Moving Abroad > Spain

Ahh, moving to Spain! The Iberian nation rich in history, beautiful scenery and weather that we Brits could only dream about – it’s no wonder that it’s one of the most popular destinations for Brits to go for holiday, relocate and even retire.

And in 2017, Spain broke their tourism record for the fifth consecutive year with 82 million international visitors. Unsurprisingly, the number of Brit tourists played a hefty part in this figure, with over 18 million travelling to places like Mallorca, Ibiza, Benidorm and the Canary Islands. 

Though who could blame them, with a typical flight time of only two and a half hours separating London from Madrid.

Not only are we loving Spain as tourists, according to Full Fact over 310,000 Brits have committed to living in Spain. And of those who have committed to settle down, the majority focus in the sub-provincial regions of Málaga, Almería, Murcia, Alicante, and the main provincial regions of the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.

Cost of Living in Spain

Compared to other western countries, Spain’s cost of living is relatively low, which makes moving to Spain more affordable and attractive as a retirement destination.

Madrid and Barcelona are cheaper than London by 42% and 49% respectively. Following the 2008 banking crisis, house prices in Spain dropped for seven straight years, before levelling out in 2015. Currently, the average price for a four-bedroom apartment rests somewhere between €150,000 and €500,000. Residents in Spain also have access to free healthcare and social security benefits.

However, if you’re moving to Spain to further your career, you’ll have to contend with an average disposable income lower than that in the UK. There has also been high employment (especially youth unemployment) since the financial crash, although there are now some signs of recovery.

As you might expect, locations near the coast are relatively more expensive than inland, though Málaga and Valencia generally buck this trend. The most expensive place to live are the Balearic Islands – Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca – where the average high-end house price is a Londonesque €1m.

So: if you’re moving abroad, why Spain?

Well, it has a lot going for it. From the weather to the culture, Spain lives up to its position as one of the most popular international destinations for Brits to relocate.

Moving to Spain will give you warm weather nearly all year round, but like many countries there are multiple climate zones. Of these, there are three main ones – Mediterranean, Oceanic and Semi-Arid. The Mediterranean climate is hot and dry, and dominates the peninsular, the Oceanic has mild winters and warm summers and the Semi-Arid, dominating the south-eastern parts, can be on the hotter side. This area is where the majority of Brits have decided to make a home for themselves, with the sun, sand and the relatively low price tags being particularly appealing.

Spanish Heritage

Culturally influenced by its Roman heritage, the strong ties of Catholicism have helped shaped the identity of the country. This is most evident in Spain’s 47 world heritage sites, placing it third behind only Italy and China as far as sheer number of heritage sights go. Some of these iconic sites include:

  • Monte Perdido (Aragon) in the Pyrenees.
  • The Historic Centre of Cordoba, with its array of ancient architecture dating back to the 8th century. Cordoba is packed with mosques and cathedrals that were built to compete with Constantinople (Istanbul), Damascus and Baghdad.
  • The Historic city of Toledo, which, in its 2000 years of existence, has been occupied at one time or another by the Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and finally the Spanish. Its historic variety and sheer longevity bears fruit with a mix of religious iconography (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) within its well preserved structures. Given this, you won’t be surprised to find that it has been coined the ‘museum-city’.
  • Gaudi – we have to put a little bit of modernism into this list, and there is no better candidate than the artistic works of Antonio Gaudi created in the early 20th century in Barcelona. His work, as strange as it can be, is intrinsically linked to the culture and style of Barcelona.

Spanish Food

It’s would be a huge disservice to write about Spain without discussing the food. And depending in which area of Spain you find yourself, you can expect three main types:

  • Mediterranean Spain – food in the the coastal regions from Andalusia to Catalonia and even the Balearic Islands feature heavy use of sea food, cold soup, and rice-based dishes. Such dishes include pescaíto frito, gazpacho, and paella.
  • Inner Spain – the inner mountainous regions of Spain, and the regions bordering Portugal, use hot and thicker based soup and stews, like cocido madrileño. Food in inner Spain is traditionally preserved in either salt, such as Spanish ham, or in olive oil like the Manchego cheese.
  • Atlantic Spain – the northern coast from Galicia to Navarra. They mostly use vegetable and fish based stew dishes, like caldo gallego and marmitako. They also rely a lot on ocean seafood, like the Galician octopus or shellfish dishes, or the Basque style cod or anchovy dishes.

Spanish Culture

If you’re moving to Spain, then you’re not going to be short of a bit of culture.

  • Spain has produced an array of famous and talented painters, including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Francisco Zurbarán and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. Given its Roman roots, a great deal of this work has been influenced by religion.
  • Unsurprisingly, Spain’s top followed sport is football, with it bearing some of the world’s most famous football clubs such as Real Madrid C.F. and FC Barcelona who have dominated both Spanish and world football.
  • Two of the most famous Spanish festivals are the festival of San Fermín in Pamplona and La Tomatina in Buñol. If being chased while running with bulls in Pamplona is too much for you, you can always skip to the tomato festival in Buñol.

Logistics of Moving to Spain

Moving to Spain doesn’t require any long-haul travel.

If you’re close to a major airport, you can usually be back in the UK within 2-4 hours – for emergencies, Christmas, family birthdays and the like. Here is a list of Spain’s top 10 airports (according to Wikipedia):

RankAirportLocationTotal Passengers
1Madrid AirportMadrid50,420,583
2Barcelona AirportBarcelona44,154,693
3Palma de Mallorca AirportPalma de Mallorca26,253,882
4Málaga AirportMálaga16,672,776
5Alicante AirportAlicante12,344,945
6Gran Canaria AirportLas Palmas / Gran Canaria12,093,645
7Tenerife South AirportTenerife10,472,404
8Ibiza AirportIbiza7,416,368
9Lanzarote AirportLanzarote6,683,966
10Valencia AirportValencia5,799,104


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