Today the summer has officially finished in the Northern Hemisphere, so it seems more than appropriate to talk about a topic which can help you plan your holidays – or summer season – for next year. And nothing like bringing an old-school type of battle, between the two cities which I consider the best to be during this season.
These might not be the most obvious choices for many. There are some people who can immediately come here and claim that any island in Spain, Italy, Greece and Croatia or that the beach areas of France, Bulgaria or Romania are way better than the two Iberian cities.
No doubt, when you go to Ibiza, Mallorca, Mykonos, Ios or Hvar, you have an unbeatable beach and party spirit. Nevertheless, I believe these locations are too limited, offering only a one-dimension option, which is exactly that summer destination labeled as a party place. It is the same as saying that a girl is great because of her great tits and ass! Hey, I love a nice pair of boobs and a rounded ass, but those are just two elements in a vast universe of what makes a woman complete.
On the other hand, when I think about Barcelona and Lisbon, it immediately pops up in my head the idea of “real cities”. Cities with history, with culture and with plenty of things to do. Still, they are not that cliché like other destinations in Europe such as Paris, London or Berlin, since they have not only a summer vibe but also a wide range of options, a complete package which no other place can compete with, in my honest opinion, during this season.
So without further ado, I am going to give you a list of what I consider to be the ten most important factors in a summer destination and which of both cities takes the “prize” in each one of them:
Beauty of the city
This is a very tough one. At a first glance, and because it is much more famous than the Portuguese capital, Barcelona would take the prize easily. And actually, its Ramblas, all the Gaudi architecture – having Park Güell as the greatest exponent – Montjuic, the Barceloneta and the Sagrada Familia are a wonder to the eyes.
Still, do not think that Lisbon is left behind. First, in case you do not know, it has a bridge similar to the Golden Gate of San Francisco (it is called “25 de Abril”, the day of the liberty in Portugal, but actually it was built by the same company which built the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge). Then, it is known by the city of the seven hills, having a marvellous castle on the top and amazing traditional housing around it. Last but not least, it has not only majestic squares and views but also a beautiful area called Belém, where the Portuguese sailors left to discover the world 500 years ago.
So comparing the two, being of course a matter of personal taste and preference, I would say we have a tie.
This point will be one of the most uneven of this competition (and I suppose you can already guess “who” the winner is).
As I referred in my article about Spain, sure that you can find good deals or even bargains across the whole territory, but that is if you leave the big cities out. Because these, and Barcelona is the perfect example, can indeed be quite costly. From lodging to night clubs, from restaurants to transportation, everything is actually overpriced, especially if you hit the more central areas.
Regarding Lisbon, if you take a cab as a foreigner or if you go eating to the main touristic areas, obviously that you will be ripped off. However, for all the other things, everything is quite affordable. Where in western Europe you can go to a restaurant eat a nice steak of meat, with beer and coffee included, and pay 15€ or less? Or go out and drink half of a liter of beer in a party neighborhood for less than 1,50€? Well, no need to think anymore because Lisbon is the answer.
Food and cuisine
Another point which will be very difficult to tie break. Starting with the Portuguese cuisine, do not let yourself be fooled by the size of the country: both the food and the wines are great. Specifically in Lisbon, you can find a wide range of options, from fresh fish to succulent meats, depending on the area of the city you are at. Furthermore, the pastries and traditional sweets will leave you mouth-watering!
Regarding Barcelona, you can find the best of the Spanish food but also anything you can think of with regard to international cuisine. The offer is so vast and varied that it is almost impossible not to find a good place to eat within every 500 meters. Since here we are not taking into consideration the prices, then we have a clear draw on this matter.
(including distance to the beach)
Lisbon is a city which you can walk around and see many things within a walking distance. However, if you want to move between different parts, you need to take a public transportation and that can be a hassle, especially if you take a bus (the subway is quite ok). In addition, if you want to go to the beach, then you need either to go to the other side of the bridge (approximately 15 minutes ride) or take the train along the shore to reach a beach which can be called like that (also about 15 minutes to arrive there).
Concerning Barcelona, and in regard to sightseeing, the situation is more or less similar to the Portuguese capital, with the advantage that the buses are slightly better and more regular. Moreover, you can walk or ride the bicycle directly to the beach (starting from Barceloneta on). This is the decisive factor which gives the victory to the capital of Catalonia.
(including the party areas)
First things first: the subway in Lisbon closes at 01:00 and opens at 06:30 everyday, while in Barcelona closes at 00:00 and opens at 05:00. However, on Fridays closes at 02:00 and on Saturdays it is working the whole night, which gives a clear advantage to Barcelona. Concerning the buses, the network in the Spanish city not only works better but also comprises more areas of the city.
This should already give the victory to Barcelona, right? Not so fast pal. We still need to talk about the night itself (aka go out and have fun), which is the main reason I am writing this point. And in this aspect, Lisbon wins by a wide margin.
It is true that in Barcelona you have the Borne, Gracia, Raval or Port Olimpic, but all of them are so far apart from one another that you will constantly to be taking public transportation or a taxi/uber. And in Lisbon? Even if you have a two big club areas (within the dock area), people nowadays go out in basically two places: Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodré. And not only both are 5 minute separated from each other but you can also walk easily within any of the areas. Add to this the fact that in Bairro Alto you have more than 50 bars, most of them where you can enter for free and grab a Mojito for less than 5€, and you have the perfect formula to have fun.
As said before, Lisbon has this “unbeatable” area which is Bairro Alto, offering a wide variety of bars with music, people having fun and low prices. Plus, it has also a cool area nearby, its “twin sister” called Cais do Sodré/Rua Rosa, nowadays a trendier and more expensive place – before it used to be a shitty place, packed with cheap whores – where people usually go after Bairro. However, none of these places have indeed clubs and in regard to that, Lisbon is actually quiet weak in terms of options.
If we exclude Lux, a trendy place based on electronic, alternative music, and Urban Beach, a commercial big club with a nice set, which usually gets packed with drunk teenagers, the other places are far from being great. Too many options and too little quality.
Regarding Barcelona, we are talking about a whole different level and its biggest strength. Besides the bar areas, such as the Borne and Gracia, there are plenty of clubs spread out throughout the city – Otto Zutz, Sutton, Mojito, La Terrrazza, Apolo, Moog, Macarena and Razzmatazz – plus a congregation of them located in Port Olimpic (Shoko, Opium, Carpe Diem and Pasha). With such a varied and good offer, it would be impossible not to give this prize to a city which will convert you into a night owl.
It has been said that Lisbon is the new Barcelona, as it is attracting more and more tourists every passing year. Therefore, it would be expected that people come here to have real fun, as if there were no tomorrow. Well, even if this would make sense in theory, the reality is that Lisbon is still a city where people come more for a broader experience. They come here, naturally, to have fun, but also to sightsee and to experience the country as a whole (it is very common that many tourists are on the way to the south or to other places in Portugal).
What about Barcelona? It is still seen as a sin city and attracts many who just want to have pure, hard party. It is also a common destination for bachelor parties or for single people who want to hook up with someone. Therefore, when you go out here, you can feel this vibe party which, unarguably, you experience to a much lower extent in Lisbon.
For every positive aspect you may have regarding any given thing, you have also its downside. And while Barcelona is great in terms of nightlife options and party spirit, it might not be the best place if you are looking to be the king of the jungle. I believe you can be in total shape, be a guy who not only has a perfect notion of style but is always well-groomed that still, you will feel the male competition around! I have been out almost everywhere in Barcelona and seen plenty of guys who were really tall, good-looking and well-dressed (especially in the area of Port Olimpic, where you have most of the fanciest clubs). This will naturally increase the competition level, a point which always puts the ball on women’s side.
On the other hand, if you come to Lisbon, you will experience almost the total opposite. As most who go there are either youngsters looking to have fun or people looking for cheap deals (yes, the tourism in Lisbon is still a little bit “low budget”), if you have your basics – style, game and physical appearance/hygiene – covered, then expect to rule most of the places you get in.
I know how competition is healthy and how it raises the standards but let’s not come with bullshit here: if the issue is to go out and rock like a rock star, then Lisbon is the place to be!
Quality and accessibility of local girls
Remember the point about food? Well, talking about men’s favorite diet, this is also another point which will be very difficult to tie break.
Regarding Lisbon, prepare to meet (or not) a paradise of 5s and 6s who think they are 8s and 9s. Or occasionally to meet 7s and 8s who think they are 10s and 11s. Exaggeration aside, Portugal and especially Lisbon is not the best place in the world if you want to have “fun with locals” (unless you are a 1,90mt blond guy, a reality which will flip all the odds to your side). Portuguese women are far from being beautiful, having also an attitude which is everything but flirty and sexual.
Concerning Barcelona, even if the variety of options is much wider, the reality is not that far from the Portuguese example. Las catalanas are, and talking again in general, open people but who like to be mostly only within their social group. This means they are really nice, but will put a lot of barriers if you are a stranger approaching them “coldly”. In addition, their general quality is not that great either, resulting in a inflated market where the price you pay does not match the quality you get.
Quality of female tourists
(I will not refer the “quantity” because, even if existing many more in Barcelona since it is a larger city who attracts more people, that automatically means more guys. And if we same up everything, the proportion and ratio of males/females is more os less similar in both cities.)
Last but surely not least, comes the point that will tie up this battle which has actually been much tighter that eventually you had thought in the first place.
Since Lisbon has been more and more a trendy city, this also means that it has been receiving more women every passing year. And more women means, according to law of averages, more quality women. Nevertheless, it is still far from attracting the quality which you see in Barcelona, as hot ladies from all over the world really have this desire to know the city of ramblas.
Maybe Lisbon will catch up with it in the near future, who knows, but right now is Barcelona which takes the lead on this matter!
And the winner is…
Well, this should not come as a surprise, as Barcelona is almost the most famous city in the world, if we take into account its beauty, cultural offer, architectural richness and, of course, party and nightlife. It is an amazing city which, even getting packed with too many tourists – and not only in the summer, but throughout the whole year – surely deserves as many visits as you can, in case you are after having always plenty of things to do.
On the other hand, Lisbon undoubtedly deserves an honourable mention (almost winning against the giant Barcelona is not for “everyone”). Unknown to most of the general public, it is a city which has been growing a lot in terms of infrastructure, attracting more and more people as the years pass. Its architectural grace and natural beauty had always been there, but in the last twenty years the Portuguese capital has really turned into a vibrant place, being nowadays a very complete destination which always impresses who visits it. If you have never gone there, you can trust my advice and thank me later.
Whichever option you choose, I strongly recommend you to choose one of these options (or both) for the next summer and to stay there for a period of two weeks, at least. You know how nowadays I am less and less a person who likes to be running around, and this timeframe looks the perfect one not only to discover the cities – and its surrounding locations – but also to have fun and to reap the rewards.
Because you already know the formula: if you go to a city just for a short visit, you will want to do everything in little time and in the end you will not really enjoy anything. So it is up to you whether you want to have a real experience or just to turn your holidays into multiple Instagram stories and Facebook albums, so that others can testify how interesting you are.