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Madrid vs. Barcelona

We are trying to plan our yearly European trip and not sure if Barcelona or Madrid will be beset for a 5 day stay. I like museums, but not looking to spend my whole time in them and it seems that Madrid has a ton of museums. I like walking around the streets, taking in life. Any suggestions?

Posted by
1178 posts

Both cities would be an excellent choice. While Madrid has many museums, so does Barcelona. Likewise for 'walking around' activities. I have been to both and enjoy both. Barcelona is the "Paris of Spain" and has the seacoast. But Madrid has just as much, without the presence of the actual seacoast. In fact, Madrid, inland several hours from the sea, is called "the seaport of Spain" inasmuch as the fresh seafood comes to it to be sent out to the rest of the country. Flip a coin and you will be pleased either way.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you so much! I've heard conflicting things about Barcelona, but it seems to be more cosmopolitan than Madrid (at least from what I've seen). It's a toss up between Spain and Croatia and I keep going back and forth on the two.

Posted by
43 posts

I love Spain & am a tapas foodie. Partial to Madrid because of Prado & Thyssen museums where I can spend hours.
I feel more at home in traditional Madrid.
You can make easy day trips from Madrid to Segovia & Toledo & also Barcelona (a stretch though) & Valencia.
My favorite in Barcelona is concert hall Palau de la musica catalana. Their market Boqueria looks bigger than Madrid's Mercado San Miguel.

Posted by
1133 posts

Having done both i wholeheartedly advocate barcelona over madrid (which is the third largest city in europe).

Posted by
5366 posts

I have not been to Madrid, spent a week in Barcelona. Certainly Madrid wins in Museums, but Barcelona does have a nice Picasso museum, a Maritime museum, the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, multiple other Gaudi landmarks. Add to that the Market Boqueria and just the joy of wandering around, and I would head back to Barcelona in a heartbeat.

Posted by
513 posts

I have been to both Madrid and Barcelona several times each - in fact, I am visiting both again in October. I prefer Madrid and feel it has great museums (Prado, Reina, Thysson, etc) and better day trips (Toledo, Segovia, Avila, etc) than Barcelona. Barcelona has decent museums however and is great for just walking around and cafe' hopping. I don't think you can go wrong with either. Enjoy!

Posted by
4524 posts

There is no right or wrong answer as both are great cities with much to do to fill five days. It will depend entirely on your own interests, so be sure to research each a little more to see which one inspires you more. A few highlights of each that might help:

Barcelona has a more French cultural feel and food. It has beaches. It is known for its amazing Gaudi architecture. The old town part has a more Medieval compact feel while the Eixample is a modern (early 20th century) city with a grid layout. The art focusses more on 20th century modern and abstract (Picasso, Miro, Dali). There are some daytrip options like Montserrat (mountainside monastery), Figueres (Dali museum), and Girona (a more charming riverside city known as the Venice of Spain), all of which can be reached by train.

Madrid is a more modern city and lacks a compact, Medieval core but has a lot of charming 19th and early 20th century architecture. Unlike Barcelona, you will find charming plazas with cafes and restaurants lining the edges. The art is more traditional Renaissance through 19th century and the Prado is one of the world's greatest collections. Madrid's daytrip options are fantastic: Toledo is a compact, Medieval city filled with Moorish, Jewish and Post-Reconquista Catholic culture and architecture. Segovia has perhaps the greatest Roman aquaduct in the world and another charming Medieval city with a great cathedral and so-so Moorish alcazar (mostly modern reconstruction). El Escorial is Spain's version of Versailles. All are easily reached by train. You'll get more "traditional" Spanish foods than in Barcelona.

Posted by
7 posts

Many thanks to all of you for your responses. I started looking at different websites about Spain and initially I was looking at Madrid, but Barcelona looked more laid back.

Posted by
7 posts

Many thanks to all of you for your responses. I started looking at different websites about Spain and initially I was looking at Madrid, but Barcelona looked more laid back.

Posted by
154 posts

We are also planning a trip to Spain this year. We chose to visit both of these cities since there's a high speed train connecting them that takes only 2 hours.