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Comparing Spanish Cities for Study Abroad

Linguistic Horizons students visit Madrid!

So you’ve decide to study abroad in Spain? Excellent choice! Now for the hard part: which city should you choose? There are several factors to consider when comparing Spanish cities for study abroad. Choosing where in Spain you’d like to go and we’ve outlined some of those here.

Key Factors

  • What’s your budget like?
  • How important is learning Spanish important to you?
  • Do you prefer big cities or small towns? What kind of environment do you want to be in?
  • Do you plan to travel around Europe while abroad or stick to Spain?

Budget

Budget
Every euro counts!

As a student, every dollar counts. So, it’s important to find a program that fits your budget. Compare the total program fee among different program options; and, look at what’s included in that fee. Some programs may seem inexpensive when looking at their program fee. However, necessary expenses like housing or meals may not be included. Additionally, you have to look at the cost of living in the city you’re interested in going to to get an idea of what miscellaneous extras like going out to eat, or using public transportation may cost you. It’s best to compare your destination city with your home city to get the best idea. Here we’ve listed some of Spain’s potential study abroad destinations with a rating for how student budget friendly they are. You can also check out a map view and cost of living in Spain by city here.

Spanish Cities from Most to Least Expensive

La Coruña, Spain
La Coruña, Spain
  • Barcelona & Madrid, while the most commonly chosen destinations, are nearly tied as the most expensive destinations.
  • San Sebastian
  • Valencia
  • Malaga
  • Sevilla
  • La Coruña
  • Granada
  • Salamanca

How supportive is the city to learning Spanish?

Conversation exchange with Linguistic Horizons and local Spanish students!

If learning Spanish is very important to you, it’s best to choose a destination that is not as common for English speaking tourists. This also includes other study abroad participants from the US. So, consider how many US study abroad programs are offered to Americans in your destination city. Also, did you know that there are several languages spoken in Spain? While 99% of Spaniards speak Castilian Spanish, the Spanish we learn in the US, in some places one of the other languages, like Catalan or Basque, is more predominant or equally as common. Listen to some of the different Spanish accents by region here.

Below, we’ve ranked each city for how supportive it would be to learning Spanish from most supportive to least supportive.

  • La Coruña – Galician is spoken primarily by the elderly and in the surrounding villages. Some street signs and government information are in Galician. Castilian Spanish, however, is far more common and very few locals speak English. Additionally, there is only one US study abroad program provider in the city. So, the opportunity to use Spanish in daily life is high.
  • Salamanca – Castilian Spanish is the only local language in Salamanca. Aside from the large number English speaking study abroad participants, this is a good place to learn Spanish if you make it a point to surround yourself with locals.
  • San Sebastian – Basque is spoken in addition to Castilian. While there are only a handful of study abroad programs here, it does attract a lot of English speaking tourists.
  • Malaga – Andalusian Spanish, which can be a bit more difficult to understand. There are two types of Andulsian Spanish. Listen to them here. Malaga does have around 20-30 listed different study abroad program options.
  • Granada – Andalusian spoken . Granada has gained a lot of popularity in study abroad in recent years. There are nearly 40 different study abroad programs for US students offered here.
  • Valencia – Valencian, a variety of Catalan is widely spoken. Valencia is also becoming a more popular study abroad destination for US students.
churros con chocolate Spain
Churros con chocolate, a Spanish staple!
  • Madrid – Castilian Spanish is the only local language which is a strong point for Madrid. However, Madrid is also one of the most common Spanish tourist destinations and thousands of US students study abroad there every year. This means the prevalence of English speakers is rather high.
  • Sevilla – Andalusian spoken. Listen to the accent in Sevilla! Sevilla is also becoming a more common study abroad destination and is relatively touristy.
  • Barcelona – Catalan is widely spoken as well as Castilian Spanish. High level of English speakers due to tourism and the fact that it is the most common Spanish study abroad destination for US students. Learn about Catalan versus Castilian Spanish spoken in Barcelona.

City Size and Style

How big the city is matters for several reasons. Do you prefer a town or a city small enough that you can get around by foot? Or, do you want a huge metropolis that will have you taking taxis, buses or a metro to get around? Likewise, do you want to live in the mountains a concrete jungle or by the beach? Below, you’ll find a list of cities from smallest to biggest with a description of what it’s like.

  • Salamanca: 158K people. Small inland city set in the hills alongside a river.
  • San Sebastian: 177K people. Adorable beach town, surrounded by hills, easily explored by foot.
La Coruña, Spain
Interns in La Coruña, Spain.
  • La Coruña: 241K people. Medium sized beach city with a center small enough to navigate mostly by foot yet large enough not to run out of things to do. The local bus system also works well for transportation to places outside the center. There is also a local shared biking program available.
  • Granada: 242K people. At the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, at an elevation of 2,421 feet. The public transportation in Granada is quite good with buses and a light rail system available.
  • Malaga: 542K people. Malaga is the 6th largest city in Spain. It is a beach city located on the Mediterranean Sea on the Costa del Sol.
View of Sevilla
  • Sevilla: 695K people. Sevilla, or Seville, is the capital of Andalusia. It is the 4th largest city in all of Spain. The public transportation is great in Sevilla – buses, trams and trains are all available. You can also use the local biking program to get around by bike.
  • Valencia: 736K people. Valencia is the third largest city in Spain. It is a coastal city on the Mediterranean and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain. Learn more about getting around Valencia by public transportation here.
Linguistic Horizons students in Barcelona!
  • Barcelona: 1.4 million people. Barcelona is also a beach city located in Catalonia. Barcelona’s population increases during the summer when tons of tourists come to visit. Public transportation is excellent throughout the city with a metro and reliable bus system.
  • Madrid: 2.8 million people. Madrid is landlocked and located in the center of Spain. It’s also one of the most common tourist destinations in Spain. Public transportation in the city is very efficient and easy to navigate.

Travel Friendly

Traveling within Spain is fairly easy as there are several ways to do so. You can take the Renfe train which connects all of the listed Spanish cities. We’ve ranked the best connected cities for traveling to other European cities below. The best connected city is listed first and the most difficult to travel from is listed last.

At the train station in Santiago de Compostela, Spain!
  • Madrid: Madrid international airport is well connected internationally and domestically. You can find some of the best international flight deals in and out of MAD airport. Additionally, it is connected via AVE Renfe high speed train and with multiple long distance buses connecting with other Spanish cities. We rank Madrid slightly higher than Barcelona because it is in the center of Spain; making land travel more convenient to more Spanish cities.
  • Barcelona: Barcelona international airport is well connected internationally and domestically. You can find some great international flight deals in and out of BCN airport. Additionally, it is connected via AVE Renfe high speed train and with multiple long distance buses connecting with other Spanish and French cities.
  • Malaga is well connected to other cities in Spain as well as internationally via AVE Renfe and Málaga Costa Del Sol Airport. It is easy, fast and affordable to travel from Malaga to other southern Spanish cities by land.
  • Granada: Granada has an international airport (GRX) connecting the city to a variety of Spanish and European cities.
Sevilla church
Sevilla, Spain!
  • Sevilla: Is well connected to other cities in Spain as well as internationally via AVE Renfe and the SVQ airport.
  • La Coruña is well connected to other Spanish and Portuguese cities via train, long distance bus and with their small international airport (LCG). LCG airport has direct flights to London, Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, Bilbao, Sevilla, Valencia, Tenerife, Palma de Mallorca and Gran Canaria Islands. For more international flight options, you can take a 30 minute train ride to the nearby city of Santiago de Compostela. Santiago has an international airport (SCQ) with many cheap flights available around Europe.
  • Valencia: Is well connected to other cities in Spain as well as internationally via AVE Renfe and the Valencia (VLC) airport.
  • San Sebastian: San Sebastian is not as well connected as other cities in Spain. However, they do have a small airport, SAN. It is also served by train connecting the city to France and other Spanish cities. More on traveling to San Sebastian here.
  • Salamanca: Salamanca’s nearest airport is in Valladolid which is connected to a few Spanish cities. The nearest international airport is Madrid (MAD). You can then take a train or bus from Madrid.

In addition to our programs in Spain, Linguistic Horizons provides study abroad and customized international internship placements in Europe and South America. Check out our opportunities abroad.

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