Madrid is the perfect place to spend a semester abroad for so many reasons. But here are the Top 5:
1. Madrid is a perfect balance of being a new, cosmopolitan city and an old, historical town
Madrid is a big city with lots of diverse areas. Some parts of town, such as La Latina, give you the traditional European feel, with cobblestone streets, street performers, and cute street markets, cafés, and bars. Other parts of the city, like the Puerta de Sol and Malasaña areas, are cosmopolitan and full of people at big clubs and restaurants. Additionally, there are several large parks for relaxed walks and picnics. On Sundays, El Rastro is a ginormous street market full of hand-crafted goods and clothes. If you’re looking for a traditional yet modernized city to explore, Madrid is perfect for you.
2. There are countless amazing sites to see
Madrid has so many interesting spots for touring and learning about the rich history of the city. The Prado Museum and The Thyssen-Mornemisza Museum are regarded as the two best art museums in Spain. The Royal Palace of Madrid is the largest functioning royal palace in all of Europe, and is exquisite both inside and out. Plaza Mayor is a vibrant square in the center of the city, and Templo de Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple which provides a picture perfect view of the entire city. These are just a few tourist spots to start with, but there are so many more to see!
3. The city has food like you’ve never seen
The food scene in Madrid is amazing. From casual chains to five-star restaurants, every ingredient you’re served is fresh and authentic. There are restaurants for every cuisine, and so many local tapas bars which really give you a feel for Spanish culture. There are also food markets, or mercados, all around the city. These markets have everything from snacks to desserts to full plates, and serve local meats, cheeses, fruits, empanadas and churros as well as avocado toasts, gelato, and more. Two of the main markets are Mercado San Miguel and Mercado San Anton. Madrid also has the oldest restaurant in the world, so be sure to stop by there!
4. Studying in Madrid is language and culture- immersive abroad experience
A large part of spending a semester abroad is truly experiencing a culture that’s different from your own. Spanish day-to-day culture is extremely different than that of most cities in America. Just to name a few differences, everything happens later in the day and is done on a more laid back, less rigid schedule. Also, people don’t leave home in sweatpants or leggings- everyone is dressed nicely all the time. Additionally, Madrid is essentially only Spanish-speaking. If you want study in a city where you will really get acquainted with the local language, Madrid is the place to go. Restaurants frequently don’t have English menus, and staff in stores speak very broken English. Don’t let this be a turn-off, though, because even rookie Spanish speakers like myself can catch on quickly to the phrases needed to communicate with everybody.
5. Ease of transportation around the city
Finally, Madrid is a convenient city to live in because of the many transportation options. Taxis flood the streets and are simple to hail. Also, in Madrid, unlike several other cities in Europe, you have the option to call Ubers and Lyfts, and they are typically only a few minutes away. In addition to traveling by car, the metro and bus systems around the city are super easy to understand and use. Abroad students frequently use the public transit alongside the locals. Madrid also has the busiest airport in Spain with lots of flights in and out, as well as a large and efficient train system. But of course, the best way to get a feel for the city is to travel by foot. Luckily, lots of places in Madrid are within walking distance. Walking allows you to find all the hidden gems that the city has to offer. And there are a ton!
Overall, Madrid is a great location for a once-in-a-lifetime experience abroad!