The Top 5 Locations to Study Spanish in Spain

Category: Student Tips

If you’re looking to master the Spanish language, perhaps as a way to bolster your professional career or expand your cultural horizons, there is no better place to study Spanish than in the country of Spain, where the language originated.

Spanish language schools and universities in Spain offer an almost unlimited number of language acquisition courses, but which locations offer the highest quality programs?

To help you navigate the many Spanish language courses available, below we have outlined five of Spain’s finest universities and language faculties. In this list we have included a fair cross section of programs, selected by location, academic standards, reputation and trusted international and Spanish university ranking tables, like QS, Shanghai and IAIF. We have also included some essential information about each of these facilities and the cities in which they are located.

#5 The University of Santiago de Compostela

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Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, Santiago Campus

With over 500 years of history, the University of Santiago de Compostela is a proud university with a noteworthy regional heritage. Despite its age and rich history, the University of Santiago de Compostela today is a campus that has evolved effortlessly with the changing times, and with roughly 39,000 students and 3,000 staff, the school also takes an active part in the European student mobility scheme.

The University of Santiago de Compostela (USC) began as a School of Grammar in the late 15th century and its internationally recognized Spanish as a Second Language (SSL) courses have been in operation for over 50 years. USC boasts small class sizes—15 people per class—which allows the program’s instructors to give each student an abundance of personalized attention. The quality of its Spanish language courses is well-documented, and there are programs available for all levels of language learners, from novices to experienced speakers

The University of Santiago de Compostela hosts a variety of Spanish as a Second Language courses that run at different times of the year, many of which combine Spanish language, history and culture, including many that offer class excursions.

The University of Santiago de Compostela—and the community that surrounds it–offers a number of opportunities for fun and cultural enrichment. The old City Center, for example, where the language faculty is located, is busy with bars, cafés and plenty of events, including concerts at the Plaza del Obradoiro, dances at La Quintana, the Magosto in November, the Festivales de Cortometrajes in July and August, and a myriad of venues, sports facilities and discounted offers that all USC students can access with their student card, both on and off campus.

#4 Granada University

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Arial view of Universidad de Granada

Located in one of Spain’s most beautiful and historic cities (Granada), Granada University boasts roughly 480 years of history and is extremely committed to serving its academic environment, the community and its people through excellence in research, service and tuition. Thanks to this commitment, the university has shot up sharply in national and international league tables and now boasts a combined student, lecturer, administrative and research staff population of over 70,000.

Granada University offers a variety of Spanish as a Second Language courses to choose from, from beginner classes, known as intensive, and to those that focus on Hispanic Studies, Language and Culture (entry into these various courses depend on the student’s level of Spanish mastery).

Only total beginners can enroll in the school’s intensive courses, with a duration spanning anywhere from 4-10 weeks in length. If you have studied Spanish previously, then you will need to take a level examination. Once you have been assigned a level, you can then choose from Hispanic studies, culture lessons and various other subjects, on top of the Spanish language program for which you qualify.

All of the teachers in Granada University’s SSL programs hold a degree in philology and many have further specializations in culture, history, art history and so on.

The charming city of Granada offers something for everybody. The most renowned and must-see attraction is the majestic Alhambra castle. In its shadow lies Granada’s cozy historical center; with cafés, Moroccan teterías, flamenco tablaos and salsa bars galore. Students on a budget will be pleased to know that there are free complimentary tapas to be had at almost every bar in town… simply by ordering a cool beer or soft drink.

 #3 Complutense University of Madrid

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The Pharmacy Wing of the Complutense

The Complutense University of Madrid comes with no less prestige or history than Santiago or Granada. First confirmed as a university in 1499, the Complutense University of Madrid is now the nation’s largest university and has an excellent name outside of Spain. With a staggering 100,000 students and almost 10,000 staff, the two university’s 145 square kilometer grounds sprawl over Madrid’s Monclova and Somosaguas districts, including forested university gardens.

Because of its international reputation, and its location in one of the most gloriously vibrant capital cities in Europe, the Complutense University of Madrid receives and enrolls a staggering number of foreign students seeking to study Spanish as a foreign language. SSL students get to share the Philology and Humanities faculty with local Spanish university students, making language exchange a daily social reality. Although the Spanish language program has only been running for 15 years, its quality belies its newness as a center for Spanish language acquisition.

One of major bonuses to studying at the Complutense University of Madrid is the enormous university library with over 2 million book titles, and a countless number of audio-visual and scientific resources. Students who enroll in one of the many SSL programs offered here are issued a University Card, which not only grants access to the library, swimming pool and sports grounds, but also entitles them to discounts at Madrid’s various attractions, sites and student-oriented entertainment and dining venues.

Complutense University of Madrid offers intensive courses, VIP packages and summer programs, as well as longer courses lasting an entire semester or full academic year.

Studying Spanish in Madrid, the nation’s capital, can be a wonderful experience, with countless things to do and see and some of the best cuisine in the world. In defining Madrid, the city is the Golden Triangle of Art, which includes the Prado Museum; tapas; world-class shops; cutting-edge night clubs; the Real Madrid Football Club, musicals, the Cibeles fountain, the Gran Vía; the Puerta del Sol and much, much more. In short, Madrid is a way of life and the absolutely perfect place to practice the Spanish you learn in the classroom.

#2 Salamanca University

Universidad de Salamanca, inner patio

Universidad de Salamanca, inner patio

Those who have already dabbled in Spanish language studies may already be somewhat acquainted with Salamanca University, as the school and region is fairly famous for its Spanish language programs. Modeled in the image of schools like Oxford and the University of Paris, Salamanca University, located in the city of the same name, was founded in 1218. Today, the university is world renowned and is characterized by its emblematic façade of religious and mythical sandstone carvings, the famous Patio Las Escuelas, the high quality of teaching and the school’s mission: “The creation of knowledge for the service of humanity”.

With over 2,000 teachers and nearly 39,000 students, the University of Salamanca prides itself on specialist teachers. Its Spanish language courses feature just 15 people per class and the program is regularly monitored and updated according to constant course quality assessments. Whether you want to study for two weeks or a whole academic year, you can do this via the university’s flexible Spanish language scheme, which combines weeks and extra culture classes to tailor a program that meets your specific needs.

Salamanca University assigns a dedicated member of their staff to be in charge of arranging cultural activities for foreign students—a feature that sets it apart from other Spanish language institutions. All enrolled students receive a student card entitling them to access to university facilities such as libraries, sports grounds and computers.

The city of Salamanca is a beautiful, well-kept older city. By day, there are a number of important historical landmarks to explore, and by night the city comes alive, boasting a number of trendy nightclubs geared especially for students. You’ll also find plenty to do on the cultural calendar, and the friendly locals and affordable food prices will go a long way towards making your stay enjoyable.

#1 The Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB)

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Columns monument at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Ranked first on our list of top places to study the Spanish language in Spain is the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). Although not nearly as old as some of the other schools on our list (the Autonomous University was established in 1968), the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, as it is known locally, is committed to the contribution of knowledge and innovation and it aims to prepare students to take a real and active role in their chosen field of study and encourages them to make similar contributions to their respective communities upon course completion.

Despite being the new kid on the block, the UAB has quickly gained ground and surpassed much of its competition; it is currently classed as Spain’s number 1 university in the QS World University Rankings. According to one writer, “as a major advantage, and very unusually for Spain, UAB’s organization and administration is run so smoothly, and paperwork dealt with so effectively, that students can simply concentrate on their studies without having to worry about clumsy bureaucracy.”

The site at which language courses are held at the Autonomous University of Barcelona is situated in a UNESCO World Heritage building, the Casa Convalescència, just a short walk from Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. The university’s SSL programs have been in operation for over 25 years and there
are intensive courses offered throughout the year with roughly 15 people per class. Because foreign students share premises with Spanish students studying other modern languages such as English and French, there is always ample opportunity for Spanish language learners to participate in cultural exchange and conversation practice.

Barcelona is a very modern city with plenty to offer students. Its various barrios, with their individual personalities, cool boutiques, and edgy fashion, make the city very popular among students—especially younger students. As an added bonus, the city boasts relatively affordable accommodations, all set against a backdrop of one of Spain’s warmest and sunniest Mediterranean climates.

As you set out to explore Barcelona you can expect delicious food, white-sand beaches, the Gothic quarters, and scores of bustling bars, pubs and nightclubs of every variety. There are also hundreds of historical and cultural treasures to be found in the city, and Barcelona’s excellent public transportation system makes it easy for you to visit all of them.