If you’re thinking of living in Barcelona, whether the province or the city itself, you probably have plenty of questions. Topics such as cost of living, local communities, and healthcare are always top of the list for expats looking to move to a new place.
In this guide, we’ll cover all the information you might need about living in Barcelona, one of Spain’s most beloved cities. We’ll look at cost of living, the best places to settle down, and other important information to get you on the right path.
Is Barcelona a good place to live?
Barcelona is a city big on culture and is full of interesting activities, great restaurants, and anything else you might want for a vibrant city.
Of course, the main spoken language in the city is Spanish. However, as Barcelona is a bustling tourist city, plenty of people speak English too.
This is less common in the satellite towns and will vary depending on the level of tourist activity. Learning even some basic conversational Spanish will never hurt though!
Barcelona has all the amenities you could need for a perfect retirement location. It has plenty of options for food, both supermarkets and open-air markets, there is access to healthcare, and it has its own airport with good international links.
Along with the amazing food, scenery, and lower cost of living, it also has great international connections for visiting friends and family.
What’s more, Barcelona has a vibrant expat community that’ll help you to settle in. The city itself is very welcoming of new residents, but there are plenty of expat groups, both in the city and surrounding towns, that you can join.
Consider looking around on Facebook in advance for some expat groups; they can be a great source of insider information about what the lifestyle is really like.
Is Barcelona safe?
As a major city, Barcelona sees greater levels of crime than the smaller surrounding towns. Its status as a major tourist destination obviously impacts crime rates too, with tourists potentially attracting muggers or pickpockets.
However, Barcelona has lower crime rates than London. It has low incident rates for violent crime, race- and gender-related crime, and drug-related crime.
Even rates for burglary and theft are still considerably lower than in London. In short, if you’re happy to live in London or any other big city in the UK, then you shouldn’t have any issue living in Barcelona.
If you do have concerns about crime rates, consider living in one of the smaller towns in the Province of Barcelona discussed below.
What are the pros and cons of living in Barcelona?
Like any other place on Earth, Barcelona has its positive and negative points. Here’s a roundup of the main pros and cons of living in Barcelona.
The pros of living in Barcelona
1. It’s a visual feast for the eyes
Barcelona has some incredible architecture, from Gaudi’s contributions to the incredible Gothic quarter. The city is beautiful. Its historic streets have managed to adapt themselves to current times while preserving and cherishing the past.
There are also plenty of green spaces within the city that make a nice change from the paved streets.
2. A paradise for foodies
Spanish food is world-renowned, and where better to experience it than Barcelona? Whether you go for the tapas bars, open-air markets, or buzzing international restaurants, Barcelona’s food scene has plenty to offer.
Combine this with the wealth of bars (serving some exquisite wine), and you’ve found a pretty amazing place to live.
3. Great weather
Like much of continental Europe, Barcelona has weather that most people from further north would love. Winter temperatures generally don’t dip lower than 13C, and in the summer they may peak at 34C. Due to its proximity to the sea, the city enjoys a more regulated climate than inland locations.
4. Amazing nature
Barcelona itself has a wealth of beaches, which get quite busy in the summer. However, you’re also not too far away from locations such as Montseny Natural Park, Montserrat Mountain, or the Ebro Delta. If you enjoy spending time amongst nature, you could do a lot worse than this.
The cons of living in Barcelona
1. The place gets a bit overwhelmed with tourists
Barcelona is known internationally as a tourist hotspot. While this is great for the economy, it might not be great for your retirement lifestyle.
Obviously, this is only a problem in the summer months, as tourism dies off in the winter. However, by living in one of the local towns you can access the city and avoid the worst of the tourism boom.
2. The cost of living is high
While the cost of living in Barcelona is lower than in the UK or the USA, it is more expensive than in other Spanish cities. Again, this is because of the nature of the city and generally, you get what you pay for, but you can avoid it by buying property outside the city.
3. Public transport is not the best
Public transport in Barcelona really isn’t great. Buses and taxis take a while because there’s lots of road traffic, and the metro is quite old.
However, taxis and Uber aren’t particularly expensive and are definitely more convenient than owning your own car.
4. You need more time and patience to get simple things done
Life is slower in Spain in general. This isn’t really a con when you’re retired, but everything takes longer in Barcelona.
Like much of Europe, shops shut in the middle of the day, and many restaurants and attractions are shut Sundays and Mondays. Similarly, things like building work are done at their own pace. However, once you get used to it, it’s really not much of a negative.
Is living in Barcelona expensive?
Barcelona has a higher cost of living than other big Spanish cities, but it’s still considerably lower than the cost of living in the UK or the USA. Its cost of living is impacted by tourism and the expat community, along with it being a major administrative hub in Catalonia.
The cost of renting an apartment in the city centre is around €931 (£845) a month, compared to £1,750 (€1,930) a month in London. Outside of the city centre, this drops to €727 (£660) for a 1 bedroom apartment, compared to £1,250 (€1,370) in London.
The price per square metre of property in Barcelona is around €4,600 (£4,180) compared to £11,300 (€12,500) in London. This price drops when you leave the city centre and is considerably less in the smaller satellite towns.
Utilities are around 30% cheaper in Barcelona than in London, but Internet is around 20% more expensive. Food prices vary massively depending on whether it’s local or international products, but you’ll find the prices in open-air markets to be much less.
How much do I need to retire in Barcelona?
To live a comfortable retirement in Barcelona, you would need a minimum annual income of around €24,000 (£21,000) if you’re going to rent. If you have the money to buy property, you’ll need considerably less to live a comfortable lifestyle.
If this sounds like an unreasonable amount of money for your retirement, living in a local town will massively reduce your outgoings. However, you’ll be impacted by factors such as less access to amenities and slower Internet speed.
Where are the best places to live in Barcelona?
1. La Ribera
La Ribera was traditionally home to the wealthiest inhabitants but has recently been transformed into a great place for expats to call home.
The area is famous for its restaurants, wine bars, cocktail lounges, dance clubs and designer boutiques.
There are plenty of modern apartments hidden inside classic buildings, and its central location gives you access to the whole city.
2. The Eixample
This area was purpose-built in the 19th century and is characterised by wide roads and light, spacious apartments. It has quite a vibrant nightlife, which will either be a big pro or con for expats depending on your lifestyle.
It’s one of the safest districts to live in Barcelona. Living there you will be within a walking distance of iconic square Plaça de Catalunya surrounded by stylish boutiques, bars, and restaurants.
3. La Zona Alta
La Zona Alta is located in the northwest of Barcelona, and is away from tourist hotspots, yet is still within easy reach of all the necessary amenities.
It is considered one of Barcelona’s most privileged residential areas where elegant mansions and grand apartment blocks frame peaceful leafy avenues.
Zona Alta is made up of Barcelona’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, including Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, El Putxet, Les Corts, Tres Torres, Turó Park and the prestigious Pedralbes area.
It’s also home to some of the leading international schools in the city. As a result, however, its property prices are higher than in other districts.
Where are the best places to live near Barcelona?
While Barcelona is an incredible city, many expats want more of a sense of local community but still want access to all a city offers. If that matches your needs, consider one of the local towns instead.
Mataro is located on the coast and is about 45 minutes away from Barcelona by car. It’s ideal for those seeking an active lifestyle, as it has great swimming locations and access to tennis, football, and rock climbing facilities. It has a gorgeous sandy beach, traditional markets, and the Collserola nature park nearby.
Sitges is another amazing coastal town and is about 50 minutes away from Barcelona. However, its popularity with expats is on the rise, which is reflected in its property prices. That said, it has some amazing restaurants and beaches that more than make up for this.
Badalona is a peaceful town, ideal for those wanting a quieter retirement. It has plenty of entertainment and cultural sites and is only 35 minutes away from Barcelona by car.
Collserola is perfect for those who want to live close to nature. It has a national park, mountains, and plenty of outdoor spaces. It’s ideal for those wanting a more active, outdoor lifestyle, and is around 30 minutes away from Barcelona.
Buying a property versus renting in Barcelona
For many expats looking to retire abroad, there often isn’t much of a discussion about buying or renting. If you’re looking for a primary retirement location, buying obviously makes much more sense.
However, if you have the freedom to do so, renting in various locations can be a great way of deciding where to settle down. Depending on the contract and agency, you can either choose between short-term rents of 3 to 11 months or long-term rents of between 1 and 5 years.
There are major disparities in the city’s rent prices depending on where you look. Central apartments can be around €1,500 a month, whereas going slightly further afield they can be around €1,000 a month.
If you have the money, buying is a better option. Again, prices vary, as an apartment in Barcelona will cost between €3,000 and €4,600 per square metre. In one of the smaller towns, such as Badalona, you could be looking at €2,400 per square metre.
The decision ultimately depends on your retirement goals and choice of lifestyle. Purchasing property is a good investment, as prices are increasing, meaning it’ll almost always be a sound investment.
- Renting Property In Spain: The Ins And Outs Of The Spanish Rental Process;
- A Complete Guide To Buying A Property In Spain.
Is healthcare free in Barcelona?
Yes, public healthcare is free for eligible residents.
To have free access to public healthcare in Barcelona you need a Targeta Sanitaria Individual or TSI (Individual Healthcare Card). To obtain a TSI, you must be a Spanish resident and pay social security contributions if you’re not retired.
More details on public and private healthcare in our Health Insurance In Spain Guide For Expats
However, many expats prefer to go private or even use an international health insurance plan that covers them in several countries.
Living in Barcelona – summary
Barcelona has plenty on offer for expats looking to retire abroad. Its biggest pro – it being a tourism hotspot – is also a big con for many. While it means lots of the locals speak English, not many expats want to live in a bustling tourist city.
However, many of the smaller local towns are ideal for overcoming this. Not only will it be easier to integrate into a more authentic local community, but also house prices and the cost of living are also lower.
Generally speaking, Barcelona is a great location for living. If you plan intelligently and spend some time looking around, it’ll be really easy to overcome any objectives you might have about moving to the city.