Is Barcelona a good place to learn and study Spanish?

Is Barcelona a good place to learn Spanish?

Yes and no.
 Barcelona is a good place to study Spanish - but not the best place in Spain to study Spanish.

There are many Spanish schools in Barcelona, because it still is a Spanish city, but it is not the best place for Spanish study It's so international that if you are really serious about studying Spanish, then there are many better cities in Spain to study Spanish which include, for example, Salamanca, Valladolid, Madrid, Sevilla or Granada, to name but but a few. 

There are several reasons why Barcelona is not the best place for Spanish study. The two main reasons are that Barcelona has become a very touristy city and also that the city uses the Catalan language as it's first language and as an official language.

Barcelona is in Spain but the city has undergone many many changes in Barcelona in recent years and that has created a shift towards using the Catalan language instead of Spanish in daily use.

But there are several high quality Spanish schools in Barcelona, but before you book Spanish classes, consider these reasons why Barcelona is not perhaps not the best choice to study Spanish in Spain. 

These are only our opinions - and an attempt at an honest answer - we love Barcelona - we live here - and our website attempts is to promote Barcelona as the wonderful tourist destination that it is.

Barcelona is also a very nice city for foreigners to live in and for tourists to visit, so we definately recommend that you come visit Barcelona, if you are planning to study Spanish in Spain.

Having said that, if you want to learn to speak Spanish and have the opportunity to immerse yourself in Spanish culture and speak Spanish outside the Spanish school, then Barcelona is not a good place to learn Spanish. 

Here's why we think Barcelona is not a good to study Spanish.

Many residents prefer to speak Catalan in Barcelona

Barcelona is the capital of the automomous community of Catalonia - 'Comunidad Autónoma de Cataluña' - also often called the province of Catalonia or the region of Catalonia. In Catalonia many residents prefer to speak the local langauge of this region, which is called Catalan.

The Catalan language is very similar to Spanish with origin in Latin language, but it's not the same as Spanish. Many words are the same as in Spanish but Catalan has quite different pronunciation, which makes it difficult to understand for students of Spanish.

Street signs are not in Spanish

Almost all residents of Barcelona - and of Catalonia - speak Spanish (Castellano) but not all residents consider it their first language and you will often hear Catalan spoken in the street. Furthermore although both Spanish and Catalan are official language of Catalonia, all Barcelona street signs are in Catalan only.

Advertising is mostly in Catalan

Many brochures and store ads are in Catalan only. Also many Local TV and radio stations are in Catalan language and in towns and villages outside Barcelona one very rarely sees written Spanish. All this means that immersion is a challenge.

You can of course watch national Spanish TV channgels in Barcelona of course, but again there are many local Catalan broadcasters and even the national broadcasters have extended periods in their schedule of Catalan language programming, so one hears a lot of Catalan, which can be confusing for new students.

Mix of Spanish & Catalan

Often people mix in Catalan words when they speak Spanish and because the Catalan langauge is so similar to Spanish that for new Spanish students,  it is difficult to distinguish between the two langauges when listening or reading.

For example you often see a sign that says 'sortida' which means exit.  Is it Spanish word? It sounds Spanish. But it is in fact Catalan. In Spanish the word for exit is 'salida.' Both sound Spanish to a beginner.

Tourism & local culture

Barcelona is fantastic for tourists and for young people to visit in general, and a fantastic place to learn Catalan, but perhaps not so great for Spanish students. You will have a wonderful time in Barcelona if you come to study Spanish, but it's tough to practise Spanish as there are very few areas in Barcelona that are untouched by tourism. This means it's increasingly difficult to live 'as a local Spaniard' in Barcelona.

Most of the restaurants and nightlife is geared towards tourists with many foreigners working behind the bar. There are many young Catalans working in hotels and cafes and they prefer to speak English to people who look foreign. That's good service for tourists but unhelpful for Spanish students.

Even when you ask them to speak to you in Spanish they often continue to speak English because they want to practise their English skills.

Barcelona is a modern city. Cities are not musuems. They are on the forefront of progress and change and this means that there are not many old and authentic bars left in the city. The ones that manage to survive are mostly full of tourists looking for authentic bars.

We love tourists, we love tourism and we understand that when the whole world wants to travel, then cities and cultures change, evolve and merge - and in many ways for the better, but this process does dilute local culture somewhat in cities and so you risk being immersed in tourist culture more than in Spanish culture.

But it cannot be denied that Barcelona has become a more touristy city in the last 10 years, which means that many of the central Spanish schools are now surrounded by hotels and tourist cafes, so a Spanish student will often meet more tourists than locals. Many young local people work in bars and cafes and would rather practise their English with foreigners than speak to them in Spanish.


There are other challenges for Spanish students in Barcelona. Over the last 20 years and in particular the last 10 years there has been a growing conflict between Spain and the region of Catalonia. in Barcelona. Around half the population of Catalonia consider themselves much more Catalan than Spanish.

This is of course their choice, but for Spanish students trying to meet locals and speak Spanish it can become tiring to often have conversations about how "Catalonia is not Spain" and listen to anti-Spanish sentiments, talk of politics and generally constantly be reminded of how many Catalans think Spain treats Catalonia.

Freedom of speech is a democratic right and a wonderful thing, but perhaps if Spanish students want to study Spanish and celebrate Spanish culture and language, then Catalonia might is not really be the best place at the present time.

Finally we would say that for language students Barcelona is expensive. Learning a basic level of Spanish takes 4 or 8 weeks and there are simply cheaper and better deals in other Spanish cities. The tourist boom and tourist apartments in Barcelona have pushed property prices up in recent years, which drives teacher salaries up, so school fees are more expensive.

For students renting student apartments and rooms the city become much more expensive also for food. You can study Spanish at half the cost in other Spanish cities.


In conclusion, we love Barcelona, we love Catalonia and we love Spain, we love tourists and we love progress - in our opinion both Spanish and Catalan people and culture are unique and worth getting to know, so do come and visit Barcelona and experience both, but our answer to the question, 'is Barcelona a good place to learn Spanish?' is generally no. 

For international business students, however, Barcelona is a great place to study abroad if your studies are in English. And Barcelona has a vibrant business start-up culture and many co-working facitilites. Click here to learn Spanish with great proficiency.

For other university subjects check before you sign up, because most of the Universities in Barcelona now teach classes in Catalan, which can cause difficulties.

Tip for choosing a Spanish school in Barcelona

Avoid the international Spanish schools in the city center near Plaza Catalunya because they are surrounded by hotels and tourist stores. They offer immersion classes, but you will mostly be immersed in tourists and international brand shops which is not authentic Spain at all.

They are great for practising English because all you meet plenty of English speaking tourists but few locals. Studying Spanish in a very touristy area of Barcelona is like studying English in Disneyland Florida. There are better places.

If you decide to study Spanish in Barcelona, then we recommend that you to find the school away from the center, which will also be cheaper and more authentic - or check out Salamanca, Madrid or other Spanish cities. 

Check the link below to find Spanish schools in Barcelona

Best Spanish schools Barcelona

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Last Updated on Monday, 20 March 2023 22:34