The Ultimate Studying Abroad in Spain Bucket List

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GoAbroad shares the most epic adventures for study abroad in Spain

Situated on the Iberian peninsula, Spain is one of the most beautiful, historically significant countries in Europe. It's eclectic heritage and long-time traditions also make it one of the most culturally rich places you can visit. As a country that holds on to ancient customs, studying abroad in Spain will help you discover what really happens during siesta time and why lunch is the biggest meal of the day.

Spain is a relatively small country, but the 17 autonomous regions within Spain are as different as they can be. Whether you're looking for a relaxing green countryside filled with vineyards and rolling hills, a sunny beach with year-round mild temperatures, or incredible works of art and architectural feats dating back hundreds of years, Spain has it.

And we’re here to tell you it with this list of things to know studying abroad in Spain. Kick back and get your wheels turning, because you have tons of plans to make to complete our ultimate studying abroad in Spain bucket list! 

Silhouette of person standing on rock in front of warm sunrise in Oairsun, Spain

Studying abroad in Spain is the literal embodiment of #GOALS

What makes Spain study abroad so great?

Whether you're a foodie, adrenaline junkie, or history buff, Spain study abroad will keep you occupied and thrilled for the duration of your stay. And if you do manage to do and see all Spain has to offer, hop on a quick flight to some of its island chains and explore more unique customs and cultures. Spain’s study abroad programs will have you perfecting your Spanish with new local friends, dancing flamenco during their long lunches, getting lost in the wide open Spanish countryside, and trying new foods like rabo de toro, or tail of a bull.

Studying abroad in Spain is a gateway to the rest of Europe, opening doors through the entire continent and world beyond. Each country in Europe is so closely connected, traveling from country to country is like traveling from state to state. Learning multiple languages is common, adhering to local customs is fun, and meeting new people is easy. It's hard to grasp the full nature of the country in a short time, but it's worth any amount of time you can devote to it. If you're going to study abroad in Spain, there are some tips to make sure you get the most out of your time there. 

So, without further ado, here are the top things you must do/eat/see/drink/photograph while studying abroad in Spain.

Let us do the work for you — get matched with stellar programs in Spain

Must-Do’s for students in Spain

Spain is full of exciting and unique adventures and things to do. If you’re thinking participating in a study abroad program in Spain, think doing things that are completely unique to Spain! Remember not to neglect Spain’s most popular tourist attractions either, though.

1. Snowboarding and/or skiing the Sierra Nevadas

Adrenaline junkies will love skiing or snowboarding the Sierra Nevada mountains of Spain. The Sierra Nevadas, literally meaning snowy mountain range, are a soaring, rugged mountain range. They are the highest mountains in Europe after the Alps. The road up to the ski resort is the highest road in Europe and offers incredible views of the olive groves and white villages below. The slopes of the Sierra Nevadas are wide-open and blanketed with snow for seven months of the year.

2. Admire Gaudi’s architecture 

Art buffs should head on over to Barcelona to see Antoni Gaudí's work come alive. Not only are Gaudí's buildings and home well-preserved around the entire city, but the stone quarry Casa Milà literally comes alive after dark with projections in the Passeig de Gràcia Courtyard.

3. Get tan on the coast

If you love the beach, head south to Andalusia's Costa del Sol, where locals joke that there are 364 days of sun each year. This is one of the best things to know studying abroad in Spain! The year-round mild temperatures make almost any day a beach day. You'll also find some of the best seafood and paella Spain has to offer in some of these beach villages.

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Man jumping into crystal blue water with camera on selfie stick.

Dive right into studying abroad in Spain.

4. Speak only Spanish for a day

One of the biggest draws of a study abroad program in Spain is learning fluent Spanish. It can be scary when you’re thrown into a place where everyone speaks a different language, but it’s the best way to learn. One thing you *must try* is speaking only Spanish for a day. You might be surprised to learn you know more than you think!

5. Make a REAL friendship with a Spaniard

What is one thing you want to take away from studying abroad in Spain? Hopefully, relationships and s are high on your list. Global networking is a great professional outcome of living abroad. But making real friendships that last a lifetime is a great personal outcome. When you return home, you’ll have people to come visit your country and see your culture, and you’ll always have someone to go back to Spain to visit. 

Your Spain study abroad bucket list should include making at least one REAL friendship with a Spaniard. This can take work, because making friends as an adult isn’t really as easy as it seems (*flashback to kindergarten and asking people to play with you*). However, with all those amazing Spaniards around you, at least one of them is cool enough to hang with regularly, no!? 

Show the Spaniards you really appreciate everything they’re doing to help you acclimate into their culture by making a real friendship with them while you’re studying abroad in Spain.

6. View the Guernica (and get creeped out by Goya)

Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art is famous for having some of the best collections of Spanish and European art in the entire world. Ready for a really epic afternoon? Follow this art-laden urban trail:

In one corner of the Golden Triangle, you’ll find the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, which houses the world-famous painted “Guernica” from Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (he created this in response to the bombing of the Basque village Guernica). It’s big. And gorgeous. Onwards — Walking north, you’ll come across the Museo del Prado, which contains some of the most well known and sought after art, like works from Spanish artist Francisco Goya’s — his creepy painting, The Third of May 1808, is a real show-stopper. Completing the trifecta is Thyssen-Bornemisza, which has a large private art collection, gathered for over 70 years by a prosperous family from Switzerland. 

Get ready to be cool AND cultured. One of the things to know studying abroad in Spain is there’s so much art to see, appreciate, and… get creeped out by (okay, Goya’s painting of the dog isn’t too scary) but still, be sure to enjoy art in Spain while studying abroad.

9 BEST Universities in Spain Beckoning International Students 

Fresh fruits and veggies on display at La Boqueria

Snacks and a siesta? Si, por favor!

7. Technology. Detox.

Thanks to good ol’ technology, we’re always connected to everyone, no matter how far. This can be a good thing (“Hi mom and dad!”), but also serve as a distraction from our surroundings. And who wants to be uber distracted with back-home-drama when we’re studying in Spain?! 

For modern travelers, technology can be both an awesome tool or a serious crutch. We can never get lost because we always have a map at the touch of a button. Don’t know what to eat? Find some well-reviewed restaurants nearby. 

But if you really want a good challenge, put the phone away for a few days while studying abroad in Spain and see what happens. Talk to someone — in Spanish of course. Ask for directions, or just get lost. Find the most out-of-the-way restaurant (bonus points for no English menus) and order the most interesting sounding tapa. 

Go off the grid. Put the phone, iPad, or laptop away for one full weekend and get out and explore Spain the good old fashioned way. You might find that not having easy access to the rest of the world is the best thing that’s ever happened to you!

8. Stay out til sunrise at the discoteca

The party in Spain starts early and ends late—in fact, It’s not uncommon to see Spaniards leaving the discos after sunrise! It may surprise you to know that many Spaniards don’t drink alcohol, they just love the social aspect of the party. It won’t take you too many dance parties and late nights out to understand why.

Whether you want to dance the night away with a glass of local Spanish wine or a Coca-Cola, every study abroad student in Spain should do as the locals do and stay out til sunrise at the discotecas at least once while in Spain.

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9. Fall in love with Seville

Head to Seville during your Spain study abroad, known by some as the most romantic city in Spain. In winter, you can ice skate on a pop-up ice skating rink, followed by a romantic carriage ride through the cobblestone streets. Then, visit the Real Alcázar, or royal summer palace of old kings and queens. Seville is famous for flamenco dancing, and anyone who grew up in Seville knows the steps. Visit a flamenco bar and as soon as the music plays, everyone will start this loud yet seductive and sultry dance! You can catch a free show with dinner anywhere around the city.

close up of fading, but colorful Spanish tiles

Your summer, semester, or year in Spain will be full of bright colors and the BEST people.

Must-Eats while studying abroad in Spain

Are you ready to break the mold and try new and local foods? Spain has plenty of exceptional dishes. Some you may have heard of, like paella; others may be completely new and bizarre, like criadillas. If you do get the opportunity to study abroad in Spain, make sure you try some of the local flavor. Be open-minded!

1. Iberian Ham

We double dog dare you to make an entire meal out of Iberian Ham. 🐷  If there's one food you must try while studying abroad in Spain, it's the jamón ibérico, or cured Iberian ham. If you're queasy the site of raw meat, don't look up at the ham legs hanging from the ceiling of most markets or shops; just enjoy the plate of Iberian ham drizzled with fresh Spanish olive oil from local olive groves. This ham comes from an ancient pig found only on the Iberian peninsula. It's cured up to four years, resulting in the most intensely flavored, decadent and thinly sliced meat around.

2. Eat Papas Bravas at every tapas stop

While you can make a meal out of jamón ibérico alone, a good side pairing might be papas bravas, often served as a tapa in Spain. Papas bravas are fried potatoes covered in a delicious tomato-based sauce. Each chef makes his or her sauce recipe with a special secret ingredient, so it's almost impossible to duplicate — which is why we recommend you try it at multiple places while studying in Spain.

Watch out, it's easy to get addicted to these delicious little morsels!

Crowded Barcelona beach with perfectly blue water and sailboats in the background.

Take time for a little Sunday-Funday beach time in Barcelona.

3. Don’t forget the Paella!

Paella is to the Spanish dinner plate as scarves are to study abroad students in Europe. Trying paella is an absolute must when studying abroad in Spain. Though you could easily make all your meals out of tapas only, head to a beach town and try the freshest paella Spain has to offer. Most restaurants will offer an option of seafood paella or meat paella, and both are phenomenal. Bring a friend, because portions are usually big enough to split between two people!

4. Churros and Torrijas

You didn’t come all the way to Spain to skip out on dessert, did you? Calories don’t count while studying abroad, so be sure to top off every meal (or every plaza stroll) with a sweet treat. Our favorites are churros (con chocolate if you dare) and torrijas, fritters soaked in condensed milk with a zest of orange. You’ll love eyeing the bakeries and trying every option! We’ll probably see you there, because #fatkids.

Must-Drinks when you study abroad in Spain 🍹

If you’re not a big drinker, Spanish coffee is outstanding, and Coca-Cola is considered a real treat. But Spanish wine is known around the world as some of the best. And when beer and wine are cheaper than soda, you’re going to need some go-to drinks.

1. Summer wine is perfect all year long

The best drink of Spain is the tinto con limón, also called the tinto de verano, or summer wine. The name is misleading because you can get a tinto de verano year round — and you will want to. It's similar to a red wine spritzer, with half red wine and half a fizzy lemon drink. Put a few ice cubes in, close your eyes, and you’ll immediately start brainstorming ways to become a study abroad student in Spain for life rather than just a summer or semester. 

2. You can’t go wrong with local beer

There are a few local beers in Spain. In Andalusia, try the Cruzcampo. Almost anywhere, if you order a cerveza you'll get a Cruzcampo beer. However, if you order a cerveza you will be marked as a tourist. Make sure you order correctly: a caña is a small beer, a jarra is a large beer, and a doble is a double. These are the only words you need to say when asking for a beer and the server will know exactly what you mean.

[Should I study abroad in Barcelona or Madrid?]

Woman walking down shady alley in Barcelona

Don’t forget to unplug and really explore your city.

3. Sangria

The sun, sand, and a drink in your hand. Lastly, when in Spain, drink sangria. Especially at beach bars, sangria is one of the most popular must-drinks of Spain. Sangria is a sweet drink, so be careful if you're out in the sun, but the fresh fruit in the pitchers brings out the rich, delicious flavor of local Spanish wines. Sangria pairs perfectly with your new favorite rooftop restaurant.

4. Cava

Who says you have to study abroad in Champagne to appreciate the fine art of bubbles? Grab your study abroad buddies and pour a flute of Cava — the local champagne and an incredible start to a fun night out.

5. Kalimotxo

Continuing our obsession with red wine, add a splash of Coca-Cola for a new twist on your childhood fave (the cola, not the wine).

6. Don’t worry — there are plenty of nonalcoholic beverages to try, too!

Life in Spain for study abroad students shouldn’t all be red wine and giggles. You’ll love sipping on Valencian Horchata (#didyouknow horchata originated in Spain, not Mexico?!). We also highly recommend trying Granizados — Spanish slushies — and Casera, flavored bubbly water, while studying in Spain.

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Must-See’s during study abroad programs in Spain

Spain is full of history and culture. There are plenty of sights in Spain that might make you think you’re in a dream — places are so unique that they’re worth traveling hours out of the way to visit. One thing is for sure: there are lots of must-see sights if you do a study abroad program in Spain.

1. La Alhambra overlooks Granada in all her glory

Study abroad programs in Spain give you plenty of time to be a tourist — or even venture off the beaten path — and see some really incredible sights. La Alhambra in Granada tops the list. Built as a Moorish palace and fortress, the Catholics decided not to destroy it when they came into power. When Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand took over, they loved the Moorish architecture so much they kept it largely as it was. The Moorish architectural influence can still be seen all over the city of Granada and Southern Spain.

2. There really is a smurf town!

Júzcar is a little known village deep in the heart of the mountains of Cádiz. It's largely untouched by tourism, although that is slowly changing. It's the only completely blue town in all of Spain. When the “Smurfs” movie came out, Spain hosted a premier party as part of a publicity stunt, and painted every building in the white village blue. It attracted such attention that they decided to keep everything blue, even after the five-year contract! There are statues of smurfs, smurf souvenir shops, and smurf paintings on some of the buildings. Even the restaurants have smurf-themed food! If you're curious, smurf is pitufo in Spanish.

3. The Andalusian horses

Andalusian horses are world famous; these beautiful white horses are trained to perform incredible feats. All over the world, you can find Andalusian horse shows that will dazzle you. The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, where these fine horses come from and are trained, is right in Southern Spain in the village of Jerez de la Frontera. Hop on a train or fly into the small airport in Jerez and see the original Andalusian beauties right in their home town.

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Castle on a green hilltop in the Spanish countryside

Didn’t think study abroad would be a fairytale? Think again.

4. Drive the charming white village route through Southern Spain

Finally, the white village route is an impressive drive through Andalusia. White villages dot the rolling green hills of Southern Spain, creating a beautiful contrast. Drive the whole route or part of the route through the province of Cádiz, making sure to stop at at least one of the towns and walk through the small and winding streets for an incredible experience and a trip back in time. If you think this sounds like the perfect Spain study abroad weekend trip… you’re right!

Must-book weekend trips 

Like, if you have to leave—I guess. 😊 

1. Say Ola Lisboa! – Lisbon, Portugal

Take the San Fran of Europe by storm with a weekend away in Lisbon. Wander the hilly, winding black and white tiled sidewalks from Baixa and Chiado down to Alfama by the water. Gorge yourself on some of the best coffee and pastries around before continuing your walking tour as you absorb a massive history lesson Lisbon, Portugal, and every great explorer. It’s a weekend trip you won’t soon forget! 

2. Put on the Biarritz – Biarritz, France

Want to take a weekend away and spend it on the beach like royalty? Biarritz is where French royalty has been spending their vacay time since the 1800s, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? Surfer dudes and dudettes will LOVE hitting the waves in this world-famous surf spot. Crown yourself king or queen of the weekend warriors with this destination— just a hop, skip, and a jump across the northern border of Spain.

3. Pop Ovah to London for Holiday – London, England

Thank GOODNESS for budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet, am I right? Your hop across the pond for a posh weekend wandering around Westminster, Notting Hill, and Greenwich, has never been easier (or more affordable— save those pounds for a trip to Harrods!). You certainly won’t want to miss a walk across Abbey Road or a stroll through Hyde Park— and if you happen upon the Queen, maybe a spot of tea?  

4. Marrakech You Later, Spain! – Marrakech, Morocco

What? You can spend a quick weekend in AFRICA? Yeah, it’s pretty cool, right? Hop on a plane to Marrakech and you’ll be spending your weekend in the warm, North African sun wandering through medinas, ogling beautiful hand-crafted rugs and leather goods, and hopefully haggling for that super cute scarf. Then you’ll relax with some mint tea over tagine, with the strongest Insta game in front of every painted tile you see. 

Woman walking down cobblestoned street in Candelario, Spain

Take at LEAST one solo trip during your time in Spain.

Don’t YOU DARE leave Spain without taking these photos…

Anywhere you go, you can find some fabulous photogenic places in Spain. While some are popular among tourists, others remain relatively unknown, giving you the best opportunity to get your perfect photo.

1. The Puente Nuevo

puente nuevo
And all the study abroad students in Spain went "OOOOH!"

The Puente Nuevo in Ronda is a little-known modern marvel in Andalusia. Ronda is a small town built on a cliff almost 2,500 feet above sea level with only one bridge to access the town. The one bridge, called Puente Nuevo, spans a deep chasm that is otherwise nearly impossible to cross. The bridge has a dark history of torture and betrayal, but today makes a stunning backdrop for photos. 

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2. Málaga’s famous port

malaga port
Spot celebrities while studying in Spain

Cruise down to Málaga to visit the famous port, and you might just spot a celebrity on one of the yachts! Try some fresh seafood at a restaurant on the marina, then head across the street to the ancient Moorish castle. The sights of the city laid out before you will only get better as you climb higher up the castle. At the peak of this fortress, you'll have a 360-degree view of the entire city of Málaga and the Spanish countryside beyond. With mountains that slope gently into the Mediterranean Sea, your celebrity sightings might end up second to epic nature ones.

3. La Mezquita of Córdoba

la mezquita de cordoba
Take a break from the books and visit this gorgeous place

One of the most famous photos in Spain is the mosque/church of Córdoba—basque in its peaceful nature between snaps! It's one single building of worship that was shared between the Moors and the Christians in peace and harmony. While the church side is more richly decorated in gold and intricate carvings, most people will recognize the plainer striped columns of the mosque side. It's a gorgeous place to for reflecting on and appreciating life as a study abroad student!

4. Setenil de las Bodegas 

mountain tunnel village spain
Just don't get lost in the mountain tunnels and miss your classes!

Have you always wanted to explore the village built out of the tunnels of a mountain? Well, now's your chance! While most of Andalusia’s villages were built on top of mountains to better defend themselves against invading armies, one village grew out of the caves and caverns underneath a mountain. Setenil de las Bodegas is hard to find and somewhat difficult to get to, but it’s well worth a trip if you plan to spend time studying abroad in Spain. Some of the houses, bars, and restaurants are actually built into the stone of the mountain, and you have to drive under the mountain to get there! Just don't forget to charge your camera first.

[Compare your top study abroad programs in Spain side-by-side with MyGoAbroad]

Hit me with the best study abroad programs in Spain

Study abroad programs help guide you to a new appreciation of different cultures, traditions, and lifestyles overseas. They take away some of the uncertainty of starting a new path and give you the confidence you need to make your dream a reality. There are lots of programs to study abroad in Spain that can help get you started on this new adventure.

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1. CISabroad

CISabroad has different options for studying abroad. You can choose to whether to study, work, live, or travel abroad for a quarter year, a semester, a month in winter, or a summer term. CISabroad can also place you in a region based on your interests to get the most out of your time abroad. With 120 programs in 22 countries, you can find the right program for you with CISabroad. Read reviews of CIS Abroad or visit their site.

Related: Read reviews of CISabroad programs in Spain |

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2. International Studies Abroad (ISA)

International Studies Abroad is another program that will help you access the world. ISA has been around since 1987 and helps students get placed in Africa, Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific. ISA offers scholarships, grants, and other helpful financial resources to pay for your program. ISA is part of the WorldStrides Organization, the largest and most trusted educational travel company in the world. To read reviews or find more information ISA, visit their website.

Related: Read reviews of ISA - International Studies Abroad programs in Spain |

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3. IES Abroad

Another great study abroad program to look into is International Education of Students Abroad. IES Abroad was founded in 1950 so they have over 60 years of placing students in study abroad programs worldwide. With over 125 programs in over 19 countries across Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, IES Abroad has the right program for you. 

IES Abroad is one of the best programs for studying abroad in Spain because their biggest programs are in Spain and Italy, with 15 programs in each country. Read more IES Abroad by visiting their site.

Related: Read reviews of IES Abroad programs in Spain |

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4. Semester at Sea

One of the best study abroad programs for those who want to see more than one country is Semester at Sea, founded in 1963. It's a multi-country study abroad program aboard a ship open to all students of all majors. It's a floating campus that lets you earn college credits while collecting passport stamps! Read reviews of this highly rated program or visit their site.

Related: Read reviews of Semester at Sea programs in Spain |

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5. American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS)

American Institute for Foreign Study gives you internship experience while you study abroad. If you want to study abroad in Spain, choose between Barcelona, Granada, or Salamanca with AIFS. AIFS has been a leader in the industry since 1964 and offers a comprehensive program that includes airfare, housing, insurance, and some other costs. 

If AIFS sounds interesting to you, read some reviews or visit their website.

Related: Read reviews of American Institute for Foreign Study programs in Spain |

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6. University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC)

University Studies Abroad Consortium has been providing well-rounded, credible programs in unique and non-traditional locations for over 30 years. There is plenty of flexibility in the length and time of study with a wide range of courses to choose from. Study abroad in Spain with USAC and deepen your knowledge of Spanish and Spain with no language prerequisite! Read more USAC or visit their site.

Related: Read reviews of University Studies Abroad Consortium programs in Spain |

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7. Academic Programs International (API)

Academic Programs International was founded in 1997 to provide high quality study abroad programs for U.S. students. 

In addition to studying abroad, API's program includes teaching, interning, volunteering, gap year programs, and even high school programs in 29 countries around the world. To read reviews or gain more information on API, visit their website.

Related: Read reviews of Academic Programs International programs in Spain |

Studying abroad in Spain IS as good as it gets

A beautiful sunset an El Bufadero in Corral, Spain

Wait, is this even real? (Yeah, it is— ready to board that plane to Spain now?)

If you're thinking a study abroad program in Spain, you're already one step closer to your goal. There is a lot of research that goes into choosing the right program but with so many options, you are bound to find the right fit for you.

Spain is an incredible country with so much to see and do. No other country has as much unique culture and personality as Spain, from midday siestas to the glamorous flamenco dresses women wear while dancing to the sultry music. The hardest part studying abroad in Spain might be adjusting to their food time schedule, but once you realize there is a reason for how they organize the hours of their day, you'll start to fall right in step with the locals.

If you're ready to jump into a learning environment that's as warm and inviting as it is beautiful, Spain is the country for you. Perfect your Spanish, learn a different culture, see some incredible natural and historical sights, and try some typical Spanish food and drinks during your time in Spain. When you come home, nothing will have changed but you and you'll wonder how you ever lived without the experience. Studying abroad in Spain really IS as good as it gets. 

Find your perfect program to study abroad in Spain today