Living in España for a year was incredible to say the least! I got to travel all over Spain, visit other nearby European countries, and make life-long friendships. My main homestay was in Madrid with a family and two other study-abroad sisters from Italy and Chicago, which helped me learn Catalán much faster than I would have as a tourist. I studied Art History and Political Science at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and every Wednesday my Art History class was either taught in the Prado Museum itself, or we took a fieldtrip to a museum in another Spanish city. Here are the highlights of living in Spain.
As I mentioned, my favorite class was taught inside the Prado museum. There is an abundance of famous artists in Spain and I got to study some of my art heroes up close and personal: Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Diego Velázquez, El Greco, Goya, Joan Miró and so many more. After class I would take a jog or a walk in Retiro Parque near the Royal Palace.
On the weekends from Thursday-Sunday Madrid’s nightlife is 24/7 and Puerta del Sol is the place to be! The nightclubs don’t close until 4 AM but there’s a twilight hour before the metro trains open up again at 6 AM, so everyone goes to eat churros and chocolate at a nearby Chocolatería. My favorite nightclub is Palacio. The building was converted from an old palace into an entertainment venue and has been one of Madrid’s best nightclubs forever.
Other things not to be missed in Madrid:
Tapas and drinks at the Plaza Mayor
Real Madrid Fútbol Game at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
*Bull Fight: As a life-long vegan and animal lover, I have to say this experience was rather devastating to watch and we didn’t stay for the whole event. But it is absolutely a part of Spanish culture and history that most people enjoy without issue!
Visit Barcelona for the beaches and the ART! You don’t have to go to a museum to find the artwork here. Instead, the entire city is an experiential art piece. Around … you feel like you are stepping into a Dalí painting just passing by the creepy La Sagrada Familia Gothic cathedral, the Casa Batlló, or wandering along the Park Güell, designed by Gaudí. Another awesome way to experience the city art is by night via the Casa Mila La Pedrera light shows. Many people say that Madrid is like the “New York” of Spain and Barcelona is the “Los Angeles,” which I found to be true. The people are more laid back, the weather is better and the beachy, artistic vibe reminded me of home.
My favorite region of Spain is Andalusia. The Muslim and Moorish influence is reflected more heavily in the southern part of the country and I love the typical Andalusian flower pot style that lines most of the walls around the neighborhoods. I dare say Andalusia also has the best Flamenco. We spent a week there visiting everything. Make sure you don’t miss:
Seville and the Alcázar Castle
Córdoba and the La Mezquita ruins
Granada, Alhambra and Moorish quarter
Málaga & Marbella Beach
Other Great Cities
Bilbao – Guggenheim Museum
Toledo – The Imperial City, capital of the ancient Visigoth Kingdom and the best place to buy Swords and Armor
Segovia – known for the Roman aqueduct, Gothic temples