Two years ago I announced to friends and family I was going study abroad in Spain. I weighed out my options. My choices came down to Madrid versus Barcelona. People would say:
“Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”
“Barcelona is more fun!”
“It’ll be like Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”
Madrid is the largest city in Spain but Barcelona is the most notable city. I was tempted to go to Barcelona. However when I was considering studying abroad I wanted to go somewhere that spoke Spanish. The thing with Spain is the national language is Spanish. Everyone does speak Spanish. However in Basque country people speak Basque, Catalonia they speak Catalan and in Andalusia they speak Spanish. I didn’t think I could become fluent this way. So this was the reason I chose to study abroad in Madrid over Barcelona the first time.
Then when I announced I wanted to teach abroad in Spain everyone asked Madrid or Barcelona?
While I studied in Madrid I did spend my last week in Spain in Barcelona. So I may be biased but I wasn’t as impressed with Barcelona as I thought I would be.
Don’t get me wrong the masterpieces of Gaudi sprinkled all over Barcelona is truly breathtaking. The beach is nice. The art is stunning. There are flocks of doe eyed tourists that come and take over the city looking for the run of the mill tourist experience. Then the vultures come in and take advantage of them with lots of scams and pick pocketing. Madrid has a pickpocketing problem but not nearly as bad as Barcelona.
The other thing about Barcelona is that their club scene is nothing in comparison to Madrid. Madrid is the city that doesn’t sleep. People hit the club at midnight and go home at 7 AM. El Kapital is one of the best club in the world. It’s seven stories and each floor has a different genre of music. Then there’s Tupperware which is a quirky bar with old 70’s movies playing in the background while obscure indie plays. This list goes on. Every neighborhood has an area of bars and clubs. Barcelona has its main clubs on the beach which is beautiful. I went to a handful of clubs. They were fun but nothing particularly special about any of them.
Lastly, I’ve talked to a lot of people that studied in Granada or Barcelona. They went to Madrid and felt underwhelmed. I think the difference is that Madrid is much larger than Barcelona. Madrid is a city with something different on every corner while Barcelona has all of their unique attractions thoroughly marked in five different languages to guide the tourists. Madrid takes exploring and researching but it’s not a tourism hub like Barcelona. I liked being able to go to a bar and talk to real Spaniards instead of more expats. I also really enjoyed not being bombarded by tourist families with screaming children at every attraction like in Barcelona.
I chose to return to Madrid because there is still more I want to find out about the city. There are places I didn’t get to go to and things I wish I had done. I know if I went to Barcelona it would be beautiful and amazing like anywhere in Spain.
Madrid has my heart, until further notice.
But Spain is a country that steal hearts no matter what city you are in.