The 5 Best Places to Live in Spain in 2021


Updated on Apr 13 • 6 minute read

Spain, where the sun tickles your skin and the rhythm of life gives you a new sense of time. So where is the best place to live in Spain?

These are the five best places to live in Spain:

  1. Barcelona

  2. Madrid

  3. Valencia

  4. Málaga

  5. Alicante

Whether you live next door to Gaudi's finest in Barcelona or enjoy the sea breeze in Málaga, there's one thing you won't have to compromise on in any of the five best places to live in Spain: quality of life.

We've taken a closer look at three characteristics of the five best cities in Spain:

  • Internationality: Where do most foreigners live in Spain?
  • Cost of living: Where is it cheapest to live in Spain?
  • Safety: Which city is safest to live in?

All set to choose your future home? Let’s get started!

1. Barcelona is the best place to live in Spain

Urban jungle meets sandy beach: it won't need a more convincing argument to see why Barcelona takes the spot as the best city in Spain ahead of Madrid.

The Catalan city strikes the balance between a high quality of life with a seaside view and its cosmopolitan vibe as a hub for digital nomads

Barcelona is one of the top hotspots for entrepreneurs in Europe and blends two key ingredients: technology and talent.

It's not just home to digital nomads and entrepreneurs. It's more a place to keep your work-life balance through its many outdoor activities, from hiking to kite surfing.

Internationality in Barcelona

Brits, Germans and US-Americans alike find their way to Barcelona to top up on the quality of life with its laid-back manner. Among the vast array of digital nomads, there are numerous expat communities ready to set you up in a new social circle in no time at all.

Cost of living in Barcelona

With its popularity as an expat destination, Barcelona is emerging as one of the top 3 most expensive cities in Spain. According to the HousingAnywhere Rent Index, rental prices have risen sharply in recent years. Compared to other Spanish cities, the cost of living in Barcelona is fairly high.

Type of accommodationRental Price
Private Room457€

Keep in mind, Barcelona still comes in relatively cheap compared to other major cities in the UK, making it more than comfortable to live in Barcelona on a British budget.

Safety in Barcelona

Good to know: Barcelona ranks as one of the safest cities in Europe. The popularity of the Catalan capital draws pickpockets and tricksters as you would experience in any other tourist city.

Compared to London, where the Safety Index is 46.85, Barcelona is much safer, with 54.08.

2. Madrid is the second-best city in Spain to live in

Club scene and urban culture are as abundant in Madrid as there is sand on the beach in Barcelona: infinite.

In the capital of Spain, you're always on the brink of something new and you can feel that wild and restless spirit in the air. One-click away from a ticket to a new theatre show, one entry row away from the vibrant nightlife or a few steps away from the nearest park.

If you're on a quest for a bustling lifestyle, Madrid is your best city to live in in Spain.

Even better, from Madrid, you can easily travel all over Europe.

Internationality in Madrid

Single expats and expat families, in particular, are moving to Madrid. Did you know that almost 10,000 British expats live in the Spanish capital?

It’s no surprise. After all, Madrid takes on a key role in the European economy and offers English-speaking expats in particular numerous job opportunities.

Cost of living in Madrid

If you compare Madrid with other European capitals such as London or Paris, the largest cities in Spain are considerably cheaper.

Type of accommodationRental Price
Private Room480€

Safety in Madrid

Madrid is one of the safest capitals in Europe, and close to being one of the safest cities in Spain. And that's despite being the capital of Spain!

With a safety index of 69.91, Madrid is considered a very safe city. By comparison, London's safety index stands at 46.85!

3. Valencia

For food lovers, Valencia is heaven on earth and the best place to live in Spain. As the original creators of paella, the Valencians set the bar high with their culinary talents.

Valencia is bursting with Mediterranean food. Why not treat yourself to a bocadillo for merienda or indulge in the various tapas bars in the evening?

When broadening your scope beyond the two largest cities to find your best city to live in Spain, Valencia offers a dream home for a much smaller budget.

The fact that Valencia is geographically smaller than Madrid means that most places are easier to get to by walking or by public transport.

Internationality in Valencia

Valencia was named the best city for expats by InterNations in 2020 and you can find around 1,500 British expats in Valencia. Expat families enjoy a high-quality education with international schools.

Did you know that the digital nomad and freelance community is closely following in the footsteps of Barcelona? Join this ever-growing expat community if you want to be on the cutting edge!

Cost of living in Valencia

In Valencia, you'll find everything that the big cities in Spain offer without having to pay the high cost of living of Barcelona and Madrid.

Type of accommodationRental Price
Private Room303€

So if you don't want to dig too deep into your wallet but still don't want to miss out on the big city vibe, Valencia is the best place in Spain to live.

Rental prices are 37% less in Valencia compared to Madrid and as much as 52% less than in London.

Safety in Valencia

The safest big city in Spain is Valencia by far. You will find just minor crimes in Valencia and very few violent crimes. With a safety index of 74.49, you can feel very safe in Valencia.

4. Málaga

Fresh fish straight from the salty spring and Andalusian festivals that burst with joie de vivre; that's more or less what you can expect in Málaga.

With its good weather all year round and laid-back lifestyle, it is mainly families, couples and also pensioners who are drawn to the city in the south.

Internationality in Málaga

With its airport, the third busiest in Spain, Malaga offers a new level of public transport. A bonus especially for expats and families who are returning home from time to time.

More than 90,463 expats live and study or work in Málaga.

In other words, a large network of expats is waiting for you!

Cost of living in Málaga

For those moving to Spain primarily for the high quality of life, the lower cost of living in Málaga gives you a ticket to move to Spain. After all, Málaga is one of the cheapest places to live in Spain.

Time for some London benchmarking again! Average rental prices in London are almost 195% higher than in Málaga.

Safety in Málaga

When it comes to safety, Málaga scores highly: with a safety index of 72.99, Málaga is ahead of Madrid and Barcelona.

5. Alicante

Year-round good weather and a beach on your doorstep. Stroll through historic narrow streets and colourful houses of Alicante, and take in the easy-going spirit of the people in no time.

Internationality in Alicante

British people won't be alone in Alicante for long. After all, Alicante is the most popular place among Brits.

It's not only among the English that Alicante is a firm favourite, many other nations choose Alicante as their new home. No doubt, in Alicante you can mingle with like-minded people in no time.

Cost of living in Alicante

One of the reasons Alicante is so popular among Brits is because it is one of the cheapest places to live in Spain.

Let's compare the rental prices with Barcelona. The average rent of Barcelona is almost 105% higher than that of Alicante and food costs almost 8% more there as well.

Safety in Alicante

With under 88.517 crimes in 2017, you can feel more than safe in Alicante. A safety index of 71.82 is almost as high as in Valencia. For comparison, the safety index in London is 46.85.

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