GUEST POST OVERVIEW: Madrid and Barcelona are the two biggest and most popular cities in Spain. Despite enjoying some similarities between them, they are quite different in certain aspects. Which differences? Read on to find out.
It’s that time of the year again when you have to plan your next trip. It’s been raining and dark where you live so you fancy going somewhere warm and sunny, where the food is good and there’s also cultural activities to do. You set your sights on Spain, but you’re not sure which city to go to.
You’re doubting between staying in Barcelona or in apartments in Madrid, but you can’t make your mind up. Well, after reading this, your choice might be easier to make. Here are some of the differences between the two cities. Whether one is better or worse, that’s entirely a subjective matter, although I recommend that you visit both cities at least once in your lifetime.
1. Tourists and people
While Madrid is the capital of Spain and the biggest city in the country, it doesn’t receive as many tourists as Barcelona. This means that you can walk around the center of Madrid and see more locals than visitors, and not having to stop every 10 seconds because the people in front of you are opening a map. Also, the people of Madrid have a more ‘capital city’ approach to life, and despite not being as familiar with tourism and tourists as people in Barcelona, they will still help you out if needed.
While Barcelona has the calçots and the pa amb tomàquet, Madrid has the bocata de calamares, a battered squid sandwich. If this doesn’t appeal to you, wait until you try it, it’s delicious!
Madrid’s cuisine is heavier than Catalan cuisine, with dishes such as the cocido madrileño, which is a filling soup with vegetables and meat in it, or the callos, which is animal tripe in a stew, another delicacy. Also in Madrid, if you go to most bars and order a drink, they will give you a free tapa with it, something that doesn’t happen in Barcelona.
While Barcelona is most famous for its modernist architecture, boosted by the buildings of Antoni Gaudí amongst others, Madrid has a more contemporary approach to this field, with many modern buildings being emblems of the capital. None more than the KIO towers, two leaning towers which face one another, or the new Torre Caja Madrid, designed by Norman Foster.
On the Paseo de la Castellana, there are the four Business Towers, four skyscrapers side by side. Also, the Reina Sofía and the Prado museums have undergone extensions which are now modern constructions and the T4 terminal of Madrid’s Barajas airport is also of a contemporary design.
4. Beach or mountain?
While Madrid doesn’t have a beach like Barcelona, it does have many mountains around it, where you can go and walk and enjoy a day in the open air, breathing the pure oxygen from the forests that will fill your lungs and reinvigorate you. Navacerrada is a good option for long walks in the mountainside in the Sierra de Guadarrama, where its valleys and beautiful lakes make it a landscape that’s hard to forget.
While Barcelona has excellent museums, such as the MNAC (Museum of National Art of Catalonia) or the MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona) as well as the Picasso Museum, Madrid has three of the most important museums in Europe: the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofía, with works of art from all centuries that give Madrid an historical art advantage over Barcelona, while the Catalan capital enjoys an advantage in terms of contemporary art, with the aforementioned MACBA and the MEAM, the Museum of European Modern Art.
No matter which your choice of city is, you have to experience the Spanish capital by staying in Madrid apartments. Madrid is one of the most vibrant cities in Europe, with a perfect mix of culture, leisure and history, along with its excellent gastronomy, the perfect combination.
About the Author: Aleix Gwilliam is a 24 year old from Barcelona who looks English but thinks like a Catalan. He enjoys traveling, especially on old Czech trains, and trying to start conversations in Hungarian with people at Pecs station, even though his Hungarian is as good as his Bulgarian, in other words, not very good. He’s a trier.
These two teams, similar to that of the Old Firm, are the biggest and most supported clubs in Spain by a considerable margin. However the clubs hail from two very different cities in Spain and this can start to explain some of the major differences in supporters and how their rivalries have come about.
In the beginning Madrid was seen as a representative of the Spanish Centralized State and Barcelona of Catalonia. The politics of the country itself have affected how the support of these two giants in world football is decided.
Madrid is the capital of Spain and is the seat of the government of royal family, thus representing conservative backgrounds. Catalonia and specifically Barcelona has been extremely influential in shaping the modern vision of Spain through republicanism and even in fashion.
Whilst under rule of Francisco Franco all of Spain’s regional languages and identities were frowned upon and sometimes restrained, giving Barcelona even more cultural differences from Madrid. It can also be stressed that the Madrid club president fought with Franco’s forces, bringing football into the equation.
One of the greatest football players of all time was too finally rip apart any positive connection these two clubs had in the 1950’s. Alfredo Di Stefano, the Argentinean forward was at the centre of a tug of war between Barcelona and Real as they both fought for his signature. Due to a players strike in Argentina however there was confusion over his transfer and the Spanish FA had to be involved where it was ruled that Di Stefano was to play for Real Madrid. Di Stefano ironically went on to be instrumental in Madrid’s most successful era, helping them win five successive European Cups.
It is therefore apparent that due to the significant cultural differences between the two cities and along with the transfer of Di Stefano the fierce rivalry has been created.
I think it is therefore safe to judge that supporters of both Real Madrid and Barcelona are distinguished with cultural, political and social backgrounds. The opposing fans tend to have very different views on most things, not only which football team they support.
Dario Quinn, Barcelona supporter,said: “I was lucky enough to be able to go to a derby match a few years ago and the whole experience blew me away. The stadium was packed and you couldn’t hear yourself think for most of the game.
“I did notice tension between both sets of supporters and I felt a bit out of depth amonsgt all the Spaniards but there was no physical violence, just the usual chants and songs aimed at the other fans.”
The transfer of players between these two clubs has been relatively frequent considering their rivalry, but being the two biggest teams in the country can justify this. The most recent high profile case of such a transfer came when Portuguese superstar Luis Figo moved from Barcelona to Madrid for a record breaking £37.5m.
Figo was seen as a hero amongst the Catalan faithful and his decision to move to their fiercest rivals understandably caused great upset and resentment towards him.
Matches between the two giants are commonly known as ‘El Clasico‘ and in the derby match soon after Figo’s transfer there was great hostility in the stadium. During the match Figo was targeted with missiles and a pig’s head was thrown at him when he was about to take a set piece during the match action.
The Barcelona club motto ‘more than a club’ is instilled within its most passionate supporters who view the team as more than a football club, but a way of life. This is interesting in contrast to Real Madrid’s motto which is ‘we are a team’ indicating the togetherness of the football club alone.
Football violence in Spain is very rare on the whole but ‘El Clasico‘ has caused hooliganism in the past, such as vandalism to team buses and attacks on training session by opposing fans. Violent attacks are less common but that does not make these two teams any less of rivals.