A Tale of Two Cities: Paris vs Barcelona.

So as you all know after twelve months living and working in Paris I decided to spend my Summer working in Barcelona and by the time you're reading this I'll be back home in the UK. As beautiful and vibrant Barcelona is, I still have moments where I would give anything to be back in Paris, which is why I've decided to make this final post written here in Continental Europe comparing the two cities.

Whilst I admit this is my personal experience, I did find the Barcelona attitude towards work a lot more relaxed than in Paris. Although I was working in an office environment again, it was only for 6 hours a day and we really were allowed to start and finish whenever we wanted. In my first week I was given a day and a half off because my boss had heard that my family were visiting. However, as fun as it was working in an international, young office here in Barcelona I absolutely loved working in Paris, even though I was getting paid the same I am here for a full-time working week. I worked with an amazing group of people in Paris who were really keen to help me settle into living in Paris and truly experience French culture. One thing, however, that was exactly the same in Barcelona was the presence of a really rude receptionist at the front desk. Whilst some of the things that our receptionist in Paris said would be too rude to put up here, on my first day in working in Barca I obviously didn’t have an ID card for the building, but not only did the receptionist refuse to let me through, she also refused to call up to my new company to check if I really did work there. Cue me sat waiting out in the morning heat until my new boss arrived!

Torre Agbar on Diagonal -- next to my work

Health and Fitness.
If there’s one thing I noticed that both Parisians and Barcelonés have an obsession over is health. I got asked a lot in Paris why I never got ill and I genuinely think it’s because in the UK when we’re ill we just tend to sit it out because we’d really rather not go to the doctor and therefore have fab immune systems (top Sophie medical observations right there?!) I’ve noticed here and in Paris as soon as someone gets the slightest cough they head straight to their local doctors, or in the case of my colleagues in Barcelona, run straight to the bathroom where they actually had an entire cabinet of communal painkillers.

In terms of fitness, Barcelona has really been too hot to do any type of strenuous exercise, but I have noticed yoga is a real big thing here, and do not even get me started on the number of skateboarders there are flying around! On the other hand, I’ve written about Parisian gyms before, but there it always felt like the women in the gyms were so slim already they just did a light jog on the treadmill for 10 minutes, had a quick chat with a beautiful mec in the weights section and then skipped their way over to the changing rooms.

This is an ice cream
Things to do.
With Paris being one of the most visited destinations in the whole world, I was never short of things to do and always felt like I had to make the most of every minute that I wasn’t working. Paris has so many museums and galleries as well as little streets you could lose yourself in on a Sunday afternoon with a takeaway coffee. One of the best things about Paris was being a European citizen under the age of 26 as it meant you could get into a lot of museums for free, one of the main reasons why I’ve probably seen the Mona Lisa up close and personal about 435 times. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to as many cultural centres or museums here in Barcelona as they can be quite costly and don’t seem to have free entry (apart from on the third Sunday of the month between 14:01 and 14:59 or something like that). 

Parc Guell -- Where Gaudi used to live

One thing that both Paris and Barca have in common though is the beautiful architecture. Gaudí really did make his mark on Barcelona as you’ll be walking down a street and see one of his buildings like the one in the photo below. Whilst Gaudí’s architecture surely is different and original (have you SEEN the Sagrada Familia?!) I really do love the architecture of Haussmann's Paris with the beautiful ornate buildings with iron railing balconies.

Casa Batlló on the Passeig de Gràcia

My Road
Parisian Streets
One of my favourite buildings in Paris on Rue Montorgueil
First things first, Barcelona’s metro wins hands down. It has air conditioning, it doesn’t take a million hours to get anywhere like it does in Paris and it’s a lot cheaper. It also lacks the shady individuals that would frequent the Parisian metro at 9pm with that “Hi I’m a serial killer” glint in their eyes. The night buses feel a lot safer, if anything, Barcelona gets even livelier in the night time, whereas Paris would often turn a little sinister once it was dark. The metro tickets are bigger as well, anyone who has ever been on a short trip to Paris will know what I mean when I say the tickets there are so small you’ve lost half of your pack of 10 before you’ve even started your return journey.

If there is one thing that I will remember for the rest of my life, it’s the amazing feeling of sitting on a beach after a night out in Barcelona and watching the sunrise. Over the past 15 months I’ve had some of the best nights out of my life, whether it be name-dropping to get into stupidly exclusive clubs in Paris to walking along the beach front in Barcelona collecting as many free-entry stamps to the (actually really nice) clubs here. Whilst a double vodka Red Bull in Paris usually cost around 18€ and we would get excited about finding a Mojito for under 7€, Barcelona is a LOT cheaper. You can buy bottles of spirits for insanely cheap prices, but I would always recommend going for known brands and avoiding corner shops as I’ve heard some pretty grim horror stories.
One thing I’m kind of looking forward to is getting back into chart music again, as awful as that sounds and I apologise in advance to all my super cool friends I’ve made this year, but I’m so out of touch considering both Paris and Barcelona are all about the electronic music, which can be fun but it is nice to listen to music with words once in a while.

Kong Paris
Everyday Sexism.
As much as I try to keep things light-hearted on my blog, one of the real problems I’ve had both in Paris and Barcelona is the issue of Everyday Sexism. I’m not going to go too much into it here, but do read up on it if you’re interested. I’m not going to lie, London has its fair share of white van men drivers that will sound their horn as they drive past you, but here, especially in Barcelona it is something on another level. Leaving for work at 8am in the morning(!) meant taking a slight diversion everyday as I knew if I didn’t the man who delivers Estrella beer to the bars and restaurants on my road would shout at me until he got bored, asking where I was going, why didn’t I want him, why was I dressed like that etc etc. Other men aren’t so eloquent with their wording and would instead just shout “eh eh guapa” and make a clicking sound as if they were talking to a dog. Some of the things that have been said to me here are so unbelievably vulgar it makes me feel sick and in a country where over 700 women have been killed in the past ten years as a result of domestic violence, I think the attitude towards women is appalling here.

Paris is slightly better in this respect, but I have been followed home in Paris and some of my friends have even been flashed at whilst on their way home. I have a video on my phone of a man on the Parisian metro who made obscene gestures at a young woman sat opposite me until he realised she wasn’t giving him any attention and decided to creep on someone else. I remember being sat in an information session once before I went to Paris being told that we would all have to give up our body-con dresses for our nights out, and whilst I accept that’s partly due to the fact things are a little bit more classy en France, it’s also because if you even so much as flash your ankle whilst on a metro in Paris you can pretty much be sure that you’ll soon be surrounded by a group of guys who will start talking to you and pester you to give them your number and go out with them.


Obviously this is where the two cities differ, as their official languages are completely different. However, especially over the summer, Barcelona is literally filled with French people, so I've actually managed to keep on top of my French which I'm really pleased about!

One thing that has been drilled into me though, is that Catalonia (or Catalunya) is NOT Spain. Basically, Catalonia really wants independence and again whilst I try to keep things neutral on my blog, going along to their protests on Catolonia Day (11th September) was a really strange experience. Catalonian independence isn't something I can honestly say I've looked into, but when I've asked the locals why they want it, they usually respond that they want to keep their money in the region, but to me I think it's only right that larger cities such as Barcelona and Madrid do their best to help out less-prosperous cities in Spain that don't perhaps benefit so much from tourism etc. On the other hand, going along to the protests was really exciting in that so many people, families, teenagers, babies were dressed head-to-toe in the Catalonian colours and really had this pride in their flag and where they come from, which I don't feel we have so much in the UK.

I've been lucky in that Barcelona is very cosmopolitan and therefore everybody speaks Spanish, however when I went to visit Meg in Girona I couldn't get over how much her friends struggled to keep a conversation in Spanish.

In terms of French language, I really did struggle with it in the beginning and I felt like no one could understand me. I would be asking for things in shops and be met with such a puzzled look I wanted to crawl away, but I would keep persisting until eventually the sales assistant would repeat back the same word I'd just said 87 times and have a light bulb moment and realise what I was saying. Again, this is just my opinion, but I feel in London we have so many people from all over the world speaking our language, that when someone speaks it in an accent we're so used to it we usually understand immediately, but I don't think this is really the case in Paris.

I guess I can't really give a balanced view on Paris vs Barcelona, as spending a year in Paris meant I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with the city, yet I love the laid-back atmosphere you get with a beach city such as Barcelona. All I know is, I'm counting down the days until I can see them both next.

Until my next adventure,



  1. Such a great post! Thanks for all the recommendations. I'm off this weekend and can't wait to try the food in Barcelona x


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