by Erin Elaine
When I told people I was moving to Spain, many people asked Barcelona? with a look of excitement in their eyes. When I responded No, Madrid a common response was Oh. Well, you should visit Barcelona, it’s amazing. I did visit Barcelona, and it was amazing, but I prefer living in Madrid.
Barcelona has some amazing sights to see, notably everything Gaudí, which I loved, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. As a tourist, it was amazing to see those places, and I do feel truly blessed to have the chance, but upon returning to Madrid I realized how much more I prefer Madrid.
1 – Madrid has more character, in my opinion. In Madrid I am completely surrounded by old buildings. In Barcelona there were enough modern buildings to remind me of a modern urban city, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean less character. In Madrid, it’s a 20 minute walk from the southern part of downtown (el centro) to the northern part of downtown, and you are surrounded by old buildings and narrow streets and character everywhere. In Barcelona the neighborhoods with what I consider “character” were smaller.
2. Barcelona has more cars. So many more cars! Even with a decent Metro and bikes able to be rented at will, cars were everywhere. I think it has something to do with the wide, multi-lane roads. It just makes driving more convenient than in Madrid. In the center of Madrid there are like 3 streets with more than 2 lanes. The very very center has been converted entirely to a pedestrian area. And many neighborhoods don’t allow non-residents to drive through. For instance, my neighborhood, one of the oldest in Madrid. Almost all of the streets are 1 lane, zero parking, and only residents and taxis are allowed to drive through. People literally walk down the middle of the street without even looking for cars, since cars are so rare that it’s easy to hear them coming. I love it.
3. Barcelona is far more touristy. English signs are everywhere, which you wouldn’t think would be a con, but it makes it harder to distinguish the expensive tourist traps. In Madrid the best restaurants don’t have English menus. If you see an English menu it often means the food is just mediocre. But in Barcelona how am I supposed to figure out which restaurants are mediocre? They ALL have English menus, even on the tiny little backstreets that are literally too narrow for cars. Also, even the most touristy places in Madrid are frequented by locals, but in Barcelona I didn’t really get that feeling, although I have no facts to back that up.
4. The Metro isn’t as good. I mean, it’s a hundred times better than most cities in the states, but compared to Madrid it definitely isn’t as good. Madrid’s Metro is known for being one of the best and most efficient in Europe. In Madrid, if a certain station has multiple entrances you can go in any entrance and reach any platform. In Barcelona, some stations have a single entrance for Platform A and a completely different entrance for Platform B. Also, once you are underground and trying to find Line 3 Platform B, Barcelona’s Metro is like a maze. Sometimes I felt like I was walking forever. And sometimes, in order to get to Line 4, the signs directed me onto the actual platform for Line 3, made me walk all the way to the far end, then up some stairs and over to Line 4. Completely inefficient. No me gusta.
5. Madrid is cheaper. ’nuff said.
6. Madrid feels like home. Barcelona was fun to see as a tourist, but I wouldn’t want to live there. And that’s saying a lot since they have the sea and Madrid doesn’t. That’s really the only downside to Madrid.