You like Spain and you want to discover the country?
But it is not clear which city you should pack your suitcases for among the two Iberian Peninsula’s most famous cities.
Which Spanish city to choose between Madrid and Barcelona for a trip that will make you progress in Spanish?
To see more clearly, let’s take a closer look at your goals, because for work, for the holidays, for the warm welcome…, the answer may not be the same!
A holiday all the way to Spain means you plan on staying there a bit more than a few days to rest and to visit. Without mentioning cultural heritage, both cities are worth spending between 3 to 6 days off peak season.
In Barcelona in the spring, you can walk along the sea and enjoy the scenery but be careful, think of bringing a small scarf because the hot and dry winds blow strongly at that time of year.
It is recommended to visit Madrid in spring or autumn. The madrilenes have a fairly clear proverb about the temperatures of the capital: “nueve meses de invierno, tres meses de infierno” which means “9 months of winter, 3 months of hell”.
If the winter can be frosty, up to 10 °, summer turns Madrid into a furnace with peaks exceeding 100°. You are warned!
The city is also amongst the best places where to leave to improve your Spanish.
If for you a holiday in a hot and sunny country necessarily requires having the sea close by, then Barcelona, choose Barcelona. You will be able to go from the ramblas til harbor, then discover the marina with its luxury boats, and you bask in the sun on the beach.
Barceloneta is the closest beach to the city center of Barcelona (20 minutes withthe subway). For the sports enthusiasts, kite surfers, windsurfers and surfers, you will find your happiness in the beach of Mar Bella.
If you are looking for a small beach with plenty of bars and restaurants, go to Nova Icaria beach but for a bit more wild, there’s no doubt that the sandstone of Bogatell will fill your heart with joy.
All the beaches of Barcelona are supervised and accessible to people with reduced mobility.
In Madrid, you might miss out on water but you can rest assured the swimming pools of sports centers (Canal Isabel II and Casa de Campo) are easily accessible.
Most of Madrid has swimming pools on the rooftops like the one of the Emperador hotel or the natural pool of the Manzanares.
Get out the swimsuit in Barcelona!
In short, the perfect place to progress in Spanish during the holidays!
First of all, you will not be able to get a contract if you do not speak Spanish.
Catalans have the reputation of being fairly protectionist so finding a job in Barcelona will prove itself difficult. However, speaking English is a skill that can be sought in this highly touristy city.
Madrid gives foreigners a chance but it is necessary to have a good CV because the crisis there hit hard and first touched precarious jobs and expatriates.
If you speak only Spanish (Castilian), you will more easily integrate in Madrid. Indeed, if Barcelona has opted for bilingualism, locals adapt to foreigners by automatically speaking Castilian and non-Catalan.
But it is clear that if you do not master the first language of Catalonia, you will have more trouble.
Discover the differences between Spanish and Catalan in Spanish course!
In parallel, you can take private Spanish lessons before going on vacation.
Few American students are tempted by the study abroad program experience or the idea of studying in a school in Spain if you compare to European students.
If you do decide to go for an international exchange program, Madrid has a great set of choice to discover the Spanish culture while Barcelona stands out for its belonging to Catalonia.
If you wish to study law or economics, the Universidad Pontificia Comillas de Madrid is considered one of the best on Spanish soil. For students wishing to opt for a private school, business schools are located in both cities and have no less than 80 different nationalities:
No matter which city you choose between Madrid and Barcelona for your studies, you will experience all the pleasures of co-habitation such as the one you see Pot Luck, you will spend your evenings talking and discussing tapas with your roommates and you will share your weekends between homework and discotheques.
If you hesitate, take a look at the top 5 Spanish cities to study.
The sun and the beach!
Barcelona is best known for being the temple of the architect Gaudi. It is true that he left several treasures simply unavoidable in the city:
However, other great things will punctuate your stay in Barcelona like visiting the historical center (Barrio Gótico), the botanical garden of the Montjuïc Hill, the Picasso Museum or the National Museum of Catalan Art (MNAC).
To plan your stay, find help with a LoneyPlanet guide!
Madrid on its side offers a more classic architecture but just as beautiful to see. Here are some examples of monuments not to be missed:
The two cities are very festive, first of all because they are in Spain, and because they are full of life and they have an international influence.
In practice, Barcelona is a city that lives as much by day as it does by night. It is packed with Flamenco clubs, nightclubs with techno sounds and lively and bursting tapas bars. In the evening, rather late, let yourself be tempted by a tasting of tapas (tortillas with calamari). The best neighborhoods are Raval, Born, Sants and Gràcia.
Ramblas are always a meeting place and festivity packed with people, a must-do walk before joining a bar in the center like the Margarita Blue or La Fianna.
Good to know: like the Marais in Paris, the Eixample district is the place frequented by gays, where many bars and clubs intertwine.
In Barcelona, you just have to walk to get flyers giving access to almost free nightclubs. On the other hand, it is necessary to leave relatively late because at midnight, the dancefloors are all empty!
3 examples so that each party-goer finds happiness:
Advice: to fit in well with the local population in the evening, do not hesitate to perfect your Spanish before the holidays!
To get out in trendy clubs, you’ll have to head for Gran Vía and Puerta del Sol. When in the week can we go out till the end of the night in Madrid? The top of the nightlife is from Thursday to Saturday, but not before midnight, you’d just be on your own with your drink.
Madrid is also a capital of choice for lovers of gastronomy, indeed, it hosts several gourmet markets to fall for! On the program, local products, tapas and wine glasses. A great way to get in shape for a festive evening! Here are 3 gourmet Madrid markets to test:
As for tapas bars, there is food for all tastes once again, from the chic (Baco and Beto) to the good old-style french cuisine (Jurucha). Will you be able to tour the 10 best tapas bars in Madrid?
Get some atmsophere!