City Discovery: Barcelona – A Mediterranean Gem

Discover Barcelona

Barcelona is the perfect place to study abroad. This compact and manageable, modernist, cosmopolitan city is, on one side, bordered by the beautiful beaches and water of the Mediterranean Sea that students gravitate to after class, and on the other side by the mountains that offer breathtaking views and miles of hiking trails. In between, one finds an easy and vibrant urban core with all the cultural offerings: premium museums, dynamic cultural centers, fairs, dozens of global conferences, open air cinemas, concerts, and festivals of jazz, classical music, contemporary dance, poetry, books, theater, and art.

As you wander through this amazing city, you’ll realize there is something uniquely intangible that sets Barcelona apart.  Call it a vibe or attitude mixed with Catalonia pride, this city seems to breathe a sense of exclusivity that lingers in the air not like any snobbishly posh sanctuary, but better expressed by a feeling that you are truly experiencing one of best and most unique places on the planet.  Surrounded by open, welcoming and internationally minded people, the cultural scene in Barcelona is inspired by its surroundings. Brilliantly distinct neighborhoods run like veins through downtown districts offering such a diverse display of architecture that one can tell the city’s story stretching back over 2,000 years with just a stroll through the narrow streets of the old town. Add perfect weather year round, and you’ll find that Barcelona is more than an attractive option for studying abroad, it’s simply paradise!

Don’t miss these Discovery Compass activities in Barcelona!

Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in all Europe and is the birthplace of Catalan and Gaudí’s Modernisme, a movement that extends throughout Spain.

Barcelona is also the most visited city by ISA students. Because of its charm, Barcelona has been the scene of many films, not just Spanish ones but from all over the world. The Spanish terror film “Rec” was recorded on an old building next to the city center, and the American film director Woody Allen recorded the film titled “Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona,”… in Barcelona.


Intercultural experiences highlight exposure with the local culture, promoting a multilateral exchange of ideas, language and opinions.

Take part in an intercambio. An intercambio is a language interchange where ISA students can speak and interact with local students, not just with the aim of learning a new language, but also to be more integrated with Barcelona’s people, culture and life.

Get involved in the “minigrupos” program. The ISA Barcelona staff organize activities throughout the program for the students to get more involved in the Spanish culture. One example of an activity is a cooking class. Students learn how to cook some traditional Catalan and Spanish dishes.

Photo by ISA Student Steve Darcy


ISA excursions and cultural activities highlight historical parts of the local culture to help students better understand their new environment.

Visit the Sagrada Família. Antoni Gaudí dedicated over 43 years of his life to designing and building this famous cathedral and it is still under construction today.

Photo by ISA Student Autumn Delavergne

Stroll through the open air Poble Espanyol. This open air museum is composed of 117 full-scale “typical Spanish” building replicas. Visitors can enjoy the ambiance while strolling through the roads and squares free of traffic and admiring the different buildings that exemplify the architecture from the different regions of Spain.


Sociopolitical discovery highlights social and political activities or experiences.

Enjoy a “minigrupo” trip to a Barcelona FC football (soccer) match. The Barcelona Football Club is one of the best and most famous soccer teams in Spain. Students will have the opportunity to enjoy a soccer match, while learning the anthems of the team, its history, its culture and what it represents in today’s society.


Professional experiences provide exposure to professional development opportunities during an ISA program.

While there is no structured volunteer program offered in Barcelona, any student truly interested in volunteering can work with the ISA Barcelona staff to find different opportunities.

Photo by ISA Student Madison Silver


Environmental experiences expose students to different environmental aspects of the host country.

Spend a day in the sun in the beautiful Parc de la Ciutadella. This park is a very common recreational destination for locals and tourists and is home to the city’s zoo along with fountains, a lake and the museums of zoology and geology.

Take a SUP out for a paddle around Barceloneta beach. Students will be able to enjoy this popular activity, while enjoying one of Barcelona’s most recognizable beaches. Instructors will be teach students the ins and outs of the activity before sending them on their way.

Discover what many other ISA students have come to love about studying abroad in Barcelona!

The 2015 City Discovery Series aims to showcase one of ISA’s program locations each week. Facts about each location and Discovery Compass activity examples are given, highlighting the areas of Intercultural, Historical, Sociopolitical, Professional and Environmental discovery. The Discovery Compass aims to help students have the best possible study abroad experience by helping them to gain a better understanding of the local environment, customs and people through a variety of experiences.


Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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