City Smackdown: Barcelona vs. Rome

I am starting a new series on called City smackdown; here I will compare two cities and let you know which I enjoyed better and why. Once all the points are tallied, I will come up with a winner (in my eyes). In this first post, I will focus on Barcelona vs. Rome, and attempt to map out the advantages of each. So where should you visit, Barcelona or Rome, and why? Ultimately, that will depend on which factors are important to you. Let me break down my opinion.

First, I need to acknowledge that if one of your major problems is to not knowing whether to visit either Barcelona or Rome, then you are living a good life. Please take a second to thank whatever entity you may or may not worship, because problems don’t get much better. I loved both cities immensely, which is why I chose these two to start. I will divide it into 5 categories, Food/Drink, Art/History, Beauty of the City, Nightlife, and Things to Do.  So the bell has rung, let the smack down begin in this epic fight of Barcelona vs. Rome begin.




Round One: Food

La Boqueria, Barcelona

If you read my last post this is a little anticlimactic, given I have ranked Barcelona as my favorite food city. If I lived in either Rome or Barcelona, I feel I would quickly have to replace my wardrobe with Mumus. Writing this, I feel a month in Barcelona would add on an additional 4 chins, while in Rome I would get a mere two. The food in Rome, while excellent, was not always authentic. I would be minding my own business, and before I knew it found myself in a typical tourist trap in Rome, while in Barcelona everything felt more authentic. The meals, at times, may have gotten a bit repetitive in Spain, but the idea of gorging on seafood and tapas is more appealing than spinning the wheel in Rome in the hopes that I have a native cook.

Barcelona 1 Point

Round Two: Art/History


Here we have another easy one, I am not saying Barcelona is lacking in art and history, because it certainly is not. Rome is Rome…meaning it basically touches the history of the entire western world. Rome has so much art and history that it pushes its way into other cities; Barcelona being one of them. The major attraction of the Barcelona History museum are the Roman ruins beneath it…

As mentioned, Barcelona has its fair share of art/history including the Picasso Museum and numerous buildings by the architect Antoni Gaudí. When compared to Rome, Barcelona can’t hold Rome’s ‘big paintbrush’ in the art category. The Vatican City Museums would take days to fully appreciate, let alone the rest of the city. Rome itself is one giant museum and there is history at every corner. So, for Round two Barcelona vs. Rome, I have to give this to Rome by a long shot.

Rome 1 Point

Round Three: Beauty of the City

Gothic Quarter, Barcelona
Gothic Quarter, Barcelona

So, the first two installments of Barcelona vs. Rome seemed easy, but this next category is a bit trickier. The only way I can think to explain it, is to say that visiting Barcelona is like slowly dipping into a pool. The city unfolds gradually and envelopes you into its warmth, its beauty sneaks up on you the longer you stay. You get an appreciation for the architecture of Gaudi and areas like the Gothic Quarter show the true beauty of the city. It took me a second to really notice how unique this city is, but once I did, I felt I couldn’t look away. 

Whereas Barcelona is like a gradual envelopment, Rome is an ocean of riddles wrapped in an eternal enigma, Rome gives your eyes a feast at every turn, statues, art, giant monuments; my neck hurt from looking around. It would be unfair to give the an edge to either Barcelona or Rome.

Tie: No Point

Round Four:  Night Life

You will get worn out by either way, but to me the obvious winner in this category is Barcelona. Since residents don’t even start dinner until about 10 pm, the city is basically up all night… Good food, packed restaurants and cava flowing into the break of dawn.  Rome was the quiet glass of wine at 10:30, whereas Barcelona was the non-stop party.

Barcelona 2-1

Final Round: Things to do

While there is a ton to do and see in Barcelona, Rome simply has the edge. The sheer amount of churches, museums, fountains, and parks can get overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I was never bored on my trip to Spain, it’s just Rome has so many things packed into it, it turns a Trip advisor map into an orange blur. You will spend an entire day in the Vatican alone, there are also catacombs, (which I missed) parks, and I believe I mentioned museums. Rome is a city where I will have to visit multiple times to even scratch its surface.

Final Tally 2-2.

Of course I can’t have a tie in my first city smack down, so I will add a tie-breaker. To settle the contest of Barcelona vs. Rome I will compare the quintessential drawback; tourist traps. The greater concentration of tourist traps in a city, the higher my disdain. Both cities (like all major cities) have there fair share of tourist traps. Unfortunately Rome takes this to the next level. Yes Las Ramblas, can be a touristy, but it pales in comparison to Rome.

Nothing awakens a more awe-inspired  experience than standing next to a 1000 year old statue and seeing a 19 year old millennial with a selfie stick making a duck face. It is not a pleasurable experience fighting your way through throngs of people texting to see the Trevi Fountain. In addition, the droves of overly eager restaurant owners pulling you towards  their over-priced, poorly made, microwaved food is maddening. When I travel I want a unique, authentic experience, like I am in a truly foreign land…not a circus.

The Vatican, for example, is so crowded you will lose your family and have to start anew. It isn’t all bad; if you’re looking for a selfie stick there are over 10,000 foreigners selling them in front of all the major attractions. I loved Rome, but the place can be a carnival wheel of misfortune with cargo-short filled crowds. 

Barcelona is subdued, it looks like a city that is lived in, with a respected nod to history; rather than an over-zealous euro-trash Disney..


Barcelona vs. Rome: Barcelona by a hair.
Barcelona vs. Rome: Barcelona by a hair.

Winner: Barcelona….for me.

Now if art/history is what your prefer and you don’t mind crowds, then by all means go to Rome. Hell visit both, then tell me which you believe to be the winner of the Barcelona vs. Rome city smack-down..




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