When I tell people I’m from New Mexico the most common response is some variant of “Oh, I love Santa Fe”. Of course, I am from Albuquerque. Santa Fe has the hip image, a distinctive architecture, an identity. Albquerque is more of a mixing pot with lots of things. It is also a much bigger city.
I am familiar with this kind of competition, growing up in Los Angeles where San Francisco was the hip city and LA was the sprawling, all-inclusive metropolis.
It seems that Madrid and Barcelona have a similar relationship. In the US, at least, Barcelona has a much hipper image than Madrid. It has legendary night life, good restaurants, the whole Gaudi thing going for it, the Ramblas. Madrid is the workmanlike big city.
We felt the same way and so we were surprised when we liked staying in Madrid much better than Barcelona. Barcelona seemed like the busier, more touristy city. Madrid was surprisingly calm, with lots of small streets. It seemed more walkable than Barcelona.
Of course, Madrid wins the art competition hands down with three world-class, wonderful museums.
And you never know what to expect in the Plaza Mayor:
(We took the above in a hurry with Charlie’s iPod Touch camera and it was starting to get dark so, too bad, it came out a little blurry.)