If you plan on spending a long time in Spain to learn Spanish, you're going to have to think carefully about where you're going to do it. The problem: in such a big and beautiful country, how can you possibly narrow it down to one place?
One way to solve that problem when deciding where to learn Spanish in Spain is to make your way around to several different cities. If you prefer a classroom structure, many language academies with multiple locations, such as the popular Don Quijote school, will accommodate traveling students by enrolling you in classes in each location that's on your list.
Otherwise, you're on your own—but don't worry. You'll learn faster than you think through immersion and just going about your daily routine in Spanish. By the time you leave, you'll be chatting up groups of locals at your favorite neighborhood tapas bar like a pro.
Here, we've rounded up the pros and cons of learning Spanish in some of Spain's biggest and most popular cities. Some of them will provide an easier language-learning experience than others, but it's safe to say that you'll definitely get the basics down—and then some, most likely—no matter where you go.
Pros: Madrid is probably the best place to learn Spanish in Spain. The Spanish spoken here is clear and easy to understand and the city is a vibrant and exciting place to live.
Cons: Due to its popularity as a tourist destination, it can be hard to get locals to speak Spanish with you—many will want to practice their English.
Travel tip: Venture off the beaten path and beyond the tourist center. The further out you get, the less common English will be.
Pros: Learning Spanish in Salamanca can be quite easy. The local dialect is very clear and easy to understand, and with the city's historic academic tradition, there are plenty of language schools to choose from (and students to meet).
Cons: Salamanca is on the smaller side, so it may not be for you if you prefer a more urban atmosphere. Additionally, the disproportionately high number of language schools means that there are too few students to go around, and you may have trouble finding a course that fits your level and needs.
Travel tip: Immersion is the way to go—you'll get to experience an authentic Spanish city (and one that's a bit off the beaten path tourism-wise, no less), and with how easy it is to understand the local accent, you'll be feeling like a local in no time.
Pros: Granada has a lot going for it. The food is great (free tapas, anyone?), the city has a legendary flamenco tradition, and there are lots of language schools to choose from. Plus, as home to one of Andalusia's foremost universities, it enjoys a hip, young vibe thanks to the number of students.
Cons: The accent here isn't exactly the clearest—Andalusians are infamous in Spain for dropping letters, running words together, and the like.
Travel tip: Seek out an intercambio (language exchange)—many bars popular with university students host them fairly regularly. You might even end up with a new friend.
Pros: As Spain's third-largest city, Valencia has a lot to offer: a great drinks and dining scene, awe-inspiring attractions, and plenty of beaches in and around the city. Learning Spanish in Valencia is easy thanks to the clear local accent.
Cons: Spanish holds co-official status in Valencia, and many locals speak Valencian, one of the many regional languages in Spain. Valencian is officially considered a dialect of Catalan, and some people prefer to speak it rather than Spanish (though this isn't too common in the city center).
Travel tip: Enjoy the metropolitan, cosmopolitan vibe in Valencia by checking out one of the many exhibitions or performances taking place around town at any given time, where Spanish will more likely be spoken.
Cons: Just like Valencia, Bilbao—and the Basque Country in general—has its own co-official language: in this case, Basque. Whereas other regional languages such as Catalan, Valencian, and Galician all share some similarities with Spanish, Basque does not. In fact, it's completely unrelated to any other language on the planet.
Travel tip: The Basque Country is home to some of the best food in Spain. Head to one of Bilbao's myriad excellent bars and restaurants and strike up a conversation with your server, or with a group of locals seated nearby.
Pros: Lots of people learn Spanish in Seville, one of Spain's most beautiful cities. It offers an ideal location that's well-connected to both Madrid and the beach, as well as an idyllic Andalusian passion that's synonymous with many visitors' visions of Spain.
Cons: A big drawback is that the locals speak with a very strong accent, like in Granada. And if you can't stand the heat, avoid Seville in the summer—it's the hottest (literally) destination in mainland Europe.
Travel tip: If you're up for the challenge, make Seville your home base for traveling around Andalusia. If you can get used to the accent here in the sunny south, you can handle anything.
Pros: Barcelona is an essential stop on any Spain itinerary for good reason. And not only is the city absolutely stunning, but the Spanish here is very clear.
Cons: You guessed it—Barcelona is a Catalan hotspot where many residents prefer to speak the local language over Spanish. Additionally, the city's status as one of Spain's most-visited cities means that English is quite common as well.
Travel tip: Embrace the challenge and try to work a few simple Catalan words and phrases into your speech. It'll put a big smile on anyone's face when they hear you making the effort, and may warm them up to speaking Spanish a bit.
Pros: Malaga's seaside location and wealth of historical attractions dating from Roman and Moorish times makes it a fascinating addition to any Andalusian itinerary.
Cons: Like Seville and Granada, the Andalusian Spanish spoken in Malaga can be challenging for new learners to understand. Plus, its popularity among British expats means that English is quite common as well.
Travel tip: Malaga is home to a wealth of fabulous and fascinating museums, such as the Picasso Museum (Pablo Picasso was born in the city) and even a wine museum. Explore as many as you can by using a Spanish-language audio guide to practice your listening—the accent used will likely be much more standard and easier to understand than the local version.