Best Places To Live In Spain For Expats

Lisa Smith, BA (Hons), CeFA
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Spain is a firm favourite with British expats. With a year-round decent climate, relaxed quality of life and access to a wide choice of places to live, it’s not hard to see why Spain remains near the top of the list.

When it comes to living in Spain, the country has everything you want, from bustling metropolitan meccas to peaceful rural vistas and even some secret gems hidden away if you’re looking for life off of the beaten track.

Read this guide if you are thinking about retiring in Spain.

If you are thinking of a move to Spain, here’s our pick of the top Spanish places for expats to live.

The Spanish Property Market for Expats

The key to buying a property in Spain is to do your homework. The process is relatively straightforward, but it’s essential to get a grasp of the local rules before signing on the dotted line.

Find out more about buying a property overseas in this guide.

There is no shortage of housing, with plenty of developers creating homes for expats in areas all the most popular cities and resorts.

British expats make up most foreign nationals buying in Spain, although the number of French and German investors is rising.

You’re looking at prices around €1,800 a square metre on average, that’s about £1,650 depending on the exchange rate and is pretty like the average UK house price.

The number of British expats moving to Spain remains steady, but Brexit may change that.

Like most countries, the most expensive property is found in the busiest cities – so Madrid and Barcelona will give you less bang for your buck, but much more in terms of stylish city living.

Most Popular Places to live in Spain

Alicante

alicante port

A fabled beach paradise with a thriving expat community enjoying hot weather all year. If you’re after a daily dose of sunshine and plenty of sandy beaches the chilled-out atmosphere will suit you well.

With around 69,000 British expats already live there, so Alicante is certainly popular with expats.!

Seville

Seville plaza

If you’ve visited Seville, you’ll know there is a lot more to be found in this gorgeous southern Spanish city than just their famous oranges. One of the warmest spots in Europe, you’ll find the temperature averages 19.2°C every day.

This is a city with a history, bristling with impressive gothic architecture and a spicy nightlife when the sun goes down that belies the small footfall of this compact community.

Ibiza

Ibiza harbour

Ibiza is renowned worldwide as a party island but it offers so much more. Expats from many countries recognise the contrast to be found on this tranquil island, with frantic resorts nestling in elegant, tranquil countryside and coastal seascapes that bring out your inner romantic.

Ibiza isn’t the cheapest place for expats to live in Spain – but the charm, culture and scenery make up for the added expense.

Barcelona

Barcelona skyline

Barcelona may be pricey but remains one of the most prestigious Spanish locations to live in, and with the Med dazzling away, the waterside living and spectacular cityscape are hard to forget.

The city is also a favourite with eco-conscious expats, being the first city in the world to gain a biodiversity certification – what’s not to love?

Torrevieja

Torrevieja beach cafe

A hop and a skip away from Alicante, Torrevieja is a fast-growing town on the Costa Brava, popular with expats and tourists from Spain and beyond. 

This pretty town is only 30 kilometres from Alicante, making it the perfect blend of quieter living and beachside peace, with easy access to all the shops and bars you could wish for.

Tenerife

Tenerife sea view

Sitting in the Atlantic just 80 miles off the African coast, this island in the Canaries is a tropical paradise with a summer vibe all year long. 

The island features a natural volcanic, desert landscape away from the waterside hotels and hotspots, with mountains, national parks and even rainforests balancing the buzz and bright lights of the livelier areas.

Valencia

Valencia city center

Also known as the arts city, Valencia sits on the banks of the Turia and is a hive of cultural festivities. The city is bilingual, and the architecture of the Barrio Del Carmen is something special.

The third-largest city in Spain, you can find more rural areas on the outskirts, with visitors from around the world flocking here during the big-ticket events on the calendar, like the famous tomato fight.

Madrid

Madrid Palacio de Cristal

If you’re looking for the epitome of Spanish style, Madrid is your go-to destination with incredible arts, culture and shopping experiences throughout its 18 distinctive neighbourhoods.

This makes the city unique in every way, with the old quarter showcasing the romance of historic Spain and chic districts like Chueca offering the best in high-end shopping.

Majorca

Majorca beach

With 500 kms of coastline, you’re never far from the sea in Majorca. This Balearic Island is known for coastal bays, water sports and fine dining – offering expats a choice of no less than eight Michelin star restaurants.

New properties are few and far between, with about 40% of the island protected from development, with the focus on sustainable living and an outdoor lifestyle for those who love the sea breeze.

Marbella

Marbella marina and mountains

While the Costa del Sol is known for tourists, there is a strong expat community here too, and the Golden Mile – which happens to be four miles long – is the epicentre of this busy town.

The old town offsets the glitz and glamour of the new, and Nueva Andalucía is one of the best places in Spain for experienced and aspiring golfers alike. 

Javea

Javea harbour

Less well known than a lot of the expat favourites, Javea deserves a mention as a town with a calm climate, stunning natural landscapes, and those incredible beaches that Spain does so well.

The historic quarter is every you want from a town with heritage, and the abundance of outdoor sports is perfect for thrill-seekers. If you’re after something more laid back, the restaurant scene doesn’t disappoint either. Javea is tucked away next to the Montgo Mountains but is easily accessible with an airport just 52 miles away.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian square

In the northern Basque region, San Sebastian isn’t quite a hot as the more southerly cities but brings a bit of glamour to sangria-soaked evenings.

Locals speak both Spanish and Basque, and the chic style of the city sits perfectly next to the stretches of beach with outstanding shopping when you’re done with your siesta.

Palma

Palma beach

The capital of Mallorca, Palma offers something different from the resorts, with mild winters making it a haven from the bite of the cold.

You’ll still find the essential stretch of white sandy beach, but also a city full of quirk and charm, with plenty of interesting boutiques and busy markets. It’s not hard to see why the small community of expats think it’s the best place to live in Spain!

Granada

Scorching summers are offset by chillier winters in Grenada, but with a booming nightlife, cheap and tasty cuisine, and the atmosphere of the famous Moorish Alhambra Palace, it remains a popular expat destination. 

The combination of culture, affordability and surrounding natural landscapes make Grenada one of the most popular expat destinations in Andalucía. 

Best Places For Expats To Live In Spain FAQ

Spain is without doubt the most popular destination for British expats seeking a more relaxing and cheaper lifestyle and warmer climate.

Around 300,000 Brits live in Spain and many are enjoying their retirement.

If you are thinking about moving to Spain, here are some of the most asked questions from British expats new to the country.

✅ Which is the most popular Spanish location for expats?

There is a significant expat community in most Spanish cities and towns. 

The most popular is probably Alicante, with prices much lower than in the big cities like Madrid and Barcelona. Around a third of the residents are expats in some neighbourhoods.

✅ How does the cost of living in Spain compare to the UK?

You’ll find significant differences between the cost of city and rural living, as you’d expect in any country. 

Local produce is always affordable, and with the gentle climate, most markets run year-round. Fewer expats drive or run a car than in the UK with excellent public transport systems.

If you’re looking to rent, average costs start at around €400 per month for a one-bed apartment. 

✅ Is it always sunny in Spain?

It depends on where you choose to live, but pick right, and you’re in for year-round sunshine. 

The best weather can be found in the Mediterranean locations to the south and east of the country – think the Balearics, Barcelona, and Malaga.

✅ How many British expats live in Spain?

Spain is the most popular place for UK expats to live, whether year-round or part-time. The last count recorded between 300,000 and a million Brits living in Spain for at least part of the year.

✅ Is it easy to buy Spanish property as an expat?

There are no restrictions to buying Spanish property as an expat, and you’ll find perks and incentives to make newbuilds an attractive option. 

As a bonus, if you invest in a property costing over €500,000, you will usually be offered a residency visa in return. 

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