Best Places to Live in Spain

The 7 Best Places to Live in Spain

Written by Owain Banfield
Written by Owain Banfield
11th May 2018 (Last updated on Tuesday 26th March 2019)

In this article we take a look at seven of the best places to live in Spain, from the more expensive main cities through to cheaper options that see a large percentage of Brits moving there every year. 

Ahead of arranging removals to Spain and starting your new life abroad, you'll need to decide which area of the country you'll live in. Much like we see in the UK, depending on where you live can make a huge difference to all aspects of your life including how much it might cost you to live there, what there is to do once you are there and the general quality of life you might expect to lead. Thinking about joining the 296,000 UK expats currently working, retired or studying in Spain? Let's explore where you should live.

1. Living in Madrid

Naturally, we are going to kick this off with the capital, Madrid. This city is a hub of culture, business and world famous night life. Attractions that pull in tourists include the famous Gran Via, which runs from the Metrópolis building to the Plaza de España, as well as a number of other historical and architectural sites of note.

Interestingly, living in Madrid might not be the most expensive option when it comes to moving to Spain. In reality, other cities such as Barcelona or San Sebastian are equal if not more expensive in many cases. But although Madrid is not necessarily the cheapest option it does clearly provide an excellent quality of life.

In terms of the number of expats that live in Madrid, figures show that there is a reasonably high concentration. In the city and surrounding area an estimated 2.5% to 4.5% live there, equating to roughly 7,400 to 13,350 British expats. These figures are likely due to the primary position that the city plays in the economy of Europe and the ample job opportunities for expats that move there.

2. Living in Barcelona

If you think of the main cities in Spain, Barcelona is probably somewhere near the top of the pile. This city has always been massively popular with tourists due to its generally warmer weather, position on the coast and relaxed way of life. The city holds a number of gems when it comes to attractions including the world famous Sagrada Família, Park Güell and La Rambla.

Due to its massive popularity, the city is one of the most expensive options in the country to live in. Barcelona sees rental and purchase prices of properties within the top three most expensive in Spain. However, when you compare the cost of living to other major cities in the UK, Barcelona can appear relatively affordable. For example, data shows that overall it is 23.43% cheaper to live in the city when compared to London. 

There is a reasonable number of expats that live in Barcelona and the area that surrounds it, comparable in many ways to the overall numbers that live in Madrid with 2.5% to 4.5% of the expat population of Spain living in these areas. Barcelona is found within Catalonia, an area with a unique culture in Spain that we explore in our guide to Spanish culture.

3. Living in Alicante

One of the most popular areas for Brits to move to is the city and surrounding area of Alicante in the south of Spain. This is likely due to the more affordable nature of the city and the year round beautiful weather. The city is famed for its stunning palm tree flanked boulevards and shopping streets, great sandy white beaches and historical sites.

Living in the city is one of the most affordable places in Spain. In fact when compared to more pricey options such as Barcelona where rental prices are an average of 52% higher and day to day items such as groceries are 17% higher, it is clear that you can spread your money a lot further in this city.

The popularity of Alicante is apparent with the sheer number of expats that have moved to the area and call it home. Although the potential range of expat residence in the area ranges from 6.5% through to a massive 30.5% this means actual numbers are in the region of 19,300 through to 90,463, these figures far outweigh the majority of other regions in the country.

4. Living in San Sebastian

San Sebastian is a popular city based in the Gipuzkoa region of Spain. Although this city doesn’t necessarily benefit from the warmer weather experienced in the south of the country, it still offers an incredible quality of life. Occasionally referred to as a mini Paris, the city contains stunning architecture and is rich in history. It is also famous for its pintxo which is best experienced in the Parte Vieja. For those that like a drink or two the old city centre holds the record for having the highest concentration of bars in the world.

The Gipuzkoa region, in which the city is situated, is relatively popular with expats, although not to the scale we see in Alicante and Malaga. In terms of concentration, roughly 0.6% to 2.6% of the British population of Spain is located there. This is likely due to the higher living costs and the year round weather not being much better than you might expect in the south of the UK.

These higher costs are apparent across the board, with recent studies showing that San Sebastian may be the most expensive city to live in Spain, with rental prices and purchasing prices being on average 10% higher than those in the capital of Madrid. This higher cost is likely to put off a number of Brits, however these are relative to the high quality of life you would expect in the city.

5. Living in Malaga

Malaga is much loved by expats, primarily with those that are looking to retire to the country but also those that want to work and live in Spain. Like many of the popular areas on the south coast of Spain, Malaga is primarily loved for its favourable climate, great food and drink and relaxed approach to life. However other key benefits of living in this area include Malaga Airport which is the third largest in the country, incredible beaches and quality level of public transport.

After Alicante, Malaga is also one of the cheapest places to live in Spain. For example, when compared to living in London living costs are as much as 37.8% cheaper in Malaga. This lower cost of living can provide much better access to quality living for those that choose to move to the country.

In terms of the British population of Malaga these are at a similar level to those in Alicante, with anything from 19,300 through to 90,463 individual expats working, retiring or studying in the area.

6. Living in Valencia

Valencia is a popular area to live in for those that love great food, with their famous Falles festival held every March. The city also sees many expats visit and move there to experience the year round culture with a particular focus on art and architecture.

For those looking for a city that sits in the mid-range in terms of cost of living, Valencia is a great contender.  Rent in the city is 39% lower than in Madrid and overall living costs are 33% lower than those you might expect to pay in London.

Valencia is another area that is popular with expats, although you are unlikely to run into as many as you might in more densely populated areas such as Malaga. Estimates show that 0.6% to 2.6% of the total expat population of Spain are located in this area.  

7. Living in Seville

Needless to say that many expats move to Seville to take advantage of the fantastic climate. However the city is also famed for its historically rich architecture as well as the way of life that includes interacting with friendly ‘sevillanos’ and eating lots of tasty tapas.

Unlike the majority of popular cities to live in Spain, Seville is set back from the sea. Although it is located close to the south coast, still benefiting from the warm weather year round. Living in the city is similar in terms of costs to Alicante and Malaga, benefiting from a much lower cost than much of the rest of the country. In fact, the overall cost of living in the city is as much as 35% lower than in London. This lower living cost has attracted 0.6% to 2.6% of the total British in Spain to this area.

Compare My Move in Spain

We hope this guide has helped kindle plans for your big move to Spain, and you have a better idea of different areas that may interest you. For further reading, check out our comprehensive guide about moving to Spain from the UK, which covers all you need to know about making the move.

Once you're fully informed and ready, remember to use Compare My Move to get connected with up to 6 international removal companies to save time and money on your Spain removal. Our network of removal companies are fully verified by us and reviewed by you, giving you peace of mind on your trip to a new life in Spain. Just fill in a quick and easy form and save up to 70% on your house removal today.

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