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Madrid vs Barcelona ( I know you have an opinion!)

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So early May I go with 5 of my best girl friends in the world to Spain for my 50th bday! We plan on staying in Madrid and Barcelona. The question is, how much time in each place? We all love museums, shopping, walking around enjoying a new place, new food etc etc!!

I tried to find us an apartment in Madrid but it's difficult to find something big enough so we plan to stay in a hotel. Does anyone have an opinion about the Gran Melia Fenix? I'm trying to find something that won't break the bank (I am paying for lodging) that also is nice and clean!

We will be staying in an apartment in Barcelona as it's easier to find a roomy place.

So the biggest questions in my mind are...

1. how much time should we allot to each city (we fly in and out of Madrid)? 2. How should we travel from one city to the other, I see flights are cheap but is it worth it to fly given the great european rail system? (Someone also mentioned that Spain has a great bus system). And
3. which neighborhood should we target to stay in in each city?

Appreciate any and all help!

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