Moving to Barcelona
Are you moving to Barcelona? Spain’s second city, after the capital Madrid, Barcelona is solidly positioned amongst the best cities in the world to do business with. Education standards are high, and it is one of the greenest cities in Europe. It is also one of the world’s leading tourism centres, with an influence in commerce, media, entertainment, science, fashion and the arts all contributing to its standing as one of the major global cities.
Our free, in-depth Moving to Barcelona report includes info on:
• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city
Putting Barcelona on the Map
Surrounded by the Mediterranean, mountains, hills and vast green spaces, Barcelona is heavily influenced by its Catalonian heritage, with many ornate, exquisite historical buildings and architecture, some dating back to Roman times. Located on the east coast of Spain, the city is 125 miles south of France, on the Costa Dorado between two river mouths, the Besòs and Llobregat.
Traffic congestion is a massive issue in Barcelona, so public transport is the obvious choice. Most of the transportation services are included in an integrated tariff system, with one fare applicable to the Metro, trams, buses and the regional RENFE and FGC trains. Customers will be charged for one unit or trip for a journey lasting less than an hour and fifteen minutes. Public transport is efficient, reliable and safe, and is generally quite inexpensive. You could even rent a Vespa scooter and scoot past all the stationary traffic.
The AVE train network in Spain is second only to China in the distance covered, and although more expensive than normal trains, the trains are super-fast.
The Metro has six subway lines and one funicular and is the best choice for travelling quickly and worry-free, and tickets can be bought at stations and ServiCaixa ATMs.
The bus routes are complex with over 100 routes. This is the best bet for almost door-to-door service. Tickets may be purchased from the driver or using monthly passes or travel cards bought at Metro stations.
The trams operate on a zero-emission system, with coverage reaching areas not covered by the Metro.
RENFE trains link to some of the surrounding towns, with some stations connecting with the Metro.
Taxis are plentiful and the rates are not unreasonable. The drivers are generally friendly and reliable.
Walking is a pleasure, with the mild climate and interesting medieval alleys. Care should be taken after dark in some areas, and the threat of pickpockets is high.
Cycling is a work-in-progress as the city is continually improving the bike lanes. Bicycles may be carried onto the trams, the Metro and FGC, if space permits. Bicing is the popular bike-sharing service. A pre-purchased membership card is inserted at the bike stand, and again at the destination where the bike is dropped off. Charges depend on the length of time the bicycle is used for, as long as it is less than two hours.
Living without a car in Barcelona is a viable option, with its limited and expensive parking, heavy congestion and the high chance of the vehicle being dented whilst parked. A community sharing programme called Avancar allows drivers to hire cars for shopping purposes, weekends away, or whatever the reason, and can be booked online.
Accommodation costs are in line with the rest of Europe but competition to find a home is nowhere near as bad as Amsterdam or London. Of course, families would want to be close to schools, with quick transport to work and young professionals prefer close proximity to the nightlife.
Built as the athletes’ village for the ’92 Olympics, this definitely suits the younger, single expat. Close to the port with its restaurants and bars and within easy reach of the beach, this busy area features apartments of around three to four storeys high, with communal swimming pools and gardens. Expensive for what you get, the area has its own shops, supermarkets and cinemas and is close to work on the Metro or bus.
Close to the old city, this busy area has a vibrant nightlife with great transport links. Apartments don’t have garages; but sometimes parking can be arranged at nearby parking garages. There are very few parks and the distance to good schools is considerable, so the area is not very family-friendly.
SANT JUST DESVERN AND ESPLUGUES DE LLOBREGAT
Plenty of green areas and close to the American School of Barcelona, car ownership is essential to get to the city, as the buses take over an hour. There are no metro or train stations in either suburb, which border each other. Supermarkets and shops service the areas, tennis clubs and horse riding provides family entertainment, while the annual kart race in Sant Just is a major event. These go-carts are self-driven by the driver and a runner, and the race is all downhill.
One of the most elevated parts of Barcelona, this is also one of the most elegant. Low-rise estates and big gardens are the order of the day, exclusive, luxurious and expensive, suited to families. Apartments generally have parking bays for two cars, and transport links aren’t great, so car ownership may be necessary, which could be off-putting to the younger expat. The area is self-sufficient, with supermarkets and shops.
Another elegant residential area with open spaces and grand avenues, the architecture is mainly from the 1970s. Garaging for two cars, a swimming pool and even a doorman are the norm. This family orientated area has playparks, a miniature train, and areas suited to cycling and jogging. There are a few shops and restaurants, the Metro stations are few and far between, but it is close to a number of the best English-speaking schools in the city. However, the bus network is reliable if not well developed. Car ownership is highly recommended, the neighbourhood is safe, but it is expensive.
For those wanting to live the high life, but within a budget, Sarria is to the east of Pedralbes. Less upmarket but still pleasant, the shops and restaurants are more plentiful, while the choice of accommodation ranges from more modern to older apartment blocks, still with doormen. There are a few detached and semi-detached houses in the north, in picturesque hilly streets. Bus services are good, and the FGC train connects to the city. Parks, play areas and international schools all make this a family-friendly suburb.
One of the most central areas in the city, with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars, rental costs are quite low. Transport links are good but parking is difficult, although most apartments have parking spaces. This quaint and quiet suburb is home to Collserola Natural Park, the biggest metropolitan park in the world, which envelops the Sant Gervasi neighbourhoods of Les Planes, Tibidabo and Vallvidrera. Walking to work is relatively easy from this central district, and the John Talabot school is nearby.
SANT CUGAT DEL VALLES
A popular area with French and American expats, this area of natural beauty has the Parque Central located in its centre. Located seven miles to the north of the city, the frequent trains take around 20 minutes to zip into town. Fully sufficient, the standalone houses with their gardens and swimming pools are ideal family homes, along with sports clubs, shops, cinemas, a golf course and the Benjamin Franklin International School close by, running its own bus service for the local students.
GAVA AND CASTELLDEFELS
These beach suburbs are twelve miles to the south of the city, but the British School of Barcelona is in Castelldefels, trains are frequent into the city – and take only 20 minutes, and there are several shopping malls a 15-minute drive away. It is busy at weekends as the beaches and the seafood restaurants are local favourites.
Who Lives and Works in Barcelona
Barcelona’s population stands at around 1.7 million, with the metropolitan area being home to around 5 million people. The second-largest city in Spain, non-nationals make up around 18% of the total population. The largest minority group are made up of Italians, followed by Ecuador, Pakistan, Bolivia, Peru, China, Morocco, France and Columbia.
Tourism is the biggest economic driver with Barcelona being the third-most visited city on the continent. The service sector employs a massive 88% of the population.
Barcelona accounts for a quarter of the country’s GDP. With sea-going container traffic hitting record highs recently, it is one of Europe’s most significant ports. It is particularly strong in the motor vehicle industry, electrical engineering, wine production, publishing and consumer goods.
International companies include the Sellbytel Group, Hewlett Packard, Accenture, Vista Print, Computacenter, Deloitte, Booking.com and EIMS.
The Best Bits
Like the rest of Europe, Barcelona has a low crime rate, good economy, affordable housing and massive green areas.
- It has been calculated that the city has approximately 6.6 square metres of parkland per resident. There are 68 parks, including the Montjuic Park measuring 203 hectares.
- The architecture is colourful and distinctive, blending old and new to create a beautiful backdrop. And it is more than just Gaudi, although Sagrada Família (the, as yet, unfinished church), Park Güell, Casa Milà and Casa Batlló are among his most impressive works.
- Besides the culture, the city has a vibrant nightlife and social scene.
- Camp Nou. The massive stadium is home to FC Barcelona and has a capacity of 99,000 spectators.
- Font Màgica, the fountain below the Palau Nacional on Montjuïc Hill. The display of light, music and water attracts visitors in their hundreds.
- One of Barcelona’s seven beaches, Barceloneta is the most popular, close to the city centre. It measures 3,600 feet in length, and a jogging and cycling track runs along it.
- Las Ramblas, a series of several streets, is a hive of activity, with bars, restaurants, shops and the famous Boquería Market.
- More than 50 museums, including Museu Picasso, Palau Nacional, European Museum of Modern Art and FC Barcelona Museum covers everything for history, art or sporting buffs. The Museu Picasso displays an extensive collection by the 20th-century Spanish artist.
- The beaches. And the weather. Probably the biggest tourist draw, expats and their families will love the humid, sub-tropical and Mediterranean climate and sandy beaches.
- Concert halls, bars and big clubs showcase music from classical to indie, opera to superstar popstars.
- The Barcelona Pillow Fight is a great way to ease frustrations, smashing other people with soft pillows.
- Piknik Electronic takes place in the summer at Montjuic, with a picnic combined with electronic music.
- Street festivals happen from May until the end of September and last around a week each.
- Dine blindfolded in a windowless room, waited on by blind restaurant staff.
Bringing the Kids
The fabulous climate, beaches, huge green areas and quality of life make Barcelona an extremely popular destination for expats and their families.
- There are several universities and colleges in Barcelona, however, admission for scholars educated outside Spain can be quite bureaucratic. Diplomas and degree certificates should be approved by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports. You may also be required to provide authenticated, translated copies of qualifications, details of the courses and a proof of identity. You will also need to speak either Spanish or Catalan to study most courses.
- The state schools are free for expats, as long as they have been registered for their Empadronamiento at the local town hall. These schools educate in Spanish.
- There are many private schools in the city. Fees depend on the school concerned, the language and curriculum it teaches, and its location. English language schools in the city are more expensive than Spanish language private schools in the provinces.
- There are many bilingual and international schools. However, they will teach both Catalan and Spanish, focusing on local history and geography.
- There are many parks, interesting museums and lots of activities for kids.
Relocating to Barcelona
With its incredible climate, great beaches, cultural attractions and distinctive architecture, expats will love living in Barcelona. Accommodation is of a high standard, with a variety of interesting and different areas to choose from. English is widely spoken, although it would be an advantage to learn Spanish. The difficulties in enrolling at schools and universities, negotiating leases, arranging removal companies and general form-filling can be negated by using an area expert, a relocation agent with experience in the vicinity.
Average Monthly Rent - Barcelona
|Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre||€893|
|Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre||€691|
|Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre||€1,469|
|Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre||€1,056|