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Moving to Spain > Barcelona > Moving to Barcelona

Moving to Barcelona

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on: May 14, 2019

Summary: Expats in Barcelona enjoy a beautiful city on the Mediterranean Sea and one of the most popular cities in Europe. Here is some great advice from expat that already live there.

Expats in Barcelona - Moving to Barcelona

General Information About Barcelona

Barcelona is located on the northeast coast of the Iberian peninsula on the Mediterranean Sea. It is the capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia in Spain.

Visas for Moving to Spain

Here is information about Long-term Visas for Spain from its embassy in Washington, D.C.

As with just about every other country in the world, if you want to move to Barcelona, one of the best ways is to find an employer there who wants to hire you for your skills. Do research and find out what employers there might be interested in what you have to offer. Additionally, a longer-term plan is to find a company that has operations in or near Barcelona, and then let them know at some point that you would be willing to move to Barcelona when an opportunity arises.

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Healthcare in Barcelona

Someone considering moving to Spain asked if Spain really has one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

https://www.expatexchange.com/expatguide/296/3434507/Spain/Expats-Living-in-Spain/Is-Spains-Healthcare-Really-Among-the-Best-in-World">expat in Spain who is dissatisfied with the healthcare system responded:

NO! As somebody who uses this system I can say - you have 5 minutes max to state your case and then you get some pills or not, maybe [you get] scheduled for a test or not. You wait a lot. You want to avoid being in a hospital if you have no family who can care for you there and if it is an emergency, you better not call, drive for yourself to the next hospital. Prescription medication is quite cheap."

Another expat shared about getting access to the Spanish healthcare system:

"Yes, I believe you can after 1 year of residency. It' about 60 euro under age 65 and about 160 euro 65 and older. Others can confirm but I believe it's this: If you have been registered on the padrón at your town hall for a year, the Spanish government has a state insurance scheme (convenio especial) with a basic monthly fee. This is administered by the authorities in each autonomous region."

Expats living in Spain interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA. Get a Quote

Expats living in Spain interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

What Expats Wished They Brought (And Left Behind!)

Left Behind: Nothing, except for a container full of family papers. Brought: A car (they're cheaper in the USA), all the "gadgets" you can get in the USA that they don't generally have in Europe.

Another expat who moved to Barcelona shared:

"Certain spices are not available or easily found like chili powder for Mexican cooking, and flavor extracts like root beer or caramel. Their caramel is different, more of a caramelized, burnt flavor. Cold medicines have to be purchased in a Pharmacy after speaking with the Pharmacist, though many US prescription medications do not require a doctor visit. Clothing is very inexpensive here, it is just a matter of finding the stores which is not difficult. Their equivalent of WalMart or Target is Carrefour Hipermercados, though there are better options for clothing."

Another expat from London who moved to Barcelona wrote: "The only thing I should have brought is my patience! Everything here (compared to the UK) seems to take forever, especially when it comes to business matters. There are queues everywhere and the Spanish seem to take it in their stride to stand around for hours just waiting - can be very stressful. I wish I'd left my espresso coffee maker behind as I have not used it since I arrived and always take my coffee out in a bar (Spanish style)."

Typical Housing

An expat wrote that they live in "a top floor apartment of 1,850 square feet with two terraces totalling about 400 square feet. It is not typical because top floor apartments are very hard to find."

An expat who moved to Barcelona wrote: "I live in a house in Gava Mar (south Barcelona). It is quite common for expats in this area. It is difficult to find a house in Barcelona, there are mostly flats. A house by the sea is perfect for a family with children." She added that it's important "to visit properties, I think they give you the best idea on what is on the market."

In a thread about housing in Barcelona, an expat recommended the "Eixample-Dreta neighborhood (between Passeig de Gracia and Passeig de Sant Joan under Diagonal) because it's:

  • Walking distance to bars and other neighborhoods like Gracia or Born
  • There is an amazing food market (Concepcio)
  • It is not a very tourist area (there are tourists, but not like other areas)
  • If you live around Passeig de Sant Joan you have the Ciudadella park (walking distance)
  • Most of the buildings there are refurbished and they have elevator
  • There are a lot of restaurants, with "menu of the day"
  • The only thing is to avoid Arago street (very noisy)

A dynamic to be aware of in Barcelona is a pushback against Airbnb. There has been an explosion of people - many of them young - who are renting short-term apartments through Airbnb. You can read about the effect it's having on Barcelona in this article: The Airbnb Invasion of Barcelona.

Meeting People in Barcelona

In an expat culture shock report about Barcelona, one expat stressed the importance of making friends fast:

"Until one gets their own group of friends it is a very lonely time. Having moved prior, I knew that the most important thing for me was to find friends ASAP. So I joined women's groups and volunteered at school. That helped a lot as there were many people in the same boat as me."

Another shared: "I believe that in the national system pre-existing conditions are covered. My spouse has type 1 diabetes. I think we will be on our own the first year (with insurance that won't cover pre-existing except for emergencies) but once in the national system we will be covered. Currently here in the US we spend about $25K per year for insurance and copays.. 3 vials of insulin (one month supply) cost about $900. Once we meet our out of pocket in April then it's 'free' the rest of the year... I believe this costs would be considered outrageous in any other part of the world."

Cost of Living in Barcelona

As with many other major cities, the cost of living in Barcelona

Cost of Living:

Barcelona vs. New York
Barcelona vs. London

An expat in Spain wrote that: "My husband and I have been to barcelona several times, but it is much more expensive than where we live, in Nerja, which is about 40 km east of Malaga...we very much love this area with lots to do."

Where to Live in Barcelona

An expat in Barcelona wrote: "I agree that a "test drive" of living in a neighborhood for several months is a great idea; can do off-season vacation rentals for a reasonable price. You need to know how the neighborhood works or doesn't work for you: neighbors, loud all night-long fiestas, access to places you want to go, etc."

Diversity in Barcelona

An expat in Barcelona wrote that "Barcelona is a very diverse town, and the Catalans accept diversity - as long as they're not from Madrid!"

Industries in Barcelona

An expat in Barcelona wrote that the city is "developing into a "New Technology - High Technology" center, as well as being a center for pharmaceutical companies and telecommunications companies - both growth industries." They added that "People find jobs by: 'Contacts, Contacts, Contacts' and 'Hard Work.'"

Expat Health Insurance in Spain

Expats interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

Expatriate Health Insurance

Get a quote for expat health insurance in Spain from our partner, Cigna Global Health.
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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000. Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Some of Joshua's more popular articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and 5 Best Places to Live in Spain. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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Updated On: May 14, 2019

First Published: May 14, 2019

Expatriate Health Insurance

Get a quote for expat health insurance in Spain from our partner, Cigna Global Health.
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Moving to Spain: 7 Things to Know Before Moving to Spain

Expats move to Spain from all over the world. People of all ages move there to work, retire, or just enjoy the culture and Spain's natural beauty. With so many places to choose from, our tips for moving to Spain will get you started on picking the perfect place for you.

Expats move to Spain from all over the world. People of all ages move there to work, retire, or just enjoy the culture and Spain's natural beauty. With so many places to choose from, our tips for mo...

Moving to Valencia

Expats moving to Valencia enjoy life on the Mediterranean coast and a cost of living that is lower than what expats in Barcelona and Madrid must absorb.

Expats moving to Valencia enjoy life on the Mediterranean coast and a cost of living that is lower than what expats in Barcelona and Madrid must absorb....

5 Best Places to Live in Spain

Expats in Spain have a lot of opinions as to the best places to live in Spain. It all comes down to preferences, resources and where you are in life. Here's a good start in your research for deciding where to live in Spain as an expat!

Expats in Spain have a lot of opinions as to the best places to live in Spain. It all comes down to preferences, resources and where you are in life. Here's a good start in your research for decidin...

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