El Clásico: Madrid vs. Barcelona

I truly cannot comprehend how February is already halfway over.  It feels as though I just arrived in Barcelona yesterday, but also at the same time it feels like I’ve lived here for the longest time.  It felt the same when I lived in Madrid over the summer.  Three months sounds like a long time, but it passes by before you know it.

Since I did live in Madrid over the summer, a lot of people would ask me which city I like better.  I would just respond that I didn’t feel I have lived in Barcelona long enough to truly have a good judgement.  However, recently I traveled with some of my new friends to Madrid and I served as our tour guide for the weekend.  I was so excited to be back; Madrid just gives me a special feeling that I can’t really describe.  Maybe it’s because I have so many wonderful memories there, or maybe it’s just because around every corner you turn you are faced with the most beautiful architecture and surroundings.

Either way, being in Madrid made me realize how much I truly love it there; I almost didn’t want to return to Barcelona.  However, I also realized that Barcelona and Madrid truly are two completely different cities that, although everyone wants to compare them, I think that maybe they shouldn’t be put head to head, and here’s why.

Although I am spending the same amount of time in both Barcelona and Madrid, my experiences in both of these cities are completely different.  In Madrid I worked full time for a Spanish company and lived with a Spanish host family.  Therefore my experience there was completely immersive.  I truly feel as though I lived the Spanish lifestyle, and I was also really proud of the progress I made with the language there as well.

In Barcelona, I am studying abroad, so I attend classes at university five days a week, but I have a lot more free time.  The local students here are very friendly and I have become friends with quite a few of them.  I also joined an international student organization called Erasmus, and this is what has really been amazing; I have met exchange students from all over the globe!  So although I may not get to practice my Spanish skills as much as before here (and also because Catalan is much more commonly used), I feel as though I am making connections with not just some locals, but on a global scale.

Between the two, I would say Barcelona is definitely a more international city, and to live here for a long time more open to internationals.  Madrid is the capital of Spain, so if you are looking for a genuine Spanish experience, in my opinion that’s the place to go.

If you have paid any attention to international news lately, you might know that the current situation between Barcelona and Madrid is quite interesting to say the least.  The independence movement in Barcelona has grown in popularity, and it is because of Spain’s regionalism, which is very strong here in Catalonia.  This region in some ways doesn’t even feel Spanish due to the language difference and also the fact that people identify themselves as Catalonian first and Spanish second.

Barcelona and Madrid are both awesome cities that I would recommend anyone to visit.  Each place has its own vibes and cultural characteristics that I think they cannot be compared on just the surface level, and are therefore worth exploring deeper.  Although Madrid may still pull at my heart strings, I know that when it comes time to say goodbye to Barce and all the friends I’ve made here it is going to be just as difficult as before.