Exploring Culture While Studying Abroad in Spain

by Andy Steves

At first glance, Spanish culture is characterized by a sunny climate, sangria, tapas, afternoon siestas, and parties that continue until sunrise. Spending time in the various regions of the country, though, will open your eyes to the specific personality of Spanish cities, such as Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, and Seville.

When studying abroad in Spain, take time to explore the country as a whole and soak up the culture of each of these groups of people - the experiences right at your doorstep are endless!

Plaza de Espana in Seville
Plaza de Espana in Seville. Photo by Kelly Holland


Endlessly proud of their Catalan heritage, the people of Barcelona are thriving, living in the most stable and industrialized city in Spain. From the expansive boulevards around Las Ramblas to the winding streets of the Born District, the city is known as the Paris of Spain with Modernist and Art Nouveau architecture at every turn, sunny beaches, and delicious paella. Don't miss a flamenco show at Tarantos, sangria and paella making class at Travel Bar on the beach, a hamburguesa at La Xampanyeria, climbing up Montjuic, or a swim on Barceloneta Beach. Don't forget to try out your Spanish here and notice the Catalan influence in their dialect, but there are plenty of other subjects that are valuable to study in Barcelona too!


The capital of Spain has its own specific feel, whether you're in the posh banking district or the trendy Chueca. The Spanish culture of Madrid will feel remarkably different from that in Barcelona, in a city that is known for their museums, nightlife, and cuisine. From Puerto del Sol to Gran Via and Plaza de Espana, there are dozens of galleries, theaters, music venues, and bustling corner bars to pop into. On Sundays, visit the famous El Rastro outdoor flea market or find yourself taking in a traditional bullfight. On Friday nights, eat dinner at 10 p.m. and take a vuelta or stroll around the block, sampling the tinto de verona at each stop. Take time to notice the vibe of Madrid in comparison to the rest of the country, traditions here are strong and unwavering despite the push for modernity. 

Capital of Spain

Did we make you totally torn between studying in Madrid or Barcelona? Don't worry, we got you covered!

South of Spain

Head here for a culture so strong it's palatable. Cities like Seville and Granada have amazing histories and diverse geography. The culture here feels very Mediterranean, with fertile landscapes that produce some of the largest quantities of fruits and vegetables, as well as olive oil, in Europe. Even more importantly though, the South of Spain is wine country, with their specialty being sweet sherry. Bars and cafes are institutions, with wine served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As a student here, take time to explore the towns up and down the coast that are hidden in the landscape and untouched by western ideals. In addition, many study programs located here are extremely focused on learning the language by immersing you in the culture through home stays


While not a region of its own, the culture of tapas in Spain as a whole is hard to miss. This social activity is something that requires leaving any preconceived notions at the door, and being open to try just about anything once! Jamon Serrano or Iberico, served in thin deli slices on bread or spicy chorizo are the center of most meals. Gazpacho, tortillas (potato omelets) and patatas bravas are fun sides, and then there is the fish! Whether it's served in paella or in small dishes at the bar counter, get in there and don't forget to try the salty anchovies!

Gear up for study abroad in Spain now!