So Many Great Places to Learn Spanish in Spain – Where Should You Go?!
Modern Spain vs. Old World Spain
- If you want to learn Spanish and experience modern Spain, learn Spanish in Barcelona or Madrid.
- If you want to experience old world Spain, learn Spanish in a city like Salamanca, Granada, or Toledo.
Modern Spain – Fun, Sun, Tapas, Sangria, Parties – and the Beach
Most students who want to learn Spanish in Spain are drawn to Spain for popular reasons. Many are familiar with the “sun and fun” aspect of Spain and Spanish culture. And they’re right! Spain lives up to the ideas we have about it. It’s sunny, the people are friendly, and life in Spain is one of the greatest experiences you can have if you want to learn Spanish or study abroad. White sandy beaches, sangria, flamenco, eating tapas and having drinks with friends, and partying until the early morning are definitely some of the many fun things you will experience if you come learn Spanish in Spain. But Spain as you have often heard about it is not the only Spain to experience. There is also old world Spain…
Old World Spain – Fun, Sun, Tapas, Sangria, and Parties – and Lots of Culture
Spain – and Spanish culture – is a lot richer and and much more diverse than you might imagine. Different languages, accents, geography, and historical influences make learning Spanish in one city a uniquely different experience from learning Spanish in another. Where you learn Spanish in Spain and when you learn Spanish in Spain really will influence how you experience Spain and how much Spanish you can learn.
Old World Spain can be found in Spain’s smaller cities, especially those nestled in Spain’s interior away from the beaches and summer tourists. Cities like Salamanca, Granada, and Toledo are just a couple of examples of cities that have preserved Spain’s old world feel.
Large Cities vs. Small/Medium Cities in Spain
- If you want tons of museums, galleries, arts, theater and things to do, learn Spanish in Barcelona or Madrid.
- If you want a cozier, more comfortable environment (and a less expensive one) and you want to feel part of a community, learn Spanish in a smaller city, like Alicante, Salamanca, or Granada.
Whether you learn Spanish in a large city in Spain or a smaller city will shape your experience in Spain. Large cities in Spain, like Barcelona and Madrid, offer tremendous amounts of culture and plenty to do. But you also have to deal with big city living – traffic, noise, crowds, longer commutes, and higher prices, to name a few. However, if you do learn Spanish in Barcelona or Madrid, the rewards for putting up with big city life are access to museums, art galeries, theater, movies, and an wide choice of restaurants, cafes, shops, and things to do.
[ Large cities in Spain to learn Spanish: Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia Seville]
If you learn Spanish in a smaller or medium sized city, like Salamanca or Granada, you will have a much cozier experience. You will quickly get to know the city and feel comfortable in no time at all in your new environment. Everything in a smaller city is easier, from getting around to meeting up with friends. In a smaller city you won’t feel lost. And, perhaps surprisingly, smaller cities in Spain still have a lot of energy and great vibes. You’ll find plenty of cafes, restaurants, bars and fun things to do, along with a smaller offering of museums, theaters, and other cultural offerings. So you don’t have to worry about being bored at all in a smaller city in Spain. There are some very cool smaller cities in Spain to learn Spanish – they have great vibes and offer plenty to do!
European / International Cities vs. “Real” Spanish Cities
- Large cities in Spain have more of a international – European feel to them.
- Smaller cities offer genuine Spanish culture and an intimate look at Spain’s way of living and thinking. Choose a smaller city to learn Spanish in the real Spain.
[ Small / medium cities in Spain to learn Spanish: Alicante, Salamanca, Cadiz, Malaga, Valladolid, Toledo ]
One of the differences you would notice between large and small Spanish cities if you learned Spanish in both a large and small city in Spain is that the larger cities, Madrid and Barcelona, are both European and International cities. They are, to be sure, Spanish cities! But there is also a European and International vibe that is tangible when you walk around the city or travel on the metro. The atmosphere is a Spanish, European, and Intenational mix.
In smaller cities, on the other hand, you will see, hear, and experience a more “genuine” Spain. It’s just easier to experience and participate in Spanish culture and the Spanish lifestyle because neither are as influenced by European and international influences as are Barcelona and Madrid. And the lack of all the international goings-on gives you the sense that you are in the “real” Spain – the smaller cities seemed to have better retained their traditions and lifestyle because they’ve been less affected by the changes that occur in larger cities.
In a smaller Spanish city you will have Spanish culture in your face, from architecture to food to festivals of all sorts!
Salmanca’s city center, for example, has the most beautiful city square (the Plaza Mayor) that I have seen – and it has an amazing vibe! The mix of the light as it reflects off of the sandstone facades, the voices of the the people in the square and the not too distant sound of church bells, the scent of food and of the city itself, make entering the Plaza Mayor (and merely standing in the midst of it) an incredible experience! Salamanca’s city center is filled with wonderful architecture and notable buildings, from awe-inspiring cathedrals (yes, Salmanca has two!), to churches, to the once homes of a Spanish noble family that now serves as a public library. Walking down Salamanca’s streets will transport you back in time and give you an intimate view of Spanish culture.
Salamanca’s old city represents Romanesque, Gothing, Morrish, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, and is a designated World Heritage site.
Old World Spain vs. Modern Day Fun and Sun
- Small Spanish cities away from the coasts have retained much of their old world charm and traditions
- Coastal cities, like Alicante and Malaga, offer a unique mix of old world Spain and modern Spain, and they’re a lot of fun!
Spanish cities like Granada, Salamanca, Seville, Toledo, Cadiz, Santiago de Compostela, and Cordoba put you right in the middle of old world Spain (in such a great way!) For most of the year you won’t see too many tourists, except in summer (and they’re a different breed of tourist than those you meet at ocean side cities).
Other Spanish cities mix old world Spain and contemporary Spain – and they are often the most popular vacation destinations in Spain (in addition to being great places to learn Spanish!)
Cities like Alicante, Malaga, and Cadiz are ocean side cities famous for their beaches and nightlife. The tourism boom that took place in Spain over the last decades transformed these Spanish cities into a hybrid of old an new. Along with the historic city centers that were always present, you have more modern amenities, hotels, newer neighborhoods and commercial areas, tourist attractions, and lots of stuff to do and fun to be had!
In these cities you can explore a little of old world Spain as you walk through the quaint streets of the cities’ historic centers and at the same time enjoy modern Spain and its famous beaches, which are usually just a short walk away. During the summers, life for many people in Spain’s ocean side cities revolves around two things: going to the beach and going out!
As small as these cities are, if you are there to learn Spanish, you will meet people from all over the world both in your classes, on the beaches, and in the restaurants, cafes, and clubs.