You’d like to go on a European city break to experience vibrant culture, eat amazing food and run around the beach. Barcelona and Lisbon are obvious choices; read on to see which city is a better fit for you in this Travel Honey Tiebreaker.
On one hand, there is Barcelona. It’s the second most populous city in Spain and sits on the Mediterranean Sea coast. Barcelona gets plenty of sunshine and is a jumping off point for the Balearic Islands – Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca which are accessible via a short flight or ferry ride. On the other hand, there is Lisbon which is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Lisbon predates Paris and London and is located about an hour’s drive from the unspoilt beaches of Comporta.
Hi, I’m Lids. I’m a U.S. ex-pat in my early thirties. I have lived in London for four years and work in the creative industry. During this time, I have visited both cities on weekends and explored the surrounding beaches in each place. Outside of traveling, I spend my free time skiing, sailing, eating amazing food and painting.
THE PROS AND CONS
Both cities are fabulous places to visit, but here is what makes them different:
If you want to get rowdy at night, head to Barcelona. There are a ton of bars and clubs lining the beach promenade. Start with sundowner drinks at the W hotel, then head to Agua or the Icebar. If you prefer more mellow nights, head to Lisbon where you can watch the sunset from a rooftop bar, such the Park Bar on Calçada do Combro, and take your time finishing a great bottle of wine.
If you’re into organic architecture, head to Barcelona to view Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia basilica and Casa Batlló. But, if towers and fortresses are more your style, head to Lisbon where you can admire the São Jorge castle in the city center or drive an hour to take in mountain top views from the Sintra Palace.
If you’re a foodie who loves fresh fresh and ceviche, Lisbon is your city. There are plenty of cevicherias in the center but my favorite is A Cevicheria on Rua Dom Pedro. However, if you’re a foodie who gets excited about a plate of expertly carved iberico ham, crispy cheese croquettes and seafood paella, then Barcelona’s heartier fare is for you.
And the beaches? Barcelona’s beaches are right in the city center and filled with stylish urbanites whereas Lisbon’s beaches are further out and require a small commute – that said, these beaches are worth the effort – quiet, uncrowded and sublime. Note that Barcelona is located further south than Lisbon and the Mediterranean waters are warmer than the Atlantic. Thus, if its shoulder seasons and you’d like to avoid a polar bear swim, head to Barcelona.
The currency in both Spain and Portugal’s is the euro. That said, a euro stretches further in Portugal that is does in Spain, so Lisbon is a good choice for a more budget conscious traveller.
Lisbon and Barcelona are both great. See both, but if you can’t, head to vibrant Barcelona for active days and full on nightlife and Lisbon for all the sights but minus the drama, where you can chill and take it easy on your wallet.