Where’s the best place to live in Spain? It’s difficult to say. Each location has its own unique perks and quirks. Different cities and places attract different types of expat.
In this article, we’ll take you through 10 of the best places to move to and live in Spain. Whether you’re lone-wolfing it, relocating with your family, or planning to retire to the continent, we’ll discuss the best city, town or region for you. We’ll also go into some of the estimated costs of purchasing a property in your chosen Spanish destination.
It will be no news to you that Spain is a top destination for expats. With seemingly endless Mediterranean coastlines of golden-sand beaches, bustling cities and a culture rich in history, there are around 761,000 Brits living in Spain. That’s not to mention the tens of thousands of citizens from other countries who decide to call Spain their home.
And why wouldn’t that be the case? For retirees, professionals and families, Spain offers a stunning climate, an easy-going pace of life, and some of the best food you’ll find in Europe.
The UK leaving the EU has created some problems for those who had their sights set on a sunnier life. Now, British soon-to-be expats have to jump through the sort of hoops nobody ever anticipated, like acquiring a military permit. Still, it remains very much possible to live in Spain after Brexit.
Here are 10 of the best places to live in Spain
The best place in Spain for work. Spain’s capital city needs no introduction, but we’ll give it one anyway. Fine architecture, blissfully hot summers, mild winters, superb nightlife, and frequent carnivals make Madrid a contender for one of the top capital cities on the planet.
It’s traditionally a destination more for families and professionals than it is for retirees looking for a slower pace of life. People who are used to working in some of Europe’s other capital cities, like London and Paris, will welcome the considerably lower cost of living that Madrid offers.
There are lots of options for families, with around 44 international schools as well many state schools within the city.
Over the last five years, property prices in Madrid have risen considerably. At the time of writing, they stand at an average of €3,700 per square metre.
Best place in Spain for families. Located on the Mediterranean-facing Costa del Sol, Marbella has been a hugely popular holiday destination for Brits of all ages. No surprise, then, that Marbella’s city and resort area also attracts expats in their droves.
Marbella is a town of two halves. You may be familiar with the Golden Mile, where you’ll find bars, restaurants and nightclubs that offer round-the-clock entertainment. On the other side of the spectrum is Marbella’s Old Town, home to Renaissance architecture, charming narrow streets, and the feel of old-timey Spain.
The city’s popularity with expats means it’s relatively easy to move here, especially if you have a family. There’s a strong selection of international schools, and you could likely get by with little Spanish.
On the flipside, Marbella is the sixth most expensive town in Spain. You can expect to pay, on average, between €2,500 and €4,000 per square metre for property.
Best place in Spain for young professionals. Barcelona is one of Europe’s rare packages: a buzzing city, brimming with culture and nightlife combined with stunning sandy beaches. What more could you want?
Located in the Catalonia region of Spain, Barcelona is a hub for culture, cuisine, and technology. With too many museums and galleries to mention here, innumerable Catalan dishes to fall in love with, and an unrivalled football team, Barcelona is a fantastic place to spend your days.
As it’s a living, breathing city, Barcelona tends to be more popular with families and young professionals than it is with retirees. For parents, Barcelona offers around 40 international schools, on top of many state schools.
Property prices in Barcelona are some of the most expensive in Spain. At the time of writing, you can expect to pay around €3,000 to €4,700 per square metre for real estate.
Best place to live in Spain for retirees. Known for its stretching, luscious coastline (The Costa Blanca) and traditional holiday destinations such as Benidorm, Alicante has the largest ratio of expats in the whole of Spain.
The province is predominantly popular with retirees, looking to spend their autumn years taking it easy in the sun. Most expats choose not to live in the city, and instead move to the surrounding villages and resorts. That’s not to say the city doesn’t have its merits. It’s both beach-lined and home to a quaint old town with a lively market.
With such a robust community of expats and Europeans who own second homes in Alicante, you’ll be able to get away with little to no Spanish.
What’s more, the cost of living in Alicante is considerably cheaper than that of Madrid and Barcelona. This is reflected in the property prices. At the time of writing, you can expect to pay around €1,800 per square metre.
Best place for cheaper living. Like Barcelona, Valencia boasts that heavenly combination of city and beach. In the morning, sun yourself on the golden sands of the Playa de la Malvarrosa. In the afternoon, sip from a cool glass of one of the many local wines. By night, share a paella, a Spanish staple that has its roots in the Valencia region.
Unlike Barcelona, Madrid and Marbella, Valencia sees fewer tourists each year, which some expats may appreciate. As such, the city appeals to expats of all types. There’s enough entertainment and culture for young professionals, couples, and families to last a lifetime.
For older expats, the relaxed coastal atmosphere and many hiking routes provide a joyous way to spend your autumn years.
Valencia is also a popular destination for students. The prestigious University of Valencia is the study spot of choice for 6,578 international students – making up 13% of the university’s population.
Those studying in Valencia can expect to pay their tuition fees based on credit. The cost per credit for the first enrollment ranges from €13.16 to €20; the second from €26.26 to €40.07; the third from €55.71 to €85.01; and the fourth from €74.27 to €113.34.
The cost of living is noticeably cheaper than some of Spain’s more touristy towns and cities. As of now, real estate prices are around €2,300 per square metre.
Best place to live in Spain for a mix of both worlds. Although renowned for being a destination for Brits abroad, Malaga has a lot going for it as an expat locale. Thanks to its location on Spain’s southern Mediterranean coast, Malaga offers joyous weather most of the year-round and residents can expect sun, sand and sea. But beyond that, the capital of the Costa del Sol has strong cultural connections to the rest of Spain – it’s home to the Picasso Museum, for example.
There’s no escaping it: the city of Malaga does attract a lot of tourists each summer. So, expats tend to avoid the city when choosing a place to live, opting instead for a quieter life in the many suburbs and coastal towns further along the coast.
Property prices in Marbella are not too expensive, especially when you compare them to cities such as Barcelona. At the time of writing, you can expect to pay €2,700 per square metre on average.
Best place to live in Spain for beach life. The largest of the Balearic Islands, Majorca is a Mediterranean paradise, with enough beaches, coves, restaurants and bars to keep you busy.
Majorca’s slow pace of life makes it popular with retirees and its burgeoning expat community reflects this. Plus, it provides many of the activities that older expats enjoy. The island’s golf courses are some of the best you’ll find in Europe and there are countless hiking opportunities. After a long day of soaking up the sun, residents can tuck into freshly caught seafood. Bliss.
Over the years, many Europeans have flocked to Majorca to retire or buy a second home. As such, real estate here can be pricier than some of the beach communities found on mainland Spain. As the property market stands at the time of writing, homebuyers can expect to pay €5,400 per square metre on average.
Best place to live in Spain for reasonably priced wine. Bilbao is different to the other locations we’ve talked about here. For one, it’s less of a known destination for tourists and expats. Secondly, it’s on the Atlantic coast, which means that the city doesn’t have the all-year-round great weather that Valencia and Marbella get.
In a way, it has those things going for it. Expats who don’t want to live amongst lots of other expats, prefer the lifestyle Bilbao offers.
Like Madrid and Barcelona, Bilboa has the buzz of a cosmopolis, with the variety of restaurants, bars and entertainment that city dwellers love. What’s more, it provides those aspects without the cost of some of Spain’s more renowned destinations. You can buy a glass of locally sourced rosé for just one euro a glass. How could you go wrong?
Bilbao is more popular with families and professionals than it is with retired expats. As such, there’s a good number of international schools in the area.
Property prices at the time of writing stand at around €2,200 per metre squared.
Best place to live in Spain for a lavish lifestyle. Located on the Costa del Sol, Sotogrande is an opulent dreamland, consisting of extravagant residential properties and yachting harbours. It’s a go-to location for the rich and powerful. As such, you’ll find lots of upmarket activities to pass the time, including yachting, golf and fine dining. It’s also a huge destination for polo – even being known as the Wimbledon of the sport.
The area is just north of the border with Gibraltar. So, many Brits who work in Gibraltar call Sotogrande their home and cross the border every weekday.
A vibrant expat community has grown from Sotogrande’s proximity to Gibraltar, so there isn’t an overwhelming need to be fluent in Spanish. As for families, there’s the Sotogrande International School, one of the best international schools in the country.
Despite the luxury, properties in Sotogrande average around €2,400 per metre squared. Still, that’s the average. Real estate prices can reach a lot higher in this part of the world.
Best place to live for the party lifestyle. You may know Ibiza as the sun-soaked party haven of Europe, home to world-famous DJs – and that’s partly because it is. Yes, here you’ll find some of the best nightclubs in the world. But there’s a different, quieter side to this Mediterranean island that doesn’t make so many headlines.
Both sides of Ibiza receive a lot of expats each year. Young professionals go to work in the travel and music scenes. Retirees come to absorb the natural beauty and immerse themselves in the long-standing communities and cultures.
Due to tourism, it’s possible you could get by with little Spanish, as the majority of Ibiza’s citizens can speak English. But if you’re planning on moving to the quieter side of the island, it’s recommended you have a decent level of Spanish.
As real estate in Spain goes, Ibizan properties are on the more expensive side, largely due to the demand for second homes on the island.
Sending money to Spain
Wherever you decide to move to in Spain, one thing is for certain: you’ll need to take your money with you. If you’re buying property, settling mortgages or doing renovation work, you’ll need to exchange a large amount of currency.
There are a number of ways to do this. You can exchange currencies through a bank. This seems like an option, but it comes at a high cost. Banks offer poor exchange rates and they add on hidden fees. All this can amount to a serious expense on your part. Once the transaction is done, much of the value of your assets are stripped away.
The smarter option is to use Privalgo. Not only do we offer market-leading exchange rates, but we’ll never charge any hidden fees. For you, this means a saving every time you exchange currencies.
We also offer a number of innovative solutions that can enable you to protect your funds against market movement, or use volatility to your advantage.
Interested? Book a meeting with a Privalgo Currency Specialist today. We can discuss your requirements, offer you a rate and take you through some potential solutions that could work for you.Book a chat with a Currency Specialist