Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and the metabolic syndrome (MetS) are considered public health challenges of the 21st century. The coexistence of MetS in COPD patients and any clinical differences between COPD patients with and without MetS have not been extensively studied. We aimed to describe the clinical characteristics of patients with MetS and COPD. An observational, multicenter study of 375 patients hospitalized for a COPD exacerbation with spirometric confirmation was performed. We measured the components of the MetS and collected comorbidity information using the Charlson index and other conditions. Dyspnea, use of steroids, exacerbations, and hospitalizations were also investigated. The overall prevalence of MetS in COPD patients was 42.9 %, was more frequent in women (59.5 %) than men (40.8 %), p = 0.02, but with no differences in age and smoking history. COPD patients with MetS had greater % predicted FEV1, more dyspnea, and more comorbidity and used more inhaled steroids (all p < 0.05). Diabetes, osteoporosis, coronary artery disease, and heart failure were more frequent in patients with MetS. They had been hospitalized more frequently for any cause but not for COPD. In multivariate analysis, the presence of MetS was independently associated with greater FEV1, inhaled steroids use, osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart failure. MetS is a frequent condition in COPD patients, and it is associated with greater FEV1, more dyspnea, and more comorbidities.