Wondering where to live in Spain?
I’ve been coming to Spain since I was a teenager and have lived in various places in Spain.
No country is perfect, but Spain has a lot to offer and I completely understand why more and more people choose to move to Spain.
Spain is a country that can offer a fantastic quality of life, an abundance of cultural activities, and great food.
With its beautiful beaches, vibrant cities, and charming villages, it’s no wonder that Spain has become a popular destination to move to.
Whether you’re looking to move to Spain permanently, to work or to retire, or are a digital nomad looking for a new temporary home, there are many great places to live in Spain.
In this article, I’ll discuss some of the best places to live in Spain, based on factors such as affordability, climate, cultural attractions, and quality of life. And after that, I’ll share some practical tips for living in Spain.
The Best Places to Live in Spain
Now, before we dive into this list of the best places to live in Spain, I want to say a few things.
This list contains larger places that are popular for expats to move to. But that of course doesn’t mean that other parts of Spain, and many of the smaller towns, aren’t great options as well.
For example, I loved living in Moraira, on the Costa Blanca. Although I have to admit I prefer living in Valencia now.
Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I hope this list is helpful and will give you a good idea of which places are popular to move to in Spain and why.
But, I highly recommend coming to Spain and exploring different areas yourself before you make any decisions!
1. Barcelona: A Cosmopolitan City
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Spain.
It’s known for its beautiful architecture, art, and culture. Barcelona is a great place for foodies, with its many Michelin-starred restaurants and famous markets like La Boqueria.
With a Mediterranean climate, beautiful beaches, and world-class cultural attractions, Barcelona offers a great quality of life.
The city also has a good public transportation system, making it easy to get around.
If you’re looking for a large, bustling coastal city that attracts a wide range of expats from all over the world, Barcelona is a great place to move to.
Barcelona does, however, rank as the most expensive city in Spain to rent a place to live.
- What It’s Like to Move to & Live in Barcelona – Interview With an Expat
- 24 Hours in Barcelona – An Itinerary to See the Highlights
- Easy Day Trips From Barcelona by Train
2. Madrid: The Heart of Spain
Madrid is the capital of Spain and the heart of the country.
It’s known for its beautiful architecture, lively nightlife, and rich cultural heritage.
Madrid is home to many of Spain’s top museums and art galleries, including the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum.
Madrid is a bustling city with a wide range of neighborhoods to choose from.
It’s also a great place for foodies, with its many tapas bars, and restaurants serving a wide range of cuisines.
Madrid is the economic and financial hub of Spain, with a thriving business sector that offers good career opportunities. The city is home to many multinational companies, as well as startups and innovative businesses.
Madrid also offers top-rated schools attracting both Spanish people from around the country and foreigners.
Plus, being in the center of the country makes Madrid a great base for exploring the rest of Spain.
One of the main downsides to living in Madrid is the heat in summer. Other complaints include traffic which can get quite congested at times, and parts of the city do get crowded and noisy.
- What It’s Like to Move to & Live in Madrid – Interview With an Expat
- Things to See & Do in Madrid – Tips From a Local Tour Guide
3. Valencia: The Coastal Gem
Valencia is a beautiful city on the east coast of Spain.
It’s known for its stunning architecture, beautiful beaches, vibrant cultural scene, and large Turia Park that runs around the city center.
Valencia is home to the City of Arts and Sciences, a complex of futuristic buildings that house a planetarium, an opera house, and a science museum.
The city has also become famous for its Fallas festival, an intense annual event that takes over the whole city.
It has a warm and sunny climate most of the year, making it a popular destination for tourists and expats alike.
Ok, I’m biased. I love living in Valencia and I think it’s a perfect mix of city life and coastal living, without being as large and busy as Barcelona.
But, some of my friends in Barcelona and Madrid will say that Valencia, although the third largest city in Spain, is too small for them and not international enough. And it’s true, Valencia doesn’t have that big city feeling.
Another frequent complaint from expats living in Valencia is that it’s difficult to find a job and that salaries here are significantly lower than in Madrid and Barcelona.
The cost of living however is lower in Valencia as well, although prices are going up as Valencia is becoming an increasingly popular city for foreigners to move to.
If you’re looking for a large city that doesn’t feel too massive, with a city center you can explore on foot, and a beautiful coast, then Valencia might be your best city to live in Spain.
- What It’s Like to Move to & Live in Valencia
- What It’s Like to Retire in Valencia
- Where to Live in Valencia – A Guide to Different Neighborhoods
- Visiting Valencia – A Complete Travel Guide
4. Malaga: The Gateway to the Costa del Sol
Malaga is a beautiful, smaller city on the southern coast of Spain.
It’s known for its stunning beaches, warm climate, and rich history.
Malaga offers a great quality of life. It’s a very walkable city with plenty to do ranging from good museums to good nightlife, shopping, and a wide range of events organized throughout the year.
Public transport options to nearby towns and cities are good, which makes it a popular base to explore the south of Spain.
Expats who prefer smaller towns to live in have several popular options close to Malaga such as Benalmádena, Fuengirola, and Marbella.
While Malaga’s warm Mediterranean climate means that winters are mild, summers can get very hot. Temperatures in July and August often exceed 30 degrees Celcius (86ºF) and especially inside the city center it can get unbearable for some.
I know several people living in Malaga who leave the city every summer because they don’t want to live in this heat.
Also Read: What It’s Like to Move to & Live in Malaga
5. Seville: The City of Flamenco
Seville, or Sevilla in Spanish, is the capital of Andalusia. It is often referred to as one of the most beautiful cities in Spain.
The city is known for its stunning architecture, rich history, and vibrant cultural scene.
Seville is famous for its flamenco dancing, and the city is home to the Alcazar, a beautiful Moorish palace that was featured in Game of Thrones.
With a warm and sunny climate, Seville offers a laid-back lifestyle and a relaxed atmosphere, perfect if you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of big city life.
“Sevilla is the perfect combination of a city that knows how to enjoy life and a place that never forgets its rich cultural heritage.” – Katarina, expat in Seville
This quote from an expat who made Seville her home highlights the balance that the city strikes between modernity and tradition. It speaks to the city’s ability to offer a vibrant and exciting lifestyle while preserving its unique and fascinating history and culture.
Seville is notorious for its scorching summers, with temperatures regularly exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104ºF). The heat can be challenging to tolerate.
6. Granada: The Home of the Alhambra
Granada is a historic city in southern Spain, known for its stunning architecture, rich cultural heritage, and beautiful landscapes.
The city offers a great quality of life for residents, with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It is also home to the iconic Alhambra Palace, one of the most visited tourist attractions in Spain.
And although Granada attracts tourists from all over the world, the expat population here is smaller than in many of the other places on this list. Living here, therefore, gives you a more authentic experience of life in Spain than in some other places.
Granada is home to one of Spain’s oldest and most prestigious universities, attracting a significant student population, which contributes to the city’s vibrant and youthful atmosphere.
Granada is a great place to live for those who love history, culture, and the outdoors. And despite being in the south of Spain, you can even go skiing in winter, as Granada is right next to the Sierra Nevada.
One downside is that the weather in Granada can get quite unpredictable, with hot summers and cold winters.
7. San Sebastian: The Foodie Capital of Spain
San Sebastian is a beautiful coastal city in the Basque Country in northern Spain.
The city consistently ranks among the cities with the highest quality of life in Spain.
San Sebastian is known for its stunning beaches, beautiful architecture, and world-renowned cuisine with many Michelin-starred restaurants and famous pintxos bars.
This is a great place to live in Spain if you enjoy smaller cities, a milder climate, and easy access to a lot of outdoor activities.
The city’s coastal location offers a lot of opportunities for watersports including surfing, sailing, and when it’s warm enough, swimming.
The surrounding Basque countryside is beautiful and great for hiking, biking, and exploring nearby towns and villages.
San Sebastian has a rich cultural scene, with numerous festivals, events, and artistic activities throughout the year.
The city offers a clean and safe environment, efficient public transportation, well-maintained parks and public spaces, and a high standard of healthcare and education. The local government also emphasizes sustainability in its urban planning to enhance residents’ well-being.
San Sebastian definitely isn’t the cheapest place to live in Spain, although it isn’t as expensive as Barcelona or Madrid.
San Sebastian and the area around it offers fewer job opportunities than other parts of Spain which is something to keep in mind if you decide to move here and need a local job.
And although the green landscape around San Sebastian is absolutely stunning, that does mean it rains frequently and there are many cloudy days.
Also Read: Famous Spanish Food to Try in Spain
8. Bilbao – The Hidden Gem
If you’re looking for a bigger city to live in northern Spain, Bilbao is your best option.
It’s only the 10th largest city in Spain though, with a population of around 350,000.
But although not a large city, it is the largest city in the Basque country and has much more of a city feeling than San Sebastian.
Bilbao is a bit of a hidden gem when it comes to places to live in Spain.
The city is known for its stunning architecture, world-class museums, and excellent cuisine. Bilbao offers a vibrant cultural and art scene. The city hosts numerous art exhibitions, music festivals, theater performances, and cultural events throughout the year.
Bilbao is also home to the iconic Guggenheim Museum, which attracts visitors from all over the world.
The city’s blend of historic buildings and modern infrastructure creates a visually striking environment.
Efficient public transportation, well-maintained public spaces, and a commitment to sustainable urban development make Bilbao a good place to live.
The Basque culture values work-life balance, and the city has a relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere.
And similar to nearby San Sebastian, Bilbao is a great location from which to enjoy the beautiful nature of the Basque country.
But also, similar to San Sebastian, rain and cloudy days are common.
9. Palma de Mallorca – The Island Lifestyle
Palma de Mallorca is the capital of the Balearic Islands, located off the eastern coast of Spain.
The city has a nice historic center, great beaches, and a laid-back lifestyle. It’s a nice base for exploring the rest of Mallorca and the city stays more lively year-round than some other parts of the island.
Palma de Mallorca is a great city to live in if you’re looking for island life without being too far from the mainland.
Mallorca attracts a lot of tourists in the summer months, which is something you have to be ok with if you want to enjoy living here.
I loved living in Mallorca and think it’s one of the most beautiful parts of Spain.
Palma de Mallorca is a culturally rich and lively city. Although the city isn’t very large, there is plenty to explore and there are a lot of nice restaurants and bars to enjoy.
The surrounding nature is beautiful and offers a wide range of things to do. From spending lazy days on the beach to hiking, sailing, scuba diving, and plenty of cute small towns to visit.
The international community is large in Palma de Mallorca, making it easy to meet other foreigners, and therefore an easy place to live if you don’t speak Spanish (yet).
10. Salamanca – The University Town
Salamanca is a charming university town located in western Spain.
With a rich history dating back to Roman times, Salamanca is a beautiful city to live in, with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.
It is also home to some of the best restaurants and bars in Spain, making it a great destination for food and drink lovers.
“I fell in love with Salamanca the moment I arrived. Its history, architecture, and charming streets make it a truly special place.” – John, expat in Salamanca
Salamanca is known for its vibrant cultural scene and stunning architecture, including the famous Plaza Mayor and the University of Salamanca, one of the oldest universities in Europe.
If you’re looking for a smaller city with a young vibe and picturesque streets, Salamanca can be a wonderful place to live in.
Salamanca attracts a good number of foreign students, many of whom only stay temporarily. That gives the city a bit more of a transient feeling than other places to live in Spain.
Being a small university city you’ll also notice significant fluctuations in population. During university breaks, such as summer and winter holidays, the city becomes noticeably quieter.
And while the vibrant student community contributes to the city’s energetic atmosphere, it can also create a noisy environment. This is especially true in areas near the university campuses and around popular student hangouts.
11. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – The Best Climate in the World?
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is a popular place to live in Spain, for several reasons.
Located on the island of Gran Canaria, Las Palmas is the capital of the Canary Islands, an archipelago located off the coast of Africa. The city offers a mild climate, great beaches, and a rich cultural scene.
It’s often said that the Canary Islands have one of to best climates in the world.
Las Palmas is known for its beautiful architecture, particularly in the historic district of Vegueta, which is home to a number of impressive colonial-era buildings. The city also has quite a vibrant arts scene, with several theaters, art galleries, and music venues.
Additionally, Las Palmas is home to a number of excellent restaurants and cafes, serving delicious Spanish and international cuisine.
One of the main draws of Las Palmas is its stunning beaches, which are among the best in Spain. Playa de las Canteras, the city’s main beach, is a long stretch of sand that is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. The beach is also home to a number of beachfront bars and restaurants, making it a great area to spend an afternoon or evening.
Overall, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is a fantastic place to live in Spain, particularly if you love the beach and the outdoors, and want to avoid colder winters.
People often don’t believe this before they move to Spain, but winters on the mainland get cold!
You may think southern Spain stays warm year-round, but it really doesn’t. And on top of that many houses are poorly insulated and have limited or no heating. You’ll be surprised how cold you’ll feel in winter even if you come from a much colder country.
Sorry, rant over, but this is why I’ve ”lost” several friends to the Canary Islands. The weather really is almost perfect here. It stays very pleasant in winter and doesn’t get too hot in summer.
You’ll find a wide range of foreigners living in Las Palmas. Retirees who spend the winter here, people who come to work here for a few months, often in hospitality, people who have permanently moved here, and, more recently, a growing number of digital nomads.
This makes Las Palmas an easy place to meet people and feel at home, even if you speak limited Spanish.
Do keep in mind that Gran Canaria is a popular tourist destination which means it can get crowded. And the cost of living in Las Palmas is higher than in other parts of the Canary Islands.
Final Thoughts About The Best Places to Live in Spain
Spain is a country with a diverse range of cities and towns to choose from, each offering a unique blend of culture, history, and lifestyle.
Whether you’re looking for a cosmopolitan city, a coastal resort, or a charming mountain town, Spain has something for everyone.
I think the quality of life in Spain is great, and I love living in Spain. But, there are several important things to keep in mind before you make the move.
I can’t go into everything here but there are a few things I want to mention.
Living in Spain – Things to Know
First, of course, it’s important to research the visa and residency requirements for your specific situation.
Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to live and work in Spain. Start looking into this as early as possible, since the Spanish system can be slow, and you might need a lot of documents.
Then there is the language. While many people speak English, especially in the bigger cities, I do highly recommend learning some Spanish.
No matter where you decide to live in Spain, you will encounter people who don’t speak English. Therefore, speaking some Spanish will help you navigate daily life and interact with locals.
Take Spanish classes or use language learning apps to learn some Spanish before you move here.
The cost of living in Spain of course depends on where you choose to live, and the lifestyle you want. Generally speaking though, Spain is more affordable than other Western European countries.
Within Spain, major cities like Madrid and Barcelona are more expensive to live in than most smaller towns and smaller cities.
From the list of cities above, Seville, Salamanca, and Granada are three of the more affordable cities to live in.
I highly recommend researching housing costs, the cost of transportation, the cost of eating out, etc. for any of the places you are interested in moving to, to get a sense of how much your life there would cost.
Idealista is the go-to website for most of Spain to rent (and buy) property. And even if you don’t end up using this website (you might want to rent something more short-term at first), the website is a good indicator of what housing costs in different parts of Spain.
Finally, healthcare is an important consideration when moving to Spain.
Spain has a good public healthcare system, but you may need to get private health insurance if you’re not a resident or if you require specialized care. Look into this before you arrive.
Moving to Spain
Overall, moving to Spain can be a great experience, but do your research and plan ahead to ensure a smooth transition.
Whether you’re relocating for work, studying, or simply for a change of scenery, taking the time to prepare can help you make the most of your time here.
There are many Facebook groups for expats in different parts of Spain. I highly recommend joining several. I find these groups a great way to get useful information about life in Spain, but also to connect with other foreigners and locals in the place you are thinking of moving to.
And of course, feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions about moving to or living in Spain!
If you’re thinking about moving to a different area of Spain than the places listed above, I have a few other interviews with expats you might find interesting:
- Interview About Living in Alicante
- Interview About Living in Denia (Costa Blanca)
- Interview About Living in Altea (Costa Blanca)
- Things to Do Before Moving Abroad – A Checklist
- Things to Know Before Going to Spain
- Famous Spanish Food to Try in Spain
- Interesting, Weird & Fun Facts About Spain
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