Erin Explores

by Erin Elaine

Why I prefer Madrid to Barcelona


An American who prefers Madrid to Barcelona? Blasphemy!

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.

My reasons:

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.

8 comments on “Why I prefer Madrid to Barcelona

  1. lifeoutofthebox
    November 13, 2012

    Amazing photo of Madrid!!

  2. Kurt
    November 13, 2012

    Interesting. I was just in Barca and am starting my next trip in Madrid. Very excited to see and explore this historic city.

    • Erin Elaine
      November 13, 2012

      I think I’m in the minority, but even if you end up liking Barca more, you’ll still love Madrid. It is definitely very historic, and has some amazing museums and culture. 🙂

  3. Claudia
    November 13, 2012

    Actually there are quite a lot of restaurants in Barcelona without English menus. But don´t expect it in La Rambla though 🙂 And about the metro I really do not think it´s like a maze (then try London´s underground!).

    • Erin Elaine
      November 14, 2012

      I wandered around Bari Gotic and Ribera, and I didn´t notice any non-English menus. I´m sure they exist somewhere, I just didn´t see any.

      And I have heard the tube in London is like a maze, and Barcelona´s metro wasn´t BAD, it just wasn´t as good as Madrid´s. Have you been on the Madrid metro? I explained above the differences and I much prefer the Madrid metro. It involves less walking and it´s a lot easier to understand. In Madrid I never waste a metro ticket going in the wrong entrance that only takes me to Platform A but not Platform B.

      Different strokes for different folks. 🙂

  4. Jessica
    November 14, 2012

    Haha that’s funny you say that about the Metro, because I think Barcelona’s is easier than Madrid’s! Except for that one change you mentioned between L3 and L4 at Passeig de Gràcia, which is the worst. Of course, I’m biased because I live in Barcelona.

    As for point #3, I think you must’ve spent all your time in the city center (which is great if you were visiting, the center is fun!) They have a lot of stuff in English there, but most places outside of the center don’t offer anything in English, or even in Castilian Spanish sometimes.

    • Erin Elaine
      November 14, 2012

      I went outside the center briefly to go to the Sagrada Família and Park Güell, but I didn’t eat around there. The environment was a bit too modern for my tastes, I enjoy older neighborhoods with more character. Maybe if I lived in Barcelona I would feel differently.

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This entry was posted on November 13, 2012 by in Culture, Language, Madrid, Spain, Travel and tagged , , , , , .

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