Over the years, I have met many Barcelona fans who also liked and enjoyed Madrid. I have never met anyone who hated one when loving what some call its opponent or best advisory. I see two stunningly beautiful and exiting cities, two capitals, in fact, although technically only one is.
Barcelona: The lowdown
Barcelona has been described in many books and two of them really capture the city’s soul: La Catedral del Mar and Rosa de Cendra. Both
describe Barcelona and its inhabitants at two periods of its long and rich history: The Middle Age, when the Gothic District developed not so far from the port, and the late 1800s and early 1900s, when Gaudi built the elegant Art Nouveau Barcelona we all love.
Long, pleasant walks on the Ramblas and the new promenade alongside the Med are the stuff of travel dreams…and the colors of the stones when the sun hits the old part of the city, is nothing short of breathtaking. This is when locals and visitors take the time to enjoy a good glass of wine under the palm trees of the Plaza Mayor.
Picasso spent his youth here, and some of his most moving paintings are displayed in the Picasso Museum. For yummy paellas, Els 4Gats can’t be beat. Passeig de Gracia has the most elegant shops!
Madrid; The lowdown
Madrid is the kingdom’s capital and it shows. The magnificent Castellana gracefully splits the city in two, but it’s a fairly recent addition to the cityscape. The real Madrid can be found between Puerta del Sol and the Plaza Mayor. Not so far is the Mercado San Miguel where a stop to enjoy a refreshing caña and delicious tapas should be a non-negotiable part of your itinerary.
Then, of course, the Gran Via, the local Champs-Elysées, with its spectacular architecture, is an attraction in its own right. For shopping, head to Salamanca, a place for connoisseurs of everything.
Madrid is also home to three museums that are absolute must-sees (after all you are visiting the nation that gave the world Goyal, Velazquez, Picasso): El Retiro, Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Reina Sofia. Fabulous. If you have an extra day, do extend to El Escorial where Philip II built a sumptuous monastery.
For centuries, Madrid and Barcelona have been rivals, and to this date, as Catalunya claims its independence, the situation is fairly complicated. But
oppositions aside, these two cities are inextricably linked. For a start, there is the bullet train that travels between them, and there are trains every hour. So if you are making a trip to Spain- and you have the luxury of time, why not visit both?