I spent a few days in both Barcelona and Madrid, either side of walking the Camino. This is a quick run through of what I got up to in each, and is mostly a more filtered collection of photos for when I want to have a reminisce!
For anyone ending up here because they are trying to decide which to visit: if you want to feel like you are visiting a big capital city, Madrid is the one for you! It feels more lively and metropolitan than Barcelona, which, to me at least, feels more relaxed and touristy (it also smells a lot more of urine!) On a slightly different note, I received vastly more warnings about pickpockets in relation to Barcelona, and had noticeably more ‘negative encounters’ (a guy following me off the metro and touching my wrist, a drunk woman punching me, being asked for my number) vs. the same amount of time walking alone in Madrid.
Barcelona (1st-4th July 2018)
I had a little less time in Barcelona than expected because my train journey on the 1st lasted a little longer than expected (6am-1.30am…). The one perk of this was finding out how absolutely gorgeous Montpellier station is:
Arriving so late on the Sunday, meant a slower start on Monday. Which was fine, because it was all very much up to me! I did my own grand tour of the city – I climbed up Montjuic, went on a walking tour, and found the beach.
I loved the view from Montjuic and all of the different plants I saw. I loved encountering excited Brazilian football fans and a guy in fruit shop who has a brother in Manchester, and I loved the fountain in the last photo which was in a small hidden square.
The next day I did the typical tourist stops – Park Güell and the Sagrada Familia (you need to have booked ahead for both) – Gaudi’s famous works.
Park Güell was beautiful but slightly on the underwhelming side (the so-called Monumental Core is really quite small), and I wouldn’t say that the 45 minute tour they offer is worth the additional cost… However, it is also not something to miss out on because the beauty and ambition of the project is really outstanding.
I would also recommend just paying attention when you’re walking between places – because, goodness, is it a beautiful place!
And then came the Sagrada Familia, the huge basilica that is yet to be completed (I think they said 2026). It is on the pricey side, but if you like stained glass windows then I would reserve an afternoon to just go and sit – the photos don’t do it justice!
I met a Turkish guy called Ali at this point (we happened to have tickets booked for the same 15 minute entry slot) and we ended up spending the rest of the day together – we went to Ciutadella park, rowed some boats, and ate ice cream at Espanya plaza.
On my last day in Barcelona, I went walking with a few of the guys from my hostel around the parts of Barcelona that I hadn’t yet seen. Jose was an Argentinian PE teacher who really liked to drink an Argentianian tea called mate. The other guys were Italian, one was trying to set up a business in Barcelona and the other was a physiotherapist with no such intentions. It was a slightly surreal, but a very lovely and very relaxed day!
Madrid (13th-17th July 2018)
I travelled with definite reluctance to Madrid, having had a lovely time in Santiago de Compostela just beforehand! However, I then had a lovely couple of days seeing the city, and then another lovely couple of days with Flora! My priority was much more to have time with Flora than to sight-see, but sometimes those things worked together… If you do visit Madrid, I would particularly recommend the 6 euro, 2.5km long cable car ride! Also, we discovered that you can pretty reliably find a vegetarian/vegan restaurant nearby wherever you happen to be in Madrid, and I would recommend those too!
My last day was entirely comprised of travelling back to Birmingham from Madrid. If you can travel by train I would recommend it, if only for the views of Spanish villages ensconced by mountains, and the coastal views along the route between Barcelona and Paris (especially at Sète, and between Narbonne and Perpignan when the train crosses over different lakes). If you are booking train travel from the UK, Loco2 is the website to use – signing up for emails means getting notified of promo tickets (Barcelona-Paris for €39, the overnight train to Sarria and Santiago-Madrid both for €37,5) – and it is really easy to use!