Barcelona is a much more touristy city than Madrid. And tourists bring prices up. It’s not that Barcelona doesn’t have cheap things to do, it’s just that there are much more of them in Madrid.
In Madrid, you can get cod tapas thirty seconds from Sol (Madrid’s main square) at Casa Labra for a euro or a great meal for 10 euros just off Gran Via (Madrid’s main street) at Con Dos Fogones. The equivalent restaurants in Barcelona are too busy doing paella and sangria ‘deals’ to offer real value for money.
Meanwhile, Madrid’s two best museums (the Reina Sofia and the Prado) have a free entry every night of the week, something you’d never see in Barcelona.vaa