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Where Should You Study in Spain?

by AIFS Abroad

Last Updated on March 10, 2020 by

As you probably know, there are an endless number of amazing places to study in Spain. What city is right for you? We’ve got the scoop from our resident Spain expert, Julia. She studied there in college, returned to teach English afterwards and has just informed me that she has visited all 17 autonomous regions. What are the differences between the main study abroad locations?



salamanca1PROS: Pure Castilian accent, close to Madrid, big university town

CONS: Smallest of the three cities

Salamanca is home to Spain’s oldest university, Universidad de Salamanca, which has been teaching students since at least 1130(!). It is a young, college town with a walkable downtown and the centrally located Plaza Mayor with cafes and shops around the perimeter. Only a short bus ride from Madrid, Salamanca is centrally located in Spain, making it easy to connect to other cities in Europe.

Being  a smaller city, there are plenty of opportunities for interaction with native Spanish speakers. And with host family and intercambio programs, students here have the best opportunity for immersion. In Salamanca, you will learn the purest Castilian accent, which is closest to what you typically learn in the United States.

Eventhough it’s small, Salamanca has no shortage of intersting things to do and see. There is the Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum, the Bullfighting Museum, the Casa Museo Unamuno, tons of restaurants to explore and always a vibrant cultural scene because of the  historic university.



Alhambra, Granada

PROS: Typical Andalusian town, has both beaches and snow, old Moorish architecture and colors

CONS: Laid back Spanish culture, Andalusian accent, not as well connected

When most people think of Spain, they think of Flamenco dancing, bull fights, and outdoor cafes with tapas.  Granada has them all! This small city in the Sierra Nevada mountains is rich in both Spanish and Moorish culture, making it a dynamic mix of the last thousand years of Mediterranean history.  The major landmark in Granda is the Alhambra, the fortress and palace complex left by the Moorish monarchs when they ruled much of the Iberian Peninsula.

The Mediterranean is an hour away as are the Sierra Mountains, the  highest point in continental Spain. You can actually ski and sunbathe on the beach in the same day! The laid back atmosphere of Granada, typical of Andalusia, makes the town feel as though every day is the weekend.  While the streets are always busy, there is no rush to get anything done, so be prepared for the occasional inconveniences.

One of the best things about eating out in Granada is for every drink you order at a bar, they give you a free tapa, earning it the title of the “Spanish capital of tapas” by many. Perfect for a student budget!

A note on the language: In Andalusia, they cut the ends off the words and tend to put of the words of a sentence into one long word, making it difficult to understand when natives speak.   However, if you can master the language here, no matter where you go in the Spanish speaking world thereafter, you will be able to understand what people are saying!




PROS: Cosmopolitan city, tons of art and architecture, great food

CONS: Learning the language, difficult to interact with natives

Barcelona is the capital of the Catalonia region in Northern Spain and is located on the Mediterranean coast. Spain’s second-largest city, it is a melting pot of people, languages and culture with a beach town feel. Barcelona does not lack things to do or places to see.  It has the impressive Sagrada Familia church and Parc Güell from legendary architect Antonio Gaudi, and offers an endless amount of museums and Modern architecture.  There are quite a number of famous beaches that can be easily reached via metro or on foot. As in any big city, there is never a dull moment!

As the co-official language, Catalan is the preferred language spoken in Barcelona. While it is similar to Castilian Spanish, it can be difficult for students to improve their Spanish because of its predominance. But not to worry, most signs are in both traditional Castilian and Catalan, and natives can speak Castilian Spanish although its not their first choice.

If you somehow tire of the art and the beach, Barcelona is home to one of the greatest soccer clubs in history. In 2009, Barcelona FC became the first club in Spain to win the trio of competitions consisting of La Liga, Copa del Rey, and the Champions League. You will definitely come back a serious Barca fan.


Regardless of which city you choose, none of these can be missed!


Follow our blog for more Spain stories from Julia (coming up: bullfighting, flamenco, and the Canary Islands) and visit our site to find out more about study abroad in Spain. Questions about any of this and more? Contact us ¡Hasta luego!


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