Breathtaking architecture, hearty meals, and a vivid art scene are only some attractions that both cities can offer you. But beyond these, Rome and Barcelona are vastly different cities.
Barcelona is young at heart, with a strong and proud identity. It has an energetic and dynamic atmosphere that leaves any tourist following suit. And while it can offer glimpses of its rich history, Barcelona has its eyes on its future.
Meanwhile, Rome is where the ancient past and modern world cohabitate tastefully. It’s an enduring and vivacious city that’s built on many layers of its powerful past.
It’s a tough decision to choose between these two spectacular cities. But if you’re having trouble picking one, below are reasons why each has been a favorite destination for millions of tourists.
Both authentically historic and trendy, a concrete jungle and a beach destination, Barcelona is the real deal. It attracts tourists of all types, from the culture vulture to the party animal to the beach bum. With plenty of things to see and do, chances are, you’ll be a busy bee in this cosmopolitan city.
What Makes Barcelona Unique?
Extraordinary Architecture Everywhere
Whether you’re an aesthete or a history lover, there is a multitude of architectural wonders to marvel at in Barcelona. The city is rich in visually arresting sights, ranging from stunning buildings to opulent monuments.
Some of the most prominent landmarks in the city are the works of Antoni Gaudi. His whimsical modernism is arguably what sets Barcelona’s landscape apart from other cities.
One of Gaudi’s most spectacular masterpieces is the Sagrada Familia. This exuberant church dominates the city’s skyline, but seeing it up close is the best way to admire it.
You’ll notice the imposing and intricate gothic towers first. A closer look reveals that this monument is full of religious symbolism. Laced around the monument are natural themes along with geometric patterns.
Gaudi’s whimsical Casa Batllo is another remarkable architectural gem. Inspired the marine life, its colorful facade and iconic balconies are a show stopper.
Another display of Gaudi’s architectural prowess is the La Pedrera. This unusual stone building showcases his distinctive style. Its facade is full of irregular shapes and curves, and even its chimneys and iconic terraces are a sight to behold.
But while Gaudi made Barcelona a quirky playground, his works aren’t the only architectural wonders in the city.
A walk through the vibrant streets of Las Ramblas is a feast for your eyes. This colorful street is one of the longest and most iconic streets on the continent. It’s lined with trees, quaint coffee shops, stunning shops, and many more.
A stark contrast is the haunting alleyways of the Gothic Quarter. This Neo-Gothic city is a must-visit for every tourist. The most famous monument here is the intricate Gothic cathedral, but there are tons of hidden nuggets to discover on a stroll.
Thriving Art Scene
The art lover in you will have a blast soaking up the creativity that engulfs the city. There are over 80 museums sprinkled across Barcelona, covering a wide variety of topics. Themes range from classical art to sports to science.
You can spend your entire vacation without having to visit the same museum twice! But if you’re short on time, the city’s world-famous museums are more than enough to satiate your artistic mind.
One of the most popular museums in the city is the Museu Picasso. It houses the artist’s lesser-known artworks and showcases a detailed history of his time in Barcelona.
The Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) is another must-visit museum too. It’s one of the most well-regarded contemporary art museums on the continent.
For Romanesque and Gothic collections, there’s no better place to go than the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC). This museum is stunning from the outside and the inside, with a diverse collection of Catalan art.
And while these museums showcase masterpieces from well-renowned artists, art fills the streets of the city too. The street art scene here is thriving, attracting artists and admirers alike worldwide.
A quick stroll throughout the city will already give you some artistic nuggets to behold. Barcelona positioned itself to be a world-leading destination for street art and graffiti. Local artists have honed their craft around the city and have now gone to decorating cities worldwide.
Some of these artists are the famous El Pez and El Xupet Negre. Most of these local artists’ masterpieces adorn the streets of Raval, Gotic, and El Born.
Exciting Culinary Scene
Barcelona’s creative culinary scene is a delightful fusion of Catalan and Spanish flavors. The city’s eclectic cuisine has a twist and a touch of sophistication that you’ll have trouble looking for elsewhere in Spain. With seafood, meat dishes, and even vegetarian options, Barcelona caters to every tourist’s palate!
Being a port city, Barcelona’s food scene is bursting with the flavors of the sea. You can enjoy menus clogged with prawns, octopus, fresh lobster, and much more.
The best part is that you can taste the best of the city’s cuisine at any price point. For cutting-edge dishes, you can dine at any of the Michelin-starred restaurants. But for a more local experience, go for the food stalls of the Boqueria Market on Las Ramblas.
At the heart of this market is a fish carousel, a real treat for the seafood lover in you. But if you’re looking for something else, the Boqueria Market has plenty of other options for you. You can find meat dishes, exotic fruits, rare species, and much more here.
While seafood is the star of the city’s cuisine, Barcelona is also big on the Mediterranean diet. It’s one of the most nutritious diets in the world, filling your plate with fruits and vegetables.
Locals love eating some toasted bread with tons of tomato and olive oil. You’ll find Spanish olives, another local favorite, served everywhere in the city.
Barcelona’s electrifying nightlife is partly what makes it one of the most exciting cities in the country. Dense with an artistic crowd, you’ll never have a hard time finding a place to party in the city!
The party scene in the city starts late and ends late. The fun doesn’t start at midnight, instead, it starts a few hours later, at around 2 AM. So don’t get surprised if you still see some nightclubs open until 6 AM!
You’ll find alternative bars, local breweries, techno clubs, and more, everywhere in the city. Beach parties are a big thing in Barcelona, as well as cozy rooftop bars.
The liveliest nightlife spot in the city is El Raval. This multicultural neighborhood has a thriving creative community. With its exciting trendy vibe, there are tons of hipster and underground bars to choose from here.
If you want some hard partying, you’d love the clubs of Shoko, Catwalk, Opium, and Pacha. These are the best spots to dance the night away under neon lights and loud music!
But with the city’s great weather year-round, you’ll want to take advantage of the glamorous rooftop bars. These are the spots of choice for a chill night out, and you’ll get great views of the city while you’re at it.
There are tons of rooftop bars in the city, and most of them lie on the top floors of luxury hotels. One of the best spots is the Hotel Casa Fuster. Not only does it have stunning views, but also has a secret vibe as it’s mainly locals who grab a drink here.
Beaches, Mountains, and the City Within Your Reach
Only a few European cities can boast a vibrant cityscape and a relaxing nature trip. And very few do it well like Barcelona. Despite being an urban jungle, stretches of blue waters and lush mountains are within your reach!
This winning combination of sea, mountains, and city means that you won’t have to sacrifice city life for natural sceneries. Barcelona has glistening turquoise waters on its Mediterranean coastline. And flanking the city are the Sierra de Collserola in the north and Montjuic in the south.
If you want to put on your swimwear, head to the bustling Barceloneta Beach. This is one of the city’s oldest and best-loved beaches, with tons of opportunities for sports such as beach volleyball. Lining the shore are some drinks and ice cream kiosks, restaurants, public toilets, and more.
But if this beach is too busy for you, don’t think that Barcelona is a one-beach wonder. The city has miles and miles of golden-sand stretches. You may find tiny coves fringed with cacti and empty beaches that are an hour or less away.
If you’d rather gear up with your hiking gear, a popular hiking spot in the city is Mount Tibidabo. At the top, you’ll get rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. There’s a church and an amusement park here, both of which are often seen below.
Other than Mount Tibidabo, Montserrat also attracts hikers and rock climbers. Its hiking paths on towering mountains offer some of the best views in the city.
A Lively Atmosphere Wherever You Go
Barcelona is one of the most dynamic and liveliest cities that you could ever set foot on. No matter when you visit the city, there’s always something going on. Whether it’s a display of their rich culture, artistry, or love for sports, you can’t help but feel the thrill of being in this ever-zestful city.
For one thing, Barcelona has a thriving live-music scene. It’s home to two of the most well-renowned music festivals in the world, Primavera and Sonar. But throughout the year, famous DJs worldwide make an appearance in the hottest clubs, such as Razzmatazz.
A more cultural experience is seeing the region’s traditional dance, Sardanas. This involves people dancing in a circle, hand in hand, to the rhythm of the Catalonian flute. Sardana dance contests occur every Sunday at 1 PM, so there are plenty of chances for you to witness it or even join the fun!
If you can plan your trip to Barcelona in December, you’re going to love the Festes de la Mercè. It’s one of the biggest and most popular festivals in the whole country. It started as a small religious parade, but it’s since been a weeklong party to celebrate Catalan culture!
And even if you’re not a football fan, you’ll get swept away by the crowds of fiery fans in the city. Games run throughout the year, so there are plenty of chances to watch an FC Barcelona game! The team spirit and passionate fans are enough to energize you and keep you entertained.
If you can’t watch the game live, don’t worry. Bars and restaurants in the city will get packed with passionate fans. The thrill and liveliness of the spot reach every corner of the city, and this is the best way to mingle with the locals!
Most people are skeptical about Rome’s mythical beginnings as a city founded by the gods. But none can deny that there’s something magical with the Eternal City. Whether it’s the rich history that fills the streets, the frilly structures, or the flavorful cuisine, Rome’s sure to allure you.
What Makes Rome Unique?
Wondrous Architectural Masterpieces
Rome is a treasure trove for history buffs and culture lovers or even curious sightseers. The city’s brimming with historical sites that showcase the ancient Roman architectural prowess. At every turn, you’ll get a reminder of the city’s powerful past, and you’ll find no shortage of opulent structures to marvel at.
No trip to Rome is complete without seeing the world-famous Colosseum up close. This is the most iconic structure in the city’s landscape. And while you can view this gigantic amphitheater from the outside, buying a ticket allows you to stand where the gladiators once did.
Beyond the Colosseum, a ticket also allows you access to Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. All three are a part of the Parco Colosseo, a sprawling archaeological complex you can wander in.
In the Roman Forum, you can find the burial ground of Julius Caesar. More specifically, it’s in the Temple of Divus Julius. But there are tons of other sights here that you can discover, such as ancient temples, intricate columns, and more.
Overlooking the Roman Column is one of the hills that Rome was built on, the Palatine Hill. This was once a highly desirable neighborhood in the city, housing emperors and aristocrats.
Sprinkled throughout the city are plenty of other archaeological sites though. Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome Pyramid, and Nero’s Domus Aurea are only some of the other must-visit ones.
Marvelous Artwork Collections
Rome was the home of one of the most powerful empires in history. The Roman Empire may long have fallen, but remnants of this great past still have a strong presence today. And while these take on many forms in the Eternal City, its artworks make you travel back in time vicariously.
There are plenty of art museums in Rome that are home to a collection of stunning masterpieces across different eras. These range from ancient Roman artifacts from Pompeii to Renaissance art. Some of them are the works of the famous Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Bernini.
In the Doria Pamphilj Gallery lies the Penitent Magdalene, a masterpiece of the legendary Caravaggio. Within the stunning Villa Borghese is the Apollo and Daphne by Bernini. And sitting within the Basilica di San Pietro is Michelangelo’s horned Moses.
Some of these famous artists’ works aren’t in a museum though. Instead, many of them are hiding in plain sight. So you’re likely to come across one without even knowing!
Inside the Contarelli Chappel are three Caravaggio paintings flanking each other. These are the Calling of St. Matthew, The Inspiration of St. Matthew, and the Martyrdom of St. Matthew. All these tell a story of Matthew the Apostle’s life.
While Bernini’s works decorate the city’s landscape as fountains. His most famous one is the Four Rivers Fountain. But his lesser-known masterpieces are the Triton Fountain, La Baracaccia, and Fontana delle Api.
Lastly, the great Michelangelo’s masterpieces are within the walls of religious buildings. This includes his frescoes on the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel and the Dome and Drum of St. Peter’s basilica.
Delectable Roman Cuisine
When in Rome, you’re focus should be on what you want to eat instead of where you want to eat. In a city filled with expert foodies who perfected their craft, you can’t go wrong with any restaurant. Whether you’re entering a high-end restaurant or a quaint local diner, the dish on your plate will not disappoint you.
Rome is widely regarded to have the best pasta dishes in Italy. Everyone’s familiar with their mouth-watering carbonara and amatriciana dishes. But to truly get a taste of the hearty Roman cuisine, munch on some of the local favorites!
Suppli, a rice ball filled with ragu and mozzarella, is a favorite of many. A restaurant also called Suppli in Trastevere makes yummy variations of this dish!
Try some fiori di zucca too. This is a colorful dish, made with battered zucchini flowers stuffed with anchovies and mozzarella.
Cacio e pepe is a delightful dish for vegans. While simple, it packs a punch in your mouth. These are hand-rolled tonnarelli noodles with salty pecorino cheese, pasta water, and black pepper.
For stew cravings, coda alla vaccinara is a must-get. It’s a tomato-based stew with various other ingredients. This includes vegetables, cinnamon, red wine, and pancetta.
Rome is one of the most photogenic cities one could set foot in, and its majestic fountains are partly to thank for this. Thousands of bubbling fountains decorate the city so you’re never too far from a cascading masterpiece!
The grandest and most-loved fountain in Rome is the Fontana di Trevi. This Baroque-style fountain is an obligatory stop for every tourist. It features Neptune in the middle, with Tritons and sea horses by his side. These sculptures flanking Nepture represent the alternating mood of the oceans.
The Fontana di Trevi’s beauty has made it the backdrop of several movies. And whether you’re visiting to take some pictures or throw some coins, you’ll see why it’s been a Hollywood-worthy site.
The second on Rome’s most famous fountains list is the Fountain of the Four Rivers. At the foot of the obelisk are four figures representing four rivers. These are the Nile River (Africa), Ganges (Asia), Rio de la Plata (American continents), and the Nile River (Africa). This fountain is an eye-catcher in Piazza Navona and is one of Bernini’s masterpieces.
These are the two most opulent fountains that dominate the city’s land. But there are other smaller fountains in the city that are just as beautiful.
A Shopaholic’s Wonderland
Tourists come to Rome for the ancient ruins or the fascinating architecture or the food. No matter what you’re coming for, you shouldn’t leave Rome empty-handed.
Rome is a shopping paradise for everyone, with streets lined with all kinds of shops. Whether you want to spoil yourself with luxury brands or bring home a small souvenir, Rome has an answer to your needs.
The city can feel like a big maze of boutiques and outlets though. So if you want to come to the right place for your shopping list, you’d need to get to know Rome a bit more.
For some luxury shopping, head out to the glamorous street of Via Condotti. This is a catwalk fringed with famous international luxury brands. Grab some clothes from Miu Miu, pick up some gorgeous bags from Salvatore Ferragamo, or spoil yourself with some Tiffany & Co jewelry.
If you want to look for some familiar big brands, Via del Corso is your street. Some high-street brands are here, such as Zara, Gap, and H&M, along with sports brands like Nike, Adidas, and Lacoste. Some premium stores that line this street are Diesel and Sisley.
For some unusual finds, march your way to the cobbled streets of Campo de’ Fiori. You may have to go through a puzzling maze here, but this is half of the fun of shopping.
Here you’ll find some vintage goods, premium-quality leather goods, and books of great value. Nearby this street is the Via dei Coronari, which is home to some quaint antique shops!
While Rome has tons of stunning spots wherever you go, the best views of the Eternal City are from above. With tons of majestic monuments and landmarks in the city, several viewpoints give you the best postcard views of Rome.
You’re not limited to climbing one of the seven hills that the city was built on. Even some rooftop terraces, hotels, and bridges can offer you magnificent views.
If you want to soak in Rome’s beauty from up a hill, head to Terrazza Belvedere Aventino at Aventine Hill. This terrace is within the Orange Tree Garden. So you’ll get a stunning panoramic view of the city while you’re surrounded by lush greenery!
From Castel Sant’Angelo, you can spot several famous landmarks in Rome. This extends far, reaching the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. You’ll also get to view the sparkling waters of the Tiber River and Bernini’s masterpiece, Bridge of Angels.
For a 360 sunset view of Rome, there’s no other place to be than the La Grande Bellezza Rooftop at Eitch Borromini. It features an intimate bar with cozy sofas, a perfect spot for some aperitif while enjoying the best views of Rome.
Barcelona or Rome – Which Is Better?
With the starkly different vibe that each city offers, there is no way to compare the two fairly. Instead, you should focus on what you want out of your vacation.
If you’re a hard partygoer, a beach bum, or a nature enthusiast, then Barcelona is the best choice for you. Barcelona has a winning mix of city life, golden beaches, and lush mountains and hills.
It has a heady nightlife, dense with bars and clubs of all kinds. Its beaches are some of the highly renowned, being some of the best in Spain. And it’s got tons of hiking opportunities to get a panoramic view of the city.
Rome may pale in comparison to these. But the Eternal City also has some offers you can’t find in Barcelona.
If you’re an avid foodie, a history buff, or an art lover, Rome is your city. Arguably no other city can rival Rome’s historic landmarks and monuments. It’s a charming city with such a diverse and hearty cuisine.
Rome is a big, open-air museum with a timeless appeal. While Barcelona is flashy, ever-energetic, and modern.
Distance Between Barcelona and Rome
The straight line distance between Rome and Barcelona is 535 miles (861 kilometers). The driving distance is much longer at 844 miles (1358 kilometers).
Rome to Barcelona by Ferry
Several regular ferries travel from Rome to Barcelona and vice versa. Grimaldi Lines is the only company that travels this route, operating six times a week. You’ll start your journey from the Civitavecchia port in Rome and this lasts about 20 hours.
Rome to Barcelona Ferry Cost
The price range for ferry tickets on this route is around 31 to 562 USD. This route is quite popular, so booking in advance will give you a better chance of getting a good price.
Toddlers can travel for free and kids up to age 12 have discount tickets. Senior travelers also have discounts, but this depends on their booking period.
Rome to Barcelona Ferry Time
The travel duration of your ferry trip from Rome to Barcelona is around 20 hours. It can be as short as 19 hours and 46 minutes or as long as 20 hours and 45 minutes.
Barcelona to Rome by Train
Taking a train is an option you have if you want to travel to Rome from Barcelona. Several train operators travel this route daily, with an average of 13 trains per day. Trains leave around every 28 minutes.
On weekdays, the earliest train leaving Barcelona departs at 7:05 AM. While the last departure is often around 6:30 PM.
On weekends, trains leave Barcelona for Rome as early as 6:10 AM. The last train still leaves at around 6:30 PM.
Is There a High-Speed Train From Barcelona to Rome?
High-speed trains are available for you to travel from Barcelona to Rome. AVE is one of them, and it’s one of the fastest trains in Europe. Renfe and Renfe-SNCF are also two other high-speed trains that you can choose for your journey.
These trains have your comfort in mind, featuring power sockets, free WiFi, air-conditioning, and a buffet carriage.
Train From Barcelona to Rome Cost
Train tickets from Barcelona to Rome range from 101 to 225 USD. You’re likely to get a ticket on the lower end of the range if you book in advance. But ticket costs vary on the time of day, route, and class that you book.
With all these, it’s best if you check online to get a more accurate price for your travel date and time.
How Long Is the Train Ride From Barcelona to Rome?
The average travel duration from Barcelona to Rome is around 21 hours and 41 minutes. This can be longer if you’re traveling on a weekend or on a holiday. The fastest journey time on this route is about 14 hours and 30 minutes.