Barcelona and London: Both fairly big European cities (I say fairly because the Barcelona population doesn’t really come anywhere near London’s), both packed with famous attractions and landmarks, a colorful nightlife and a ton of tourists visiting each year.

It is only natural that these two cities have a lot of similarities, but this article isn’t going to focus on that. Instead we are going to focus on the differences of living between these two beautiful cities, and mainly on what it’s like living in Barcelona.

Now, I think it is fair to add a small side note here: I might have not actually lived in London in the sense of residing there, but as a student at Surrey University for two years, I can say I have had my fair share of trips to London, exploring the all the city has to offer including the entertainment, art and, in general those unique city vibes.

Starting with the differences that I have personally noted (I am sure there are many more), I would have to mention the cost of living. I recall reading somewhere that Barcelona is 37% cheaper than London and I can confirm that this is a pretty accurate percentage. I feel like this is very important for a young person, as a student doing a placement without much extra financial support, so it’s important to spend your money wisely.

That leads me to say, that in Barcelona you will always have that extra money to spend on your entertainment whether that’s at bars, clubs or on concert tickets, as well as ‘’things you don’t need but you have to have’’ like the third pair of headphones that month or that pair of shoes you can’t stop looking at. This is because super markets, transportation, housing and eating out are so much cheaper than in London or any London suburb, like Surrey.

And for less money you get a better quality in these specific things: My newly furnished apartment in Barcelona can’t be compared to the old moldy house I was living in, in Surrey!

That also goes on to tell you that salaries here are nowhere near the U.K’ s. As a country that had been affected by an economic crisis, just like my home country Greece still is, it is easy to notice that it’s hard to recover from something so disastrous. As a placement student in Barcelona, it is safe to say that I make approximately 1/5 of the money an average placement student makes in London (and even in the whole of the U. K).

But again, as I mentioned before, having to spend less makes up for making less too (let’s not forget that the beach is free for everyone!).

Barcelona beach before a rain storm

Barcelona beach before a rain storm

Another difference worth mentioning is the nightlife. I feel like my choices when contemplating on where to go during a night out have changed dramatically in Barcelona. When I was in the U.K, going out in London or Surrey, the question was always ‘’which club are we going to?’’ or ‘’where are we going for pre-drinks?’’

In comparison living in Barcelona, your best bet on having fun is to switch from clubs to bars. In my opinion, I feel like going to clubs is a waste of your time and your money, clubs are more suited for drunk tourists that are visiting Barcelona for the first time and are probably going to wake up half naked, on Barceloneta beach in the morning.

Why choose that type of entertainment, when you can discover little bars situated in the very colorful streets, with extremely talented artists playing live music, couples dancing to Latin rhythms all night, and amazingly cheap and well made drinks?

I think the answer is up to each individual, but if you want to dive in to the feel and personality of the city, your best bet is to choose something smaller and local. You are in Spain anyway! Enjoy it with the rest of the Spanish people (or Catalans I should say).


Colourful Street in el raval

Colourful Street in el raval

Lastly, I will have to mention the endless possibilities of discovering culture and art in Barcelona. The feel is very different from London. London exudes the feeling of a larger city, which means the landmarks, and attractions are larger and more eye – catching: Madam Tussaud’s, the London eye, Big Ben. Everything is big, famous and exciting.

Don’t get me wrong, when in London, there are definitely less ‘touristy’ places, where you can explore little graffiti filled neighborhoods with little colorful houses and interesting people, for example Notting Hill or the streets of Camden


Graffiti wall

However, I feel like Barcelona has that aura everywhere. Every street that you turn into is a new experience and a masterpiece on its own. Needless to say, that the architecture here is unmistakably unique, Gaudi’s signature is laid upon each little corner of the city.


Casa Mila (via

Even the largest attractions, like park Guell, can be experienced differently from the eyes of each person. That is not something I can put a finger on and tell you exactly why, but maybe it’s because every person can get lost in different parts and see different aspects of the beautiful landmarks Barcelona has to offer.

I’m not trying to say that Barcelona is a better city than London; it is only natural, that since Barcelona is a new place for me (I have been living here for a month now), it excites me a bit more, for the time being. I am pretty definite though, that after a year I will still look at this city in the same way: with a sense of awe and excitement.

And while I do love London and all it’s beauty, there’s just something special about Barcelona for me. It’s all a matter of perspective.


Text and photography by Elpida Komianou unless stated otherwise.