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Hi all,

I'm considering expatriating from the U.S. to either Barcelona or Valencia or Nice, France sometime after a lengthy visit to the Mediterranean in October (but since this is the Spain forum, I'll limit my questions to the Spanish cities).

I'm having a tough time deciding between Barcelona and Valencia. They both have advantages and disadvantages to the point where they come out pretty much equal. I admit to not having yet visited either city, but my choices are straightforward because a warm climate in a big city on the water are prerequisite to anything else. Those criteria put Barcelona and Valencia in flashing lights. (I have visited Nice twice before and liked it but didn't love it.)

Perhaps getting more detail from you all will help:

1. A warm climate is important to me, as I mentioned, but after doing the research, it seems Valencia is only about 4 or 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, on average, year-round. Does one city really seem warmer to any of you, on the whole? I know Valencia is drier, but that's not an issue.

2. I love to go to concerts by well known acts - mostly rock, pop and folk. According to Pollstar, where I research upcoming shows, Barcelona has tons of concerts whereas Valencia seems to have very few. Is that true?

3. I know some Spanish and am willing to learn more, in fact a lot more. I really enjoyed learning French, with which I can get by pretty well, and would welcome the opportunity to learn Spanish in depth. I'm thinking it might be futile to learn Spanish (at the expense of Catalan) in Barcelona, as most people speak Catalan. I'd rather not be in an environment where people speak among themselves in a language I don't understand. Do most people speak to each other in Catalan in Barcelona? In Valencia, do most people speak to each other in the Catalan dialect of Valencian, or in Spanish?

4. Being retired and single, and very active and social, I'd like to have access to a wide variety of activities. I've checked out groups in both cities on Meetup, and it seems Barcelona comes out way ahead. Barcelona has social groups devoted to music jams, French conversation, paddleboarding, volleyball, padel, card games, tai chi, meditation, drum circles, writing, politics and philosophy. Valencia, according to Meetup anyway, does not have those.

5. Lastly, to further complicate things, mountains (which I love) are in view and easy reach of Barcelona. I don't think that's true of Valencia. But on the other hand, the cost of living in Valencia is lower.

Thanks for reading and taking the time to help me decide which road to take.
 

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Hi Rick. I haven't been to Valencia so you'll have to wait for someone else to 'sell' their plus points. I'm about 20km south of Barcelona but with a train journey costing €1 a trip (inc Metro) and 'all roads leading to Barcelona' I'm there often (wife works there as well). Reading your post it sounds like Barcelona is ticking all the right boxes for you but you have missed it's big selling point, the architecture. Gaudi has had a massive influence over the city and you can never get tired of just staring at La Sagrada Familia, it really is one of the wonders of the world. There are multiple other buildings that he designed each with their own jaw dropping distinctiveness. The centre is packed with tourists 24/7 so Spanish is the main language spoken but everyone speaks English so you won't have a problem communicating. Your French will help you learning Catalan as it's a kind of hybrid Spanish/French and you will fit right in very quickly if you speak to the locals in Catalan.

The Olympics in '92 transformed the city and practically everything that was built is still in use today which doesn't happen for most post Olympic cities. Large areas were flattened and whole communities were built which adds a certain newness to parts of the city like the Olympic port and village. These are just a short walk or metro ride from the Old World of the Barrio Gotico so you can lose yourself down the narrow back streets quite easily. Once you've done the tourist areas, you'll find yourself preferring to stay slightly further out in the less populated but still popular areas and you are always just a stones throw away from a bar or restaurant so it will take you a few years to try them all.

I've been to Nice for a quick city break so didn't really have the time to do it justice but from that experience, it isn't a patch on Barcelona. You will have to take a few days in each city to really get a feel for it and with the transport system being so cheap, don't discount living slightly further out and commuting in.

PS, I can only compare the weather to the south of England but in Barcelona, it rarely drops to freezing and one tradition we like to do is a nice stroll along the seafront soaking up the sun....on Christmas Day.

Hope this helps.
 

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Hi all,

I'm considering expatriating from the U.S. to either Barcelona or Valencia or Nice, France sometime after a lengthy visit to the Mediterranean in October (but since this is the Spain forum, I'll limit my questions to the Spanish cities).

I'm having a tough time deciding between Barcelona and Valencia. They both have advantages and disadvantages to the point where they come out pretty much equal. I admit to not having yet visited either city, but my choices are straightforward because a warm climate in a big city on the water are prerequisite to anything else. Those criteria put Barcelona and Valencia in flashing lights. (I have visited Nice twice before and liked it but didn't love it.)

Perhaps getting more detail from you all will help:

1. A warm climate is important to me, as I mentioned, but after doing the research, it seems Valencia is only about 4 or 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, on average, year-round. Does one city really seem warmer to any of you, on the whole? I know Valencia is drier, but that's not an issue.
I doubt anyone here has spent enough time in both cities to give a good answer. I think Barcelona often gets cooler weather coming from the pyrenees. But I think in both cities the quality of house insulation might have a bigger effect than the temperature outside.

2. I love to go to concerts by well known acts - mostly rock, pop and folk. According to Pollstar, where I research upcoming shows, Barcelona has tons of concerts whereas Valencia seems to have very few. Is that true?
yes

3. I know some Spanish and am willing to learn more, in fact a lot more. I really enjoyed learning French, with which I can get by pretty well, and would welcome the opportunity to learn Spanish in depth. I'm thinking it might be futile to learn Spanish (at the expense of Catalan) in Barcelona, as most people speak Catalan. I'd rather not be in an environment where people speak among themselves in a language I don't understand. Do most people speak to each other in Catalan in Barcelona? In Valencia, do most people speak to each other in the Catalan dialect of Valencian, or in Spanish?
Yes I think more people do speak to each other in Catalan in Barcelona than they do in Valenciano in Valencia. But I don't think it's an important point. You need to have quite an advanced level to really engage with the locals, regardless of language, and if you reach that level in say Catalan then learning Spanish shouldn't be too difficult.

4. Being retired and single, and very active and social, I'd like to have access to a wide variety of activities. I've checked out groups in both cities on Meetup, and it seems Barcelona comes out way ahead. Barcelona has social groups devoted to music jams, French conversation, paddleboarding, volleyball, padel, card games, tai chi, meditation, drum circles, writing, politics and philosophy. Valencia, according to Meetup anyway, does not have those.
Yes. Barcelona has a huge amount of expats, which will help you get a social life quickly.

5. Lastly, to further complicate things, mountains (which I love) are in view and easy reach of Barcelona. I don't think that's true of Valencia. But on the other hand, the cost of living in Valencia is lower.
Yes. But with the mountains comes the cooler weather in winter as I mentioned above, so you might need to choose one or the other. Not far from Valencia there is some lovely mountainous scenery though, fine for hiking but not for skiing. So it depends what you want it for and how badly you need it really.

Thanks for reading and taking the time to help me decide which road to take.
Your analysis is pretty much correct so the decision comes down to your personal preferences.

I haven't been to either city for many years so my opinions might be out of date or even misleading. But I'd choose Barcelona as a starting point and start learning Catalan there. It's far more cosmopolitan and that should help you settle in. If you decide to switch to Valencia then you'll find Valenciano very similar to Catalan anyway.

The main drawbacks with Barclona are the cost of accommodation, and I've also heard stories that it simply can't handle the weight of tourists that descend on it each year.

Also from Barcelona you can easily explore some great French cities like Montpellier, Perpignan, Marseille, etc due to the fast train connection. It's a great base from which to explore that part of the mediterranean.
 

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I can't help you with Valencia, but I have spent time in Barcelona and if I had a bit more dosh I would happily live in Barcelona. It's really alive and vibrant and the Gaudi buildings are just glorious.
As another poster said, Barcelona came into its own with the Olympics, which isn't the case with several others.
There used to be free classes of Catalan so if you have a decent knowledge of Spanish and French then you have a great start. But, I heard loads of Spanish around me, so don't be shy.
Why don't you rent a modest flat in Barcelona and go visit Valencia for a few weeks?
I may be wrong, but it is cold in Barcelona and chilly in Valencia for a couple of months of the year.
Buy some thermal vests and you are on your way. Even in Madrid where it can be jolly cold, the people still drink their coffees outside. It isn't necessarily the smoking ban, people like to people watch.
Good luck.
 

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I too am looking to retire as an expat just outside barcelona, possibly 2023-24. I was wondering about the essentials living in the area like internet, electrical and mail reliability. Can one get by on english. Hopefully i’m able to learn the local dialect, language learning seems difficult for me. A warmer climate than NY, USA and with an interesting cultural life, barcelona seems very attractive. Plans now include doing a monthly rental and vacationing there, hopefully learning the area not as a tourist
 

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I too am looking to retire as an expat just outside barcelona, possibly 2023-24. I was wondering about the essentials living in the area like internet, electrical and mail reliability. Can one get by on english. Hopefully i’m able to learn the local dialect, language learning seems difficult for me. A warmer climate than NY, USA and with an interesting cultural life, barcelona seems very attractive. Plans now include doing a monthly rental and vacationing there, hopefully learning the area not as a tourist
Internet is pretty good in Spain. Certainly if you live in a town or village you can usually expect fibre optic or fast Internet. Especially in or near large cities.

I live in the middle of nowhere and so Internet comes from an antenna which is perfectly adequate for computer, YouTube, netflix, voip calls etc. Never lets me down.

My experience of the mail is brilliant. In my last house, also in middle of nowhere, the post came twice a week. Where I live now, on my first week here the postman came on his moto, found us, introduced himself and said he will make sure everyone in the post office knows our names and where we live and sure enough, we receive everything. In towns snd cities its generally perfect although standard post letters may take a few days.

Language depends where you live. If you live in a big touristy city then youll get by without spanish. Smaller areas or villages will be more difficult. But as I always say, without thr language you'll never experience real spain. Its hard for us all, took me over a decade to become fluent enough to confidently approach any situation but well worth thr dedication and effort.
 

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I have spent time in all three cities (although only in summer in Valencia and Nice).

All certainly have pros and cons.

I think you really need to spend a month in each (minimum) to make any kind of determination for yourself.

Also, if warm weather is what you are after, maybe consider Malaga as well.

I will address your five point criteria:

1. Valencia
2. Barcelona
3. Valencia probably better. Although Barcelona is not an issue.
4. Slight edge Barcelona. But depends on exactly what.
5. I would think Barcelona for mountains. And yes, Valencia cheaper.
 

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If moving to Barcelona or Valencia definitely learn Spanish first rather than Catalan. Once you have a good level of Spanish you can tackle Catalan.
 

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The thing about summer weather in Barcelona is that being in a large city really makes it feel much warmer. In both Barcelona and Valencia it is very humid in summer.
 

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I don't even think Barcelona is the best city in Catalonia. For example Girona is far more pleasant, but it is a far more Catalan city. I think an unspoken drawback of Barcelona is that it's the most "Spanish" city in Catalonia, but there are a lot of plus factors, particularly its location. I personally prefer Valencia, which is more laid back, cheaper and with less crime (note I did not say zero crime). It's also less overrun by tourists. I think you'd really have to spend a bit of time in both places before coming to a final decision.
 

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When travelling down from France we have learned that Valencia is always where the warmer weather in winter can be guaranteed to start and a layer of woollens can be removed until our return journey.
We have also noticed the A23 motorway out of Valencia to Zaragoza has numerous signs for ski resorts some of which are nearer than Teruel, such as Valdelinares or Javalambra. Hope that's useful.'
 
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