Sizzling Spain is statistically Europe’s sunniest country, with over 5,000 miles of glorious, glittering coastline for spending lazy days soaking up the sun.
But if you want to live in the city, you’ve only really got two options. Moving to Barcelona vs moving to Madrid — what’s the best for you?
The Spanish lead a relaxed, social way of life – al fresco lunches linger long into the afternoon, and evening is the time to let loose and party.
The food is sublime, the wine is plentiful, and the country has a wealth of history, arts and culture to explore.
Both cities are undoubtedly fantastic places to live for British expats.
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Move to Madrid
Cosmopolitan Madrid is a truly international city with thriving expat communities from all over the world. The recession hit Spain hard, but Madrid is already thrusting its way up from the ashes, and it’s the Spanish city that offers the best employment opportunities for foreigners looking to live and work in Spain.
Madrid is a charming clash of traditional charm and stunning modern architecture. The museums (such as the famous Museo del Prado) and galleries here offer some of the best fine art in the world. The Royal Palace is a particularly impressive sight, as is the opera house — Teatro Real — which offers a spectacular program of opera and dance performances all year round.
At night the city really sparkles. People meet in the streets and choose from the numerous cool cafés, hip bars and world class restaurants to start the evening’s frolics, before moving onto a glamorous club to dance away into the wee hours. The nightlife can get a little crazy – and not just on weekends.
The shopping here is a mixture of impressive, shiny shopping centres like El Corte Inglés, and cutting edge independent boutiques featuring items hand crafted by local designers. There are also many superb markets where you can taste organic produce or rummage through vintage bargains to your heart’s content.
Despite being a capital city, the pace of life here remains true to the chilled out Spanish style. And in comparison to other European cities, the cost of living in Madrid is significantly lower.
Food and drink and entertainments are very affordable, but it’s worth noting that salaries are lower here too, so this needs to be budgeted for.
The monthly rent for a 1 bedroom apartment is around 900 euros, but as in most major cities accommodation can be on the small side. British expats and those employed in the city benefit from an excellent standard of free healthcare.
Families can look forward to a good standard of education for their kids as there are many English and bilingual private schools to choose from in the city.
The fabulous weather means that children have access to outdoor activities most of the year round too.
Being landlocked (it’s over 180 miles from the coast), Madrid’s only major flaw is the absence of a beach, but there are more than enough other entertainments to make up for it. If you find you’re missing the sand and surf, a train ride to a coastal city like Valencia takes around an hour and 45 minutes.
Move to Barcelona
Occupying an envious position between the Mediterranean Sea and the sub-Pyrenees mountains and with countryside all around, Barcelona is a city which arguably has it all.
Barcelona has a selection of several sandy beaches to bask on, beautiful and colourful parks and gardens, and mountains to climb with the reward of breathtaking views out across the city.
Gaudi famously made Barcelona his home, and his architectural works can be seen dotted around the city. The wonderfully bizarre Sagrada Família and the fascinating and refreshing Park Guell are two of the most well known examples.
There are also museums and galleries galore to explore, and the social scene is electric. Bohemian cafes and trendy bars are found everywhere throughout the city, and traditional cava bars serve up Spain’s best bubbly.
There are a host of super chic clubs for those who like to boogie, and restaurants range from traditional rustic to fine dining – with more than 20 restaurants in the city boasting Michelin stars.
The climate is balmy all year round, with winter temperatures dropping to a laughably mild 10°C. Averaging 29°C, August is scorchingly hot, and many businesses pack up and leave town for the month to take their annual holidays.
There are two languages spoken in the city — Spanish, and Catalan which is distinctly different — but as many Barcelonians speak great English it’s possible to get along (at least initially) only speaking the basics.
Having said that, finding a job is tough here and salaries are relatively low, so if you’re serious about living and working in Barcelona, speaking good Spanish is pretty much indispensable.
The Catalans are a proud people, and Barcelona is their region’s capital city.
Catalonian influences are everywhere in the city, from the striking architecture to the food, which adds an extra richness to city life.
Much Catalan cuisine is served here, and being a coastal city there is an abundance of fresh fish and seafood on offer.
Eating out is very affordable for a major metropolis, although it is reported that on the whole the cost of living in Barcelona is a little pricier than Madrid. Public transport is cheap and efficient.
A one bedroom apartment costs around 920 euros a month in rent.
As in Madrid, the healthcare system is of a first-rate standard, and there are a wide range of excellent education option for families with children.
Move to Madrid or move to Barcelona — what’s your pick?