The Top 5 Regions in Spain Where Expats Are Moving To

by Jose Marc Castro on August 10, 2011

Living in Spain

While many expats hotspot areas have come and gone there is no doubt that Spain remains one of the more popular destinations for expats around the world. It seems that this country continues to attract the attention of overseas visitors and those looking to retire and possibly take up new employment opportunities in the region. Even though a number of relatively new expat hotspots have taken all the headlines from Spain this is still a country which acts like a magnet to many people.

We have therefore been investigating the top five regions in Spain where expats are moving to, why they are moving there, what they have to offer you and what you need to consider. We hope that the following list is of use to you and will assist you when looking at potentially taking on a new homeland.

Barcelona

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain behind Madrid. It has long been one of the major expat attractions in Spain and when you take a closer look at what Barcelona has to offer it will come as no surprise. The city itself has a population of around 1.6 million although when you take into account the metropolitan zone this increases to a significant 5 million people. As a consequence, it is not difficult to see why businesses, tourists, investors and even those from other areas of Spain continue to flock to Barcelona.

Like so many areas of Spain, Barcelona has a history which is very eye-catching, shrouded in mystery and extends for some time. There are two very distinct legends regarding the history of Barcelona which are very different but give a view of life many years ago in the region. The city itself is located on the north-east coast of Spain which as we will see has played a major role in the development of the city and the region over the years.

When you consider the fact that Barcelona is situated in one of the richest regions in southern Europe, i.e. Catalonia, it will come as no surprise to learn that the GDP per capita head is in excess of €35,000 within the Barcelona metropolitan area. Indeed history shows that Barcelona was one of the earliest industrialised cities in continental Europe initially taking advantage of the textile industry back in the 1700. However, the city and the area has learnt to adapt and go with the times which is one of the other major reasons why it has grown so significantly over recent years. While the manufacturing sector has, in line with any other major city around the world, been overtaken by the services industry it is interesting to learn that textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, printing, logistics, publishing, telecommunications and information technology are now the major elements of the local economy.

It is not difficult to see why Barcelona attracts more than its fair share of overseas visitors with many attracted by the coast resorts, the economy, the lifestyle, the climate and the potential for the future.

Being the most populated city in all of Catalonia, Barcelona is heralded as the second largest city in Spain.

Madrid

Madrid is the capital city of Spain with a population of 3.4 million within the city and 6.2 million within the Madrid metropolitan area. Behind the likes of London and Berlin, it is the third-largest city in the European Union and as such it too has attracted more than its fair share of attention from overseas visitors, investors and those looking to find a new homeland. On a worldwide basis, the likes of Barcelona and Madrid stand out on their own and indeed Madrid itself has a major influence within the European Union in areas such as politics, education, the environment, entertainment, media, fashion, science and arts. Indeed due to the size and the growth of the Madrid economy it is seen by many as the major financial centre of southern Europe.

Those looking for a venue for their next holiday will also be interested to learn that Madrid is the most popular tourist destination in Spain, the fourth most popular on the continent and seen as the 10th most liveable city in the world. It is also interesting to see that the area also ranks amongst the top 12 greenest European cities, an aspect of future life which will become ever more important. But what has the Madrid economy got to offer?

As with so many major cities around the world there has been a major transfer from the manufacturing industry to a services economy. During the period 1992 to 2006 there was enormous growth within the Madrid economy which saw sectors such as transport, communications, property and financial services come to the fore. As we have seen in the worldwide economy, the financial services sector is very much the sector of today and the future. The ability to attract both inward and overseas investment will trickle down into the local economy and has the potential to make the region even stronger and benefit Madrid going forward.

Despite the fact that Madrid is located in central Spain, miles away from the coastline, it still attracts more than its fair share of tourists due to the history, the architecture, the culture and the social life available in and around city.

I will soon be transferred for work from Houston to Madrid, my office location is around the area of Estadio Bernabeu and Plaza Castilla a few blocks off Paseo de La Castellana… so I am looking for suggestion/recommendations on good and safe neighborhoods, I’d rather trade distance for a larger space flat that I know it’s hard to find in the city or at a very high price (I’m looking to rent). I’m already familiar with the public transportation system in Madrid so I don’t intend to drive to the office eveyday.

Valencia

With a population of just over 800,000 people Valencia is the third-largest city in Spain although this expands to around 2.3 million people when including those living in the Valencia metropolitan area. The city itself, and the surrounding area, is well renowned for its heritage, history and some very striking and very popular landmarks. It is the ability to attract overseas tourists to the region which has seen the economy prosper in recent years and indeed this has led to a self-fulfilling prophecy as more and more expats look to move to Spain. Valencia has most certainly been one of the more popular expat destinations for many years now.

As with so many of the major Spanish cities, historically Valencia can be traced back to Roman times which gives it a history and timeline which very few cities around the world can come anywhere near matching. The area has been occupied by a variety of different groups over the years, which in itself has helped to build up the multicultural, multilingual and colourful history of the region. But what else does Valencia have to offer?

As you might expect from a major city, and a major area of Spain, which is situated on the coastline, there has been much interest in tourism and the construction industry in recent times. There is no doubt that tourism has been and continues to be one of the major attractions for various areas and various cities of Spain and the very close relationship with the construction industry has been there for all to see in the good times and the bad times. This is an area of the world which has been particularly popular with UK expats looking to create new businesses, new opportunities and in some cases retire to the country. Despite the fact that many other expat destinations have hit the headlines, with more and more hotspots appearing around the world, the popularity of Spain has remained fairly constant.

It is the mixture of economic growth, tourism, history, culture and a whole variety of very attractive landmarks which has improved the profile and the popularity of Valencia and the surrounding region.

Any advice with regards the best places to live in Valencia would be greatly appreciated, we’re looking for somewhere pet friendly, close to the sea and preferably with a pool, is this realistic?

Costa Del Sol

The Costa Del Sol has been a major British attraction for many years and indeed even today there are large numbers of UK travellers who visit the region on a regular basis. The area itself consists of cities and towns such as Malaga, Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Marbella and various others which all seem to depend upon the tourism industry. When you consider that the name for the region itself directly translates into English as “Coast of the Sun” it is not surprising to learn that tourism is such a major part of the local economy.

The area has not always enjoyed the best of reputations and indeed back in the 1970s and 1980s it was dubbed “Costa Del crime” by various tabloid newspapers. However, there have been developments within the political scene in Europe which have seen criminals more easily extradited from areas within the European Union. As a consequence, towns such as Marbella have been able to shake off this reputation from years gone by and look forward to more growth in the local tourism industry.

It is very often easy to overlook the attractions of areas such as the Costa Del Sol because of the historic reputation of the area. However, there are likely to be very few people in the UK of holiday age who have yet to experience life on coastal Spain. Aside from the business opportunities, weather, location and the long and colourful history of the region, the Costa Del Sol has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy because of the high number of expats in the region. This has led to more and more expats looking to move to the Costa Del Sol for various reasons and increased the density of English expats in particular.

Even though there have been difficulties over the last couple of years with regards to the Spanish property market there is still pent-up demand for the region as and when the whole of Europe and the Costa Del Sol in particular shown signs of recovery.

We are a young family, 2 sons aged 4 and 2 living in the UK. We have lived in Amsterdam before that and miss living on the continent. We are seriuolsy considering moving to the Costa Del Sol, and possbily Calahonda. I run my own recuitment business so employment is not a problem and as a one person company relocation is also okay.

Costa Blanca

Situated in the province of Alicante the Costa Blanca is effectively 200 km of coastline which has literally been invaded over the years by a whole host of British and German tourists!

While the term Costa Blanca is not necessarily used as much today as it was in the past it is interesting to learn that the name “Costa Blanca”, which means “white coast”, was actually dreamt up as a promotional name for the local tourism industry which effectively began in the late 1950s. However, more and more people now seem to highlight specific cities and towns in the region which take in the likes of Benidorm and Alicante to name but two. If you mention these names to anybody the first thing it brings to mind is tourism, hotels, sun, sand and beaches. This is an area of the world which has most certainly made the most of the tourism industry in the past and is still well positioned to benefit in the future.

Television programs such as “Benidorm” have highlighted the very active and very colourful social life available in the region and while there is no doubt that some people will flock to Benidorm and surrounding cities and towns for this particular lifestyle, there is much more to the region. This area of Spain has a history which goes back centuries and like so many other areas of the country it has changed hands on many occasions. The Spanish Civil War effectively divided the country into individually governed areas and while the country as a whole has “come back together” there is still some friction between different areas of Spain.

However, there is no doubt that Spain as a whole, the Costa Del Sol, Costa Blanca, Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia still have much to offer both tourists and those looking for a new homeland for the future.

My wife and I are considering moving to Spain to the Costa Blanca region. Realistically, what are our chances of getting jobs out there? I speak pretty good Spanish (I am a Spanish teacher) but my wife doesn’t speak any yet. I have read all sorts of pessimistic stories about long working hours, low pay. Is anybody happily employed out there ?

Conclusion

Spain has long been a very popular destination for British tourists and British expats and while other areas have come to the fore over the last 20 years or so, Spain still remains very popular. There are enormous British expat enclaves up and down the coastal regions of Spain with the likes of the Costa Del Sol and Costa Blanca very prominent.

Despite the economic unrest within Europe, and indeed throughout the world, of recent years, many expats still expect to move to Spain at some time in the future once the economic situation has been resolved. Indeed, the Spanish property market has suffered from the economic backlash within Europe and while many investors are still sitting on the sidelines there are some who now believe we are reaching attractive investment levels for Spanish property.

There have long been many attractions with regards to Spain, for British expats in particular, which include the weather, the area, the lifestyle, business opportunities and investment opportunities. Some of these elements may well have been impacted by the ongoing economic crisis within Europe, and around the world, but many believe that the former tourism magnets around Spain will regain their power in due course.


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