Hello, I plan to go to Spain in late June, early July (30th - 9th to be exact, including flight days from UK).
I want to go to both Barcelona and Madrid, but I am a little indecisive about how much time to spend in each place. In a ideal world, I would have more time, but alas I don't.
I am currently learning Spanish and that is part of the reason for going. I want to meet up or stay with couchsurfers (preferably those who speak spanish) so I can practice a little and so they can show me the more local side of the cities. Although at the moment I am having a little trouble finding couchsurfers (perhaps I need to contact more).
I think I want to be in Barcelona for the weekend (it seems it would be better? Or is Madrid better for weekend nightlife?). I want to go to Madrid because it seems more "Spanish" and less touristy than Barcelona. The kind of things I would like to do in Spain -
Party! If there's a place with more spanish music, that would be nice to visit, but any good party is fine.
Try to hang out with locals/spanish speakers some of the time, maybe couchsurf in their house or just meet up
See nice architecture, a couple of museums - I like museums but I only want that to be a part of my trip, especially when the weather is so nice!
I like beaches, but I don't enjoy just sunbathing 8 hours a day. It would be nice to have some drinks or swim for a while then go and do something else
I am thinking of staying in a hostel over the weekend, and go to one of the many pub crawls the hostels organize. Although I realise it's unlikely i'd be meeting many spanish people here.
I was thinking Thursday - Tuesday in Barcelona
Tuesday to Saturday in Madrid (i'd be taking an early flight on Saturday to go home for a friends party)
Any tips, suggestions will be greatly appreciated
I have just spent 2 weeks in Madrid learning Spanish and would recommend it. I chose it because it's supposed to be one of the best places in the country to learn the language, mainly because there are no strong accents or local dialects. Barcelona is not the best place to learn Spanish because it is predominantly Catalan; although all the residents still understand and speak Spanish, you will hear Catalan spoken in the street and shops etc rather than Spanish, so it won't be as useful for you. I sometimes found it confusing in Barcelona because I wasn't sure if I was just not understanding the Spanish or if it was actually because it was Catalan! In Madrid, you'll obviously be hearing Spanish all the time which will be much more useful for you. From Madrid you can also do day trips to Toledo and Segovia, both of which are lovely.
You are correct in thinking that Madrid is less touristy than Barcelona. I really liked Madrid - there's plenty to see and do, it has a fantastic vibe and some lovely architecture. Barcelona on the other hand has the more obvious tourist attractions such as the Sagrada Familia, the Gothic quarter, Gaudi architecture etc. I'm not really into nightlife anymore but from what I've heard it's fantastic in Madrid.
As your main aim is to learn Spanish, I'd spend 6 days in Madrid, including day trips, and 4 in Barcelona which should give you enough to see the main sights and check out the beach.
Overall I preferred Madrid as a city because I loved the vibe but I thought Barcelona was fantastic too.
By the way, I'd recommend Airbnb while you are there - I did this and found it a good way of practising my Spanish.
[ Edit: Edited on 27-May-2016, at 03:40 by bex76 ]
Thanks for your helpful advice! I appreciate it!
So far I have only booked a flight into Barcelona and out of Madrid - I haven't booked any accommodation so I can always change my mind if I want to leave Barcelona a bit earlier...
Perhaps if I like one of the places enough I will go back to stay for a few months
No problem. Once you have decided on your plans, I'd recommend booking the train from Barcelona to Madrid on Renfe as soon as possible, to ensure you get the best fare.
I share bex76's views of Madrid. I was there last November and enjoyed my stay. The architecture is great; and so's the food, the arts and nightlife.