Spain is probably one of the top countries to visit in Europe, with its impeccable cuisine, art, and history. Yet, many seem to choose to travel to Barcelona rather than Madrid if they only get to make a stop in one city. Here’s why you should choose Madrid.
- It’s the Capitol. If you wanted to learn about the United States, you wouldn’t vacay to LA, you’d travel to DC. If you want to learn about Spain you go to Madrid. Madrid is filled with so many important government buildings and monuments that have stood the test of time including the Royal Palace.
- Prado Art Museum. Continually ranked in the top ten lists of most famous art museums in the world, and certainly the #1 ranked art museum in Spain, this museum is a must-visit. It features work by Spanish artists such as Goya, Valesquez, and el Greco.
- Real Madrid. While I admit I am not a soccer fan, Spain is known for their soccer, especially Madrid. You can take a quick tour of the very impressive Santiago Bernabeu Stadium while you’re there.
- Retiro Park. While Madrid may not offer the beach that Barcelona does, Madrid is full of beautiful parks, the most popular being Retiro Park. Also, Barcelona’s beach is quite lacking compared to other beaches in Spain – very crowded, dirty, etc. While Retiro may not have a beach, it does have two seater boats that you can rent and take out on the mini-lake. Or maybe pick up some snacks at the many vendors. Or listen to some live music. The choices are endless.
- The Nightlife. While Barcelona may too have it’s fair share of clubs and bars, many are over ridden by other tourists. Who wants that? The point of traveling is to engage with the locals.
- The Cuisine. Okay, so maybe Spanish food is the same everywhere you go in Spain. But you know where -Botin-the oldest restaurant in the world calls home? You guessed it, Madrid.
- The Metro. Maybe the metro isn’t the first thing you think of when you think tourist attraction. Yet, Madrid’s metro system has been ranked #1 in Europe for many years. (Kind of like the famous NYC Subway system except a clean, not sketchy version)
- Day trips. Within a couple hours of Madrid are some other small cities and villages that are PACKED with history. From Romans to Moors to Jews to Spaniards, Toledo, has seen it all and still stands for you to see it all! Escorial features many famous artifacts and the tomb of the past kings and queens of Spain.
- Ciesta. This is the part of a Spaniard’s day. From about 2-5 PM, it is common for stores to close and for natives to take a nap. This makes sense, since they usually stay up so late into the evening/early morning.
- The Authenticity. Sure, one of Madrid’s main economic niches is its tourism. Yet, it is still a town that belongs to Spain as well. There’s a reason many universities are no longer offering study abroad trips to Barcelona, it’s because it’s losing it’s authenticity.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Spain that will give you an enriching, authentic experience and can only afford to go to one city, choose DC.
If you’re planning a trip that will impress your less-traveled friends back home, choose NYC or LA.