What You Need to Know Before Moving to Barcelona as an Expat


Have you ever dreamed of living in a city that has it all: beautiful weather, stunning architecture, rich culture, delicious cuisine, and friendly people? If so, you might want to consider one of the hottest relocation spots on the globe—Barcelona.

How Popular is Barcelona for Relocation?

Barcelona is the second-largest city in Spain and the capital of Catalonia, a region with its own language, history, and identity.

Barcelona’s popularity among expats is undeniable. According to the latest figures from Barcelona City Council, the number of foreign nationals registered as residents in the city has increased by 7.8% in a single year. This growth mirrors Barcelona’s consistent ranking among the top cities for expats worldwide. InterNations’ Best Cities for Expats 2023 placed Barcelona at a respectable 13th, highlighting its appeal for quality of life, ease of settling in, work opportunities, and personal finances.

For digital nomads, Barcelona’s vibrant start-up ecosystem, excellent internet connectivity, and central European location make it an ideal hub for remote work. Retirees, on the other hand, are drawn to the city’s Mediterranean climate, affordable cost of living, and laid-back lifestyle.

What are the Pros of Living in Barcelona?

There are many reasons why living in Barcelona is a great experience, but here are some of the most common ones:

Great Weather

Barcelona enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and warm summers. The average temperature is around 18°C (64°F), and the city gets more than 300 days of sunshine per year. You can enjoy the outdoors all year round, whether it’s going to the beach, hiking in the mountains, or strolling in the parks.

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Excellent location

Barcelona is strategically located in the northeast of Spain, close to the border with France and the Pyrenees. This means that you can easily explore other parts of Spain, such as Madrid, Valencia, or Seville, as well as other European countries, such as France, Italy, or Portugal, by train, bus, or car.

You can also take advantage of the cheap flights from Barcelona’s airport, which connects you to more than 200 destinations worldwide. Barcelona has the second-highest number of US citizens in total, with over 8,000 people, and most of them highlight that regular direct flights to major US hubs from Barcelona’s international airport are a big bonus.

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Barcelona is relatively affordable compared to other European cities, such as London, Paris, or Amsterdam. You can find a decent one-bedroom apartment in the city center for around 800 euros per month and a meal in a mid-range restaurant for around 15 euros. Of course, the prices vary depending on the area, the season, and the quality, but you can still live comfortably in Barcelona without breaking the bank.

But the affordability of Barcelona is a relative concept. While Barcelona is not the cheapest city in the world, it offers a great value proposition for expats from countries with higher living costs, like the USA, Canada, or the UK.

Beaches galore

Barcelona is famous for its beaches, which are not only beautiful but also clean and safe. There are more than 10 beaches along the 4.5 km (2.8 miles) coastline, each with its character and vibe. You can choose from the busy and lively Barceloneta, the trendy and hip Bogatell, or the quiet and relaxing Mar Bella. The beaches are also well-equipped with showers, toilets, lifeguards, and bars, and are easily accessible by public transportation or bike.

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A one-hour ride from Barcelona will take you to many charming coastal regions. Such as Costa Brava , Cadaques, Costa Blanca, Costa Daurada, Costa de Sol, Sitges, Valencia, and Cadiz. You can enjoy the beach, the culture, the food, and the scenery, as well as the history, the heritage, and the people. You can easily reach these places by train, bus, or car, and find something for everyone.

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Rich culture

Barcelona is a city with a rich and diverse culture, where you can find something for everyone. You can admire the stunning works of art and architecture by Gaudí, Picasso, Miró, and Dalí, visit the world-class buildings, museums and art galleries, such as the Sagrada Familia, the Picasso Museum, or the MACBA, enjoy the vibrant nightlife and music scene, from flamenco to techno, or immerse yourself in the local traditions and festivals, such as the Castellers, the Sardana, or the Festa Major de Gràcia.

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Delicious cuisine

Barcelona is a city where you can enjoy a variety of delicious and healthy food, from traditional Catalan cuisine to international and fusion dishes. You can taste the famous tapas, such as patatas bravas, croquetas, or jamón ibérico, the fresh seafood, such as paella, fideuà, or suquet, the hearty soups and stews, such as escudella, calçots, or botifarra, or the sweet treats, such as crema catalana, churros, or panellets. You can also explore the different markets, such as La Boqueria, Santa Caterina, or Sant Antoni, where you can find fresh and local products, or the many restaurants, cafes, and bars, where you can find cuisines from all over the world, such as Italian, Japanese, or Moroccan.

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Dog-friendly environment

Barcelona is a city where you can live with your furry friend without any hassle. The city has more than 100 dog parks, where you can let your dog run and play freely, as well as many dog-friendly beaches, such as Llevant, Nova Icària, or Nova Mar Bella. You can also take your dog with you on public transportation, such as the metro, the bus, or the tram, as long as you follow some rules, such as using a leash, a muzzle, or a carrier. You can also find many dog-friendly establishments, such as restaurants, cafes, or shops, where you can enter with your dog, as long as you ask for permission and respect the other customers.

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Efficient public transportation

Barcelona is a city where you can move around easily and conveniently, thanks to the efficient and extensive public transportation system. You can choose from the metro, the bus, the tram, the train, or the funicular, which covers the whole city and the surrounding areas. You can also use the bike-sharing service, Bicing, which has more than 400 stations and 6,000 bikes, or the electric scooter service, eCooltra, which has more than 1,000 scooters. You can also walk or bike around the city, as it is mostly flat and has many pedestrian and bike lanes.

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Knowledge of English

Barcelona is a city where you can communicate in English without any problem, as most of the locals speak or understand it, especially the younger generation. You can also find many signs, menus, and information in English, as well as English-speaking services, such as doctors, lawyers, or teachers.

However, if you want to fully integrate, communicate with government officials, locals and enjoy the city, it is also a good idea to learn some Catalan, the official language of Catalonia, the region where Barcelona is located. Catalan is a distinct language from Spanish, with its own grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.

You don’t have to worry if you don’t speak Catalan, but it is a nice gesture to learn some Catalan, as it shows respect and appreciation for the local culture and identity.

What are the Drawbacks of Living in Barcelona?

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As wonderful as Barcelona is, it is not a perfect city, and there are some challenges and drawbacks that you might encounter. Here are some of the most common ones:

Peak season crowds

Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists per year. This means that during the peak season, from June to September, the city can get very crowded, noisy, and expensive. You might have to deal with long queues, higher prices, and lower quality of services.

You might also feel that the city loses some of its authenticity and charm, as it caters more to the tourists than to the locals. To avoid the tourist season, you might want to go out of the town to less touristy cities or villages, as many locals do.

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Summer heat and humidity

Barcelona has great weather, but it can also get very hot and humid in the summer, especially in July and August. The average temperature can reach up to 28°C (82°F), and the humidity can go up to 80%. This can make you feel uncomfortable, sweaty, and tired. You might also have to deal with mosquitoes, flies, and other insects. So, look for an apartment with an air conditioner, or be ready to invest in one.

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Apartment hunting challenges

Barcelona is a city where finding a good and affordable apartment can be very difficult and stressful. The demand for housing is high, but the supply is low, which means that the prices are inflated and the quality is often poor. You might have to compete with many other people for a small, old, or dark apartment, and pay a lot of money for it.

You might also have to deal with unreliable landlords, agents, or websites, who might try to scam you or take advantage of you. To avoid the hassle of apartment hunting, I advise you to start looking for a place well in advance, use trustworthy sources, such as Idealista, Fotocasa, or Spotahome, or ask for recommendations from friends or expats.

You should also be flexible, patient, and realistic, and be ready to compromise on some lifestyle aspects, such as the location, the size, or the amenities.

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The rising cost of living

Barcelona is a relatively affordable city, but it is not a cheap one. The cost of living in Barcelona is higher than the average in Spain, and it can vary depending on your lifestyle and preferences.

You might have to spend a lot of money on rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, health care, education, entertainment, and taxes. You might also have to deal with the high inflation rate, meaning the prices can increase yearly. Before moving to Barcelona, plan your budget by considering these nuances.


Barcelona is a city where you have to be careful and vigilant, as it is notorious for its pickpockets and petty thieves. The city has a high rate of petty crime, especially in touristy areas, such as Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter, or the Sagrada Familia, where the pickpockets can target unsuspecting visitors. You might have to deal with losing your money, your phone, your passport, or your credit cards, which can ruin your day or your stay.

To prevent being pickpocketed, try to avoid carrying too much cash or valuables, use a secure bag or wallet, keep your belongings close to you, and be aware of your surroundings. Don`t hesitate to contact the police in case of any accidents.

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Respect the right to rest

Barcelona is a typical European city with a relaxed and laid-back pace of life, which means that many things are closed or have reduced hours on Sundays, such as shops, supermarkets, banks, or post offices. To adapt to the Sunday culture, plan ahead, stock up on essentials, or use online services, such as Amazon, Glovo, or Uber Eats.

You shouldn`t also forget about the siesta, which is a period of rest or nap in the afternoon, usually between 2 pm and 5 pm, when many businesses are closed as well.

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Barcelona is one of the most popular cities in the world for retirees and digital nomads, and for good reasons. However, living in Barcelona also comes with some challenges and drawbacks that you might have to overcome or accept.

If you’re considering Barcelona as your next home, I encourage you to explore its nuances further and carefully weigh its pros and cons.

And if you need personalized guidance on your relocation journey, feel free to book a consultation with me. Let me help you navigate the complexities of the immigration and relocation process!

Here’s to sunny days, tapas feasts, and the adventures that await in Barcelona! Thank you for reading!

Please subscribe and follow me for the next Barcelona article, where I will share the stories of the Ukrainian refugees living in Catalonia….



Hi, I am Emily Bron.

After living and working in 4 countries (3 continents), experiencing several immigrations, changing several professional fields and being an avid traveler, I created International Lifestyle Consulting to help you to find the best matching place and to relocate abroad for a better quality of life, work, or retirement.

As a professional Baby Boomer and Remote worker, I am relocating again!

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