Study Abroad in Madrid

Madrid is Spain's capital and largest city, so you might expect to cross off a number of items on your "Things I Must See Before I Go Home" list. Instead, once you've hit up the Prado, you're free to enjoy Madrid simply by living in it. Get to know each barrio's distinct personality. Become a regular at your favorite tapas bar. Readjust your clock so that dancing until dawn feels normal. Save crossing items off the list for weekend trips out of town. Spend your time in Madrid living like a madrileño.

Study Abroad in Madrid - San Lorenzo de El Escorial

photo by Ramón Durán


"Be prepared for the fast-paced lifestyle of the big city," says Anna Brautigam, who studied in Madrid with CEA. And, she warns, "You are going to eat fried food, and a lot of it. If you are on a diet, good luck."


Complutense University of Madrid is the top public university in Spain. Its alumni, including King Juan Carlos I and former President José María Aznar, have played important roles in Spanish government since the Enlightenment. Foreign students take specialized language courses but have access to the same university amenities as Spanish students. Founded in 1995, Antonio de Nebrija University is a small, private university named after the first grammarian of the Spanish language. Not surprisingly, it takes language classes very seriously. Foreign students can take courses in a variety of disciplines side-by-side with Spanish students or concentrate on improving their language skills.

Study Abroad in Madrid - El Prado

photo by Christopher Hunter

A Night on the Town

Malasaña was ground zero for "la movida," the cultural movement that followed the death of Franco in 1975. It remains an affordable, "alternative" barrio, even if some places seem stuck in the '80s. Try Bar El 2d, Antigua Hueveria and La Vía Láctea. Or explore Santa Ana - Huertas (more upscale and trendy), Moncloa-Argüelles (popular with students) and Chueca (gay friendly).

Eat This

Lunch is the main meal of the day in Spain, usually served around 2pm or 3pm. Choose the "menu," a fixed-price, three-course meal served almost everywhere. Typical Madrid dishes include cocido (chickpea stew), bocadillo de calamares (fried squid sandwich), patatas bravas (fried potatoes in spicy tomato sauce) and callos a la madrileña (tripe, for the adventurous).

Sites to See

The Plaza Mayor is Madrid's town square--former site of royal coronations and Inquisitional executions, current home to overpriced drinks and tourist kitsch. Still, the 17th-century arcaded plaza is a site to see. Duck out any of the nine entrances to begin exploring the city.

The Prado is it when it comes to art in Spain. This is the place to see the best of the Spanish school, including Velázquez's "The Family of Felipe IV (Las Meninas)", Goya's "The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid" and El Greco's "The Nobleman with His Hand on His Chest." Plus it's got some serious non-Spanish talent, such as Bosch's trippy "Garden of Earthly Delights" and Fra Angelico's moving "Annunciation." Hit it in a few two-hour visits or risk overdosing.

Study Abroad in Madrid - Plaza del Alcalde Moreno Torres

photo by Alexander B.

Bullfighting kicks up quite a controversy. Is it cultural or just cruel? Bottom line: If you can't stomach seeing an animal killed, this is not the event for you. If you're up to it, buy a seat in the shade at Madrid's Plaza de Toros Las Ventas and get ready for a quintessentially Spanish experience, with pageantry and drama galore.

Weekend Trip

Just an hour from Madrid, Toledo showcases the layering of Spanish history. You'll find Roman ruins, Moorish Alcazar, Jewish synagogues, Catholic churches and Franco's barracks set amid a maze of narrow streets in this town perched on a hill. El Greco spent the latter part of his life in this city, and the cathedral's gallery displays one of his masterpieces, "The Disrobing of Christ." (Big El Greco fans should also view "The Burial of Count Orgaz" in Santo Tomé Church.)

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