10 reasons why you should travel to Barcelona instead of Madrid
Let’s be real - it is impossible to say that either one of these great cities is better than the other. Both have something special to offer, and the best is if you explore either of them on your travel to Spain. But in this article I will try describing reasons why should one travel to Barcelona instead of Madrid. Because you see, they both have a distinctively different energy and vibe about them. I will give some pretty decent points to help you figure out if you rather belong to one or the other end of the stick, namely if you would enjoy more the home city of FC Barcelona or the contrary - Real Madrid. Even if you don’t need any persuading and are already planning a trip to the Spanish coastal gem, this post will also offer a few useful tips on what to do in Barcelona and how to get around.
How to travel in Barcelona?
This wonderful city is located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and therefore very well connected by land, sea, and air. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and transportation options are not scarce at all. Nevertheless, many overseas flights tend to come to one of the Madrid airports first (it is the capital city, after all). It is useful to know that travel from Barcelona to Madrid will take just about 3 hours by train or 1.5 hours by plane. Easy, right?
But if you are concerned about how to travel in Barcelona itself, then have no worries. The transportation system is very uncomplicated, but even more importantly - you can get to most places just on foot! When I was there, I found the TMB App very useful in understanding and calculating my travel within the city.
What is the best time to travel to Barcelona?
Well, it really depends on your preferences. I went there at the beginning of February, and for me, as a Latvian, it was super great to experience some warmth and sun in a season that technically wintered. With that said - Barcelona is quite great at any time in the year. But if you want to get the best of the best, then consider the following things.
April has more possibility for rain, but July-August is the peak months for summer heat, tourist crowds, and higher prices. May and June, on the contrary, still have quite decent temperatures in the air and water, but also offer the benefit of various festivals, like San Juan and Barcelona Gay Pride. September and October still offer nice weather; the tourist swell starts to calm down, and so do prices.
So what is the best time to travel to Barcelona after all? It is up to you, but my say would be either June or September.
Is it safe to travel to Barcelona?
Due to ongoing stories and rumours, many travellers are concerned - is it safe to travel to Barcelona? Let me assure you. The city is really, really safe, but you have to mind just one thing. Pickpockets. They will find your wallet without you even noticing. Therefore just be safe and make sure your belongings are well hidden. I have heard people telling stories about sitting on a pier with not a single soul around, and the wallet got somehow stolen anyways. A mystery story that teaches a valuable lesson!
So why should you travel to Barcelona instead of Madrid?
1. The capital of youth
And I dare say this with my full heart! Generally, the city is rather associated with a younger crowd for several reasons. It is home to 4 major universities, has an epic nightlife scene, and a historically deep tradition for creativity and innovation (more on this a bit later). Besides that - it is also strongly associated with arts, and young professionals and artists come here from the whole world just for that. Don’t doubt the obvious and energetic vibe in the air - get your Spain visa, travel to Barcelona, and you will feel it on your own skin!
2. ...and also the notorious capital of nightlife!
Take into account all of the things mentioned above, put it together with the insane amounts of great bars/clubs and a culture rooted in celebrating life. Unforgettable night memories guaranteed! My suggestion is - head to the El Born district or streets of the Gothic Quarter.
3. Sun and sea
Another element contributing to the beautiful energy of this city is the closeness to the sea and the great weather too. First of all, Madrid has no beaches and additionally, the summers might get especially hot and dry. Barcelona, on the other hand, has milder temperature curves, and there is always an option to head to La Barceloneta Beach right in the city or any other (less crowded) spots nearby. An idea about a cold cocktail on the beach alone is enough for me to choose to travel to Barcelona instead of Madrid!
4. The one and only Gaudi
This legendary Catalonian artist has left an irreversible imprint on the art scene as well as Barcelona itself. Just picture the magnificent La Sagrada Familia and the charming Parc Guell. The arches, the shapes, the colours - it is something every single person should see in their lives! And I tell you this wholeheartedly because I thought these landmarks were overrated too. Until I saw those places with my own eyes…
5. The delicious treasures of the sea
Closeness to the sea is a benefit on its own, for the closeness of those beaches, of course. But it comes with another benefit - delicious and fresh seafood! Barcelona has long been a port city, and it definitely shows in the local cuisine and markets. Some might argue that Madrid has equally as good seafood game, but let me point out a hint. Those mussels and octopi probably travel from Barcelona to Madrid anyways! So why not try it first hand anyways?
6. Cycling infrastructure
If you are a bike person through and through, then there is no second-guessing - Barcelona is the destination for you. It is hard to top biking along the sea in general, but there are a few more reasons. Barcelona has a more developed cycling infrastructure (read - biking lanes, etc.), and most locals move around this way. On the contrary, Madrid has yet to progress in this area.
7. Solo travellers heaven
Taking into account several factors I mentioned before, Barcelona might be the best place if you are travelling alone. It will keep you busy and entertained if you are not eager to socialize with too many people. Just getting lost in the buzzing tiny streets and hearing flamenco music on the streets or just exploring every corner of Parc Guell, or visiting one of many museums dedicated to art. First, you will not get bored, and second, you will be able to take in the beauty of this Catalan pearl with your full attention. Also, if you are looking forward to meeting people from all over the world - Barcelona is amazing for that! The legendary nightlife and relaxed vibe of the city are just some of the catalysts of new friendships. Just remember to stay safe, especially if you are a female solo traveller!
8. Contemporary art scene
Just as I already mentioned beforehand - Barcelona feels rather young, and the same can be attributed to the art scene. Consider Madrid focused rather on classical values and history, but Barcelona - towards the future. Because it was home to some of the most famous artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, the city has a long history of being at the centre of contemporary art movements and creativity. Currently, the city has more than 70 museums and galleries that will satisfy your cravings for various types of arts for quite some time. If you are into that kind of stuff or you are just considering what to do in Barcelona, my suggestion is to visit the Centre for Contemporary Art Barcelona (CCCB). And move on to discovering the rest of the exciting and hip spots if you still want more!
Barcelona is not only on the coast but also surrounded by mountains, and the beauty of this area is just unparalleled. If you are eager to explore some spectacular landscapes, then Barcelona will be a treat because Madrid is mostly surrounded by arid planes. With that said. When planning what to do in Barcelona, definitely arrange a day trip to Montserrat or Cadaques!
A true Instagram pro will find some amazing angles in every place, but if you want some immediately recognizable and eye-catching shots, then Barcelona is probably the spot. Just imagine the textures of La Sagrada Familia or colourful Gaudi buildings and the views from Parc Guell. Or how about a photo in a beachfront cafe overlooking a bay with heaps of surfers? These are very few, very many pictures that will make your like and follower number go up quickly. Let me share a secret why - people are generally attracted to familiar things, and images from Barcelona definitely look more familiar! Besides that - this city offers a greater opportunity for colourful images, which is another factor for success. Just type “travel to Spain” to see what I am talking about!
Okay, the choice still lies with you on this one. But I hope we can agree on the fact that Barcelona seems pretty amazing, doesn’t it? And it is the right place for you if you are eager to experience those generally “younger” and contemporary vibes. Or the beaches! See you there?
Ieva Miltina is an activist and entrepreneur of many sorts. By profession project manager of marketing and culture events, in her heart she is a passionate traveler and a cook, soon to become a pastry chef. Deeply rooted in non-formal education she has been involved in youth work since her teenage years and up till nowadays holds a deep interest in innovative approaches to learning and personal development, which she transfers to people from all Europe during various international trainings. Always looking for new discoveries and adventures she happily shares her positive view on the world and the neverending stories with the people who cross her path. While studying hospitality and tourism management she wrote a thesis on home-chefs, which ignited her dream of owning her cozy and heartwarming home restaurant, which will hopefully materialize very soon. Meanwhile writing articles and doing food photography she is working towards another dream of hers - becoming a published author someday.