City of Artists
To the north of the Spanish coastline is where we find the bright and breezy Barcelona. Don't forget your Catalan dictionary however, as this coastal city is officially bilingual—Catalan sounding similar to a mixture of French and Spanish, and being spoken by all the locals. This makes for a forever progressive and innovative place to be, as it is a city that aches with character and boasts an undeniably rich history.
To walk in Barcelona could be said to be like walking into a dream. From the confectionery-like buildings of Gaudí to the surreal works of Dalí and Miró, Barcelona exudes art and formidable architecture on every corner. You can't help but be impressed by the
gothic architecture that populates this place—just take a ramble down the Ramblas and into the warren of narrow cobbled streets known as the Barri Gòtic.
The world-famous Sagrada Familia, a church so grand work was started in 1882 and is set to be finished in 2026, sits majestically as a token to Gaudí's vision of a warped Gothic architecture. You can do nothing but marvel at the intricate facades and teetering towers; a veritable melting pot of religious references, with a Modern Art twist. As you wander about the streets, you will occasionally be rewarded with tranquil squares, where locals and tourists alike can pause for a moment's peace and quiet.
If you're feeling a bit peckish, you can always stop by one of the many tapas bars on display, and try out the typical flavours of Spain
. The more adventurous can have some Conill amb cargols (Rabbit cooked in a very perfumed sauce accompanied with snails), washed down with some crisp Vermouth.
For all you party kids out there—fear not, the rumours are true: Barcelona is THE party capital of Spain
, offering clubbers and music fanatics more than the average night out. Shimmy on down to the centre and you're bound to find something to suit your mood. The fantastically popular Sonar music festival puts the city firmly on the lyrical map, bringing sunshine and electrifying DJ sets together in holy matrimony. The one thing that is certain is no matter which way you turn, you can be sure that Barcelona is a city that will set fire to your imagination.
Don't miss the Sonar Festival in mid-June! Definitely worth thinking about, especially if you want to go and set up accommodation in the city before your year abroad - perfect timing.
City of Modern Living
Slap bang at the heart of the Iberian Peninsula is the very vibrant and bustling city, Madrid. Since 1563, this mesmerising metropolis has been Spain's capital and quite rightly so, being the epicentre for parties, panache and progressive political movements (the 80s la movida punk movement gave birth to artists such as Almodóvar, amongst many others).
Bursting at the seams with culture, Madrid is home to the aptly known Golden Triangle of Art (Museo del Prado, Museo de la Reina Sofía and the Museo Thyseen Borenmisza are all worth their weight in tapas). The names and works of the Spanish greats, Goya, Velázquez and Picasso, resonate through these empirical establishments. Be sure not to miss the thrilling Guérnica, debatably Picasso's greatest offering to the world of art and politics.
The pulse of this capital city beats from its historic barrios (the Palacio Real and the Biblioteca Nacional offer visions of grandeur the French can only envy) right through to its more modern, hippy-esque neighbourhoods (well worth a visit are the barrios of Lavapies and Moncloa—the latter being the student district). Have a few servings of tapas in La Latina and admire the impromptu flamenco tablaos on offer.
If literati are more your thing, then you should check out Barrio de las Letras, a little touristy but worth the detour to admire the homes of Cervantes and Quevedo, amongst many others, and perhaps find the inspiration to pen your very own dissertation on the Spanish language. Historians and explorers can (re)discover the world of Spanish conquistadores in the much-acclaimed Museo de América, pre- and post-colonization.
Madrid is also privy to many a popular plaza, two of which cannot be missed—Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol, popular meeting spots for locals, with loads to admire, from statues to open-air symphonies. All the hustle and bustle of the city may have you aching for 5 minutes respite, and this can be found in El Retiro, Madrid's equivalent to New York's 'Central Park'.
After a mad night out in one of the many bars running along the streets of trendy Chueca or alternative Malasaña, you'll want to feast on some churros y chocolate, after rolling out of clubs at a decidedly conservative 7AM. Should you feel the city life isn't all it's cracked up to be (it really is, by the way), you could always stick it out just to see the yearly Festival de Transhumancia, a festival that gives sheep and other farm animals the chance to run through the specifically warded-off streets of Madrid! A city, in short, that can really call itself the big (goat's) cheese.
City of Students
To the west of Spain about 200km from Madrid, is the charming renaissance town of Salamanca. Otherwise known as La Ciudad Dorada, a name garnered thanks to the distinctive illuminating glow that emits from its sandstone buildings.
This jewel of a town owes much of its fame to its world-renowned university, Universidad de Salamanca, founded in 1218 by King Alfonso IX. Famous alumni include none other than conquistador par excellence, Hernán Cortés, the Spanish queen, Isabella la Católica and Christopher Columbus lectured there in his heyday. Boy, talk about a history lesson. Today, you may not meet the next world explorer at the university, but you'd be hard pushed to find better language schools than the ones that about this little town (Instituto Cervantes can have you cedilla-ring in no time).
The university is still popular, with more than 30,000 students paving its corridors daily. If you happen to be standing at the entrance of the university itself, make sure you examine it very carefully. For somewhere amongst the puzzle of heraldic stone carvings is the emblem of a small frog. Legend has it that any student, who is able to spot this frog motif without any assistance, will be blessed with good luck!
The town is praised for its magnificent historical buildings and architecture styles (even the public library is a sight to behold). So much so, in fact, that it earned the title of 'European Cultural City of the year' in 2002 and was declared a world heritage city by UNESCO. Locals will tell you that the best way to experience Salamanca's treasures is simply to see it all by foot, for walking through Salamanca truly feels as though you've taken a step back in time. But this doesn't mean to say that old, historic Salamanca doesn't know how to party.
Thanks to its important student population, little tapas bars with lively music have mushroomed across the town, and a fair few clubs ensure that students can boogie from time to time. Put your Borges to bed for the night, and party with the locals, trying out (at least once) the bar de litros, fine drinking establishments offering, quite literally, drinks by the litre, for a mere €3 last time we checked. If you don't really fancy any paint stripper going down your gusset, you could always head to Casco Histórico, popular area with students, foreign and local alike. All in all, a feisty little academic town!
City of Clashing Cultures
The last Moorish enclave in Spain, until their official ousting in 1492, Granada owes a lot of its architecture to these dwellers. Lively markets recall past practices, and you'll be hard pushed to find a town more giving in its architectural delights and etchings of its culturally rich past. Local legends tell of the retreating King Boabdil, who was said to have let out a wistful sigh as he looked back on the majestic city of Granada—and you can easily see why. Be it the Moorish palace, the impressive cathedral, the Arab, Jewish and Gypsy quarters, this town has more personality than Gabriel García Marquez in an Almodóvar film.
The impressive and incomparable Alhambra medieval complex will have you startled and amazed. For before the Moors settled and claimed this part of Spain their seat for government, Granada was little more than a provincial town, shadowed by the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains (and yes, believe it or not, you can enjoy a bit of skiing in these parts, on your days off!).
If you really want to live like a Moorish prince or princess, then don't miss a chance to visit the Aljibe Baños Árabes and take a dip in the luscious lather house. Nowadays, the city still holds its cultural melting pot air, with South American and Chinese neighbourhoods rubbing shoulders with Granada's markets and hippy districts.
The university makes for a lively student life, with most of the cities cheap restaurants and bars bustling with people every day of the week. And let it be said that this is THE place for cheap and delightful tapas, with most bars offering them free, as long as you buy a drink or two. Granada also has a fruitful nightlife, with flamenco, Spanish pop, reggae and RnB all on offer in different establishments scattered across town.
With so much to discover and so much to do, you'll most likely want to spend all your time there. But if a trip to somewhere a little more tranquil takes you, you could always hop, skip and jump over to nearby Cádiz or take a trip across the Mediterranean to nearby Morocco. Nearly too good to be true? Well, think again and thank your Spanish department for giving you a year abroad!
Living and working in Spain
Surface area: 506,000 km²
Population: 46 Million
Unemployment rate: 17.93% (Dec '09)
Working hours are different to the rest of Europe
50 m² flat: €350 - 700 per month
Loaf of bread: € 0.80
Cinema: € 6
Meal in a local restaurant: €6-12
Where are the jobs?
Tips and advice
- You will need copies of all your documents (passport, birth certificate, driving license, diplomas etc)
- You must always supply a CV with a photo attached to it and a cover letter
- You should avoid abbreviations on your CV at all costs
- You should state your Spanish level - we recommend getting a language passport from Europass
Useful Spanish websites
Madrid.org - the city's homepage
- Ministerio del Interior
El Mundo daily paper
El Periodico - Catalan paper
For more information and tailored help, visit eures.europa.eu