Big Short Breaks

Madrid vs Barcelona

Madrid vs Barcelona

For Spaniards, the Madrid vs Barcelona debate is one that’s been going around in circles for generations. Any good madrileño or barceloniano will be sure to fight tooth and nail for the last word to confirm that their city – yes, theirs – wins at everything from football and food to culture and nightlife. And to be honest, we’d have a hard time crowning a champion out of the two – as they both do what they do best extremely well. Barcelona is more diverse and fast-paced; it means catching a football game, a Gaudí exhibition and some rays at the beach all in the same day. Life in Madrid is more slow-paced; it’s about taking a long stroll in tranquil parks, enjoying lazy lunches at high-end eateries and spending hours drinking in world-famous artworks at the city’s best museums. Read on for the battle of Spanish cities…


For Beaches… Barcelona

We’ll start off with one that’s easy and obvious, but well worth taking into consideration: the beaches. The coastline of Barcelona is second to none, with long stretches of sandy beach on the edge of some of the city’s most happening neighbourhoods. So if you’re someone who likes to pepper their city break with a few hours of seaside lounging, then Barcelona might be the winner. The long expanse of Barceloneta Beach – with its scores of buzzing beach bars and diversity of nearby restaurants – is certainly the star of the show and is just a 30-minute walk from the Gothic Quarter. Further up the coast there are also popular local haunts Nova Icaria, Bogatell and Mar Bella where you can live life like a true barceloniano: join in with a game of volleyball, take a dip in the azure Mediterranean and tuck into the fruits of the sea at a local seafood joint. Our favourite beaches in Barcelona.


For Parks… Madrid

While landlocked Madrid can’t offer much – or, anything for that matter – in terms of coastline, it does have a certain something in its arsenal to counter Barcelona’s beaches: parks. The masses of pristine green spaces scattered throughout the city are the pride and joy of madrileños, who come to enjoy walks, picnics and cultural events at any time of year. The central El Retiro park, the former favourite leisure spot for royals, is bursting at the seams with beauty – think manicured gardens, a crystal palace and wide tree-lined paths. Other charming parks worth a visit include the Royal Botanical Gardens (which house 30,000 species of plants), the Jardines de Sabatini and Campo del Moro (in the grounds of the Royal Palace) and Casa do Campo (which is five times the size of New York’s Central Park!).



For Architecture… Barcelona

Barcelona is one of the world’s biggest hitters when it comes to cultural clout, with sites like the Sagrada Familia and the Gothic Quarter making an appearance on every globe-trotters bucket-list. Front and centre are the surreal Avant Garde works of Antoni Gaudí, whose masterpieces you can admire alongside one of our top local architect-guides – marvel at the vibrancy of the light as it pours into the enchanting Sagrada Familia and watch the hum of activity outside through the irregular oval windows of Casa Batlló. The Gothic Quarter, with its labyrinth of mythical cobbled streets, is a cultural treasure of some of the city’s most important sites, including the Barcelona Cathedral, the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar and the Picasso Museum.

For Art… Madrid

While its elegant Baroque-style buildings, avenues and squares are quite the attraction, Madrid’s cultural splendour actually lies more in its art than its architecture. We’re talking about the ‘Golden Triangle’ of art museums: the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. This Holy Trinity treasures some of western Europe’s most prized artworks, including masterpieces by Picasso, Velázquez, Goya, Dali and Caravaggio. And the best part? All three are located just minutes away from each other on beautiful Paseo del Prado. For some serious cultural immersion, we can arrange for you to hit Spain’s artiest street with a private art historian guide, who can walk and talk you through the historic and cultural significance of some of Europe’s greatest masterpieces.


For Food… Madrid

When it comes to the food scene, it’s hard to pick one city over the other in the battle of Madrid vs Barcelona. But we’re going to hand this one to Madrid due to its diverse and ever-booming culinary capabilities, which have seen innovative, high-concept restaurants set up shop next to traditional tapas bars. You can enjoy everything from a 20-course tasting menu at DiverXO to some good old-fashioned tapas at Bodega de la Ardosa, one of the oldest taverns in Madrid. Food markets have also boomed in recent years – you can find high-end fusion cuisine at Galería Canalejas, Asian street fare at Yatai Market and ultra-fresh, creative tapas at San Miguel Market. But no matter if Madrid or Barcelona ends up being the getaway of choice, you can rest easy knowing you’ll be armed with our tried and tested Dossier of our favourite foodie picks in town.



For Nightlife… Barcelona

Those with an eye for extending the holiday fun deep into the long Spanish evenings can easily find nighttime nirvana in bustling Barcelona. With swanky rooftop bars sprinkled throughout every neighbourhood, world-famous beach clubs lining the city’s sandy slither of Mediterranean coast and a timeless old-world feel in the taverns of the Old Town, there really is a happening haunt for everyone. Our knowledgable local Concierge team can help tailor an evening to your taste, be that reserving you a spot at an exclusive Barcelona rooftop bar or helping you get tickets to exclusive flamenco events.

Still unsure which city to back in the Madrid vs Barcelona debate? Speak to our team of experts for the inside track on these fabulous Spanish cities.