Rome vs. Barcelona // Europe Travel Choices
With limited time to travel, it’s critical to establish a thoughtful itinerary catered to what fits your travel style best. Perhaps you’re left with the last four days of your trip, where do you go? What do you do? On what note do you want to end your journey? Rome, or Barcelona? Barcelona, or Rome? (I know, great problem to have!)
It can be agonizing to choose between two of the most fabulous cities in Europe, and the best way is to pick one thing in particular that speaks to you, and let the rest fall into place. To help you focus in on what you want, here’s a quick breakdown of how the two crown jewels of the mediterranean go toe to toe, and hand in hand.
Rome | Stroll into a veritable time-machine – the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and St. Peter’s Basilica. That’s just for starters.
Barcelona | If Rome is walking into the past, then Barcelona is walking into a dream. Contemporary and modern architecture fused together by what makes Barcelona tick: the avant-garde. The Sagrada Familia is your first stop.
Verdict: When it comes to sightseeing, Rome is a class in and of itself.
Rome | Shopping and people watching galore. Get lost wandering backstreets, and watch locals share their opinions as the smell of fresh ground coffee wafts by.
Barcelona | Sprawl out on the beach, and walk through Parc de la Ciutadella and Montjuïc castle (okay, the last one is more of a hike than a ‘walk’). Get off the beaten path and head up to Horta, and see a lesser-known side of the Eixample to take in breathtaking panoramic views!
Verdict: Barcelona feels like it’s constantly moving and changing – it feels alive, and that will rub off on you.
Rome | Hunt out a boisterous neighborhood trattoria (informal restaurant). Indulge in perfectly crispy, thin crust pizzas; wash it down with chilled white wine from local hills. More, and perhaps better, cafes than Barca. Icing on the cake? Literally the best gelato in the world.
Barcelona | Go on a tapas crawl in Barceloneta, the old fisherman’s quarter by the beach. Hint: stick to one (or two) dishes per bar – the point is to visit as many as possible! More, and better (and even sinful), chocolatiers than Rome.
Verdict: Barcelona’s innovative cosmopolitan fusion has the rest of the world watching; Rome has thousands of years of practice. It’s your call! Hand-in-Hand.
Rome | You can drink in public, so sip on a bottle of inexpensive local wine while watching the night unravel itself beneath magnificently lit statues. My favorite stop for late night libations? None other than the vibrant neighborhood of Trastevere.
Barcelona | In Barcelona, the nights are limitless. After sunset, live music animates the city – flamenco percussion, jazz streaming into the street from behind doors, and indie concerts. After midnight, carouse in old-school taverns, plush lounges, or head to the clubs to let your wild side out.
Verdict: Barcelona–hands down. You can feel the buzz (and beat!) in the air.
Rome | The city center feels like one big gallery – sculptures by Michelangelo, canvases by Caravaggio, Raphael frescoes and fountains by Bernini. Museum pick: the Borghese Gallery is tried and true, for good reasons – it’s exquisite.
Barcelona | Picasso, Dalí, Miró – Barcelona has long inspired artists. Like Rome, look to the streets to see how they left their mark (especially Gaudi). For museums try the Fundació Joan Miró or Museu Picasso (free Sundays).
Verdict: Rome is like opening up a treasure chest of antiquity; Barcelona is pulsing with radical creativity at every turn. Hand-in-Hand.
Rome | Tivoli, a small town 30km east of Rome, boasts two World Heritage sites. Enough said. Alternatively, Florence and Naples (home of Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast just beyond) are both a stone’s throw by high speed train.
Barcelona | Don’t miss Montserrat, the sacred mountain in Catalan, shrouded in fables and mysticism. The views are spectacular from the monastery. Or head south to Sitges, a small fishing village with an energetic flair.
Verdict: Florence and the Amalfi Coast at your fingertips? It hardly seems fair! Rome.
Rome | Italy is the largest producer of wine in the world and renowned for not only the extensive variety, but for setting the global standards for quality (take that, France!). The Roman wine is Frascati (white), sourced from the nearby Lazio region for the last two thousand years. Head to Litro (Via Fratelli Bonnet, 5 Rome) for a lively, cool glass to escort a plate of cheese and cured meets to see once and for all – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Barcelona | The capital of Catalonia, which is home to 12 different wine regions. Barcelona is known for sparkling Cava as well as a noble stable of reds, plus of course, beloved Sangria. Head to Mon Vinic (Diputació 249, 08007 Barcelona) to experience the beating heart of Barca’s wine scene!
Verdict: Hand-in-Hand (Note: Rome is a tad more expensive in tourist hotspots but an excellent glass of house wine will run you $2-4 in both cities at local restaurants.)
What will $100 get you?
Verdict: You can’t mess this one up if you try! Hand-in-Hand.
It’s almost painful to think about – one of the most important cities in cultural history of the world, or one of the most vibrant?
Where do you picture yourself in the world? Maybe you’re sauntering between stops on a lengthy tapas crawl, or staring out the window, eager to be visiting Florence for the day; maybe you hiking to thrilling views of the city and sea at sunset, or maybe you’re feeling a sense of eternity standing in front of ancient monuments.
Which city would you choose and why?
Heading to Barcelona or Rome?
I’ve got just what you need to make the most of your time!
Check out the Vibrant Escape guide for one incredible week in Madrid, Toledo & Barcelona here OR if your heart is set on the Eternal City, check out the Darling Escape to the Positano (Amalfi Coast), Capri & Rome here.