Should You Study Spanish in Madrid or Barcelona?
Madrid and Barcelona are two of Spain’s best-known and most visited cities. Both are popular destinations to learn Spanish and both offer plenty of cultural attractions, sights, and things to do. In In that way Madrid and Barcelona are similar and if you learn Spanish in Barcelona or you learn Spanish in Madrid, you will experience big city life in a vibrant, exciting city.
But Madrid and Barcelona are, of course, different cities. Each has its own feel and either Madrid or Barcelona could be a better match for your to learn Spanish, depending on what your interests are and what you want to do in your free time.
Learning Spanish in Madrid or Barcelona – Spanish vs. Catalan
If you plan to learn Spanish in Spain, one of the most important differences between Madrid and Barcelona that you have to consider is the language spoken in each city. Barcelona is the capital city of Spain’s Catalonia region and the regional language spoken in Catalonia is Catalan, not Spanish. Both Spanish and Catalan are official languages in Catalonia, however, and you will hear plenty of Spanish spoken throughout the city and you will see and hear Spanish language television and radio programs. If you are planning to learn Spanish in Barcelona short-term, living in a Catalan-Spanish speaking city probably won’t hinder how much Spanish you learn, especially if you plan to learn Spanish for a month or less.
If you learn Spanish in Madrid, you will be immersed entirely in Spanish. When you finish your Spanish classes each day and head out into the city, you will only see and hear Spanish on television and radio (unless you decide to tune in to a Catalan station) and you will hear Spanish (as opposed to Spanish and Catalan) spoken on the street, in cafes, bars, restaurants, etc. The more frequent exposure exclusively to Spanish will add to the Spanish that you learn.
Learn Spanish in Madrid if learning Spanish is your absolute priority and you want the extra little bit of Spanish learning that you will achieve being immersed in a Spanish only speaking environment. Choose to learn Spanish in Barcelona if the idea of living and studying in Barcelona really floats your boat and you are willing to sacrifice that extra bit of Spanish for the many great things that Barcelona offers.
(If you are thinking of spending several months or longer learning Spanish in Spain and you’re trying to decide between Spain and Barcelona, you may want to choose Madrid because you will be exposed to more Spanish more frequently, and the cumulative effect over the months will add up.)
Learning Spanish in Madrid or Barcelona – Central Spain vs. Coastal Spain
Madrid is situated in the center of Spain. From Madrid you can easily travel to other Spanish cities by train. Salamanca, Toledo, Seville, Cordoba and Granada all have excellent train service. You could also skip over to Portugal on longer trips and visit Lisbon, Porto, or the Algarve. If you feel like heading to the beach, Alicante is about 2.5 hours away from Madrid (a lot people from Madrid vacation in Alicante), and if you don’t mind a longer trip you can head south to Malaga, Spain.
If you want to learn Spanish and spend endless hours on the beach after your Spanish classes, then Barcelona might be for you. If you learn Spanish in Barcelona you can go to any of Barcelona’s beaches or you can go to other beaches in nearby towns. While learning Spanish in Barcelona means much longer trips to visit other parts of Spain, Barcelona is pretty close to France. If you would rather visit France during your free time or when your Spanish classes are over, then you might want to choose to learn Spanish in Barcelona.
Learning Spanish in Madrid or Barcelona – Free Time and Stuff To Do
Both Madrid and Barcelona have plenty of sights to see and plenty of things to do. You are guaranteed to have plenty of fun in both cities when it comes to concerts, cafes, bars, museums, and theater. If you are looking for big city culture and fun you can learn Spanish in Madrid or learn Spanish in Barcelona. Both offer plenty to do and we would be hard pressed to decide which city is better to learn Spanish in based on that!
Learning Spanish in Madrid or Barcelona – Weather
When you think of learning Spanish in Spain, you probably think of food, sangria, fun, and sun. You should keep a couple of things in mind regarding weather and the time of year that you go to learn Spanish.
Barcelona, because it is towards the north of Spain, will have it’s fair share of cold, rainy, dreary days during the fall and winter. If you want to learn Spanish in Barcelona because you want to be near the beach, you have to go during the Spring and Summer. It’s worth mentioning that because when most people imagine Spain and Spanish weather, what comes to mind are the hot, sunny days of southern Spain – you could say that summer starts earlier and ends later in the south of Spain, but that’s not true for Barcelona. Also, be prepared for the rainy, dreary days in Fall and Winter!
Madrid, even though it’s farther south than Barcelona, will also have cold, rainy, dreary days during the fall and winter. Perhaps the most important thing to consider when you learn Spanish in Madrid is that if you learn Spanish in the summer, Madrid can get pretty hot and there are no nearby beaches. So if you have the urge to bask in the sun on a sandy Mediterranean beach, you’d have to jump on a train to Alicante, which has great beaches, or another seaside town.
And remember, both Madrid and Barcelona are big tourist destinations. Summer time is the peak tourist season – be prepared for more crowds, longer lines, and higher prices in the summer.