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Barcelona or Madrid??

Old Apr 24th, 2007, 07:03 PM
Original Poster
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Barcelona or Madrid??

Hi everyone! It's been a while since I posted, but you all have NEVER steered me wrong in the past. I value your advice. My friend and I are looking to go on a 5-7 day trip to spain. So there's our dilemma: Barcelona or Madrid?? Here's some information:

-30-something women
-We love wine and gourmet food
-Love art and architecture (I personally have a thing for churches)
-We'd love a big city, and plan to do side trips as well.

Please feel free to make suggestions as to your opinion: BCN vs. Madrid, as well as things you've loved about each, side trips to take, and areas to stay (hotels if you have favorites). My friend will be there 4-5 days, and I'll likely be there 7. Plese feel free to also share travelogues..

Thank you, oh wise ones!!!
reddattitude is offline  
Old Apr 24th, 2007, 10:58 PM
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Some tips:
*Wine & gourmet food: Madrid or Barcelona.
*Paintings: Madrid (El Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemizsa museums)
*Architecture: Barcelona (Gaudi and more)
*Daytrips: Madrid (to Segovia, Toledo or Salamanca)
*Preromanesque churches: Asturias (northern Spain). See this site:
Revulgo is offline  
Old Apr 24th, 2007, 11:40 PM
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Both destinations will satisfy your interests, both offer excellent restaurants - from rustic tapas bars to high-end gourmet cusine - both have world-class museums (with Madrid the nose in front), both have great architecture (both medieval and turn-of-the-century) and both have attractions in the area which are worth a daytrip.

The difference is: Madrid is the capital, Barcelona is provincial.

What can make the difference:

- Barcelona has certainly good art museums - the Miro Foundation and the Picasso Museum are most notable - but Madrid is clearly superior. Picasso's "La Guernica" is in Madrid (Reina Sophia), and this certainly beats everything else of Picasso. And the Prado is one of the greatest museums of the world. Thyssen-Bornemisza makes the third first-class museum here, strong in modern art.

- Madrid has some more to offer: The Royal Palace (can be visited) and an excellent archeological museum with artefacts from the Iberians and with a full-scale reconstruction of the Altamira cave.

- Madrid has the more splendid churches (well, it has always been the capital), while Barcelona has more barren gothic churches. Barcelona's La Seu is currently under construction and the works will last.

- On the other hand, Barcelona has beaches. You can make a daytrip up the Costa Brava, with scenic drives and two Dali museums, one in Figueres and one in Cadaques (Port Lligat). Another option would be a daytrip to Montserrat, a monastery with a spectacular setting in the mountains.

- From Madrid, I would advise a daytrip to El Escorial, a most impressive structure which is not comparabale to anything else. Another option would be a daytrip to Toledo. If you are staying 7 days, why not another trip to Avila?

- Another thing that is unique for Barcelona: The buildings designed by Gaudi. Well, this is a matter of taste... Most Europeans despise Gaudi as a master of kitsch, but I know, many Americans are crazy about Gaudi, and there are always very long lines before the three Gaudi buildings in Barcelona. The Gaudi places have something of Disneyland...
traveller1959 is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2007, 02:55 AM
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I was by the assertion that "most Europeans despise Gaudi" given the fact that every time I've been to Sagrada Familia it has been, literally, mobbed with what I guess are the rest of the Europeans who don;t feel the same way.

Personally, Sam, if you are really savvy you'll figure out that both cities have enough to offer and justify splitting your week between the two.
Dukey is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2007, 03:43 AM
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Wineries do exist near both cities but Barcelona wins it by a head as there are more and easily reached by train.

Barcelona is a capital but not of Spain but of an autonymous region

I think time of year would influence me as Madrid gets very cold and very hot. i've had week in both and filled the time but Madrid probably has the most to do.
bilboburgler is online now  
Old Apr 25th, 2007, 07:11 AM
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We stayed at Hotel Gran Florida. A little pricey now - I think it's about 600 euros a night but it was gorgeous. Can't describe.
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Old Apr 25th, 2007, 07:44 AM
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If you have a full week, I'd lean toward Madrid. Yes, Barcelona has Las Ramblas and some great architecture, but Madrid has better museums and churches. Also, perhaps because it gets relatively fewer tourists than Barcelona, it has a vibrant spirit that feels more authentically Spanish to me. Plus, as mentioned by others, it's easier to make day trips to other cities if you are based in Madrid.

Personally, I would not recommend a day trip from Barcelona to the Costa Brava. There's some nice scenery up there, but you have to drive quite a ways to get to it. The resorts closest to Barcelona are mostly highrise and tacky.

You didn't say what month you are going, but if it's not mid-summer, you could do an overnight from Madrid to Seville, which is magnificent--just way too hot for my tastes in July and August.

As for hotels...I recently stayed at the Hotel Wellington, a nicely-restored old-style hotel in the center of Madrid that was very pleasant. The room was about 200 euros a night.
mlaffitte is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2007, 10:39 AM
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Thank you so much for the quick replies so far! I did forget to mention that we are planning to go late September/early October. I'll review your thoughts in more detail- not sure if you've made it easier or tougher to decide, but more information is always a good thing! I'd love to do both, but my friend is going for 4-5 days so I think one location would make sense (next year, however.. may provide more options!!) Thanks again, and I look forward to the additional posters. This site is always an incredible resource for information, and we thank you!
reddattitude is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2007, 03:35 PM
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redattitude, You have already gotten plenty of good advice so I will only touch upon two items: a) too many things to do as it is in and around both cities (for a week....) so choose one place unless you really really want to get a flavor of both, and b) choose things that YOU want to see... for example, I found Prado and Thyssen museums really stimulating but Picasso paintings (specially the 1940s onwards), frankly, very weird and hard to understand. Heck, my son refused to let me buy a "salad plate" he created! I am just kidding about buying anything picasso (but my 6 year old did find the "salad plate" "ugly" and, no body shoot me please, I am afraid I concurred).

Finally, whether you choose one or the other or both, do your homework well before you go and I suspect you will like it.
Old Apr 26th, 2007, 03:45 AM
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a bit odd as a pretty weird family collected all these dull paintings and decided to move them here rather pass them down the family line. Not to my taste
bilboburgler is online now  
Old Apr 26th, 2007, 07:41 AM
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bilboburglar writes: "Thyssen
a bit odd as a pretty weird family collected all these dull paintings and decided to move them here rather pass them down the family line. Not to my taste"
Thyssen, a German Industrialist, loved Spain and his Spanish wife: Carmen Cervera (Miss Spain / Universe, 1961). I think his widow set up Madrid's Thyssen collection.

If I had to choose between the two, my choice would be Madrid: Toledo, Segovia and Escorial (for San Lorenzo Monastery, NOT Valle de los Caidos).

But, with 6-full days you may be able to hit some highlights in Barcelona as well: fly there one morning; fly back the following evening.

NEDSIRELAND is offline  
Old Apr 26th, 2007, 10:49 AM
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blibo, um.... so..... would it have been to your taste if they had passed it down to their younger generations? Just kidding.

Obviously we all like and dislike different stuff.

Have fun.
Old Apr 26th, 2007, 02:32 PM
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>a pretty weird family<

so many pretty weird families:

- the Guggenheims
- the Rothschilds
- the Gettys

(Thyssen-Bornesmisza has several museums in Europe and a charity foundation and the family still hasn't got dependent on welfare.)

Another word on Picasso: The Picasso museum in Barcelona is focused on his early works when he had not developed his distinct style. La Guernica in Reina Sofia is his masterpiece, and the show it together with his drafts and sketches, very interesting for people who are really interested in art.
traveller1959 is offline  
Old Apr 26th, 2007, 02:41 PM
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Mlaffitte- forgot to mention (to address your comment of the heat) that I currently live in Phoenix AZ-- Spain in the summer may be a relief! However, my friend is from northern parts, so she may not appreciate it! Anyways.. we're going in late September before the weather turns, but once the crowds start to dissipate. Been loving the banter with the responses.. thanks!
reddattitude is offline  
Old Apr 26th, 2007, 03:47 PM
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I was in both Madrid and Barcelona last September. Madrid was not too bad, but Barcelona was quite a bit warmer and much more humid.

I would recommend Madrid because there are several day trip opportunities to places that have a completely different atmosphere than either of the larger cities.

Toledo, Segovia, Cordoba and Seville are potential daytrips, but an overnight in Seville would be even better.
lostinplace is offline  
Old Apr 26th, 2007, 04:02 PM
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Please, don't say "La Guernica" in Spain, when referring to Picasso's picture: its title is "Guernica", without any article, but it is mostly called "El Guernica", with the masculine article.
By the way, I would choose Barcelona, unless painting museum would be your only concern.
Filloa is offline  
Old Apr 26th, 2007, 04:33 PM
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We're just about set on Madrid. YAY!! Thanks for the feedback as it helped us decide. Planning a tour to Cordoba and Seville, and a side day trip to Toledo or one of the other options you all suggested. Are there any areas of the city you'd suggest for hotels? We'd like to stick under $200, preferably under $150 if possible a night (please let me know if that's unrealistic.) Thank you!
reddattitude is offline  
Old Apr 26th, 2007, 04:34 PM
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When people ask me this question (Madrid or Barcelona) I tell them that when you are in Barcelona you know that you are in a large, modern, European city, but when you are in Madrid, you know you are in Spain.

And, from Madrid there are many interesting possibilities for day trips or overnights -- Toledo, Salamanca, Segovia.
gjkayak is offline  
Old Apr 27th, 2007, 01:03 AM
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Yes the Thyssen
thing is that some of them have ended up on the bread line and every generation (4 now) seems to fall out over money.

I think the art is very middle of the road in that museum and I guess someone has to marry miss world but the whole "billionaire marrys miss world" is tacky. I guess princesses really only meet princes not cow herds.

I do like the Madrid is Spain (all the history) while Barcelona only started in 18?? so makes sense

bilboburgler is online now  
Old May 5th, 2007, 04:42 AM
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I am not very sure what bilboburgler means by "Barcelona only started in 18??". Anyone knows?
Filloa is offline  

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