UNDECIDED BETWEEN TENERIFE OR BARCELONA?
Barcelona and Tenerife are two very different destinations in Spain. To start with, Tenerife is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, and Barcelona is a city by the Mediterranean Sea. Barcelona is all about architecture and culture, and Tenerife is all about nature and leisure. Barcelona is a very walkable city with great public transportation, so you’ll be planning a day trip out of town only if you have enough days.
In Tenerife renting a car is the best option if you want to move around the island (although you can opt to book to use suburban "guagua" buses, tramways or book a day trip to a particular area of the Island you want to see.
Differences and similitudes of Tenerife vs Barcelona
If your trip goal is to go to the beach, the answer is clear: Tenerife’s warm weather all year around makes it a perfect destination. Palm trees, fine golden sand… Almost Caribbean-like, but not as hot.
Instead, in Barcelona the beach season only goes June to September, and it’s city beaches unless you decide to go out of town. North you’ll find the rocky beaches of Costa Brava, and South the golden sands of Costa Dorada.
BTW, look how similar the rocks in Benijo (Tenerife) and Cala Frares (Costa Brava, Barcelona) are!
It’s the Pica d’Estats up in the Pyrenees, and almost 4 hours drive from Barcelona.
The other famous rock formation in Tenerife are the Los Gigantes cliff: an impressive 600 m / 1968.5 fall to the Ocean. And here I have an appealing Barcelona alternative: the cliffs of the Montserrat Mountain. It’s highest peak is twice as high. Both attractions are merely 1 hour drive from their respective capital cities.
But did you know there are also volcanoes near Barcelona? The Garrotxa volcanoes are located 1.5 hours North of Barcelona, and they are dormant but not extinguished. The last eruption was in the Croscat volcano, some 13,000 years ago. However, the geologists consider that they can still reactivate in the future (although probably not in our lifetimes).
And you don’t need to go outside of Barcelona for scenic streets, because the Gothic Quarter is cool enough, there’s many villages nearby that are worth checking. Besalu with its medieval bridge over a river. Sitges for its Monaco feel. Calella de Palafrugell for its fishermen hamlet vibe, the Emporda villages for a trip back to the middle ages…
Museums and Architecture
As for architecture, Tenerife has attracted contemporary architecture stars such as Herzon & Demeuron and Santiago Calatrava, and some local architects have created a few visually interesting projects. The historical sites have a strong colonial influence and a tendency to serene simplicity.
Instead, Barcelona is a very architectural city: starting with the imposing medieval churches and mansions, then the lavishness of modernist buildings and the extravagant works of Antoni Gaudi. And since the 1992, it has also attracted many well-known international architects that have left their imprint in the city skyline.
There’s family-friendly attractions and incredible adrenaline-filled rides. And their wave pool is the largest in the world! Not far, Loro Parque has also been voted best zoo in the world in Tripadvisor. It has many types of exotic mammals, a coral reef aquarium, and even an orca whale!
And what about Barcelona? We have Port Aventura World. It is composed of a theme park with world-class rides, the Caribe water park in the Summer, and Ferrari Land, the only Ferrari theme park in Europe. And we might not have orcas, but in the Aquarium of Barcelona there’s sharks!
But Barcelona can’t be a good place for stargazing, with the city lights and pollution, can it? Well, the Observatory Fabra in the Collserola hills that surround the city, organizes astronomical nights regularly. But the nights in the Montsec mountain and its Astronomical Park, just two hours away from Barcelona aren’t just a Starlight Destination, but also a Starlight Reserve.
The Coves de Salnitre in Montserrat (Barcelona) feature the largest cave “rooms” in Catalonia, and the organic shapes of its stalactites and stalagmites are said to have inspired Antoni Gaudi for the Sagrada Familia. Only part of it, around 400 m / 0.25 miles, are open to group tours.
And just one hour further, the old salt mines of Cardona are now partly open for visitors: you get to see stalactites made out of salt, salt walls of different shades from white to rose, and even a petrified bat.
Punta del Teno is the westernmost point on the island of Tenerife. Cliffs, laurel forests, volcanic rocks and a scenic lighthouse make for another dramatic excursion.
Instead, in Barcelona we favor “patatas bravas” – “brave potatoes”. They are fried potatoes served with a red spicy sauce and garlic aioli. Every bar has their secret recipe, and locals pilgrim across the city to eat the bravas from their favorite bar.
The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is considered the second best in the world, right after the one in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), and it’s postulating to become UNESCO World Heritage.
Maybe not so famous but still lots of fun, the Carnival of Sitges, just 30 minutes drive outside of Barcelona, is famous for its parades, nightlife and… a crazy race of customized beds! And the neighbor village of Vilanova i la Geltrú organizes another popular Carnival with a history of over 250 years.
So where should you stay if you are visiting Barcelona or Tenerife?
Apartments vs Hotels
Specially if you have young kids that need more room to move than just a hotel room. Or if your dietary needs require you cooking rather than trusting restaurant cooks.
Instead, many people choose to visit Barcelona for a short stay: see the main sites and leave. For those, it makes more sense to stay in a hotel where everything is done for them. Except when traveling as a large family, when it’s more fun to stay together in the same apartment rather than spread in different floors of a large hotel.
Are you still undecided between Barcelona vs Tenerife? Which one you prefer?
Marta is the founder of ForeverBarcelona. She is a passionate tour guide that loves Barcelona and loves writing too. She is the main author of our Blog, and is committed to sharing her knowledge about Barcelona and her best tips with our readers.
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