Barcelona or Madrid, Tough Decision!

Barcelona and Madrid, two very different cities, each with its own vibe. Barcelona is playful and child like, where Madrid feels like the mature, older sibling. The influence of Antoni Goudi is vividly present in Barcelona, where as Madrid has a much more elegant feel with its grand boulevards. Both cities have much to offer, and are popular tourist destinations for people from all around the world.

We visited in October, 2013, and were welcomed by bright blue skies and temperatures hovering in the high 70s. After checking into our Airbnb, we headed out to explore the neighborhood. The narrow streets open up onto plazas and squares where you will find restaurants, buskers, shops, churches, monuments and so much more. We entered one such plaza after dark and I had to stop to take in the variety of activity. There were cafes, bars, restaurants, musicians, acrobats, police officers on horseback, people dressed up in various costumes, venders selling light sticks, it was an amazing site to see.

Normally, my husband and I go to bed fairly early, but we had so much fun bar hopping, that we were out until midnight every night. This is quite out of character for us. On our third day there, our daughter arrived from the US. We all went out that night and at one point she looked at us and said: “Who are you and what have you done with my parents!?!”

We visited the beach the next day and even though it was mid October, people were swimming and sunbathing.

The influence of Goudi is prevalent in Barcelona. His unique style can be seen in many areas in the city, including the famous temple, Sagrada Familia.

The Picasso Museum is also an interesting place to visit. As you work your way through the building, you will see how his works changed as he got older.

The Mercado de La Boqueria on La Rambla is filled with almost everything imaginable, restaurants, vendors, food, clothing, the list goes on.

After an intense five days in Barcelona, we headed to Madrid. We were greeted by our Airbnb host, who gave us a tour of the neighborhood and local market. There are many things to do and see in Madrid, museums, local art, restaurants, shops, cultural activities, and quite a few markets. I highly recommend visiting at least one of the markets while you are there.

The famous museum, Museo Nacional de Prado has a vast and numerous collection of paintings, sculptures, and so much more including works by Francisco Goya and Peter Rubens.

The Royal Palace of Madrid is a must see as well. It has many works of art, beautiful rooms and gardens.

And, of course, the food is amazing. We enjoyed croquettes, sardines, potatoes with aioli, olives, shellfish, tomatoes on bread, Spanish ham, all deliciously paired with cava. We enjoyed hot chocolate and churros for dessert, yummy!

We sat in an outdoor cafe in Plaza Mayor where, like in Barcelona, there was so much going on! Again we saw costumed characters, police officers on horseback, children chasing pigeons, shops, restaurants, waiters encouraging you stop for a snack or meal, artists, photographers, you name it and it was probably there.

Both cities have so much to offer, and are filled with history, culture and so much more. I didn’t find the people to be as friendly as they are in the UK or France, but they were not unfriendly either, just indifferent. In Barcelona, we stopped for a drink at an outdoor cafe, and the waiter told us to be careful, his friend had her cell phone stolen right out of her hand by a man riding a bike. We had heard that petty theft was a big problem in there, but we were surprised to be warned. The residents of Barcelona are experiencing tourist fatigue, something to consider when plannng a trip there. I am certainly not suggesting that you don’t visit, I would go back in a heartbeat. If you do go, use common sense and be a considerate guest.

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