Choosing a destination in Spain to learn Spanish. Top 3 Destinations for Studying Spanish in Spain

Cool, urban living? Tradition, history and academia? Castilian accent or regional customs? Gastronomy and nightlife? Budget living? Or sun and beaches?

Where are the best places for studying Spanish in Spain?

Spain is an enormous country, both in landmass and the type of people, micro-cultures and landscape it offers. So once you have decided to study Spanish in Spain, it may become quite hard to pick one place out of all the choices available.


How to Choose Where to Learn Spanish in Spain

You may want to consider five factors when choosing a destination in Spain:

  1. Does the area have a second language apart from Spanish?
  2. Do you want to practice a regional accent?
  3. What is the cost of living?
  4. Do you prefer a city destination, sun and sea, or a university town?
  5. Are there many tourists and/or foreign students in the area?


1. Areas of Spain with a second language

Four areas of Spain have a second language. Although Spanish is spoken by everybody who lives in these regions, in some cases the people and the regional governments promote the language and the regional identity very strongly.

In Catalonia (including Barcelona), about half of the population speaks Catalan and the language is very prominent alongside Spanish. In Valencia about half of the inhabitants speak a dialect of catalan, although not nearly as much as in Catalonia/Barcelona itself. In the Basque country you’ll find the Celtic language of Euskera, and in Galicia you’ll hear Galician, which is closer to Portuguese.

This is not to say that any of these areas are ‘bad’ for learning Spanish! Everybody in these areas also speaks Spanish so you’ll get all the possible chances to practice. However, you should just be aware that you will encounter another language in addition to Spanish when you arrive, so that it doesn’t catch you by surprise.


2. Regional accents

Next you also need to consider regional accents. Accents change tremendously from one area to the next, and some are less easy to understand than others.

  • Andalusia. People often drop letters from words, in particular the letter ‘s’. Some Latin American speakers do this too, so training your ear to understand the andaluz accent can be very rewarding and useful, and prepare you to understand all types of accents. It is not, however, the easiest for total beginners.
  • Galicia. In Galicia, they have their own language close to Portuguese, but also their accent, when speaking Spanish, can be a little tricky to get to grips with immediately, at least until you get used to it.
  • Castilian Spanish. This is the clearest Spanish accent of them all, which beginners find the easiest to understand. It is also the ‘original’ Spanish language and all other accents and dialects spring from it. Castilian Spanish is spoken mainly in Madrid and Castilla Leon (Salamanca).


3. Your budget

Your budget will also influence your decision. The south of Spain is currently one of the cheapest areas in the world, in particular Malaga, Nerja, Granada, Sevilla and Cadiz. The Canary Islands can also have certain aspects that are cheaper (groceries and rent), although flights can be dearer.

The Basque Country is the most expensive of all regions for eating out and groceries (although other costs are reasonable), and Barcelona and Madrid, the two largest cities in Spain, tend to be more expensive for rent, transportation and entertainment.

Smaller cities in the north, like Salamanca and Santiago, are very cheap, but there can be less to do in these places, and the weather is not as sunny as in the south of on the Mediterranean coast.

Salamanca and Granada are university towns, so if you are 18-30 years old, you’ll find lots of people your own age there and many places will cater to student budgets by providing cheaper meals, drinks and entertainment.


4. Things to do

Two factors are important here. One, what do you like to do as a past time? And two, how long are you intending to stay at the destination? Your personal likes and dislikes will largely dictate where you’ll want to go, especially if you are staying a long time and need to stay stimulated and entertained throughout your visit.

Do you love history, museums and art? Or would you prefer a busy, young nightlife culture? Do you want to lie on the beach or take nature walks? Or be right in the centre of a big city? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself.

Big cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville are great for those wanting to explore varied aspects of Spanish living and they offer the broadest range of activities. Barcelona and Valencia additionally have beaches, so you can combine sun and city. Smaller seaside cities, like Nerja or Cadiz, are fabulous for getting lost in easy, relaxed living and socialising, and nipping to the beach in between classes. Marbella and Ibiza are great party spots in the sun, but mainly in the summer.


5. Tourists and ex-patriots

Some areas of Spain have larger ex-patriot populations and more tourism than others. Marbella and Alicante, the Balearics and Canary Isles are good examples. In the summer months you may need a great deal of willpower to stick to your lessons and find yourself Spanish-speaking friends to practice the language with, because there will be many foreigners speaking different languages around you, especially English! So if this is a concern, then choosing destinations like Seville, Granada, Madrid or Salamanca could be a safer option for you.


Our verdict

UniSpain has many years of experience of working with students coming to Spain to study Spanish. That’s why we know there really isn’t a “best” destination choice that works for everybody. But if we had to choose only three places out of the 18 destination cities on offer, then we’d pick Madrid, Cadiz and Salamanca.  

We’ll leave you with a brief description of each city and wish you good luck in choosing your favourite. Don’t forget to try out UniSpain’s School Comparison Tool to select and compare over 40 language schools and universities in Spain: read student reviews, contrast class sizes and more, to find out which school in which city suits you best.



1. Best “City” Destination: Madrid

Madrileños, the people who live in Madrid, speak Spanish in a Castilian accent, which is the easiest of the Spanish accents to understand. As the capital of Spain, Madrid offers lots to do and the city has universities as well as private schools, so there is a good student life (and nightlife!).

You can also visit the world-famous Prado Museum, see theatre or shows, and go to big pop concerts, eat Spanish food, as well as international cuisine from all over the globe. Madrid can be cold in the winter through, and horribly hot in summer, so learning Spanish in Madrid in July and August may not be the best idea if you don’t like heat.

Madrid does have many foreign students, but you’ll find such a cosmopolitan mix of people that Spanish immersion and language exchange won’t be a problem. You may want to budget carefully, as the cost of living in Madrid can be higher than elsewhere in Spain.

Cheapest university in Madrid: Nebrija University


2. Best “Sun and Beach” Destination: Cadiz

Cadiz is situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean on Spain’s southernmost coast. The location gave it an important role in history. The province has wonderfully long, white sandy beaches and clear blue waters, as well as numerous little white villages and fishing towns along the coast, and vast natural park areas. The capital is teaming with historic buildings, relaxing parks and charming plazas and squares.

Even though Cadiz can experience Atlantic winds and storms in the winter, they enjoy over 300 days of sunshine per year! The city of Cadiz is not very touristy and you’ll find great opportunities to immerse yourself in the language there, although some people may find that they need a little time to “tune in” to the local accent… But Cadiz is one of the cheapest cities in Spain so living there won’t be hard on your wallet.

Cheapest and most popular language school in Cadiz: CLIC Cadiz


3. Best “University City” Destination: Salamanca

The people of Salamanca claim that they speak with a classic, perfect accent. Salamanca is certainly set in the region or Castilla, so the Castilian accent derives from this very area, although some say that Madrid Spanish is perhaps the best accent of all (just don’t say that to anybody in Salamanca!).

The city is small, with lots of charming, historic buildings and squares and Salamanca University is one of the oldest universities in Europe. Whilst the city’s size means that there is a limit to what you can do in the town itself, Salamanca does have a great nightlife scene because of its large student population. Salamanca’s academic reputation, especially in the area of linguistics, brings a lot of foreign students into the town.

The weather gets really hot with the summer sun and the area’s cold winters are reminiscent of Central Europe – but at least as one of the driest areas of Spain, you won’t get rained on very much at all.

Most popular private school in Salamanca: Sampere Salamanca

Cheapest language school in Salamanca: Salamanca University

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