If you only know two cities in Spain, it’s most likely these two. They’re the two largest, boast the most landmarks and monuments, and are home to the country’s two globally-known football clubs: Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
These days, so many people choose to move abroad, for a variety of reasons. Some move for work, some for love, and some for the weather. Some just want to experience a new lifestyle and culture. Spain is very high on the list of countries people want to live in. There are many work opportunities, and the country has the kind of climate, lifestyle, and culture that people want a taste of.
Of all the people choosing to start life in Spain, the majority choose one of these two major cities. While the rest of the country has plenty to offer, there is just too much in Madrid and Barcelona for people to resist. Here we look at which city is the best to live in, depending on the needs and wishes of each person.
Madrid is the capital city of Spain. Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia- an autonomous region with its own language and government, which is part of, and governed by, Spain. Population statistics vary depending on who you ask, and the city limits of both are hard to define. Counting the city itself, Madrid is considered to have twice as many inhabitants: 3.2 million comparted to 1.6. Madrid is also much bigger in terms of area size: 604km² compared 102km² for Barcelona. If you’ve done the maths you’ll realise that this makes Madrid a considerably less densely populated city, which has its advantages and disadvantages.
Barcelona being much smaller, allows you to get around the city more easily. Even on a bike you can get from one side the other in half an hour (if you’re fit), but if you live in Madrid it’s a long, long way to travel. The advantage for Madrid is that lower density means lower buildings, which means more sunlight. The streets are also generally wider, and you really notice it, Madrid is definitely the nicer city to walk around.
Another thing to note with geography is that Madrid is right in the centre of the country, which is great for getting to other parts of Spain. Barcelona is in the north-east, which is better for getting to France, and the rest of Europe. Barcelona is also on the coast, with many spectacular beaches nearby. Madrid does have some local beaches thanks to nearby lakes and reservoirs, but it’s not quite the same as having the Mediterranean on your doorstep.
Barcelona also wins the weather competition. Spanish weather is nearly always excellent, and these two cities are no exception. Being on the coast makes the weather in Barcelona a little warmer in winter, and cooler in the summer. So while they both have their positives, Barcelona takes an early lead thanks to the sea.
Cost of living
An important issue, especially these days. If you move here from the UK or the US, you’ll probably find both are affordable places to live, and there isn’t much to choose between the two. Some things cost more in each city, but in general Madrid is cheaper. For example, renting an apartment in Madrid will cost a little less. According to Numbeo, €3,800 per month in Barcelona will give you the same standard of living as €3,600 in Madrid.
Both cities have great job opportunities. Being the capital gives Madrid certain advantages in some respects, but Barcelona has long been known as a creative hub, and has a thriving startup community. Home to the EU’s annual startups summit, and the world mobile congress, Barcelona is one of the worlds most exciting cities for job opportunities. Madrid competes well, and is home to some success stories such as cabify, and spotahome, but Barcelona wins this one.
Outside of work, there is so much to see and do in each city. They both have spectacular parks to visit, as well as a great number of museums and art galleries. Which you prefer will depend on your tastes, but Madrid’s are probably more renowned worldwide. The lifestyle is also a little more laid back in Madrid, people are a little more warm and friendly, and they love their fiestas just a little bit more. Both score highly here, but Madrid takes the points.
In terms of language, Madrid wins here. In both cities you can get by in English, but in Madrid their language is Spanish. This is great if you already speak it, and also if you want to learn a new language, as it’s one of the most useful in the world. In Barcelona they speak both Catalan and Spanish, which is good news if you want to learn both, but can be confusing if not.
In terms of points, Madrid just about sneaks it. From my experience of both, I would say that the lifestyle and beauty of Madrid make it a better city to visit, while the convenience and location of Barcelona make it slightly better to live in. Everyone will have different points of view though- the only way to find out for sure is to see them both!