Madrid vs. Valencia, The Ultimate Spanish Battle For Food, Sights and Sun

In the battle of Madrid vs. Valencia, Barcelona takes the top place for me.

Yet this does not mean the two cities are to be neglected, on the contrary! Last month, I had the privilege of visiting both the City of Arts and Sciences and the City of… well, Football and Seafood, both in the same week.

I say “privilege” because, at 30+ years of age, you start to realize how privileged you are to have travelled so much.

I’ve been to more countries than my actual fu**ing age!

And yes, even though at first it was something of an obsession, sometimes a burden, but mostly an addiction, now I see how lucky and blessed one is to be able to do this for so long.

To see the world, feel, touch, taste and smell it. It’s life’s greatest gift.

Coming back to the Iberian conflict at hand, Spain is my number two favourite country after Italy. Spanish food is no Italian food but as far as the sights and the weather, it’s VERY CLOSE but still, Italy is in no danger.

Chill, amore, you’re still my numero uno!


I arrived in Valencia late at night. Still, the metro system is functional even then. Very expensive though, almost as much as New York or London. What’s up with that, Valencia?!


I loved Valencia for its architecture but the beach is no Barceloneta Beach. That beach in Barcelona is a good enough reason to move there. In Valencia, the beach is too big for its own good.


I visited the famous cathedral with the Holly Grail neatly settled in one of its chapels.

It was a, well, spiritual experience. Read more about it here.

Apart from that, Valencia has one of the most futuristic areas in the world, with its famous City of Arts and Sciences. Coming along at the end of a long “vein” that’s made out of a river and threes on both sides of it, and runs throughout the city, this place is impressive.

Unfortunately, I had no time to explore the attractions, like the Museum of Sciences, the aquarium and so on. The deal to see all of them was good in terms of price but my time was too limited to actually enjoy them. So I said no and put them into my planner for the next visit.


Food in Valencia is cheap and delicious. Paella is a true hidden gem for me. I eat rice weekly, most of the time twice a week and in many forms. But that paella in the “mercat” was SPECTACULAR. The rice was perfect, the chicken and rabbit meat were caramelized but soft… just incredible!

Another delicious treat was the horchata drink, made out of some nuts and tons of sugar. Served with some bread-like pastries that had the consistency of a cloud (yes, I had clouds before, move on!) the pair was spectacular. I had just one try at the combo so I can’t compare but my breakfast at Orxateria Daniel was delicious.


The city of Valencia is great but then again, it’s not like Barcelona, my top Spanish destination. The weather is as in the other one, but the weather in Spain is probably the number one reason why one must visit. It’s great. The public transport is a bit hectic and somewhat expensive, yet I can’t say it’s unreliable. It works. I liked the architecture, and the people were nice.


After a 2-hour train ride from Valencia, taken aboard the famous AVE Pato (Duck, because it looks like a duck’s mouth) high-speed train, I was in Madrid, the capital and largest city in Spain.

Madrid was always on my bucket list for the sights, food and… parks! And it delivered.

I got a bit emotional when arriving at the famous for all the wrong reasons Atocha Station. Which despite being the site of the gruesome terror attack, it’s spectacular from the inside and from afar.

I’ve been to many cities that are considered green or eco-friendly. Heck, I’ve been to Stockholm, which was incredible and impressive when it came to shade and parks. But Madrid is in a league of its own. Every single goddamn street has shade provided by actual living trees.

Even if it’s hot outside, the shade provided by the trees protects pedestrians at all times. And the parks of the city, especially the Retiro, where I spent a lot of time, are spectacular.


Retiro Park is for Madrid what Barceloneta Beach is for Barcelona. A hidden gem, a must-see, a reason to move into the city. It even has a pond with boats you can ride and loads of little areas with different attractions and… PERFECT.

Apart from the green zones, Madrid reminded me of Paris.

Every single building is neatly kept, in great shape and photogenic. The squares are nice and large, filled with some locals and many tourists, and the vibe overall is relaxed.

I liked the Royal Palace and the cathedral but to be honest, my highlight was the Prado Museum. I always wanted to see the famous Black Paintings and as soon as I got into the city, I took the 5-minute walk from my hotel to the entrance. The museum is free from 6 PM to 8 PM so I got to enter for free!

I also visited the famous Bank of Spain but failed miserably in robbing it.

Well, I’ll always have Grand Theft Auto…


Food in Madrid is delicious but much more expensive than in Valencia. I got to eat most of my meals at this little side-street place called Mas Al Sur, namely a shrimp dish with white wine and toasted bread and chips. Along with a beer, it was my go-to meal apart from my breakfasts at a nearby cafe serving potato omelette, another delicious treat.

Food seemed especially expensive in the Mercat San Miguel, the central and very touristy market of Madrid. 18 bucks for a cone of fried shrimp is just a little off. That beats New York in terms of price! I had to pass although some foods looked delicious. I’m not a billionaire and even if I were, there are better things to do with money than throw them on tourist traps.


Madrid beats Valencia when it comes to livability and transport. The metro is much better than in Valencia and a lot cheaper. You can get anywhere with it, with stations leaving you close to wherever you want to be. Busses are also a great alternative, as they have dedicated lines and go anywhere. I took a bus to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium and got there in no time, returning by metro to the city centre.

I liked Madrid, to be honest, but I wouldn’t go back. I have no reason to apart from living there. Those parks are special, and I can see myself making a habit (I love routines) of reading in the park at least for an hour each day.

And for 4-6 hours on Sundays, of course!

Bueno, this was my weeklong excursion to Valencia and Madrid! Yes, both cities have their merits. Yes, you 100% should see them both, and maybe spend a week in each, not just 3 nights as I did. And no, they’re not better than Barcelona although they’re greatly enjoyable.

Gabriel Iosa



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