I have friends who visit Barcelona and skip Madrid thinking it’s okay to visit one since they must be very similar.Truth is- they are completely two very different cities.
Madrid and Barcelona may be in the same country, but they couldn’t be more different from one other. While they may not be far apart on the map, there’s a huge cultural chasm between them and there’s always a friendly rivalry brewing between the two.
Despite plenty of similarities, Madrid and Barcelona are each unique unto themselves. It’s probably best to describe the two by making an analogy that’s easy for Americans to understand: think San Francisco and Los Angeles. In this case, consider Madrid the funky little brother like San Francisco and Barcelona as the cosmopolitan grown up Los Angeles.
Barcelona gets more tourists than Madrid, that’s for sure. Walk in the city center and you would run into more tourists than you’d see on the streets of Madrid. In addition, Barcelona’s lifestyle, clothing and activities are more relaxed and revolve largely around sunny weather and the beach. It is a bit cooler in Madrid, even during the summer months. Madrid can boast of some beautiful mountains and there are forests to provide fresh air and great hiking trails.
Madrid offers more contemporary buildings, and Barcelona has more modernist architecture. As far as cuisine, Barcelona has the calçots and the pa amb tomàquet and Madrid has the bocata de calamares, a battered squid sandwich. Next time you visit Spain, make sure you try and visit both cities.
Enjoy new highlights of travel photographer Edwin Santiago’s journeys each week.
Last modified: July 11, 2017