Madrid vs London: Where Should I Go on a Vacation in 2023?

Planning your next trip and wondering which is better among these two, Madrid vs London?

If you’re planning a vacation in 2023 and are torn between Madrid and London, I don’t blame you.

Both cities offer a wealth of attractions, from internationally renowned museums and galleries to vibrant nightlife and extraordinary cultural experiences. 

Of course, the two cities also have distinctive differences.

For instance, Madrid is known for its sunny weather, beautiful architecture, and rich cultural heritage.

While London is famous for its iconic landmarks, bustling streets, and diverse population.

Therefore, choosing one of these two equally beautiful cities can be difficult. 

So, to make your decision a little bit easier, in this article, we’ll compare and contrast Madrid and London and help you find out which one is the best fit for your next vacation.

Overview of Madrid
Madrid

Table of Contents

Madrid vs London: Overview

πŸ‘‰ What is Madrid best known for?

Madrid is best known for its rich cultural heritage, stunning architecture, and world-class museums.

In fact, the city is home to some of the world’s most famous museums, including the Prado Museum, which houses an extensive collection of European art, and the Reina Sofia Museum, which is dedicated to contemporary art. 

Madrid is also famous for its beautiful plazas, such as the Plaza Mayor and the Puerta del Sol.

Both plazas feature beautiful architecture and are always bustling with fun activities all day and night.

And lastly, Madrid is known for its lively nightlife, with a wide range of bars, clubs, and music venues that cater to all tastes and styles.

πŸ‘‰ What is London best known for?

London is undoubtedly one of the most famous cities in the world.

It is best known for its iconic landmarks, such as the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, and the London Eye.

Furthermore, London is also renowned for its museums and galleries, including the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Tate Modern. 

However, London also has a diverse population, with people from all over the world living and working in the city, making it a truly global destination.

Therefore, London is famous for its multicultural lifestyle with its vibrant music and arts scene and a wide range of festivals, concerts, and other events taking place throughout the year. 

View of the Tower Bridge by sunset
Tower Bridge, London – Photo from Canva

Madrid vs London: Weather & best time to visit

One of the factors that can greatly influence your decision on which city to visit is the weather and when is the best time to visit. 

Madrid features a Mediterranean climate and is known for its long, dry summers and short, mild winters.

Therefore, the best time to visit Madrid is in the spring or fall when the temperatures are mild, and the weather is pleasant.

Specifically, during the months of September to November, the average temperature ranges from 15 to 25Β°C, making it perfect for outdoor activities and sightseeing.

On the other hand, London has mild winters and cool summers.

Therefore, the best time to visit London is during the summer when the weather is warm and sunny, with an average temperature of 20Β°C.

In the shoulder seasons of spring and fall the weather is still pleasant, but expect some rain, since London is known for its unpredictable weather.

Madrid vs London: Cost of Travel

When it comes to the cost of travel, Madrid and London can vary significantly. 

Generally speaking, Madrid tends to be a more affordable destination, with lower prices for accommodations, food, and activities.

Also, Madrid’s public transportation tends to be more affordable than London’s. But London has more options, including buses, trains, and taxis.

Still, London can be quite expensive, especially when it comes to accommodation and dining out.

However, it’s worth noting that both cities offer a range of options for travelers on a budget, including affordable hostels, street food vendors, free attractions, and free walking tours. So, the cost of travel will depend on your travel style and preferences.

Parque El Retiro, Madrid garden and statue
Parque El Retiro, Madrid

Madrid vs London: Attractions

πŸ† Top Attractions in Madrid

As already mentioned, Madrid is a city rich in history, culture, and art, so there are many top attractions that you should not miss when visiting. 

The Royal Palace of Madrid is an 18th-century magnificent building with stunning architecture, a grand staircase, beautiful gardens, and ornate decorations. 

The Prado Museum is one of the world’s greatest art museums, with an impressive collection of European art from the 12th to the 19th century. It has works by some of the most renowned artists in history, such as Francisco de Goya, Diego VelΓ‘zquez, and El Greco. 

The Retiro Park is a popular park featuring a large lake where visitors can rent rowboats, as well as numerous walking paths, gardens, and sculptures. 

The Puerta del Sol is a bustling square in the city’s heart, surrounded by historical buildings and numerous stores and boutiques lining the streets.

πŸ† Top Attractions in London

London is undoubtedly the city with the most iconic landmarks. 

One of the top attractions in London is the Tower of London. It is a historic castle that served as a royal palace, prison, and fortress over the centuries.

Another must-see attraction is the British Museum, which houses an extensive collection of art and artifacts from around the world. 

The London Eye is a popular attraction on the South Bank of the River Thames, offering stunning panoramic views of the city skyline and famous landmarks. 

Lastly, Buckingham Palace is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the British monarchy. It is an 18th-century building and one of the most iconic buildings in the city and is recognized worldwide as a symbol of British royalty and tradition.

View of the Big Ben tower
Big Ben, London – Photo from Canva

Madrid vs London: Things to Do & Activities

Madrid and London are both incredible capital cities with many things to do and see.

They are full of beautiful and unique architectural buildings, worldwide-famous museums, and rich history that you can discover through fantastic tours.

So, let’s explore some of the best tours you can have in Madrid and London.

πŸ₯‡ Top Tours and Activities in Madrid

πŸ‘πŸ» Explore two of Spain’s oldest cities, Avila and Segovia

5.0 ⭐ 2,555 Reviews

Avila and Segovia are two of Spain’s oldest cities, which you can explore through a full-day tour from Madrid.

It includes walking tours and entry tickets to iconic landmarks such as Avila’s walls, the Cathedral and Basilica, and Segovia’s towering Roman aqueduct, Alcazar, and Cathedral. 

Avila, Segovia Cathedral . It was all great. The guide was exceptional and did a superb job.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Jose_S, May 2023
View from a cathedral in Madrid
Explore Avila and Segovia as a day trip from Madrid! – Photo from Canva

πŸ‘πŸ» Madrid Tapas and Wine Tasting Tour 

5.0 ⭐ 1,602 Reviews

Spanish cuisine is internationally renowned, meaning you absolutely must try it.

Of course, Spanish food is diverse, and there are many dishes to taste.

So, to discover Spanish cuisine, you can tour Madrid’s vibrant culinary scene with a guide and sample delicious tapas dishes at popular restaurants.

Specifically, on the Madrid Tapas and Wine Tasting Tour, you can feast on items like Iberian ham, salted cod, and rich chickpea stew and sample delicious Spanish wines.

Carlos gave us a great introduction to the food scene of Madrid. He had a good sense of humour and we enjoyed a few good laughs. The food we tasted were delicious, especially the Gambas al ajillo! Plenty of food and drinks throughout the night.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Anita_C, May 2023
View of variety of food in jars
Photo from Canva

πŸ‘πŸ» Flamenco Show 

5.0 ⭐ 1,767 Reviews

A significant part of Spanish culture that many wish to experience is the fever of flamenco dancing.

The best way to do that is by visiting one of Spain’s most esteemed “tablaos,” which are flamenco venues such as the Corral de la MorerΓ­a.

It is in the heart of Madrid’s Old Town and features a welcome drink and a feast of Spanish specialties while enjoying a passionate flamenco performance with some of Spain’s top dancers.

The 5 course dinner was delicious, the dancing and music seemed very traditional and was beautiful-emotional, lots of energy, incredible movements. The staff were all very friendly and helpful. One of the highlights of my trip to Spain.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Becky_W, May 2023
A couple of flamenco dancers dancing - Madrid VS London - any of these amazing cities are definitely worth a visit.
Photo from Canva

πŸ₯‡ Top Tours and Activities in London

πŸ‘πŸ» Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, and Bath from London 

4.5 ⭐ 9,929 Reviews

Similarly to Madrid, London has many beautiful historic cities and spots around it.

Some of these are the famous and majestic Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, and the Roman town of Bath.

By taking this tour, you can explore all three with an expert guide and learn more about Britain’s history.

Sasha was an amazing tour guide! So much energy, great stories, very helpful and personable. So glad we took this awesome tour!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Johnandbethgrooms, May 2023
Aerial view of Stonehenge
Stonehenge – Photo from Canva

πŸ‘πŸ» Harry Potter Tour of Warner Bros. Studio from London

4.5 ⭐ 2,180 Reviews

Even if you are not a big fan of Harry Potter movies and books, a trip to the Warner Bros. Studio in London is a must.

The tour allows visitors to immerse themselves in the magical world of Harry Potter, trace the footsteps of Hogwarts’ student wizards, see the original sets of Platform 9 ΒΎ and Diagon Alley, and ride a broomstick.

Tour was excellent! Pickup and drop off was smooth. This was our first time here and we had a blast!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Laura_L, May 2023
Kids dressed up as Harry Potter characters
Photo from Canva

πŸ‘πŸ» Big Bus London Hop-On Hop-Off Tour and River Cruise 

4.0 ⭐ 7,625 Reviews

One of the best ways to discover London’s beauty is by getting aboard the open-top, double-decker Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Tour.

It allows you to design a personal itinerary with stops at the most iconic and significant landmarks, such as Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and more.

Furthermore, riding the bus around London is an excellent way to enjoy unobstructed views.

We stayed at the fantastic Tower Hotel which was so central- and a short walk to the Tower Big Bus stop- commentary was excellent and entertaining – highly recommended.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Peter_J, May 2023
View of the Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace – Photo from Canva

Madrid vs London: Food

Madrid and London are two cities with very different culinary scenes. 

Located in the heart of Spain, Madrid’s culinary culture was heavily influenced by the city’s history and geography.

It is surrounded by some of the best agricultural regions, obtaining fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats.

Furthermore, Madrid is Spain’s center, thus its food includes flavors from all over the country.

Some of the most popular dishes in Madrid include paella, tortilla espaΓ±ola, and churros con chocolat.

Similarly, London is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, with food from all over the world.

For example, the city’s food scene is influenced by its history as a global trading hub.

Therefore, you will find dishes from India, China, and the Caribbean.

Furthermore, London is also known for its pub culture, with traditional British dishes like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and shepherd’s pie being served in pubs all over the city.

View of the busy roads in Madrid
Madrid

Madrid vs London: Culture

Madrid and London are the capitals of what used to be the two biggest empires of the previous centuries.

So, naturally, they are two of the most culturally rich cities in Europe, with impressive history, art, and architecture. 

First of all, both cities are known for their incredible architecture, iconic landmarks, and the official residences of the two countries’ royal families.

Specifically, Madrid is home to the Royal Palace of Madrid and London to Buckingham Palace.

Therefore, Madrid and London offer a glimpse of Europe’s glorious history and the beautiful royal ambiance and culture.

Additionally, Madrid is known for its vibrant nightlife and flamenco music, while London is renowned for its theater scene, with the West End being home to some of the world’s most famous theaters and diverse music scene, with venues ranging from intimate jazz clubs to large arenas. 

But a cultural similarity between London and Madrid is their love for sports, especially football.

Madrid has two of the most successful football teams in the world, Real Madrid and AtlΓ©tico Madrid, and London is home to several football teams, including Arsenal and Chelsea.

Overview of London
London – Photo from Canva

Madrid vs London: Nightlife

Madrid and London are both cities that offer a vibrant nightlife scene. 

Madrid’s nightlife scene is famous for being almost never-ending, with the bars and clubs staying open until the early morning hours.

For instance, the nightclub Kapital is one of the largest nightclubs in Europe, while Joy Eslava is popular among young travelers.

Furthermore, the city’s rooftop bars are popular among couples because of their romantic ambiance and stunning city views. 

Typically bars and clubs in London close earlier.

However, London’s pub culture is certainly a fun activity that shouldn’t be missed.

Traditionally, pubs feature pub quizzes, live music, pool tournaments, and happy hour with delicious local beers.

Still, there are plenty of nightclubs, like Fabric and Ministry of Sound, for exciting and crazy parties.

One area where Madrid and London differ is in their approach to drinking.

In Madrid, it is common for people to drink in the streets, with several bars and clubs offering drinks to go.

This is known as “botellΓ³n” and is a popular way for young people to socialize and enjoy the nightlife.

In London, however, drinking in the streets is not allowed, and people typically drink in pubs and bars.

Madrid vs London: Shopping

Madrid and London are two of Europe’s most popular shopping destinations, each offering diverse shopping experiences. 

Madrid is known for its fashion-forward shopping scene, with several high-end designer boutiques and department stores throughout the city.

The city is particularly famous for its luxury shopping district, Golden Mile, which features notable designer brands like Chanel, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton.

But Madrid is also home to several flea markets, such as El Rastro flea market, one of the largest outdoor markets in Europe, and the food market Mercado de San Miguel.

London, on the other hand, is known for its diverse shopping scene, with several different shopping districts located throughout the city.

The city is particularly famous for its luxury department stores, including Harrods, Selfridges, and Liberty, which offer a wide range of designer brands and luxury goods.

London is also home to several famous markets, like Camden Market, one of the largest markets in the city, and the historic 19th-century Portobello Road Market.

View of the Royal Palace garden in Madrid
Royal Palace Garden, Madrid

Madrid vs London: Transportation

As mentioned earlier, Madrid’s public transportation is more affordable than London’s, yet London has more options.

So, let’s see in more detail to compare the best transportation options in both cities.

πŸš— Renting a car

πŸ—Έ Madrid

Frankly, using a car within Madrid is not necessary since the city is rather walkable and has an excellent metro and bus system.

Still, by renting a car, you can truly appreciate Spain’s cultural and natural diversity.

For instance, Madrid is surrounded by many beautiful and historic cities that can only be reached by car.

The prices for a car are quite affordable, with the summer months having a stable daily price of €50 and around €35 from September to February.

πŸ—Έ London

Surely renting a car in any city allows you to travel easier and more comfortably by creating your own itinerary and not worrying about time schedules.

Similarly, renting a car in London will help you travel at your own pace and explore as many cities as you wish.

Prices for renting a car are a little bit higher than in Madrid, with an average of €45 per day.

However, the traffic, especially during rush hour in London, is massive.

So, even if you want to visit other cities around London or as far as Scotland, it is recommended to use public transport. 

View of the London Eye and Big Ben
London Eye – Photo from Canva

πŸš— Public Transportation

London and Madrid both offer efficient public transit to get you around.

Madrid’s metro system is one of the largest in Europe, with 13 lines and over 300 stations, making it easy to get around the city quickly and efficiently.

In addition to the metro, Madrid has an extensive bus network, with over 200 bus lines operating throughout the city.

Similarly, London’s underground system, known as the Tube, is one of the oldest and most extensive in the world, with 11 lines and over 270 stations.

Additionally, the bus network, with over 700 bus routes operating throughout the city. 

However, Madrid’s and London’s approach to ticketing differs greatly.

In Madrid, passengers can purchase a single ticket that is valid for both the metro and the bus, while in London, passengers must purchase separate tickets for the Tube and the bus, which can be inconvenient for those who need to switch between modes of transportation.

✈ Is it cheaper to fly into Madrid or London?

Prices for flights to both Madrid and London change regularly based on dates and travel demand.

We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your preferred dates.

Prices for flights to both Madrid and London change regularly based on dates, seasons, and demand.

However, London might have more travel demand due to being a globally renowned business hub.

Therefore, the prices are relatively high all year round while Madrid has higher prices only in the summer. 

But London has more airports and airlines traveling to the city.

Hence, it might be easier to find cheap flights in its multiple airports.

View of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid
Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Madrid vs London: Where to stay

βœ” Best areas to stay in Madrid

πŸ‘‰πŸΌ Centro (Puerta del sol & Gran VΓ­a)

Centro is a historical neighborhood in Madrid with a maze of medieval streets surrounding Plaza Mayor.

It features gorgeous, centuries-old architecture, including the Royal Palace, the main shopping street of Gran VΓ­a, and the Puerta del Sol plaza.

Furthermore, it has many accommodation options like boutique hotels, excellent budget inns and hostels, and 5-star establishments.

πŸ‘‰πŸΌ MalasaΓ±a

MalasaΓ±a has a grittier neighborhood but is renowned for its nightlife scene.

You can find venues such as sophisticated cocktail and wine bars, craft beer joints, and pulsing nightclubs.

Furthermore, it features local boutiques, various restaurants, and beautiful spots like the Plaza de Dos de Mayo and Calle Fuencarral.

The neighborhood’s accommodations are mainly boutique and budget hotels, making it perfect for budget travelers.

Telephone booth in London
London – Photo from Canva

πŸ‘‰πŸΌ Retiro

Retiro is known for its grand park, Spain’s three most famous art museums, and some of the city’s grandest hotels.

Furthermore, Retiro is a very local neighborhood, meaning it is a bustling area in the daytime and very quiet during the night.

Therefore, it is an ideal area for those preferring a quiet and peaceful holiday.

βœ” Best areas to stay in London

πŸ‘‰πŸΌ Mayfair

Mayfair is south of Oxford Street and exudes class and wealth.

It features fantastic 5-star hotels, antique shops, luxury boutiques, and posh restaurants and bars.

It is a relatively quiet area and central and perfect for a luxurious holiday.

πŸ‘‰πŸΌ Covent Garden

Located in the heart of London, Covent Garden features a cobbled square and a famous 19th-century market, with quirky and high-end shops, the London Transport Museum, and more.

Furthermore, it has plenty of restaurant bars, cafΓ©s, and pubs and several major attractions within walking distance, making it perfect for travelers to experience everything London has to offer.

Wall art in Madrid
Murals in Madrid

πŸ‘‰πŸΌ City Central of London

The City Central of London is the capital’s financial heart with a history of more than 2000 years.

Therefore, it is an area visitors can experience the glory of the city through the years by visiting top attractions, like the Tower of London, museums and galleries, and venues such as Sky Garden and Old Bell Tavern.

Furthermore, the area has some of London’s best and most luxurious hotels and several excellent budget options.

Madrid vs London: Which is better for every traveler?

πŸ’‘ Which is better for a solo female traveler?

Both cities are popular tourism destinations, as well as financial and political hubs, so safety measures are a top priority.

Therefore, solo traveling is possible.

In fact, it is an excellent way to truly experience the cities because you can explore them at your own pace and create your own itinerary without worrying over others’ preferences.

So, even if you are a solo female traveler, both cities are safe and offer many experiences you can indulge in alone.

There are tons of hostels that will allow you to meet fellow travelers, tours to join, and stroll fearlessly in the cities’ bustling streets and flea markets.

View of the majestic Skycrapers in London
London Skyscrapers – Photo from Canva

πŸ’‘ Which is better for couples?

Although both cities can offer unforgettable romantic experiences, London is undoubtedly the ultimate couple’s getaway.

Specifically, London offers many types of entertainment, elegant and luxurious hotels, sophisticated restaurants, and many lovely spots and attractions to capture beautiful photos.

Still, Madrid is a very popular place to visit for couples.

It offers many fun and romantic activities, including a boat ride at Casa de Campo, riding a bike in one of its many parks, and a romantic dinner while enjoying a live flamenco show.

πŸ’‘ Which is better for families?

Both Madrid and London have kid-friendly activities.

But London is usually more popular for family holidays due to its extensive family activities such as the Harry Potter Tour, the London Eye, and the many playgrounds and toy stores kids can explore.  

Nevertheless, Madrid is also a very family-friendly city.

For example, kids love splashing around at Madrid RΓ­o, taking a ride on the cable car, and running around the city’s many green parks and playgrounds.

Furthermore, the maze at Sabatini Gardens is a fantastic family activity. 

View of the buildings and street in Madrid under a sunny day
Street in Madrid

Madrid vs London: Which city is safer?

Both Madrid and London are considered safe cities, with low crime rates and efficient law enforcement.

However, like any major city, there are areas in both cities that may be more prone to crime than others.

πŸ‘‰ Is Madrid safer than London at night?

Madrid has a low crime rate, and violent crime is rare.

But crowded tourist areas, such as the Puerta del Sol and Gran Via, tend to have pickpocketing and petty theft.

So, it is advised to take precautions such as always keeping valuables out of others’ sight and being aware of your surroundings, especially at night.

However, Madrid’s nightlife scene lasts almost all night long, so there are always people on the streets or hanging out in the squares, so it is relatively safer to walk around at night than in other European capital cities.

πŸ‘‰ Is Madrid safer than London for tourists?

London is pretty similar to Madrid at night with a low crime rate and rare violet crime.

Just like in Madrid, the most affected areas by pickpocketing and petty theft are touristy areas like Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus.

Therefore, it is essential to be aware of your surroundings and keep your valuables close.

One thing that might make London safer at night is the London night tube which runs 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays, avoiding the need to walk on the streets at night.

Aerial view of London
London – Photo from Canva

Madrid vs London: Length of stay

Madrid and London are the capital cities of their countries and offer diverse experiences and plenty of activities.

Therefore, they are both the core of their country’s history and culture. So, in both cases, it is recommended to spend at least two days. 

Ideally, in Madrid, you should spend five days exploring the city’s many attractions, museums and galleries, as well as have at least one day for a day trip to another town like Segovia and Avila.

In London, a week would be the ideal amount of days for a holiday.

Within a week, you can enjoy all the city’s different neighborhoods, culinary experiences and stunning historical spots, museums and galleries.

Furthermore, you can visit at least one another and enjoy an exciting activity like the Harry Potter Tour of Warner Bros. Studio.

View of street with yellow buildings in historical centre of Madrid
Historical Centre, Madrid

Frequently Asked Questions: Madrid vs London

Is Madrid more expensive than London?

Generally, Madrid is cheaper than London, and although you can find affordable accommodation, food and drinks, and other touristy experiences in both cities, the cost of living in London is almost double that of Madrid.

Is London bigger than Madrid?

London is twice as big as Madrid both in population and area.

Modern London
Modern part of London – Photo from Canva

How much time should I spend in Madrid?

Ideally, it is best to spend two to five days in Madrid.

How much time should I spend in London?

Ideally, it is best to spend two to seven days in London.

View of Madrid  during sunset
Madrid

Is Madrid safer than London?

Both cities are safe with low crime rates, excluding petty crimes like pickpocketing.

However, Madrid feels safer simply due to the locals’ hospitality and eagerness to help.Β 

Which has better attractions, Madrid or London?

London tends to be more popular for sightseeing because rather than having better attractions, it has more sights and activities.

Aerial view of London
London – Photo from Canva

Which has better weather, Madrid or London?

Madrid has a Mediterranean climate, thus it is one of the sunniest capital cities in Europe, while London tends to have unpredictable weather.

Plaza filled with people in Madrid
Plaza in Madrid

Final Thoughts: Madrid vs London – Where Should I Go on a Vacation?

Frankly, deciding between Madrid and London for a vacation in 2023 can be a tough choice, since both cities have their own unique charm and attractions.

Generally, Madrid can offer a taste of traditional Spanish culture through its many restaurants, vibrant nightlife, stunning architecture, and world-class museums.

Meanwhile, London boasts a diverse and cosmopolitan atmosphere, with a plethora of international cuisine, iconic landmarks, and rich history. 

Therefore, the decision of where to go on vacation in 2023 will depend on your personal preferences and interests.

Whether you’re looking for a cultural experience, a foodie adventure, or simply a change of scenery, both Madrid and London are sure to offer an unforgettable vacation.

Before you go…

About the Author: Lydia Michael

Lydia Michael is a freelance travel writer from Cyprus whose love for traveling started from an early age. At the age of 18, she moved to England, and since then, she has lived in the UK, Czechia, Spain, Portugal, and Greece among others. But her greatest love has been Asia. So, she is awaiting her big trip to Southeast Asia this summer. Apart from traveling, she loves reading books, especially fantasy books, and she adores cats.