Oooh, Controversial statement, isn’t it?
Spain’s first and capital, Madrid, is always in competition with Spain’s second city, Barcelona, about which is the best city in Spain. So much so, that Barcelona’s region, Catalonia, believes they should be an autonomous state in their attempts to get independence from the country.
So before I visited Barcelona in winter, I was deeply in love with Madrid thanks to my two visits there. Nothing could beat my favourite Spanish city and I was adamant that Barcelona certainly wasn’t going to be the exception.
See More: Would You Go To Barcelona in Winter?
But I wasn’t expecting to be completely wowed over by beautiful Barcelona as soon as I landed at their airport one Thursday morning. The city completely questioned my previously unwavering support for Madrid. Could it be that by the end of my long weekend stay of things to do in Barcelona, I would switch allegiance?
It was difficult. So I decided to think how Barcelona tourism could be better than Madrid’s using my own reasons. Of course, there’s the epic Magic Fountain that can beat all fountains in Madrid but I don’t believe that’s a good enough reason for me. So, during four days in Barcelona, I could discover on my own terms why I believe Barcelona could be the better city.
I must have done pretty well as I think there are 34 reasons why I think Barcelona could be better than Madrid. Are you ready for this? Let’s find out!
Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below!
1. You can easily have dinner with President Obama in Barcelona
That wasn’t a reason you were expecting I’m sure!
Yes, you can indeed have a meal out with President Obama (not the real one, I’m afraid) at Barcelona’s very own American Gastropub called Obama Bar. With live music playing in the background and live sports shown on their televisions, it’s truly a quirky and unessential way of grabbing a bite to eat in unexpected circumstances in the city.
Could you find a more weird bar than this in Madrid?
2. The locals in Barcelona respects the Bull, not Bull-fighting
It’s a popular misconception that all the locals in Barcelona loves the sport of bull-fighting. If anything, I couldn’t even see any advertisement of bull-fighting displays taking place in the city at all. Perhaps you may think it’s because the locals are conscious about animal welfare.
You’d be wrong.
Barcelona has banned bull-fighting since 28th July 2010 because it is seen as ‘Spanish.’ So, as the residents want to be seen ‘Catalan’, there are now no bull-fighting activities in the region. You would have to go to Seville or Madrid to see them.
See More: An Andalusian Adventure
Do I like Bull-fighting? I’ve yet to see one display but I’m pretty concerned about animal welfare. Perhaps this is why I like Barcelona.
3. They have one of the most impressive Cathedrals in Europe and that’s saying a lot!
Oh, I can tell you now that I’ve seen a lot of Cathedrals in my time in Europe. But Barcelona Cathedral is actually one of the best I’ve seen. It wasn’t in your face but grandiose. It feels part of the city rather than a standalone landmark. And you can tell it’s been around for a long time thanks to the quaint and gothic features of the building.
This truly is a Cathedral for the people.
I can’t think of a cathedral in Madrid. Can you? All I remember are exuberant palaces.
4. You can have your itinerary planned by Rainbow Barcelona Tours to get what you want out of Barcelona… including wine…
Rainbow Barcelona Tours are one of the best tour guides around in Spain. Each guide will configure your very own itinerary to suit your own sightseeing needs whether you want lots of wine tasting, art appreciation tours or simply checking out the history of the city. They actually will take you out on a night out to discover the music scene.
This tour is perfect for LGBT travellers but also for other travellers looking to spend quality time in Barcelona.
Does Madrid do specific tours like this? I’m not so sure… but thanks to Rainbow Barcelona Tours and their handsome guides, I found out a lot about Barcelona.
5. Barcelona doesn’t do uniform colours on their buildings… they are crazy like that and that’s a good thing
It’s fair to stay that Barcelona’s architecture is truly memorable as different designs and colours doesn’t give the city a monotony kind of feel.
I spent a lot of my time in the city with my head held up high to check out the buildings; and more often than I would care to admit, I kept thinking to myself I would like to live in each of the different buildings purely because of the colour. Would a pink one suit me?
Whereas Madrid has fantastic architecture, the colours are generally the same. Could it be that Barcelona is crazier? If so, that wouldn’t be a bad thing…
6. Barcelona’s newest Hostel, TOC Hostels, offers a luxury budget option for backpackers, flash packers and families… plus they have a wine bar
I’ve stayed a lot in hostels in Spain and I genuinely believe that TOC Hostels, the city’s newest budget accommodation offering, is the best I’ve stayed in.
Based in the district of Eixample, the hostel is well located to reach the main sights by foot, bus or even the metro, yet still remain in a quiet local spot not to be noisy or touristy.
I can’t think of a great hostel in Madrid but I hear TOC Hostels has established one in the capital. Perhaps I should check it out.
7. Barcelona is so proud of their city that they literally have to spell it out for you
You can’t walk down to the end of a street without being reminded how passionate the residents are for their city.
Everywhere I went, I was told by every local how proud they were for Barcelona even to the point they started making their case for an independent state for Catalonia. Catalan flags are waved at every single opportunity and usually takes precedence over the Spanish flag.
Do you believe Barcelona and its region should get independence?
Madrid firmly believes that Spain should stay together but are they passionate as Barcelona though?
8. Wherever you go, you’re guaranteed gorgeous food anywhere in Barcelona at budget prices!
If you visit Barcelona, make sure to pack loose fitting trousers! You’re gonna come back home with extra weight!
I’m not kidding. The food in Barcelona is truly delicious and what’s more, they were cheap. However, you do have to find where these local yet budget places are instead of the main touristy areas. Try to find side street establishments and the locals will surely give you recommendations of what you should eat!
Madrid may have the best budget option with their Museo del Jamon places serving €1 sandwiches but were they delicious as Barcelona’s offerings? I don’t think so.
9. Barcelona has intriguing crafts markets springing up through the Old City. There’s also tapas and wine
You know you’ve hit jackpot when you stumble across a local handicraft market. Instead of touristy markets selling cheap postcards and tacky souvenirs, these markets sell vintage and retro wares that has been passed down generations. Could you imagine these pieces surviving the Spanish Civil War and perhaps even the War of the Spanish Succession?
Do Madrid have local handicraft markets? Not from what I could see.
10. Barcelona has the most good looking highways in Spain.. so much so it feels Hollywood-esque
Okay, I got a little romantic here but honest to my handsome face, I was entranced by this view at dusk for a good while.
Alongside Port Vell, this glitzy highway thronged with high rising palm trees streaks through cosmopolitan Barcelona as if it was out of a Hollywood movie. Wooden bridges cross the highway from above making it easy for visitors to see Barcelona without looking out for traffic.
Whereas in Madrid, you must have eyes on the back of your head to see temperamental traffic coming although they do have fantastic pedestrian streets.
11. Barcelona’s very own Port Vell could easily be the set of the next Pirates of the Caribbean film
I bet you’re playing the Pirates of the Caribbean theme tune in your head right now? I know I am.
Walking on the promenade of Port Vell Marina, you can’t help but be entranced by the luxury beauty of it all. Crystal clear blue waters, lazy looking boats a clean promenade all makes for a good brisk walk to grab a bit of exercise.
Meanwhile, landlocked Madrid doesn’t have a marina…
12. Barcelona looks after their beloved citizens extremely well in death
You can’t get around Barcelona without hearing the name, ‘Gaudi.‘
This man basically designed Barcelona as we know it now. But his signature piece definitely has to be the Sagrada Familia, which is still being built and due to be finished in 2026. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1926 after being hit by a tram looking like a homeless person (long story). He was buried in his own beloved Sagrada Familia as you can see in the picture above right in the corner. Pretty sweet, eh?
So, to get a good final resting place, do something good for Barcelona!
Could you think of any Madrilenos who could be treated like that?
13. The Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona will have you jumping for joy in the warm Mediterranean Sun!
When the sun is out and shining, rush yourself to Parc de la Ciutadella or more specifically, the Cascada.
In the past, this expansive park was used as a fortress by the King of Spain after the War of Spanish Succession in 1714. It wasn’t to protect Barcelona’s citizens, oh no. It was used to control and stop Barcelona rebelling against Spain! Luckily, the fortress was destroyed in 1869 as the political climate calmed down.
But today, it is a park filled with museums, zoos, parliaments and green spaces for the enjoyment of the Catalans.
But could Madrid’s Retiro Park challenge this?
See More: Lost in Madrid’s Retiro Park
14. Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is 101% cuter than a teacup pig
The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona is possibly my favourite thing about the city. It’s just so damn cute!
Starting from Barcelona Cathedral, enter the Gothic Quarter and purposely make yourself lost to explore the history within. You won’t be disappointed, I’m very sure. You’ll discover boutique stores, charming squares, hidden restaurants and cheeky drinking establishments. But make time to think about its history. It has seen its fair share in the Civil War in 1936-39 as bombs and gun fire echoed throughout, their aftermath still scarred on the walls.
Madrid certainly has an old town but it’s not as comprehensive as Barcelona’s thanks to the Civil War bulldozing Madrid to the ground. What do you think?
15. Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf is actually better looking than Paris’ Arc de Triomphe
Okay, Paris is in the firing line now.
I can safely say Barcelona’s smaller version is so much better looking than Paris’. Do you agree?
The Arc de Triomf was built as a gateway for the Universal Exhibition in 1888 at the start of a long boulevard to the exhibition grounds in the Parc de la Ciutadella. Resplendent in symbolism of Barcelona’s respect of the nations and provinces taking part in the exhibition, it remains to be one of the most popular and loved buildings of Barcelona to this day.
However, could the Great Bear of Madrid smash this down?
See More: The Bear of Madrid
16. The Street Art in Barcelona is very respectful to the city’s Architecture and we like that
We love street art but only if it’s done tastefully and out of respect to the city’s architecture.
Many popular cities around the world are ruined slightly thanks to distasteful street art that scrawls across beautiful buildings.
See More: Why I Hated Lisbon
But Barcelona is not one of them. Thanks to the residents’ proudness of their city and street art zones, you can literally go on a street art tour of Barcelona and be appreciative of their healthy respect of the city.
Madrid is pretty much the same as I didn’t see any back then but in Barcelona, you could feel the respect.
17. Barcelona loves their nightlife so much that there are three dedicated music centres called Arenas
Ah, thanks to Rainbow Barcelona Tours, Arena is where you should be hanging out on a Saturday night (or dare I say, Sunday early morning) from midnight to dawn. Set in a corner of Eixample, these three nightclub bars each play different types of music whether pop, r’n’b or indie. I preferred the Arena Classic, which played pop tunes and you can dance and mingle with like-minded strangers a like.
Madrid has plenty of night bars in Chueca but could they be as epic as Arena bars?
18. You can live in quirky and exciting neighbourhoods in Barcelona that you would bring your mother to
I just loved getting lost in Barcelona because I knew I would be stumbling into beautiful small squares like these. I couldn’t help thinking that I would love to live in Barcelona perhaps with my own dog, partner and having my mother come to stay ever now and again. Could Catalan life be the best?
I also said I would live in Madrid as well? How about I split my time between the two cities?
19. Barcelona loves their inappropriate looking statues to make a Nun blush
You’re gonna laugh at every statue that you’re gonna come across in Barcelona. They are either inappropriate, unfortunate or simply the downright bizarre.
And that’s what this little thing about this city made it for my awesome time here in Barcelona. I don’t know what was going on in the picture above but it did lead to a lot of laughs for my group.
Meanwhile, does Madrid have too much homage to splendidly turned out statues of famous or nondescript characters of history?
20. Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia almost turned me holy with their gorgeous stained glass windows
You know that ‘aaaaaaaah’ feeling when you are blessed with halo light?
That was the feeling for me when the light poured through these gorgeously stained windows within the Sagrada Familia. I was entranced and rooted to the spot. Could I have thrown away everything I owned to live a life of humble beginnings in the holy order?
I could, but my handsome face would have to be shut down. Sorry guys.
So far, Madrid hasn’t made me feel this way…yet.
21. Barcelona doesn’t just do the Flamenco. They do other sexy dances too!
Another popular misconception is that Barcelona only dances the Flamenco.
You’re in the wrong region, baby! You need to be Andalusia for that!
See More: It’s Flamenco Time!
But a dance that Barcelona has taken to its heart is the exotic Tango. Two lovers dancing a sexy dance surely is the epitome of the passion of these Catalans.
Which dance is Madrid famous for?
22. The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona… Need I say anymore?
If you didn’t visit Sagrada Familia on your first time in Barcelona, then you’re a fool. A complete and utter fool.
I’m not going to say anything more… visit it now. Madrid would do.
23. You are considered an upstanding citizen if you owned an extravagant balcony window where others can see you from the street
An interesting fact I learned on my Modernism and Gaudi Tour of Barcelona was that if you owned an extravagant balcony style window sill in your building then everyone knew you were an important person.
The windows would just be big enough for you to partake a coffee afternoon with your friends that can be seen from everyone at street level. If they could see you, you were famous.
Bizarre but something I quite like to have myself.I’m that vain.
But what about Madrid? Unless you owned the Royal Palace of Madrid, then you weren’t important enough.
24. Barcelona actually has a beach! And there’s plenty more!
You’re probably thinking why I visited Barceloneta Beach at night. So am I, I blame the Two Bad Tourists for taking me there. But as it was winter (again, why?), it wasn’t the right time to be sunbathing in the day anyway. But the thing that struck me was that you had a huge choice of beaches to pick.
But for inland Madrid, there couldn’t be any beach for them.
25. Barcelona’s famous Gaudi actually made me care enough to go on an Art and Architecture Tour with Rainbow Barcelona Tours
Newsflash guys! You cannot drag me, even with wild horses, to an art gallery. I cannot think of anything more mind-numbingly boring than looking at a painting and trying to second guess what the artist was thinking. So when I was told that I would be going on a ‘Modernism’ tour, I was very apprehensive. Would I be that screaming tantrum-style kid when enough was enough picking out school uniforms?
I actually loved the tour. I couldn’t get enough of it! Gaudi would be my muse as buildings such as Caso Batilo would capture my interest long enough for me to even ask questions about it! Shock and horror!
Barcelona for me wins hands down for the arts. Just don’t take me to Barcelona F.C Museum featuring Messi.. that’s even more boring…
26. Barcelona may have inspired Star Wars… and designed the Jawas transport already…
I’m a firm believer that Barcelona inspired Star Wars.
That’s quite a bold statement but bear with me.
I believe that this statue looks completely like the Jawas transport coming over a Tatooine sand dune at the beginning of Star Wars: A New Hope. Did George Lucas visit Barcelona and suddenly penned the screenplay of this epic saga? Who knows.
Now, beat that Madrid… but Seville has. Remember in The Phantom Menace’s Naboo Palace? That was actually Seville’s very own Plaza de la Espana.
See More: A Taste of Seville Spanish Culture
27. Barcelona has one of the best breweries on the Old Continent and their beer is so tasty!
If you’re looking for a late night tipple that’s not a music bar or a raving dance club, how about a beer brewery in the heart of the city? That’s right, you can even drink it fresh from the barrel.
Moritz Brewery has been around for the last 150 years and survives to this day thanks to its incredible fusion of great tradition and modernity. It also helps that the beer is rather tasty and very drinkable!
Not only you can order their beer by the litre, you can even have a few tapas dinners while you are waiting. Go on, spoil yourself.
Strangely enough, I don’t associate Madrid with beer. It’s more wine. But with Barcelona, I think more of beer. Hmm, perhaps the two cities should join forces to make a powerful hybrid…
28. Symmetry is hugely important in Barcelona’s architectural designs that pleasures the eye of an inspecting tourist
By now, I’m sure you know that I just love the art and architecture of Barcelona. Like infinity squared. But for me, it’s always about the symmetrical detailing of the city that clinched it for me. Symmetry is a mark of beauty so perhaps that’s why my face is so ruggedly handsome. It’s symmetrical! 😉
I think Madrid excels itself at the asymmetrical, keeping visitors on their toes on what to expect. If you want symmetry, Barcelona is where it’s at.
29. The ceiling in Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia will take make you squeal more than a cheerleader on top of a pyramid
Okay, did I squeal like a cheerleader on top of a pyramid?
The answer is yes.
It’s all because of this panoramic ceiling within the Sagrada Familia. I actually nearly fell on my butt just staring up for far too long. It’s almost like the hands of heaven are reaching out to you.
Could Madrid beat this? I think not.
30. Even though the Sagrada Familia won’t be finished until 2026, it’s still one of the greatest buildings in Europe
Hands up if you think the Sagrada Familia is beautiful?
I do. Actually, I’ve got four appendages up in the air. If I had a tail, that would be up too.
But I do 100% believe that the Sagrada Familia is one of the best buildings I’ve clapped eyes on in Europe. Perhaps even the world.
Sorry, Royal Palace of Madrid, hang your head in defeat.
31. Barcelona still retains its local charm in old style cafes and bars to grab a quiet moment and a delicious wine glass in
Even though Barcelona is one of the top touristy cities in the world, it still retains its local charm through its coffee bars like Schilling Cafe.
Based within the Gothic Quarter, here lies a perfect chance to get away from the tourist crowds and treat yourself to a delicious glass of red wine whilst experiencing local life. No English was spoken here and I truly felt like I was in another country.
Meanwhile, in Madrid, English was widely spoken in many cafes. But perhaps I need to go back and find the local cafes again.
32. You will just want to live in your own flat in Barcelona with flags fluttering outside… either with the Spanish flag or Catalan flag
Nothing beats the feeling of being proud of your own country and being patriotic. And Barcelona does it so well for their region of Catalonia; and Spain to a certain extent. Flags are waved in balconies, which makes me envious so much that I wish I could live here in a beautiful building and fly my own flag.
Would I see that passion in Madrid? Perhaps not that much…
33. You can see the best of Barcelona in a couple of hours without walking
Believe it or not, you can see the best of Barcelona on an open top tourist bus in just a couple of hours thanks to Barcelona Bus Turistic.
Taking in Sagrada Famila, Montserrat Mountain, Gaudi Parc and more, you’ll be able to see everything that you’ll need to see with a running audio commentary. Perfect for a brisk sunny day in February, this is what you need to do if you’re feeling lazy.
Whereas Madrid does have their own bus tour, I think walking tours in the capital of Spain is more their style.
See More: A Walking Tour of Madrid
34. Barcelona will make you wish you were Superman so you can fly back quickly to visit again…
I’m sure by now, you’re in complete agreement with me that Barcelona is absolutely fantastic. There’s still even more reasons why you should visit! I know I haven’t had the chance to see more features of Barcelona such as the Magic Fountain Show, climbing Montjuiic Mountain, taking part in a Catalan cooking class, celebrating Festes de la Merce, skipping in Parc Guell and many more.
So yes, I want to be Superman and fly back to Barcelona when I want to.
But for Madrid? Would I fly back? Of course I do, but perhaps with not so much urgency.
Tell Me Your Verdict
What do you think? Do you think Barcelona could be better than Madrid?
Can’t make your mind up? Read my take why Madrid is So Awesome and then tell me which city you think is the better than the other.
Read More: Why Madrid is SO Awesome
The choice is yours:
Barcelona or Madrid? Madrid or Barcelona?
Tell me in the comments below and share this with your friends. Let’s get a poll going 🙂