I will be studying abroad in Spain next spring- the problem is I haven't decided where! I know that I'm not going to Madrid or Barcelona (too many American students!) although I will certainly take weekend trips to those cities. Right now I'm choosing between Granada, Sevilla, Córdoba, Valencia, Cádiz, and Toledo. A little about me:
Which city should I choose? Any and all input is welcomed and appreciated! Thanks in advance.
We expected to love Granada most on our 2 week tour of Spain, but we really loved Seville more. The Spaniards we hung out with universally agreed that Cordoba (Spain) was their favorite town in Spain. A friend and serious lover-of-Spain said her favorite town is Cadiz, which looks gorgeous.
Hands down the most gorgeous town we went to in Spain was Ronda-- it's on top of a massive rocky plateau that has a huge crack in it, so they built a bridge to join the two halves. Hemingway and Orson Welles spent a lot of time there. Not big enough to base out of maybe, but you should make a point to see it. Here's a photo or two of the bridge and one of the view from town.
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Oh this is so difficult because my favorite city is on your list. Ana is right in that Valencia and the region that bears its name also speaks Valenciano, so you hear that a lot in Valencia mixed in with Castellano.
That being said, if you're really proficient in Spanish, then I think you could still enjoy Valencia and learn a lot there while also picking up bits of the local dialect along the way. Valencia has many people who have come from other places and don't speak Valenciano. You'll have no problem communicating.
There are homestays available and many international students at the Universitat de Valencia where Castellano would be the common language.
As far as history and architecture, Valencia is rich! Just north, you'll find a huge Carthagian ruin that Hannibal came through and conquered at Sagunto. The Valencia Cathedral Church houses the true holy grail. It was built between the 13th and 15th centuries, but construction continued over time, so it has portions that are Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque, and Neoclassical. This isn't unique for Valencia. Walking around the historic center, you'll find Moorish architecture and a beautiful collection of Baroque churches. The Plaza de Toros de Valencia and the beautiful Estació del Nord are both gorgeous as many others (too many to mention here).
In stark contrast to the old historic center, you'll love the architecture of Calatrava who designed most of the buildings at the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. The entire area is gorgeous and a nice area to relax and study in during cooler days as it sits at one end of the Túria gardens and has a stream running past it.
As for night life, Valencia has a ton. The Barri del Carmen is a popular area with tons of bars, nightclubs, and great restaurants that stay open until morning.
And for festivals, Valencia has the best of Spain las Fallas that takes over the city every March. You'll have mascletás (ground fireworks), traditional fireworks (but better), dancing, music, great food, and building-tall statues they burn to the ground on March 19th. The whole month is a party though and a beautiful deeply Valencian celebration. La La Tomatina is nearby in Buñol, there's an annual Batalla de las Flores in Valencia in the summer at the end of the Fería del Verano, and you have to go do the Corpus Cristi parade and stand under the waterbuckets (with an umbrella).
Also, while some parts of Spain no longer do bullfights and bull runs, Valencia still embraces them. The small villages do their own bull runs in the streets during the summer and fall. I like the ones in Pucol where it's small and easy to see from behind the barricades. They do one in the day and another at night with their horns lit up. Bull fights are difficult for me, but I saw one just to experience it. My favorite are the campeonatos de recortes which are fun, skillful, exciting, and the bulls aren't hurt.
Anyway, you have mountains nearby, skiing an hour away near Teruel, tons of amazing day trips, beautiful beaches, music, and the architecture, festivals, and nightlife that you are looking for. If you want pure Spanish with no distractions, then Seville or Granada would be my next choices as they both have similar richness of history, architecture, and nightlife without the dialect, but I personally loved picking up bits of Valenciano and still managed to improve my Spanish while living there.
P.S. To me, Córdoba is a bit small and isn't near enough to the beach. Cádiz is gorgous, but an island, so you're landlocked and dependent on a ferry. Toledo is beautiful as well, but also smaller than my three favorites and also very landlocked. Visit these three, but they aren't as great for study.
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All this cities are wonderful, but definitely I don´t recomend you to go to Valencia, because they speak a dialect, therefore if you want to improve your spanish, it´s not a good option.
I don´t know much about Toledo, I have been just once and only for a day. It´s beautiful, but to me it seems the perfect city to visit one day, or maybe two days, but I don´t think this city has the nightlife you are looking for.
I have been in Cadiz, and is wonderful in summer, but it´s a very very small city is like a little town. In summer is great! and also great to visit, but I don´t think this is the right option for you.
Between Granada, Seville and Cordoba (Spain), it´s a difficult decisión. But I will go for Granada. All of them are beatiful, but Granada have mountains & sea, and the university of Granada is famous, therefore there are many students that want to go there to study.
I will also have a look at Malaga, it has a lot of night life and right know there are a lot of Erasmus in here.
I guess it will be easy to have a shared flat because there are also a lot of students in here.
Hope I can help you with it.
If you have any other question do not hesitate to contact me again.
I studied abroad in Spain when I was in college and had a chance to visit many of the towns in question and have returned 3 times since. Here is my take: Granada is close to skiing, not too far from beaches, and is centrally located for many day trips. Good night life, but can be quiet too. Séville is a large city. Tons to do, great architecture, night life, festivals, transportation hub to many destinations both in and out of Spain. Cordoba (Spain) is rather small and makes for a good day trip, not a long extended stay. I have never been to Valencia but with the dialect issues, I might try to stay in the south or central if you want Castilian Spanish. Cadiz is a very large city on the water. I have not been, but it is not far from Morocco (if you want to do day trips), Portugal or Gibraltar as well. It probably has a wonderful night life and festivals since it is so large. Finally, Toledo is beautiful, but small. I would not want to study there. You could definitely entertain yourself for the weekend, but I think you are looking for a larger city. Let me know if you have any other questions.
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Valencia is for sure a great destination for foreign students. Absolutely. Despite being the third city in Spain, it's not too big. Great beaches, history, food, culture... About 1 million inhabitants.
The Spanish language here it is also quite easy to understand. If you go to southern Spain, the Spanish spoken there has much more accent. I've read somebody told you we speak here a dialect: that's true, it is catalan, but 100% of people speaks Spanish as well and they will speak to you in that language (in fact, a lot of people can't speak catalan...). It also depends on which university you want to study (UV or UPV).
If you don't choose Valencia, among your other options I would choose GranadaGranada. Possibly most beautiful city in Spain! Cons if you compare with Valencia: language with strongest accent -andaluz-, smaller, no beach, worse public transport...
Finally, Toledo is also great :)
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Hey hey I'm German and did my semester abroad in Cádiz in 2013. I loved Cadiz, it's a peninsula with about 120 000 habitants. Almost none of the locals (not event students) speak English so it's perfect for practising Spanish. However the Spanish they speak there is a hard dialect so at the beginning it will be hard to understand them. But after a month your ears will adapt and you will understand the local words and pronunciation. You said you wouldn't want to be with too many Americans which I completely understand. In Cadiz however are a lot of Erasmus students about 500 and they usually have an awesome community and group building so you will also meet hundreds of other nationalities and amazing people. As far as I heard it from friends, is that this big group of Erasmus people is a speciality of the smaller cities, since in Madrid and Barcelona are a lot of foreigners, but they spread a lot (different clubs, bars and regions). Although I wouldn't be too repellent to other foreigners, because what I noticed is, that the locals are in their normal life. The Erasmus people and other international students are kind of in a holiday. Everything new and exciting and you have to experience everything and party three times a week. So I think a perfect balance of your lifestyle and still connecting with locals, is as you said living in a family, being friends with locals but also have some international friends for the holiday needs ;) Well, but to be honest I couldn't live with more conservative parents anymore so choosing to stay with a family would be a too big loss of independence, that's of course your decision. But if you find a language partner you still get to meet their family and spent time with them.
Well finally to the decision Cadiz or another city. I really fell in looove with Cadiz, as did everybody else who stayed there. It can't offer you as much variety in clubs, bars and activities like the major cities. But I just really enjoyed the small area, you can walk really everywhere. You have only in the city 4 beautiful beaches with perfect sand. No other spanish city can offer you that. In the spring and fall you can surf and play beach volleyball. I never regret choosing Cadiz, but I also understand that some people don't love the beach as much as I do or need more variety in activities, people and streets.
Granada is a beautiful alternative and cultural city. But has no beach :D
Seville is beautiful as well and bigger than Cadiz. But get's unbearably hot in the summer like dry 100 degrees Fahrenheit (45* Celsius)
Cordoba (Spain) is also a very cultural city due to the history with the arabs. For my taste it seems very american with big streets, you kind of have to drive everywhere by car and the higher class living at the hill.
Can't say much to the other cities. I think you will have a blast anyways. Just check your core desires and chose after seeing some videos and if you could imagine living in the city ;)
Well sorry for my bad grammar and spelling. This all just blurred out of my head :D If you have more questions feel free to write ;)
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