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Starting a new life in Spain is a dream for many people. But which Spanish city should you choose? The big cities of Madrid and Barcelona might seem like obvious choices – they’re regularly listed as two of Europe’s most desirable cities to visit for their food, culture and history. But when it comes to cost and quality of life there are better options to consider. No matter what you’re looking for, we’ve listed (in no particular order) 15 of the most liveable cities in Spain to help you find your inspiration.
Spain’s third city, Valencia has all the nightlife, shopping and culture you could wish for – and even a huge, sandy beach – without the high rents and tourist crowds. The stunning Old City and surrounding bohemian districts are a haven for foodies and creative types. It may not be as cosmopolitan as Barcelona, but the local atmosphere means plenty of chances to immerse yourself in the culture and practice your Spanish. Public transport is excellent and there are great local and international schools. Don’t worry about the local Valencian language, you’ll get by just fine without it. The city has its own international airport, though many residents use Alicante’s bigger airport for cheaper direct flights.
Not just another town on the Costa Del Sol, Malaga is a (perhaps surprisingly) great place to live. It often ranks highly on quality of life surveys, and it’s not hard to see why. As well as the famous sun, sea and sangria here you’ll find a lively arts scene, charming old town and excellent museums, plus good schools and public transport. Property prices are affordable and Malaga has plenty of direct flights from around Europe all year round. Plus, it makes an ideal base for exploring the whole of Spain.
Just north of Madrid, this picturesque little city offers a dream lifestyle in central Spain. It’s often overlooked by tourists but has stunning architecture and is also famous for its food – especially dessert. It’s not the cheapest place to live on this list but you’re surrounded by countryside, half an hour from mountain hikes and skiing in the winter, and it’s just a short drive to Madrid.
This hidden jewel in Asturia is a friendly place offering a great lifestyle without the high prices and mass tourism found elsewhere. It’s known as a party town due to its student numbers and the Sidrerias (cider bars) on every street. Oviedo open and welcoming to newcomers, and is surrounded by lush green hillsides and mountains perfect for getting away from it all on weekends.
Bilbao, on Spain’s green north coast, is easily one of the most livable cities in Europe. In the last 20 years it has been transformed from a gritty, industrial port city into a modern place to live and a hotspot for visitors. With a well-preserved Old Town and miles of green parkland in the heart of the city, walking and cycling are popular and there’s no shortage of places for children to play. Prices have of course gone up, but for the quality of life here, it’s not as expensive as you might imagine.
Famous worldwide for its Alhambra Palace and the Generalife Gardens, Granada also has world-class gastronomy and a well-preserved, atmospheric Old Town. But it’s not just a pretty place to visit – house prices are reasonable and there’s everything you need for modern living. Plus it’s well located for exploring the rest of Spain.
If you’re at home in hot climates, this city in Andalucia might be for you. Córdoba is a huge tourist destination known for its Mezquita, whitewashed houses and flamenco dancers, making it the picture-postcard Spain of our dreams. The local accent can be difficult to get used to at first, and the summer heat is blistering, but if you’re looking for a place where you can really experience the traditional Spanish way of life, this is it.
Another place representing the traditional image of Spain, stunning Seville is famous for colourful dresses, white horses, the Feria and the food. It’s not hard to imagine yourself lingering over tapas in the evenings and exploring the cobbled city streets by day. The good news is that the cost of living is reasonable, and it makes a great place to call home – if you can stand the heat and the fiery local temperament.
The total opposite of Seville, on the north west coast in Galicia, Vigo is unknown to most – except of course those who’ve read Laurie Lee’s “As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning”. It’s known for fjords, food and the lush green landscape created by the rainfall in this part of Spain, making it an ideal home for those who want a taste of “real Spain” and plenty of culture, but with a comparatively cooler climate. Life moves at a relaxed pace here, and it’s a great base for exploring both Galicia and Asturias.
Despite being famous for mass tourism the city of Alicante itself is surprisingly Spanish, somehow retaining a local feel in most parts. It has a beautiful pedestrianised Old Town, excellent museums, a big central food market, a long strip of sandy beach and of course, a large international airport. Most visitors go straight from the airport to the beach resorts, meaning crowds in the city itself are minimal outside the summer months and property prices are unaffected. Obviously, residents are used to foreigners and English is widely spoken here.
Not officially a city, but this lively town on Valencia’s coast has a lot to offer at very attractive prices. This spot on the Mediterranean is famous for a lively nightlife and long sandy beaches, yet gets little tourism. It also has historic architecture, much of it courtesy of the famously cruel Borgia family. Gandia has plenty of affordable housing around town and easy transport connections, just 45 minutes from Valencia and an hour from Alicante.
Sitting on the coast in the centre of the Asturias region, Gijón is far from a tourist destination and is little known outside of Spain. But it’s another exceptionally livable place, with an Old Town, a city beach and incredibly friendly inhabitants. It’s a great spot for food lovers, known for generous portions washed down with plenty of local cider. While the town itself isn’t the most beautiful, it’s surrounded by incredibly beautiful natural parks and has a mild, sometimes rainy climate.
This famously stylish city on Spain’s north coast is famous for its curves of golden sand, wide boulevards and belle epoque architecture. The city has been a fashionable resort since the 1800s, favoured by royalty, rivalling Biarritz just over the border. It boasts luxury hotels and incredible shopping. But while holidays here can get expensive, living as a local doesn’t have to be. There are reasonably priced apartments to be found, the cost of living is comparable to the rest of the region. Temperatures are mild year-round and crowds are few outside of the summer months. If you’re looking for glamour and sophistication, there’s no better place to be.