El Clasico: Barcelona vs Madrid

By James Holway, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on Barcelona.

Overall rating:4.8 out of 5 (based on 5 votes)
Enjoyable
4.8
4.8
Useful
4.2
4.2
Inspirational
4.4
4.4
Recommended for:
Cultural, Food and Drink, Short Break, Mid-range

Fierce rivals on the pitch, but which city comes out on top for that city break? Barcelona’s popularity suggests this match is a foregone conclusion, but can the Madrilenos pull off a famous win?

Architecture

It’s not just Gaudi’s celebrated masterpieces that give Barcelona the edge. When it comes to stylish, contemporary design, be it buildings, furniture or even shoes, few cities do it better than Barcelona - a city where the town planners seemingly don’t approve ‘normal’ buildings. This is exemplified by the Torre Agbar, a colourful mini gherkin, and the Torre de Gas Natural HQ - a futuristic glass plated amalgamation of shapes co-designed by local architect Enric Miralles. Cutting edge design and artistic flourishes can also be found in the designer hotels that have emerged in the last decade. The Silken Diagonal Hotel stands out with its striking shiny synthetic black and white panelled exterior and Hotel Omm has been described as an advent calendar with its peeled open windows.

Madrid’s architecture is more classically beautiful. Highlights include the Royal Palace, Art Deco skyscrapers on the Gran Via, such as the Telefonica Building, Plaza Major square and the Palacio de Communicaciones - the world’s most impressive post office.

1- Nil to Barca

Beaches

With Madrid landlocked it's an open goal.

2 - Nil

Food

The Barcelona food universe doesn’t end at El Bulli and the Bocqueria. Don’t miss out on the two recently redeveloped markets, Mercat de la Barceloneta (Placa Poeta Bosca) and the Mercat de Santa Caterina (Avda Francesc Cambo) with its distinctive multi-coloured roof. Designed again by Miralles, the latter's wooden endoskeleton exterior has many similarities with his controversial Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Both markets have highly rated restaurants.

Seafood lovers should head for lively Cal Pep, (Barcelona, Plaza Olles, 8; TEL: 93 3107961) where orders are cooked in front of you at the bar by adrenaline fuelled chefs - dishes start at €9. The trifasco, a very salty whitebait style dish, and the lemon grilled tuna stood out.  But get there before 7.30pm to get the prized bar seats.

Pintxos, mini tapas served on tooth picks, €1.50 - €2.50 each, are very popular in Barcelona and feature in many bars especially around trendy El Born.  You simply help yourself and the bar tender counts the picks at the end. Try Cafe Bilbao (Placa Nova, 3) opposite Barcelona Cathedral which has a good variety of savoury and dessert pintxos.

Rustic dishes and tapas dominate the Madrid food scene. Pork is very popular, so for a ham sandwich with the locals try Museo del Jamon (Carrera San Jeronimo, 6) a fantastic bar and deli with its typical hanging trotters. For roast suckling pig try Botin (Calle de la Cuchilleros; TEL: 91 3664217) which opened in 1725 and according to the Guinness Book of Records is the world’s oldest restaurant. For tapas (€4 - €10) there are dozens of bars around the Plaza Santa Ana - Cerveceria Alemana with its traditional Castilian fare was a favourite haunt of Ernest Hemmingway. Worth checking out for delicious salmon croquettes and Spanish wines is nearby Vinotecca (Calle del Principe, 27).

Stalemate.

Remains Barcelona 2 Madrid 0

Museums

Another fifty fifty tussle. Barcelona's Articket (€22) covers 7 impressive museums and galleries (Centre de Cultura Contemporània, Antoni Tàpies, La Pedrera, Joan Miró, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Museu d'Art Contemporani and Museu Picasso).

Madrid, though, is home to three world class museums, nicknamed the Golden Triangle. Don’t be tempted to skip the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (Paseo del Prado, €7). The least famous of the three, it's less crowded than the Prado and more accessible then the Reina Sofia. The museum features an impressive array of paintings from Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Degas, Hopper, Monet and Renoir. The collection belonged to a wealthy Swiss industrialist but was purchased by the state for a knockdown $350 million - about a quarter of its estimated value.

Madrid pull one back.

2 - 1

Nightlife

In Barcelona head for style conscious El Born particularly the bars along Calle De Argentina. For wine try La Vinya del Senyor (Placa Santa Maria, 5) opposite the ornate Basilica de Santa Maria. In summertime try Carpe Diem (Paseo Maritimo 32) for cocktails by the beach.

Madrid is one of Europe’s party capitals where the nightlife doesn't kick off till late. Dinner starts at 9.30pm and most clubs are empty before midnight. Recommended bars are Viva Madrid (Calle de Manuel Fernández y González, 7), a vibrant bar decorated inside and outside with yellow and blue azulejo tiles and Los Gabrieles, a former brothel! Another favourite is the cosy Espana Cani (Calle Huertas, 14) with its atmospheric candles and dusty wine bottles. In many bars if you order a drink you’ll often get a small tapas, in El Buson (Calle de la Victoria, 14) little dishes of oil-drenched chorizo were put on the table to nibble.

Both excel, but for its sheer density of bars Madrid equalise.

Half-Time: Barcelona 2 Madrid 2

Parks

Madrid's Retiro Park (former Royal grounds) is a clean, family-friendly, vibrant place to relax, grab a coffee and listen to local musicians. You can burn off some of the previous night's beer and tapas by hiring a boat on the impressive lake (€5).  Barcelona’s Parc Catalyuna has a smaller boating lake and is home to Barcelona Zoo and Snowflake an albino Gorilla!

With Madrid poised to take the lead Barcelona hit a spectacular goal with Gaudi’s epic, surreal, fantasy Parc Guell.  With its bold architecture, Hansel and Gretel entrance, emblematic dragon and amazing views this park is worth the airfare alone.

Barcelona 3 Madrid 2

Shopping

For designer labels head to the Salamanca district of Madrid and Passaig de Garcia in Barcelona. For Spanish brands Zara and Mango both cities cater well. But for something different try Madrid's Rastro market - a lively mile long strip where you can find anything from the ubiquitous Che Guerva t-shirts, to dog leads and computer accessories.

In Barcelona trendy, independent designer stores abound. Fashion victims should head to the stores along Calle Avinyo, try Tribu for trainers. Foodies should check out La Botifarreria de Santa Maria (Carrer de Santa Maria, 4) for quality meats and hams and Bubo (Carrer Caputxes,10) for local chocolates. But if you fancy taking a slice of Barcelona home, check out Vincon (Passeig de Gracia, 96) for the latest in Catalan interior design.

On the stroke of full-time Barcelona score.

Barcelona 4 Madrid 2

FULL TIME - summary

With its beaches, markets and spectacular architecture Barcelona triumph. But the match was much closer than the score suggests, so before booking that weekend in Barcelona you should consider the world-class museums, great nightlife and tapas of Madrid.

Where to stay

Silken Diagonal (Avenida Diagonal 205, Barcelona)

Next to the Torre Agbar, this stylish four-star hotel ticks all the designer boxes with its unique exterior, copper plated reception, illuminated lifts and modern rooms. Breakfast is in the Michelin recommended restaurant and there is a small rooftop pool with panoramic city views. The hotel is a few miles from the city centre but there’s a Metro outside and a tram that goes to Porto Olimpico.

Catalonia Moratin (Calle Atocha 23, Madrid)

A marvellous four-star hotel with a rugged, exposed brick interior and clean wooden floored, minimalist bedrooms. The hotel is in an excellent location, just a 5 minute walk to Puerto de Sol, Plaza Major and Plaza Santa Ana and 10 minutes to the museums.

Save money on booking

flightshotelscar hire

by following our money-saving guides. They are written by our Simonseeks team of travel gurus.

More information on El Clasico: Barcelona vs Madrid:

Author:
James Holway
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
4.8
Average: 4.8 (5 votes)
Total views:
321
First uploaded:
4 March 2011
Last updated:
3 years 28 weeks 5 days 14 hours 34 min 56 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Cultural, Food and Drink, Short Break
Budget level:
Mid-range
Free tags / Keywords:
sightseeing, history, nightlife

James recommends

Hotels

Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Catalonia Moratin Hotel
£50
N/A
2. Silken Diagonal Barcelona
£45
N/A
3. Hotel Omm
N/A

What do you think of this guide?

Did it tell you what you needed to know?
Do you agree with the writer's recommendations?

Share your views by leaving a comment on this page.

Community comments (9)

Rating:
5
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

I hate football and prefer Madrid to the tourist-infested Barcelona but this review is both novel and knowledgeable.

For the regular traveller to Spain, Madrid also wins for the student of Spanish (Castilian rather than Catalan). But for the usual tourist, reluctantly I agree the reviewer has the correct final result.

Was this comment useful?
Rating:
5
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

This is a brilliant guide because of the unique approach and upbeat writing. Doing something a bit different and pulling it off in great style deserves full marks.

The layout with headings and short paragraphs makes it a joy to read and the football theme works really well.

Your passion for both destinations comes across and you have plenty of recommendations. Your hotel reviews are particularly good with everything the reader could possibly need to make a decision about booking.

Was this comment useful?

Thanks for the feedback Colin. Glad you enjoyed it.

Rating:
5
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Olé, James! In footballing terms, los cules may be in a different class to Real but in city-break terms, Madrid is totally under-rated. I'd say it would beat Barcelona for parks and food - Madrid has more green spaces than most other cities in the world. Overall, I'd agree with your choice of winner although I think it might take a penalty shootout for Barca to edge it.

Great idea for a guide - guapa!

Was this comment useful?

Thanks Richard,

I agree Madrid is criminally under-rated as a city break, we had a great time when we visited, loads of bars and things to do.

It probably does edge it for food - but that's because I'm a cheapskate and enjoyed the tapas - which is a lot cheaper than some of the overpriced restaurants in Barcelona.

Rating:
4
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Very neat idea James, although putting a section on beaches seems a little unfair on Madrid!

Must say I prefer Barcelona too, although the Goya in the Prado are well worth the visit. Funnily enough we fly out tomorrow so I'll take a couple of your Madrid dining trips with me :o)

Paul

Was this comment useful?

I can't wait to go back to Madrid one day - hope the tips came in handy !!!

Rating:
5
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi James- clever stuff. An entertaining angle and a surefire winner from an exposure point of view as you've got 2 cities with Expert status. Lots of good-sounding advice and recommendations. I had a sneaking feeling all along that Barca would win but I won't hold that against you!

Was this comment useful?

Thanks, I thought the result was a bit harsh on Madrid, but there you go. Both cracking places, Madrid never seems to get the same exposure as cities like Barcelona, Rome, Prague and Paris which is a shame.