GUEST POST OVERVIEW: Madrid and Barcelona are the two biggest and most popular cities in Spain. Despite enjoying some similarities between them, they are quite different in certain aspects. Which differences? Read on to find out.


It’s that time of the year again when you have to plan your next trip. It’s been raining and dark where you live so you fancy going somewhere warm and sunny, where the food is good and there’s also cultural activities to do. You set your sights on Spain, but you’re not sure which city to go to.

You’re doubting between staying in Barcelona or in apartments in Madrid, but you can’t make your mind up. Well, after reading this, your choice might be easier to make. Here are some of the differences between the two cities. Whether one is better or worse, that’s entirely a subjective matter, although I recommend that you visit both cities at least once in your lifetime.


Galle Park in Barcelona – photo by Pepe Manteca

1. Tourists and people

While Madrid is the capital of Spain and the biggest city in the country, it doesn’t receive as many tourists as Barcelona. This means that you can walk around the center of Madrid and see more locals than visitors, and not having to stop every 10 seconds because the people in front of you are opening a map. Also, the people of Madrid have a more ‘capital city’ approach to life, and despite not being as familiar with tourism and tourists as people in Barcelona, they will still help you out if needed.


2. Food

While Barcelona has the calçots and the pa amb tomàquet, Madrid has the bocata de calamares, a battered squid sandwich. If this doesn’t appeal to you, wait until you try it, it’s delicious!

Madrid’s cuisine is heavier than Catalan cuisine, with dishes such as the cocido madrileño, which is a filling soup with vegetables and meat in it, or the callos, which is animal tripe in a stew, another delicacy. Also in Madrid, if you go to most bars and order a drink, they will give you a free tapa with it, something that doesn’t happen in Barcelona.


A Squid Sandwich – bocata de calamares – photo by Aroca Antonio Cainite

3. Architecture

Madrid Cibeles Fountain and town hall
Madrid Cibeles Fountain and town hall

While Barcelona is most famous for its modernist architecture, boosted by the buildings of Antoni Gaudí amongst others, Madrid has a more contemporary approach to this field, with many modern buildings being emblems of the capital. None more than the KIO towers, two leaning towers which face one another, or the new Torre Caja Madrid, designed by Norman Foster.

On the Paseo de la Castellana, there are the four Business Towers, four skyscrapers side by side. Also, the Reina Sofía and the Prado museums have undergone extensions which are now modern constructions and the T4 terminal of Madrid’s Barajas airport is also of a contemporary design.


4. Beach or mountain?

While Madrid doesn’t have a beach like Barcelona, it does have many mountains around it, where you can go and walk and enjoy a day in the open air, breathing the pure oxygen from the forests that will fill your lungs and reinvigorate you. Navacerrada is a good option for long walks in the mountainside in the Sierra de Guadarrama, where its valleys and beautiful lakes make it a landscape that’s hard to forget.


5. Art

While Barcelona has excellent museums, such as the MNAC (Museum of National Art of Catalonia) or the MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona) as well as the Picasso Museum, Madrid has three of the most important museums in Europe: the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofía, with works of art from all centuries that give Madrid an historical art advantage over Barcelona, while the Catalan capital enjoys an advantage in terms of contemporary art, with the aforementioned MACBA and the MEAM, the Museum of European Modern Art.

No matter which your choice of city is, you have to experience the Spanish capital by staying in Madrid apartments. Madrid is one of the most vibrant cities in Europe, with a perfect mix of culture, leisure and history, along with its excellent gastronomy, the perfect combination.


Madrid’s Puetra del Sol – photo by Massimo Mastropietro

About the Author: Aleix Gwilliam is a 24 year old from Barcelona who looks English but thinks like a Catalan. He enjoys traveling, especially on old Czech trains, and trying to start conversations in Hungarian with people at Pecs station, even though his Hungarian is as good as his Bulgarian, in other words, not very good. He’s a trier.