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-   -   5 days in Spain...Barcelona or Madrid or both? (https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/5-days-in-spain-barcelona-or-madrid-or-both-857844/)

smithgardner Sep 4th, 2010 07:58 AM

5 days in Spain...Barcelona or Madrid or both?
 
I'm thinking about going to Spain in November, and I've never been before. I will have between 5-6 days, and I wanted some advice on the highlights. I can't seem to figure out whether I would prefer Madrid or Barcelona. I'm 24, and I love art, food, and nightlife, and I also like to see a lot of things when I visit the first time. Would it be crazy to try and go to see the Alhambra as well? Any advice is appreciated.

CathyM Sep 4th, 2010 08:39 AM

The Madrid vs Barcelona debate has been done several times. In my opinion it all boils down to your personal preferences and interests. With only 5-6 days I would focus on Madrid OR Barcelona. There's really no time to try to see the Alhambra - it will take too much time out of your already short time in Spain. At 24 you'll have plenty of time to return. Maybe next time you can come back for 2 weeks then do a trip with Andalucia and Madrid or Barcelona (whichever one you don't visit this time).

cherrybomb Sep 4th, 2010 09:10 AM

Pick one place in that time. Both cities have art good food and good nightlife. I used to prefer Barcelona to Madrid. But now I'm torn an lean towards Madrid. Barcelona has more of an international vibe with a lot of expats. Madrid seems more Spanish to me. But that's just my take on the 2 cities for why it is worth.

Definately only stick to one city for a trip this short

SISer Sep 4th, 2010 09:39 AM

Not both, you won't ahve enough time. Madrid IMO has less to offer, but that's just an opion and this does vary. Madrid isn't one of my favourite cities. I prefer Barcelona, funny because I've been to Madrid many more times than I've been to Barcelona.

nytraveler Sep 4th, 2010 10:22 AM

Have you checked out the weather? I think in November Barcelona may be more moderate than Madrid.

stephh Sep 4th, 2010 10:58 AM

I vote for Barcelona, too. The architecture, the vistas, the sea, all are available in one spot.

lincasanova Sep 4th, 2010 11:15 AM

I think you can work in a visit to the Alhambra and one of the those cities if that is someplace that is high on your list.

Aduchamp1 Sep 4th, 2010 11:33 AM

In terms of art Madrid has the Prado, Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen. The art in Barcelona is in the streets in the Gaudi creations and the Barri Gotic. The Prado is one of the top five general art museums in the world.

The museums in Barcelona are interesting but not compelling.

Barcelona has a sense of style that permeates the city. Madrid is more of a business and governmental center.

cruiseluv Sep 4th, 2010 12:03 PM

If art is a big thing for you I would say Madrid. I must admit that I prefer Madrid to Barcelona , so I might be a bit biased here. Madrid also has more interesting day trip options for a first time visitor(Toledo, Segovia, Avila, El Escorial).

annhig Sep 4th, 2010 12:09 PM

what cruisluv said.

i liked Barcelona, but madrid seems a better fit for your interests.

Sassafrass Sep 4th, 2010 02:38 PM

For five days, I would choose Madrid because of the Prado, Toledo and Segovia. Will probably be cooler though, than Barcelona.

Aduchamp1 Sep 4th, 2010 02:57 PM

If you define art as paintings and sculpture than you would want to visit Madrid. If your defintion is broader than you would want to visit Barcelona. The textures, colors, designs, lines, perspectives, and materials of Gaudi and Puig and their acolytes are unique and engaging. The Barri Gotic is also well preserved.

I think you should do some research and decide which is more enticing.

colduphere Sep 4th, 2010 03:06 PM

We just had this decision to make and chose Barcelona for five days. But that is with three kids at the end of a long trip. If I were 24 I would definitely go to both cities.

danon Sep 4th, 2010 04:57 PM

agree with cold

If you have 6 days...fly into Barcelona stay 2-3 night..take an early train to Madird ( only three hours) spend 2- 3 nights in Madrid ..fly home.
or the other way around.
If you wish to see Alhambra, fly to Granada from Barcelona for 24 hours ( Vueling has cheap flights). Leave Madrid for another time.

karens Sep 4th, 2010 06:44 PM

I would recommend both. I'm tagging along with my husband on his business trip to Barcelona, and we're going to Madrid just for one day just so I can visit the Prado.

I really liked Barcelona, but I couldn't be that close to the Prado not to visit.

We hope to take the train between cities, but after about 20 tries on the Renfe site and numerous calls to my credit card company (not exaggerating), I'm still not successful in booking this.

Lynnaustin Sep 4th, 2010 07:35 PM

Agree with danon, just be sure you book your air by flying into one city and out of another.
Karens, I'm sorry for all those problems you are having. You time is valuable, maybe just give up and book through Rail Europe. It would save you a lot of aggravation.

lmhornet Sep 5th, 2010 04:50 AM

Not even close. Barcelona

Madrid is completely boring. Unlike other Europea capitals, has little history because it is only 500 years old, and is located in an unscenic local. There are no oceans, no hills, no nothing. There are relatively few sights, unless you are one of those people who would never bother stepping into an art gallery at home but feel compelled by guidebooks to trekking through art galleries overseas. The only positive thing about Madrid is the it's a short trip to Toledo and to a lesser extent to Segovia and to El Escorial.

Best bet. Spend a day in Madrid just to say you've bee there, a day in Toledo and then go to Barcelona. 5-6 days in either place is far too much.

Nikki Sep 5th, 2010 08:49 AM

I loved visiting both Madrid and Barcelona. Madrid has a wonderful nighttime atmosphere, lots of people on the streets until very late, tapas bars, flamenco (I saw two shows at Casa Patas, enjoyed it tremendously). The Plaza Santa Ana is lively and ringed with cafes and tapas bars.

The Thyssen Bornemisza museum was my favorite of the Madrid art museums, with major works by lesser known artists and minor works by major artists, laid out beautifully.

Barcelona is interesting for its Catalan culture, including food and language. The Museum of the City of Barcelona gives access to the underground remains of the Roman city and is very interesting. The Maritime Museum in the medieval shipyards is much more interesting than I anticipated. There are interesting museums dedicated to Miro and Picasso, although they are not the world class museums that you would find in Madrid.

There is a waterfront with pleasant bars and restaurants, a cable car across the harbor,and terrific food both in restaurants and at the Boqueria market on Las Ramblas. Attending a concert at the Palau de la Musica Catalana is a treat. The moderniste architecture at that hall is eye-popping.

There are no bad choices here.

cherrybomb Sep 5th, 2010 09:45 AM

Wow, Madrid is "completely boring" with nothing to do and no history? I must have been in the wrong city those times.

Anyhoo, the op is interested in art, food, nightlife. Madrid has that in spades. As does Barcelona. There is no bad choice here. I will say of travelling alone, the poster may be more likely to meet more people in Barcelona. At least that is my experience.

smithgardner Sep 5th, 2010 07:17 PM

Thank you to everyone for your advice. I am leaning toward spending most of my time in Barcelona, but flying back to US out of Madrid, because I am not going to Spain without seeing Guernica! I'm a huge Picasso fan. But I think I will able to get a good taste of Barcelona in 4 days, and then a night or 2 in Madrid on the way back. Thanks!


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