Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Madrid has much less to offer than Barcelona...

Madrid has much less to offer than Barcelona...

Jul 6th, 2014, 09:41 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 583
Madrid has much less to offer than Barcelona...

I've been working on our late-August, early September trip to Spain. We're a 60-year old couple who's already traveled quite a lot in Europe, seen museums, seen castles, seen palaces...
We'll be arriving in Barcelona after a week in Israel, so no issue with jet-lag anymore.

3.5 extensive days in Barcelona, 1.5 relaxing days in Girona, 4.5 days in Madrid (those 0.5 days are set for transportation, of course...) before flying back home.
Can't change this itinerary since accommodations and train tickets were already paid for.
I also purchased the train tickets for a day trip in Toledo.

I'm researching Madrid online, got the book, went back-n-forth with those "must sees" in Madrid, and — frankly, unlike Barcelona — still, I'm not excited...

So my question is, how to spend our remaining 3.5 days in Madrid? Initially I was planning at least one more day-trip from Madrid, and that's one of the reasons I chose an accommodation which is 7 minutes walk to the Atocha train station... I'm fascinated by Cuenca, which is an hour train ride from there.

But before giving in to my instincts, I'd appreciate reading your opinions. Thanks so much!
mamamia2 is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 09:48 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 6,047
Actually, I like Madrid more than Barcelona. Madrid looks like a mixture of Paris and Rome. You have picturesque squares, boulevards, grand architecture...

In any case, you should visit the Royal Palace. Then you have the museums, not just the Prado, also Thyssen-Bornemisza and many more.

Madrid has enough to offer to spend 3.5 days. However, I would recommend a daytrip though. The scenery around Madrid is beautiful - you will see meadows, mountains and black steers on pasture, historic towns and villages. I would rent a car for a day and drive around. There are many attractive destinations within a one-hour drive - I personally recommend El Escorial - very unique and certainly breathtaking.

And after all: Madrid is the capital city - Barcelona just a provincial one. You will notice it once you are there.
traveller1959 is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 10:03 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 13,266
Madrid has wonderful acceess to day trips to Toledo, Segovia and Cucenca. Madrid is more "traditional" Spain as Barcelona is Catalan. Don't miss visitng Picasso's "Guernica" at Reina Sofia in Madrid.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 10:23 AM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 583
traveller1959, Paris is my most beloved city in Europe (maybe the world), but somehow, from reading and looking at pictures (Google Street-View is a great source), I'm a bit disenchanted... Renting a car for a day trip is a new idea, but at the same time we can take the train, no?... Question is, early September, isn't everything dry and brownish?.... What other charming locations around Madrid are recommended?
mamamia2 is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 10:29 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 6,204
As a friend says and contrary to what traveller1959 wrote, "Madrid is a Spanish city, while Barcelona is an international city." To me Barcelona is one of the most glorious cities I have visited.

My advice to anyone who has hesitations about going anywhere. don't. There is a 50-50 chance of a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Just because others like Madrid, you might not find the same charms.

The trains are excellent. Here a number of worthwhile nearby towns from Madrid besides Toledo-Segovia, Salamanca, Avila, and with the advent of the AVE, Cuenca.
IMDonehere is online now  
Jul 6th, 2014, 10:33 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
I agree with you. Madrid is the only place in europe that we wanted to leave early - partly due to hideous weather (99 and humid at beginning of May) and lack of things to do. We had spent a full day in Madrid and one in Toledo and if there had been room on the flight back we would have left a day early.

And we LOVE Spain - can;t get enough of Andalusia, adored Merida, loved San Sebastian and Barcelona.

I just don't get Madrid.
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 10:48 AM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 583
When just starting my Spain trip planning I wanted to drive south, then decided to take those super fast trains there, but then I was discouraged from doing so due to the hot weather. Still, I want to do the right thing, plan-well ahead, and use our time in Spain the best we can... We don't travel to Europe that often anymore...
mamamia2 is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 11:03 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 708
I also like Madrid very much, I never got tired there and I still have to see all the museums there. My personal tip, go buy cookies at the Carboneras nunnery (Corpus Christi). You first have to ring a bell and a voice (only Castillan dialect spoken) will tell you to enter. You enter a door, turn left through a series of cloisters, and at the end there is a wheel device. You ask which kind of cookies you like more, the nun on the other side of the wheel gives you your cookies and you pay in cash through the wheel. You never see anybody, just hear the nuns' voices. Some nuns are gentle, some are a bit more direct. You get a glimpse of Counter-reformation Spain; the experience is only a few minutes long, but sends you in another epoch.
asps is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 11:27 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 13,402
Get out of Sole and Cava Baja area , go north of park Retiro to the beautiful Salamanca district:
...upscale shops, galleries, leafy streets , interesting architecture, not at all touristy... like a different city.
Not everyone " gets" every place, some posters here dislike Rome, others Paris or Venice or....
On my first visit to Berlin, I did not like it right away. Returned five times since.
danon is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 12:16 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,511
Day trip to Segovia---we liked it very much.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 12:21 PM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 583
Thanks, please keep it coming, these are the kinds of tips I like so much in this wonderful forum...
mamamia2 is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 12:25 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 21,769
Madrid is a fantastic city.

I would not give credence to someone who found little to do in Madrid.
By that person's own admission, she was there during an unusally brutal heat wave, and rarely left her hotel. Under those circumstances, is thst the best person to offer advice on one of the great cities of Europe? Would that person have fallen in love with Rome, or Barcelona, under similar circumstances?

I have been to Madrid at least 7 or 8 times and never fail to enjoy my time there.

I will bring up a report to one of my recent visits here in the hopes that it will give you a few ideas.



We all have different tastes, so in the end you may not agree with me, and the other aficionados of the city. Do give it a try, though...

Buen viaje.
ekscrunchy is online now  
Jul 6th, 2014, 12:33 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 9,314
If the budget is not tight, in Madrid, do a walk with Historian, Stephen Drake Jones. He also takes very small groups to Segovia, Toledo, etc.

With Toledo, Segovia and Cuenca, you could have three wonderful, easy day trips from Madrid.

While I prefer to spend a night in places like Toledo, I am one of those who likes Madrid more than Barcelona, and also love the day trips, so would do that from Madrid.

However, have you been to Seville? If not and you are willing to throw away the cost of (or cancel) one night in Madrid, you could catch a very early fast train to Seville, get there early, spend one night and return late the second day - if you did not like Madrid so much and wanted to get away more.
Sassafrass is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 12:56 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 13,402
Sol...not Sole....sorry
I am with eks, We visited Madrid five times , I planing another trip in the fall.
Love Barcelona too( we were there in May. )
Madrid feels " more" Spanish to me than Barcelona.
It is a huge city so many "couple of days" visitors
do not get a chance to see more than a small ( touristy) part.
danon is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 01:09 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 62
I very much enjoyed my brief time in Madrid, which consisted of one full and one half day. I had one other full day in which I took a day trip to Toledo. My impression is that Madrid is a great city of museums, including the Royal Palace as one of those museums. I generally prefer to see two sites per day, interspersed with a lot of walking and eating. So on my first afternoon I took in the Reina Sofia. On the full day I started in the Plaza Mayor and made my way to the Royal Palace. Popped in to the cathedral next to the Palace, which was pretty but not overly inspiring. At the palace I had the audio guide which I felt was indispensable. I took a long lunch, and then spent the afternoon and early evening at the Prado. Only scratched the surface there.

I would have liked one or two more days in Madrid, probably to spend another 1/2 day at the Prado or to check out the Thyssen Bournemisza (Impressionism and post-Impressionism). And to visit one of the convents, probably the Descalzas Reales.

I was there in the end of May and had days in the low 80s with little humidity which is my favorite weather. Lucky I think!
travelingaunta is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 01:20 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,380
personally I didn't take to Barcelona too much [we found our fellow tourists overwhelming] whereas Madrid is a proper capital city with a real life beyond tourism. We found plenty to do [all the above, basically] but if that's not enough, there are plenty of day trips you can do, including to Valencia, which I prefer to both places.
annhig is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 01:37 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 33,547
I agree with what has certainly already become a "self-fulfilling prophecy." Stay out of the city as much as possible. I am certain you'll figure out a way to cancel hotel rooms unless you prepaid them; take fast trains elsewhere. Why be miserable unless you enjoy that sort of thing.
Dukey1 is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 01:47 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 6,204
To me, the main attractions of Madrid are the world class museums and access to the nearby towns. If someone is not interested in museums, then they will not like Madrid. The OP mentions that they have seen museums as if they are all the same, thus an indication that Madrid, might not be for them.

I never tire of Barcelona. The art is in the architecture.
IMDonehere is online now  
Jul 6th, 2014, 01:57 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 3
Absolutely loved Toledo and agree with rick Steeves--such a romantic spot, an overnight is fabulous--especially with full moon. Wonderful hotel in rs book with rooftop deck near cathedral. Don't miss guernica in Madrid. Another day trip is el Escorial.
maryanna is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 02:00 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 3
Also--in Madrid on Sundays, the place to be is the Central Park with lake and musicians and real people enjoying life in lovely city. As a San Franciscan, I felt at home in the park on a beautiful day.
maryanna is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:09 PM.