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11 Best Cities To Live In Spain For Expats

It isn’t a surprise that Spain is one of the top destinations in Europe for expats and digital nomads. The country is very diverse – from idyllic islands and beautiful coastal destinations to the countryside and tranquil towns.

Apart from being diverse, Spain is also a cheaper country to live in compared with other European cities, is well-connected nationally and internationally and the laid-back lifestyle and rich culture attract many people.

If you’re planning to move to Spain but you aren’t sure which are the best cities to live in Spain, then keep reading to discover these cities as well as to get some insider tips from expats.

11 Best Cities To Live In Spain For Expats 11 Best Cities To Live In Spain For Expats

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11 Best Cities To Live In Spain For Expats

Alicante

alicante city view

By Nina of Nina Out and About

If you’re looking for a warm and welcoming place to live in Spain, then Alicante should be at the top of your list!

This smaller city is best known as a winter getaway for British travellers, but it has so much more to offer.

Located in southern Costa Blanca, Alicante enjoys a Mediterranean climate year-round. That means you can work outdoors even in winter (with only a light sweater on windy days).

Rent is also incredibly cheap, three-bedroom flats cost under 700 euros per month. If you’re looking to buy a place, Alicante offers an amazing bang for your buck. You will pay more for a view of the water.

The city is extremely walkable, which makes it easy to get around. However, one con is that it’s incredibly hilly. That means you’ll be trekking uphill at least one way from your grocery shopping.

However, the laidback lifestyle means no one will judge you for taking breaks. In fact, most people shop daily to reduce their baggage, and many use carts.

Alicante is an amazing spot for retired expats or digital nomads. It’s got lots to do without being too touristy. Schools are all in Spanish, so students and families may struggle unless they know the language.

You can definitely get by with English in Alicante, except for immigration forms. You may need to hire a translator for help.

Alicante is also a very multicultural city, with a diverse mix of cultures and religions. There are plenty of great restaurants and bars in the city, and it’s a great place to learn Spanish.

Overall, Alicante is a great city for expats in Spain!

Barcelona

dragon statue at Park Guell Barcelona

By Claire of Why Visit Barcelona

Barcelona has a huge expat community and is a popular place to live in Spain for good reason. 

Barcelona is a city that has everything you could possibly need or want, from gorgeous beaches and delicious food to mind-blowing architecture and so many activities it is impossible to get bored. 

There are some excellent international schools here for families. Living in Barcelona as a student or young professional is a lot of fun, thanks to a buzzing nightlife, great weather and a cool vibe thanks to the universities, so there is something for everyone in Barcelona. 

Barcelona is also very popular with tourists, which tends to push up rental prices, but it means that there are seemingly unending attractions and things to do in Barcelona. Stroll the streets of the Gothic Quarter, admire Sagrada Familia and other works by Gaudí, shop in the local market stalls and enjoy the incredible cuisine at Barcelona’s best restaurants.

Pickpockets are a problem in Barcelona, especially in busy tourist areas and on the metro so always keep a hand on your belongings. Aside from that, the public transport in Barcelona is excellent, and residents can also join the bicing shared bike hire service which is very useful for commuting and getting around the city.  

One downside of living in Barcelona is the potential language barrier, as Catalan and Spanish are both official languages here which can be confusing if you don’t know either language well. Learning at least one language will be very helpful, and you can take free Catalan classes to help you get started.

Benidorm

Benidorm city view

By PlacesofJuma

A really cool city in Spain that is perfect for digital nomads and expats, especially in the off-season, is Benidorm on Costa Blanca!

In summer hopelessly overcrowded, this city is a real insider tip in the winter months, from October to April. Because then there is not much going on touristically, however, the weather is sunny, the temperatures are always pleasant and the atmosphere is relaxed.

Also, the prices for apartments are cheap and the dropout life is then really cheap here. As a tip, we can recommend the Apartamentos María Cristina Beach – directly on the beach with a great view, but there are many other great options!

Really great as an expat city is the optimal location of Benidorm in the heart of Costa Blanca. From there you have the possibility to discover the most beautiful highlights of the coast and many more places like Altea, Villajoyosa and Calpe. Also, the connection to train with the high-speed train AVE and close to the international airport Alicante-Elche allows you fabulous travel opportunities across the country.

Benidorm is also known as the Manhattan of Spain because in this coastal city numerous skyscrapers rise along the 7 kilometres of coastline.

There is always something going on, so young expats, in particular, will enjoy themselves here. But really beautiful is also the adjacent nature park Sierra Helada, which protects the city from bad weather, provides a good climate and invites to fantastic hikes in nature.

During the day, many nice cafes and bars invite you to chill out and linger. Here you can meet colleagues and other expats, especially in winter. In the evening, you also have numerous options for going out, eating delicious food or partying.

Cádiz

historical buildings in Cadiz Spain

By Paulina of Visit Southern Spain

Cadiz is one of the cities in Southern Spain that is often overlooked and isn’t counted as a tourism spot more often. However, it can be surprising that Cadiz is one of the best cities for expats to relocate to.

If you are thinking of moving to Spain, Cadiz should be on the top of your list. It is apt for expats for more than one reason.

First, it is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It has experienced various inhabitants and has evolved over time. It is an attractive destination for expats due to its ports and location on the Atlantic.

Second, the city is always bright. Even when it is dark, the sky looks blue and there are things to do in Cadiz. Third, Cadiz is a cheap place to settle in. It might be a little challenging to find an apartment, but the overall living costs are affordable.

Due to the lesser crowd of tourists, Cadiz is the right place for families to live in. The good thing about living in Cadiz is that you get access to great landscapes, culture, and history. The city offers everything from bustling city life to a serene environment.

One factor that is often considered a disadvantage of living there is a lack of occupation. So if you planning to settle there, make sure that you have a job on your hand before shifting.

📌 Pro tip: Start learning Spanish right when you are planning to move to have ease in communication.

Madrid

11 Best Cities To Live In Spain For Expats 11 Best Cities To Live In Spain For Expats

By Paulina of Paulina on the Road

Madrid is a city entirely ideal for expats as they can experience high-quality life. The city offers great restaurants, lively neighbourhoods, art galleries, and affordable areas to stay in.

Madrid is a wonderful city with a lot to offer. It experiences a dry climate and little rainfall. However, the temperatures may vary throughout the year.

Madrid mostly attracts families and students from across the world. The city has a unique Latin feel which doesn’t exude a fast-paced lifestyle despite being the capital. It has a wide scope of occupation and other opportunities since the city is home to major multinational businesses.

Madrid offers a lot of advantages to living in. The city has a well-developed infrastructure that offers high quality of life and great sources of education and medical facilities.

The city is home to a large expat community including individuals and families from all around the world. It also exudes culture in all ways possible. You will be able to feel the Spanish culture through its three major museums, numerous art galleries, and many Renaissance churches.

However, one thing that expats find a disadvantage about Madrid is that there are no beaches. The temperatures in the city may become extreme at times and that is when residents feel the need to be around a beach.

If you are planning to relocate to Madrid, expect to spend at least 1000 euros/month.

Málaga

malaga port view

By Cristina of My Little World of Travelling

Malaga and Costa del Sol have always been welcoming destinations for expats, and there are more and more digital nomads that choose Malaga as their digital nomad base.

The warm and sunny weather all year-round, the safety and the international community make Malaga an excellent destination to live in. On top of these great advantages, Malaga is an affordable city in comparison to bigger cities such as Madrid and Barcelona.

If you’re someone who loves getting involved in activities and being active, you’ll be amazed by all the incredible things you can do in Malaga – from visiting historical monuments and museums as well as nearby beautiful whitewashed towns to going on a hike, attending flamenco lessons or doing yoga at the beach. The options are endless!

Also, you don’t necessarily need to choose Malaga city, you can move to other popular towns such as Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola or Marbella which are well-connected with Malaga with public transport too.

The main downside of living in Malaga is getting things done, especially if it involves bureaucracy or getting a doctor’s appointment (unless you have paid for private healthcare). However, overall Malaga is one of the best cities to live in Spain!

Palma de Mallorca

11 Best Cities To Live In Spain For Expats 11 Best Cities To Live In Spain For Expats

By Paulina of Ukeveryday

If you are looking for a mix of island life and a Spanish lifestyle, Mallorca is a fantastic choice. The largest of the Balearic Islands is a desirable location to live, especially Palma de Mallorca. In the capital of the island, the economy is stable, and finding a house or getting a mortgage is not difficult.

There are many nationalities living in Mallorca such as Italian, German, Bulgarian, Romanian, British and French. Not only European countries but also Americans and Africans choose Palma de Mallorca for living.

The island is popular among people from Morocco or China. It is one of the best places to live in Spain and the world for families or couples.

Palma de Mallorca has a great climate, which is not too hot and allows you to enjoy living there. With so many activities on the island from cycling, sailing, or relaxing at the beach, you will never get bored in Mallorca.

It also has a good international connection. You can get easily to any of the European cities from Palma de Mallorca Airport. Not to mention that Spanish food is amazing, so what should you ask more for?

As in every place in the world, there are also some disadvantages of living in Palma de Mallorca. There is a lot of bureaucracy, so you will need a lot of patience for getting things done. The best way is to ask around for a little help and advice from people that have been living on this island for a long time.

San Sebastián

san sebastian

By Victoria of Guide Your Travel

San Sebastian is a great and highly underrated Spanish city for expats. Since San Sebastian is a popular surf town it’s great for those who enjoy surfing or want to learn during their time in Spain.

It’s a very walkable city and not too big so you can enjoy all the benefits of living in a city while staying a bit further out of town which might appeal to families.

San Sebastian is known for its incredible food and Michelin-star restaurants. Foodies will love this city and its delicious authentic Spanish specialities. One of the best things about San Sebastian is its stunning city beaches.

No need to leave the city to enjoy crystal-clear waters and white sand. The historic city centre is also very beautiful and great for exploring and sightseeing. But there is also tons of nature to enjoy like the hike up to Monte Urgull or Monte Igueldo. There is always something to do in San Sebastian.

Unfortunately, San Sebastian is relatively far away from other popular Spanish cities like Barcelona, Malaga and Valencia. It’s located very close to the French border so you’ll most likely be isolated without many chances to see other parts of Spain spontaneously.

Luckily, the area is very beautiful and northern Spain is incredibly unique. You’ll absolutely love San Sebastian and all it has to offer.

Sevilla

a view of la giralda tower in seville

By Linn Haglund of Andalucia Hiking

Seville is a wonderful city for expats that want to learn Spanish and Andalusian culture.

As opposed to other touristy cities in Spain, like Malaga, people in Seville will actually answer you in Spanish when you try to practice the language, which means you will have a good shot at learning it. It is also a great student city with vibrant cafés and nightlife.

Seville is one of these enchanting cities that is not too big yet not too small, that takes you in as one of its own. More than once have a 6 months to 1-year expat stay turned into several years and for some reason, expats seem to come back time after time even after moving from the city.

There are enough things to do in the city itself for months before even considering visiting all the incredible places around the city, like the beaches in Huelva and Cadiz, the white Andalusian villages, or the green spaces in Sierra Norte de Sevilla.

Highlights in Seville include studying in Plaza de España on a sunny winter day, drinking Cruzcampo in Parque Maria Louisa, and cycling along the Guadalquivir River.

Like other Spanish cities, Seville is known for its “mañana, mañana” culture and this reflects in anything from the bureaucracy in getting your documentation for working in Spain (which is done at Plaza de España) to going in the shop.

To really enjoy Spain, you will have to adjust to this – things take time, and there is no need to stress about it.

Sitges

11 Best Cities To Live In Spain For Expats 11 Best Cities To Live In Spain For Expats

By Mar Pages of Solo Female Travelers

Sitges is a 30,000 inhabitant town that has fast become an expat destination in Spain, especially for digital nomads who appreciate its proximity to Barcelona (30 min by train) and its airport (20 min by car), a thriving international community and the many events and conferences happening year-round.

Expats account for 22% of Sitges total population, and the town has a long history as an LGBTQ+ friendly destination which translates to many LGBTQ+ owned and focused businesses and festivals.

Located on the Mediterranean and surrounded by the mountains of the Garraf Natural Park guarantees a microclimate with mild winters and more than 300 days of sun.

The entire town faces the sea and is flanked by the famous church, perched on top of a staircase and right by the waves, and over 10 beaches located along a 3 km promenade. There is a beach catering to everyone, from families to naturists and nudists to the LGBTQ+ community.

Besides the beach, Sitges hosts an event every weekend of the year with landmark festivals such as the Sitges International Film Festival or Pride Week, the celebration of Corpus Christi which covers the streets with flower carpets or the Vintage Car Rally showcasing period outfits and vintage cars.

As a bohemian town, Sitges has always attracted an artistic crowd and at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, it played host to meetups of the elite art scene with famous painters such as Picasso or Casas.

As a popular and artsy town, Sitges has become quite an expensive place to live and can be really crowded in the summertime which is why many prefer to live in the hills around the city centre, away from the small pedestrian streets.

Tenerife 

11 Best Cities To Live In Spain For Expats 11 Best Cities To Live In Spain For Expats

By Lora of Explore with Lora

Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, has become a hot spot for digital nomads and expats in recent years. Although the islands are part of Spain, their geographical location is just off the coast of western Africa, which provides a warm climate year-round.

Tenerife is a great place to live for those seeking warm weather, sunshine, and outdoor adventure. The island is full of beautiful landscapes and fun activities, including hiking, rock climbing, surfing, yoga, and sailing.

The south is best for young expats looking for nightlife, while the north is more suited to families with its more traditional Spanish villages and quieter way of life.

Tenerife is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), so it’s perfect for remote workers who need to stay in a close time zone to Europe. It’s also a very affordable destination to reach, with many budget airlines offering cheap flights from major cities like Barcelona and London.

One downside to living in Tenerife is that it can be challenging to get around the island without a vehicle, and car rentals tend to be expensive. Public transportation is available, but it’s time-consuming and can be challenging to reach some places like hiking trailheads. Many expats buy a car for this reason.

If you’re moving to Tenerife, there are several Facebook expat groups where you can ask questions and connect with others.


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In which city do you see yourself living? Let me know in the comments!

If you have any questions or want any advice on moving to Spain or Spanish culture, reach me on my email at cristina[at]mylittleworldoftravelling.com or on Instagram. I’m always happy to help.

Also, if you’re an expat in Spain, I’d be really interested to hear about your experience in Spain.

Cristina xx

P.S. Do you know any friend who’s moving to Spain soon? Share the blog with them.

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2 Comments

  1. Elena Pappalardo says:

    You’re making me really want to go back to Spain! I still have so much to see of this wonderful country. I’d really love to visit Cádiz and Málaga 🙂

  2. This was an excellent guide to Spanish cities where choosing to live as ex-pat or just visit. I really want to visit Andalusia!

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