Set against a backdrop of mountains and hills, Barcelona is 125 miles (200km) south of France and located on the Costa Dorado between the Llobregat and Besòs river mouths.
Expats moving to Barcelona will find themselves in one of the most picturesque and charming destinations in Europe. The city is renowned for its architectural beauty, cultural character and seamless blending of tradition with innovation.
Living in Barcelona as an expat
Aside from its architectural and cultural charms, the city is characterised by a pulsating social scene and sprawling, eclectic neighbourhoods that sprawl alongside the sparkling Mediterranean.
While Barcelona has a thriving economy, salaries tend to be lower than in other major European cities. That said, the tourism industry generally pays rather well and employs many expats but, due to the pandemic and border closures, it has taken a knock. Other major industries where expats may be able to find work are manufacturing, publishing, logistics and the technology industry.
One of the biggest drawbacks of living in Barcelona is the city's infamous bureaucracy. Expats will need to be prepared to go through multiple hoops to secure essential things such as an NIE number and Empadronamiento. Proficiency in Catalan or Spanish will also go a long in making expats' stay in Barcelona more fruitful.
Accommodation is usually an expat’s biggest expense, as Barcelona is currently a highly popular city for property investments. The process of finding a home to rent is cut-throat, as people scramble to secure property close to transport hubs, schools and shops.
Cost of living in Barcelona
The cost of living in Barcelona is relatively low compared to cities such as New York and London, and even Madrid is more expensive to live in. That said, as salaries in Barcelona are lower than in these cities, it can seem rather expensive to those who live here.
That said, everyday expenses such as utilities, transport and groceries are not expensive in Barcelona, and the major costs for expats will rather be things such as rent and international schools.
Expat families and children
With plenty of activities available for children in the city, expat parents will have no trouble entertaining their little ones. Green spaces abound in Barcelona, and there are also gorgeous spots for day trips or weekend getaways with the family not far from the city. Spain's extensive rail network also allows for easy travel around the country with the whole family.
There are plenty of high-quality Spanish instruction schools, as well as international schools in Barcelona. For parents with young children, it may be recommended to send them to a Spanish school to assist them in immersing into the language and culture. Expat parents also needn't worry about healthcare in Barcelona, as the Catalan public health system is free and accessible.
Climate in Barcelona
Barcelona is blessed with hot summers and mild winters, making the weather ideal for most of the year. Expats will never find themselves weather-bound, but will be able to entertain themselves outdoors all year.
New arrivals moving to Barcelona for pleasure or those who have been lucky enough to secure a job beforehand will find no better place to explore. As a city that is shaped by Catalonian heritage, expats who make an effort to learn the language and immerse themselves in the culture will find it hard to ever leave Barcelona.
►For an overview of the country, see Moving to Spain
"Spain is worth it. The bureaucratic hassle of getting a NIE, finding a job or a place to live might seem impossible at the beginning, but once you get through it, you’ll truly enjoy living here. The way of life, the climate and the food are amazing and soon your homesickness will get better. Learning the language is very important though. Even if you make mistakes everyday (I definitely do), people really appreciate you trying and it will make life easier." Learn more about Linda's expat experience in Spain, and what she has to say about life in Barcelona.
"Try to learn Spanish as soon as possible if you don’t already speak it. Take advantage of the wonderful surrounding area as well as the city itself. Use resources such as Meetup, Internations and the American Society to find new friends and make yourself feel at home." Read about American expat Dan in his interview and learn about how he's adjusted to life in Barcelona.
Are you an expat living in Barcelona?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Barcelona. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
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