort of like New York City and the Grand Canyon, if someone does like both, it's for very different reasons. To bring in yet another city pair, it's like New York and Los Angeles - just about the only thing they have in common is being big cities. Otherwise, everything about Madrid and Barcelona is different - history, geography, architecture, cuisine, etc.

It is for these reasons that everyone is saying to read and watch videos, websites, etc about both, and then come to your own decision. It also for these reasons that several people have said to pick the one that fits best with the rest of your itinerary. Or, if there's a specific site in one that calls to you (the Prado, the Sagrada Familia), pick that one. Then, however you feel about the one you see, keep repeating to yourself that the other one is very different, so you should keep an open mind about it.

I know that doesn't help you much. But unlike asking "should I spend three days in New York City or Schenectady?" there is no clear "right" answer.

Posted by
11805 posts

I think Barcelona is a world-class city. Madrid, other than the Prado, doesn't really interest me - primarily because it's a new capital and doesn't have the history or great old architecture. Usually I like the old center in cities. Madrid's old center is Toledo.

Posted by
9363 posts

I do not share Brad's opinion at all. I love Madrid! It does, indeed, have beautiful architecture and history, as well as the beautiful Retiro Park. The two cities are totally different experiences.

Posted by
168 posts

Thank you everyone for replying. It's a lot to think about and me and the family will definitely need to talk it over. Since we still have about a year to decide, research is something I will definitely do. So much to see, sooo little time. Thank you again.


Posted by
30 posts

Hello! I was just in Spain this past July! Between Barcelona and Madrid I would personally choose Barcelona! I found it to be cleaner and the locals were much friendlier! Someone earlier I saw posted about Sevilla, and I agree! Sevilla is the place I'd like to revisit again because it was so amazing! In Sevilla I feel like I got to experience the actual Spanish culture! They had flamenco dancing show (which was free and amazing! It was attended by almost all locals), the tapas bars and restaurants were authentic and much more fairly priced that the touristy areas in Barcelona and Madrid. Also there was a bull fighting ring just a 5min walk from our apartment and the locals were so kind and friendly! I was truly impressed with Sevilla and can't wait to revisit! Have fun on your trip with whichever you choose!