Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Best Multilingual Cities In Europe: Part 1

For language lovers there's nothing better than travelling, and whilst it can be nice to visit a place to hear one foreign language, there's something we love even more about multilingual communities. There are certainly some fantastic places to visit around the world if one language just isn't enough for you.

Today we'll be sharing a list of some of the best multilingual cities on the European continent. It was tough just picking these few, so if you feel we have missed any or disagree with our choices, let us know in the comments below.


The larger of the two countries found on the Iberian peninsula is home to many languages. Thanks to its system of autonomous communities, several regions in Spain have two or more native languages all with official language status.

A view of Barcelona from atop the Sagrada Familia
A Coruña - This town in Galicia not only boasts the languages of both Spanish and Galician, but an interesting history and varied culture. The climate may not be exactly what you expect from Spain, but it's certainly not as cold as Siberia and by no means as rainy as Scotland.

Barcelona - Spain's second city is not only part of Catalonia, where the native language, Catalan, can be found, but also a huge hub of other languages such as Spanish, English, German and French. As a popular tourist destination, the city is rife with multilingual communication and cultural exchange. Thanks to low-cost airlines, it is also a very popular destination for Brits going on weekend city breaks, but don't let that put you off.

Bilbao -The biggest city in the Basque Country is not only beautiful but home a multilingual culture of Spanish and Basque speakers. Bilbao is also home to the Euskaltzaindia, the regulatory body for the Basque language, so if you are interested in Europe's largest language isolate, Bilbao is the place to go.

Pamplona - Another city famous for its Basque-speaking population, Pamplona (known in Basque as Iruña) is well-known for the "Running of the Bulls", an event in which bulls are released into the streets and both inhabitants and tourists alike must flee. Aside from Spanish and Basque, expect to hear excited screams as well.

This enormous falla in Valencia was later
set alight in a flurry of pyrotechnic glory.
Valencia - The capital of the Valencian Community, which is the name of the region, is the largest city and home to Valencian, the language known as Catalan in neighbouring Catalonia to the north. Famous for its Falles (or Fallas in Spanish) festival, the Valencian city can boast a slightly nicer climate than Barcelona and, thanks to the large number of fireworks thrown during the festival, a louder one as well.


Andorra La Vella - Nicely nestled between the Catalan and Spanish-speaking region of Catalonia and France, the tiny principality of Andorra and its capital is privy to four official languages: Catalan, Spanish, French and Provençal.

If you're not visiting the ski resorts, then why not wander round the city drinking in this multilingual principality in the Pyrenees.


Despite France's love of the French language and a fairly poor track record when it comes to minority languages, there are still a few places that you can hear more than just the language of love. France sits almost centrally between Romance languages and Germanic languages, and the country borders no less than eight other nations, including Spain, Andorra, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Monaco.

Dunkirk - The French city of Dunkirk is famous for the Dunkirk evacuation, or Operation Dynamo as it was known in the military. The city was historically a part of Flanders, which can still be seen to some extent given the languages spoken here. Though the French language has mostly replaced the Flemish that was spoken here, there are still some who speak it. If you don't get to hear the language, you can certainly sample some of the food which is still heavily influenced by the Flemish people.

We'll leave it there for today and continue our search for the best multilingual cities tomorrow across more of Northern Europe and onwards!

Read part 2.

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