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WhereToGoForMyHoliday.com

The best destination comparison site!

Paris or Madrid; a vs city comparison and travel guide

Both Madrid and Paris are fantastic cities, but which is better for your city-break or holiday?
We understand your dilemma. There is an abundance of travel guides for both cities, but few actually comparing them, and advising you which is the better for your trip.
This article will provide our unbiased and independent views of Madrid and Paris, hopefully making your choice that little easier.

The article is divided into the following sections, and can be jumped to using the links:
• Introduction to the cities
• Scores and ratings
• Which one should I, friends, or family visit?
• When to visit and weather
• Who is the city suited for?
• The perfect 48hours (with map)
• Tourism details (where to stay? airport details?)

Introduction to Madrid and Paris

Being the original artisan city of western Europe, Madrid’s galleries and museums are unrivalled, and are a staple for any cultural holiday.
However beneath this formal exterior is a young and passionate city, with thrilling nightlife, delicious food and genuinely welcoming locals.

The visitors who rave most about Madrid are the long-stay residents – and there is something captivating about the city. The Museo del Prado, the Reina Sofía and the Bernabéu Stadium, for a different type of culture. Just avoid Madrid in August, when the entire city shuts down for the summer holidays.

Paris is famed as the capital of Romance, the epicentre of French culture and grand European art, and the home of iconic monuments like the Eiffel Tower. There's no question that it's an amazing city to explore.
Everywhere you go along the Seine River it seems like there's a world-class museum or gallery beckoning. But Paris can also be overwhelming, not to mention downright gritty in some parts.

The history here goes back to the Celtic tribes of the 400s BC. But it was the 7th-century fortifications on the Île de la Cité that went on to form the medieval kernel of the town.
The capital still radiates out from that, with bohemian neighborhoods along the Canal Saint-Martin, stereotypically Parisian cafes and cobbled streets in Montmartre, and enthralling cultural and foodie attractions throughout other arrondissements (areas).

Arc de Triomphe paris

The Arc de Triomphe, constructed as a memorial to the soldiers who perished in the Napoleonic Wars and French Revolution

Plaza Mayor madrid

The Plaza Mayor and the historic centre of Madrid

Madrid vs Paris: City Ratings

Summary
Which city would I go to?
Madrid
Which one would I recommend to my parents?
Paris
Which location for my 19-year-old cousin?
Madrid
Which for my food obsessed friend?
Madrid
Note: The above comparison does not consider the weather, and assumes travel at the best time of year - which is detailed later in this article.

The following sections compare the two cities and considers; how long to spend in them, when to visit, and provides suggested 48hours in each city (along with an interactive map).
The final section is tourism practicalities and includes which airport to fly into, what district to be based in and how best to explore the city.

We hope that you find all of this information useful, in planning your next exciting trip!

Destination details

How long to spend each city?

Paris could take a lifetime to explore completely. This is a living, breathing, sprawling capital city, which means even the locals can be surprised at the new cafes, bistros, and cultural events that come and go. For travellers, at least three days is a good idea.

That's probably just enough to see the mainstay sights and hop into the Louvre to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa. Trips to explore outer arrondissements and sample Paris's pumping nightlife should probably be between four days and a whole week, with more extensions needed if you want to hit the Loire Valley for wine tasting.

For Madrid, the length of stay greatly depends on how much you want to devote to visit the three famed art galleries (Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofía), or immerse into Spanish culture. The city can be seen in two days of sightseeing, and a third day is often given to the galleries.

There are many outstanding day trips from Madrid and a trip can be easily extended to 5 or 6 days. A selection of the best day trips includes the medieval town of Segovia, charming Toledo, and the magnificent El Escorial. Madrid makes for a good base from which to explore the region, and is served by inexpensive public transport

Louvre Paris

The Louvre with its distractive glass pyramid

Palacio Real Madrid

The magnificent Palacio Real in Madrid

Paris is known for its café culture, it would be a shame to miss all those al fresco coffees on the canal side. Enjoyments like that are most likely to be had in the warmer months, which – this far north in France – means May to September.
Outside of those, the rainfall picks up and things get chilly. That said, the summer is the most expensive and busy part of the year, so you'll be contending with others for those selfies by the Eiffel Tower.

Visits pre-Christmas tend to be pricier than those after Christmas. If you're eager to cosy up and see Paris in the ice and cold, you might want to push your break to February or March. Those months tend to be nice, quiet and free from the tourist masses.

The major consideration for Madrid, is to avoid August. The entire city shuts down for the month, and everyone heads to the slightly cooler coastal towns.
The best time of year for Madrid is late spring (Jun/Jul) or early autumn. Madrid can be surprisingly chilly in the winter, but is comparatively drier and milder than the rest of northern Europe. As Madrid is in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula, it tends to get more extreme weather than the coastal cities.

Madrid is one of the finest cities in Europe. The city may not have the iconic monuments and attention-grabbing tourist attractions, but in reality, there is a lot to see during a city break.
Much of Madrid’s tourist literature focuses on the museums and galleries (which are world-class), but this should not deter you; this is a fun-loving city, which has the best nightlife in Europe. No matter your style of trip, there will be something to love about the Spanish capital.
Madrid excels as a long-stay destination, and if you can work here, the city offers the perfect work/life balance.

Paris is a master of art and culture. From the gold-gilded palaces of Versailles to the endless works of the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay, you'll never be short on paintings or architecture or sculpture.
But the best Paris trips mix all that with a little bit of food, some classic sightseeing, and even a touch of hedonism. That makes this a versatile city-break option, offering wine bars and bucket-list attractions like the Eiffel Tower.

It's probably worth dodging Paris if you're not the sort who deals well with crowds, traffic, and big cities. The nearest place you can go to escape to nature are the forest parks on the outskirts. What's more, it can take a while to get from A to B in the French capital.

Museo Nacional del Prado madrid

The Museo Nacional del Prado, is one of the finest art galleries in the world

Sacré-Cœur Paris

The Sacré-Cœur provides one of the finest view of Paris

Paris in 48 hours is a hard ask, but this itinerary should help distil the city's preeminent culture, art and atmosphere into two short days:

Day 1: Breakfast time in the 19th arrondissement. Local and traveller joints meet there, with some charming cafés and bakeries lining Le Bassin de la Villette, where there are open-air swimming spots in the summer months. Then, move south-west along the picturesque Canal Saint-Martin.

It takes you to the beating heart of the city, just shy of where the Île de la Cité hosts the beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame. Take your photos and then move across the Seine River to the famous Latin Quarter.

It's the perfect place to explore in the afternoon, with boutique bookshops and atmospheric cafés aplenty. For the afternoon, cross the water again and duck into the Louvre Museum.

The morning rush should have subsided, so you can wander the exhibition rooms in search of the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo without having to jostle with too many. In the evening, return westwards to hipster Belleville. This district is one of Paris's Chinatowns, with more noodle shops and dim sum outlets than you can shake your guidebook at.

Panthéon paris

Notre-Dame

Day 2: Seek out the bohemian neighborhood of Montmartre to start your second day in Paris. It's known for its zigzagging cobbled streets and urban staircases, but also comes replete with cosy coffee houses with crispy croissants. At the very top of the hill where the district is draped is the gorgeous Sacré-Cœur. Its great travertine domes gaze over the city, so expect some awesome views.

On the way down, heading west, you might just pass by the infamous Moulin Rouge and its makeshift windmill all lit up in red neon. You can catch a metro from that to go along to Ternes. Emerge and you'll be looking straight down at the Arc de Triomphe, which marks the start of the Champs-Élysées – a place to shop till you drop.
Be sure to pull yourself from that grand boulevard with enough time (and light) left to see the Eiffel Tower in all its glory. The landmark is just over the river to the south, but the best view might be from the Trocadéro Gardens on the northern banks.

Moulin Rouge paris

The Moulin Rouge

La Défense paris

La Défense is the modern side to grand Paris

Madrid
48 hours in Madrid is not just the sights but also the atmosphere of the city. Below is an interactive tour map - day 1 is highlighted in green and day 2 in yellow, with optional sights marked grey.

Day 1 - 1) Puerta del Sol 2) Plaza Mayor 3) Plaza de la Villa 4) Mercado de San Miguel 5) Plaza de Oriente 7) Palacio Real 8) Almudena cathedral 9) Basílica de san Francisco 10) Calle de la Cava Alta
Day 2 - 11) Prado museum 12) Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum13) Museo Nacional Reina Sofía 14) Parque de El Retiro 15) Puerta de Alcalá 16) Palacio de Cibeles 17) Gran Vía 18) Malasaña district 19) Plaza de España 20) Templo de Debod

The 48 hours in Madrid begins in the Puerta del Sol, then wanders through charming streets of the El Madrid de los Austrias, which is the oldest section of the city. This leads to the Palacio Real, surrounded by its formal gardens and the Catedral de la Almudena to the south.
For the last part of the day explore the La Latina district and have a delicious tapas meal at one of the restaurants along the Cava Alta or Cava Baja. La Latina boasts numerous bars and is always a great place to start a night in Madrid.

The morning of the second focuses on the three art-museums, the Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofía. Close to the museums is the pretty the El Retiro Park.
For the afternoon head down the Gran Vía, the main shopping street of Madrid, and visit the Malasaña district, with its artisan vibe, independent shops and trendy nightlife. For sunset watch it at the Templo de Debod, and then head back to Malasaña for a memorable meal and evening.

Templo de Debod madrid

The atmospheric Templo de Debod, is Egyptian temple which was moved to Madrid in 1968, due to the construction of the Aswan dam (which would have flooded the temple)

Gran Vía madrid

The Gran Vía is the bustling main avenue of Madrid

If you choose a good season to visit, then Madrid is ideal for a city break. There is just one airport severing Madrid and is only 13km from the historic centre. For onward travel take the metro (€1.50 single – 30 minutes). For flights, there is always high demand for Friday/Sunday flights to/from Madrid, so if planning a city break always book at least 6-8 weeks in advance.

On initial appearance Madrid seems to have ample supply of hotel and rental rooms, but this is slightly misleading, as the city is so sprawling.

Catedral de la Almudena madrid

The Catedral de la Almudena

For your first visit, you would want to be based in the Centro or Retiro districts, and this will limit accommodation options. If you do wish a more remote, budget option always ensure it is close to a metro station. While exploring Madrid, you will do a surprising amount of walking.

Paris is served by two large international airports. Low-cost carriers typically use Orly. From there, you can hop to Anthony Train Station and then switch to the urban metro line to reach the city. The trip costs around €12 in total. The more famous and larger airport at Roissy Charles de Gaulle is for long-haul fliers and premium services. It's linked straight to the Gare du Nord station in the middle of the city by regular trains that take around 35 minutes from terminal to town.

Choosing the right area to stay in Paris is important because each arrondissement has its own distinct vibe. You can pay extra and be somewhere like Grenelle and the 7th, where you're most likely to open your hotel window and be gazing at the Eiffel Tower. Or, you can opt for a B&B somewhere like the Canal-Saint Martin – a vibrant, student favourite – or in the 11th arrondissement – cheaper and more lived-in.

Seine River paris

The Seine River meanders through the centre of Paris

The Parisian transport network is vast and efficient. Travelers shouldn't need more than the RER and Metro combination. They can be caught to virtually all the major sights and areas around the capital. You can purchase a contactless card ticket to travel on all the lines – tariffs are €1.90 per ride.

Even among the French themselves, the Parisian people are renowned for being curt and a little rude. Remember that this is a working, living metropolis, so expect central areas to be busy with commuters and the like. You'll also want to be especially cautious on public transport when carrying large luggage or travelling at night, because pickpocketing and thefts certainly aren't unheard of.

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