City Rumble – Barcelona versus Lisbon

Today we are going to compare travel to two of Western Europe’s most popular destinations, Lisbon and Barcelona!

Howdy all, it’s finally time for another City Rumble (it’s been quite a few!). So today I am taking two cities I visited last year and bringing them up against each other to see which one I think is the best to visit. And of course, you as the reader can comment and let me know which one you’d prefer! So let’s take a little look.

Look at the Basics!

Barcelona Port View

Let’s start by looking at the basics. Firstly, we have Barcelona. Barcelona is one of the bigger cities in both Spain and Western Europe. But at a metro population of 5.5 million it’s not up there with the biggest of them. However, it must be said that it feels like a really big city. It is the fourth most visited city in Europe behind Paris, London and Rome and the number of visitors is certainly felt. Madrid is the capital of Spain, which I think suits Barcelonans fine as they primarily see themselves as Catalonian. And indeed, Barcelona identifies itself as the capital of Catalonia. This means signs are generally in Spanish and Catalonian, and then often in English for the visitor. The Catalonian flag flies everywhere, I saw it far more than the Spanish flag. It is clear how the people identify in Barcelona and it is NOT as Spanish.

Whilst I realised that Lisbon is a much smaller city, the capital of Portugal only has a population of a little over half a million. And, as in Barcelona, it feels a lot bigger. But it does not feel anywhere near as big as Barcelona. The feeling of a smaller capital is encapsulated in the trams that crank up and down the streets and hills, small trams, historic, cute even.

Public Transport

As far as airports are concerned, they both have airports reached easily by public transport – metro stations at/under the airport. Which is another perk of Europe – oh how we dream about this convenience here in Melbourne! Lisbon’s Metro is not as comprehensive a that of Barcelona, but it is complemented by the trams. Both cities complement existing networks with a network of buses, and as you find in many European cities, public transport is excellent.

On top of that, Barcelona has a funicular and two cable cars. The funicular gets you to the start of the cable car to Montjuic, where you can marvel at the beautiful city below. Not to be outdone, Lisbon has a tram that takes you most of the way to the castle that overlooks the Portuguese capital. Then there is a 5-10 minute walk. Or a bus that will take you all the way up there, for great views of Lisbon.

Sticking with Lisbon, it is by far hillier of the two cities, if not one of the most hilly cities in the world. For walkers, not such great news, but for lovers of interesting transport, it’s a treasure trove because there are special trams that take you up a number of hills for more great city views. And an ‘elevator’ also in the middle of the city, which is one of the main tourist attractions.


But for even more incredible views, and a more modern, spectacular experience, the 25th of April Bridge has a museum at its base and that includes a lift that will take you to the top of the bridge. Lisbon is based on the wide river Tagus. The river marks the date the government resigned back in 1974 ushering in democracy.

Lisbon view

Barcelona though has a marina, with an incredible number of boats. It’s quite attractive and the promenade when the sun is shining is quite magnificent. You can even hop on a sailing boat if you get a ticket to the Maritime Museum – just the one, it’s historic and won’t be going anywhere! Walking along the promenade, in front of the historic and famous Las Rambla, opposite the Maritime Museum is a statue to Spain’s most famous explorer and person not looked at so favourably by the history books these days – Christopher Columbus.


Both cities I think are interesting architecturally. But Barcelona probably takes the prize in this category. Gaudi’s buildings (and his Park Guell) are modernistic structures which bring in the tourists. They are inventive, not unattractive and very different. Barcelona is also the home of the Picasso Museum, and more.

Inside the Palau de Musica Catalana, Barcelona

Lisbon is also pretty interesting – it’s suburb of Belem is a 30-minute tram ride from the centre of town where you can visit the amazing monastery of Jerome and the Belem Tower, this single tower just off the coast which has had many uses over the years, including as a prison and watch tower.

Belem Tower

Churches abound in both cities, the ones in Lisbon are older and not in perfect repair. Whereas Barcelona has a number of interesting churches including the gothic Cathedral. But of course, Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is hard to beat as far as churches worth visiting across the world!

Music & Entertainment

Okay so Spain – Flamenco. This amazing dance is worth seeing and there are loads of places that will do you dinner and a show. However, if you can see a Flamenco show at the Palau de Musica Catalunya, the building its in adds another dimension to an already amazing show. In Lisbon you can catch a dinner and a show for their national music – Fado. It’s accompanied with guitars and it is sung passionately. I enjoyed this evening as well.

Flamenco at the Palau de Musica de Catalana


Ahhh this is a tough one as we self catered in Lisbon. I didn’t find Barcelona’s food up to much. We preferred the tapas we had in Seville greatly to that of Barcelona, and apart from some nice nibblies at the market, most of the food was a tad disappointing in Barcelona. Self catering was cheaper than Lisbon though, although the restaurants were more expensive. One thing’s for sure though, if you like bread, wine, cheese and most of all – cured meats, both cities will suit you pretty well. La Boqueria is a great market in Barcelona full of cured meats! But they are never far away in this part of Europe!


Both cities have an issue with pick pockets. I have been pickpocketed once in my life in Sri Lanka when I disregarded all the things I usually do to guard against having my wallet lifted, which has led me to believe that if one is careful about how they carry things you will be all right. Having said that, I was in a tram (number 28) in Lisbon which is renowned for pick pockets and a guy in front of me had two guys almost take his wallet. So it happens. I also had a guy reaching for my pocket on the local train, but I had nothing in it on this occasion.

Public transport in both cities is the main place to be on your guard, and in crowded spots. Just be sensible about what you flash about etc. Barcelona sure has a lot of tourists so I guess tourists are going to be a target for robbery.

And the Winner is…

It’s Barcelona. Despite the throngs of tourists one has to fight, it’s an exciting, vibrant place with SO MUCH to see. Although I really liked Lisbon, I think if I had to return to only one of the two, it would be Barcelona because I feel like there’s still so much more to see. And it’s slightly less hilly.

What are you thoughts? Please comment below!

Thanks for stopping by – May the Journey Never End!

5 thoughts on “City Rumble – Barcelona versus Lisbon

  1. I really like the way you deconstruct everything about cities especially the transport Andy! You have genuine understanding and I think that’s great. Keep up the good work.
    P.s. you may need to reduce your travels for the moment because of Covid 19. Y’know just to be safe.

  2. I visited Barcelona a long, long time ago so a lot has changed. I absolutely loved Lisbon ! I’d like to see Barcelona again, would I like it more than Lisbon, not sure, too many tourists now:)

  3. Pingback: The History of City Rumble! – Andy's World Journeys

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