Rome vs. Barcelona // Europe Travel Choices

Rome vs. Barcelona // Europe Travel Choices

Rome vs. Barcelona - The Overseas Escape
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.   

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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.  

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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.   

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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.  

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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?

Rome | Go for a classical feel of exposed brick and sculptures with a modern touch, or a funky, spacious apartment with a distinct taste.  

Barcelona | From an intimate loft with a terrace to sleek and romantic to impeccably designed flat with an intimate rooftop lounge – it’s all exotic, and still feels like home.  

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.

Vibrant Escape-The Overseas Escape

  • Kari Guastella

    What a fun comparison! Haven’t made it to Spain yet, one day!

  • I love this! We were just in Rome, and I agree with your points completely! Now, time to get to Barcelona and the rest of Spain…. Do you plan to do more of this type of post? I think it’s awesome!

  • oh man, I LOVE this!! i have never traveled to Italy (don’t worry, changing this soon) and I loved seeing the comparison!

  • Great write-up. Went to Barcelona for the first time in January and it became my favorite European city! We were in Rome for a day at the end of our 2 week European honeymoon because thats where our return flight left from. It was New Years Day so everything was closed and I definitely didn’t get the full experience. I need a Rome redo and you gave me so many good ideas. Since my husband already saw most of the sights in Rome before he knew me, I’m thinking I need to plan a girls’ trip!

  • Love love love this! I’ve been to neither but I’m hoping to when I get to Europe next year! Pinning this for later!

    Emma | Seeking the South

  • The best kind of tough decision 😉 I would have to go with Barcelona, mostly because I’ve been to Rome a few times but haven’t made it to Spain yet. Also, the way you describe it as being so vibrant is really appealing. Rome still hasn’t won my heart even after a couple visits – but Florence, now that’s a different story 😉

    xo Mary-Katherine |

  • cool comparisons! I’ve been to Rome several times, but only once in Barcelona:) so my choice:…Barcelona!:)

  • With this horrible Scottish weather? Barcelona, warm weather, and beaches…all the way!!!

  • Amanda Phillips

    I am going to Rome AND Barcelona in a month. This post made me so excited for both, and really excited that I don’t have to choose!

  • Oh my gosh, I love this post! I have been dying to go to Rome, but you made a very compelling case for Barcelona!!

  • Both beautiful on their own! We’re going to Spain in November this year. Now, it’s harder to decide. Thank you for your honest recommendations, Margo!

  • I love this- from home it feels more like a game than a pressing decision. I have (luckily) already been to both. For me, Rome always lives up to the hype. Barcelona was the first city I visited in Europe (right after I graduated from high school). I’d love to go back and see it with more seasoned eyes. So, Barcelona it is!

  • Veena

    As you say, what a great problem to have! For me, I think Barcelona would be a great place to visit with a friend, where we can both feed off of the energy and the colours. i would love to do Rome solo, because my inner history nerd usually requires a lot more time in historical places than most others are willing to spend. I would love to traverse the city on my own for a few days before meeting up with others in Florence or on the Amalfi coast.

    Ah, a girl can dream… 🙂

  • The slow pace

    I love this post! But for me Rome wins! I find Barcelona a little bit dirty and a little bit unsafe… The Ramblas are a tourist trap in the worst sense! The city is really nice and has a great atmosphere but it’s not one of my favourite destinations.
    Rome, on the other hand, offers a unique artistic and historical background. And the food… oh!

  • I loved Rome and Barcelona is next on my list to visit! Such a fun way to breakdown two different places, love the post girl!

  • Becca

    Great post! I love Barcelona so much, but looking at your list I didn’t do enough exploring in Rome. I’ll just have to go back to both to decide! xx

  • I loved both of these cities and would go back to both in a heartbeat!

  • Miss M

    Such an awesome post! I went on my first EVER trip abroad last year and we went to Barcelona, and on my 2nd in July we’re off to Rome! I’m so excited! I must admin, food and wine is the bit I really can’t wait for :’)

    On that note – Rosa Negra in Barcelona is AMAZING and makes fantastic burritos and is stunning to see. xx

  • I’ve seen a lot of Spain and a lot of Italy but have strangely never been to Barcelona and Rome! This was a really great summary of both – although I still can’t decide – I’ll just have to go to both! Hehe!

  • Lauren @BonVoyageLauren

    Really enjoyed reading this. Your blog is one of my favorites! I love Rome and Barcelona and you seemed to cover the best of both cities. Thanks for sharing!

    Happy travels 🙂

  • Very nice post, as many others have said both win for me!

  • My favourite was Barcelona. Although Rome has history, you can’t beat the city by the Med. Overall I found it more relaxing, and better food. (Although I love Italian food, Rome just felt way more touristy and harder to find well made, non-touristy food.)

  • Ooh I feel like this is such a tough comparison. I haven’t been to either place but they’re on the list! I’d be curious to see a companion of Barcelona vs. Madrid, Rome vs. Florence, etc.!

  • Both are great value cities where your money goes a long way! At the end of the day, it comes down to if you want the beach or not… To me, the presents of a beach (assuming you’re traveling when it can be enjoyed) inherently changes the feel of a city… and what to pack! ; )

  • What a great post! I’ve been to Rome years ago and it has always been my favorite place in Europe. I love the art, the architecture and all that history! Spain is slowly making its way up my wanderlust list though. Thanks for these tips! 🙂

  • I’m so behind on my bloglovin feed so I’m just getting caught up now haha! I love this type of post! We visited Rome last year, but we actually didn’t like it (though we did visit right in the middle of high season in 40c weather, so you can imagine how that felt haha), but I’ve been dying to visit Barcelona for so long! I loved reading your comparisons between the two!
    xo April | April Everyday