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Barcelona vs Madrid Nightlife: Which is better?

Picture of Tara Jessop
Updated: 28 February 2017
These two Spanish cities have a long history of rivalry on pretty much every front: political, sporting and, of course, nightlife. While Madrid is the capital of Spain and the much bigger of the two cities, Barcelona enjoys a privileged position on the Mediterranean and is famous for its world-class festivals. Both have a lot of nightlife to offer, so read on to discover which of these two rivals is the best place to party.

The nightlife in Madrid

The birthplace of la movida – the subversive cultural awakening of the early post-Franco era in Spain – Madrid has a reputation for being one of the best places for music and nightlife in the country. Given its status as the capital city, it’s no surprise that it attracts a truly cosmopolitan and multi-cultural scene, with people from every walk of life partying in the capital.

The might-time movida of Madrid ©
The night time movida of Madrid | ©

With its inner city population of some three million – around double that of Barcelona – Madrid has become famous for its many mega-clubs – such as La Riviera or the recently re-opened LAB – which largely surpass those of Barcelona in size and could even give Ibiza a run for its money. These venues are usually located away from the center of town given how much space they occupy, so you’ll need to plan out your route to get there.

One of the other advantages of Madrid is that, given its size, it is home to many distinct nightlife areas each with their own character and style. The movida spirit lives on in the Malasaña neighborhood, while in Chueca you’ll find a thriving gay scene, and in Lavapiés you can expect an eclectic mix of everything from hip-hop to flamenco.

Get ready to rock CC0 Pixabay
Get ready to rock | © Pixabay

The nightlife in Barcelona

It’s no secret that Barcelona is one of the biggest party towns in Europe, and is especially famous for its electronic music scene. Each year in the spring, the Sonár music festival attracts the biggest DJs from the world of techno, house and more, as well as attracting upwards of 100,000 eager party-goers.

However, it’s not just during festival season that you can find great nights in Barcelona; there are dozens of nightclubs to choose from, with many open seven nights a week. Some of the biggest clubs include Razzmatazz, Opium and Pacha, most of which are located near the beach front and have a more Mediterranean feel to them thanks to outdoor terraces and sea views. On the other hand, clubs like Moog or Sala Apolo have a less glamorous feel to them and more of an underground edge. These are some of the first places to have introduced techno music to Barcelona and have something of a legendary status among the older generation of clubbers.

See the performance live CC0 Pixabay
See the performance live | © Pixabay

Given its relatively small size compared to Madrid, it’s easy to get around Barcelona, and most places are either within walking distance or a 10-minute cab ride away. There’s also plenty to do during the daytime, from visiting world-famous landmarks to discovering the local gastronomy – Catalan cuisine has its own identity. And of course the big advantage that Barcelona has over Madrid in the warmer months is the proximity to the sea and the beach.

The verdict

It’s safe to say that you can expect to have a great night out in either of these Spanish cities. Both have a variety of nightclubs to choose from and plenty of culture to enjoy during the daytime. If you’re a fan of large venues or like to be able to move around the city, then it may be the case that Madrid will be more your place. The diversity of neighborhoods means you can experience very different nights out on different evenings depending on your mood.

The Barcelona beach festival 2016 © Angel Isnardo
The Barcelona beach festival 2016 | © Angel Isnardo

On the other hand, if you like the sound of beach-front clubs and a more Mediterranean vibe, then Barcelona has plenty to offer, with the added convenience of most places being within close distance to one another. The size of the city means you can easily become familiar with your surroundings and don’t have to worry about getting around.

This is one aspect of the Madrid-Barcelona rivalry on which the two cities might just have to agree to a draw.