We are making the assumption you already have your heart set on moving to Spain. Now we want to review where we think are some of the best places to retire in Spain. In addition, we want to provide you with general information to narrow down your scope on where to live.
Best places to retire in Spain
Before we start to rattle off locations you need to know what you are looking for! You need to understand your goals, desires, and passions for wanting to retire in Spain. How do you envision your daily life in Spain and what will it look like in 5 or 10 years?
You need to consider your health and fitness. How you will handle stairs, cobbled streets, food, activities, and social life? How will you get around, by public transport, or your own car?
- Define your criteria – What do you need to survive? (stores, transportation, tourists, real Spanish)
- Define your budget – How much can you afford? What are you willing to live without? Our guide to the cost of living in Spain will help you.
- Define your goals – What are you trying to get out of this experience?
- Plan a scoping trip – If this is something you can do, that is great. If not, treat your first year living in Spain as your scoping trip to find the perfect location for your long-term stay.
- Do as much pre-planning as you can prior to a scoping trip or arrival and follow your checklist and goals. Google street view is your friend to get a look at what a street or area looks like for “real”. Our guide to preparing for your move and getting settled in Spain will help you.
Where are other expats living in Spain?
When you are moving to a new country and don’t know the language or any people, it can be a bit overwhelming. For us, having kids attending public school was an automatic into the local Spanish families. For those who retire in Spain, we feel it is important to have some sort of support community with other expats living in Spain and over time build up your relationships with the locals.
it doesn’t mean the town needs to be overrun with expats, but just enough to have some social groups and activities organized. This will likely slow down the Spanish language learning process, but it will ease you into your new life of retirement in Spain.
The Instituto Nacional de Estadística (National Statistics Institute Spain) provides details for you to query. It is also known as the INE. You may choose the entire country or a particular province and find the census counts for various populations. This may be filtered by nationality, age, sex, and more. So if you are trying to avoid or go near people from your home country, this tool may help.
The map below is an example of the data you can retrieve. It is the population of North Americans in Spain by province, as of January 2020.
Buying property in Spain
It can be overwhelming when searching for a property for sale in Spain. If you have a dream of buying a property in Spain, you will want to read our post on buying a property in Spain. It provides top tips from a seasoned lawyer in Spain, who is available to help you with the process.
Renting in Spain
We highly recommend renting in an area for at least a few months before buying in Spain. When it comes to renting things couldn’t be easier for you, especially in the offseason. If you are renting in Spain, you will find many places listed by several agents at one time. Keep in mind there isn’t a central listing system, so a property owner can go to many agencies.
Also, you will not need to move in or out on the first of the month! Nope, typically when something is listed that means it is available. Often you can move in within days, but sometimes there are advance listings too. Just keep this in mind when you are searching for a rental property in Spain. They won’t likely want to rent something many months in advance.
Best Place to Live in Spain
Once again, trying to determine the best place to live in Spain depends on your priorities. Spain is a very diverse country with mountains, valleys, coasts, deserts, rain, sand, snow, and more. What do you find important when making your selection? Is it the weather, the proximity to a major airport, having English speakers around, a place with few foreigners?
Areas in Spain
These are just a few generalizations about various regions or areas within Spain.
Coastal areas tend to have a milder climate in the winter and summer. These are called Spain Costas (coasts) with a name. For example, we live in Costa Tropical, which is the coast of the Granada province. Here is a map of some of the popular Costas sourced from Spanish-Web. Their map is interactive and provides a description of each coastal area.
Three main climate zones in Spain
Mediterranean: This climate zone is associated with hot and dry summers, and cool or mild wet winters. Right along the coast is milder in the summer and winter and slightly more humid.
Oceanic: This climate zone is located in the north of the country, including the Basque, Asturias, and Navarre regions. Expect regular snowfall in the winter months.
Semi-Arid: Located in the southeastern part of the country, this climate group includes eastern Andalusia (Almeria), Murcia, and the southern portion of the autonomous community Valencia. Typically the dry season extends well beyond the end of summer.
Best cities in Spain
We are now going to ramble off some of our favorite cities and smaller towns in Spain. This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list, but instead something to get you started.
- Madrid – A city that has just about everything you could ever want. Madrid is the perfect place to experience diversity in the various neighborhoods, mixed with plenty of green spaces too. It is a great hopping-off point for other travel too.
- Barcelona – Do we even need to say a thing about Barcelona? Wow, it is fantastic, with food, culture, diversity, and a real big city experience. It is a great travel hub, but it likely comes in as one of the most expensive places to live in Spain too. That said, when you are enjoying a rooftop bar in Barcelona, you feel extra special.
- Valencia – This is likely our favorite city in Spain, for our family. It is just the right size, offering all of the history and culture with a modern mix. Valencia is less expensive than Madrid or Barcelona, yet is just a couple of hours away by train.
- Granada – The historic Alhambra is in Granada, one of the most visited sites in Spain. With the ski resorts just 20 minutes away and the coast in about an hour, you get the best of all worlds in this city. The charm of a small town, with the amenities of a big city. Granada would be a great place to live, but we love the coast of Granada just a bit more!
- San Sebastián is An incredible city for sure. We loved the vibe in San Sebastián.
- Santander – This area is stunning with an amazing coastline, but the north also offers a bit more rain.
- Jerez de la Frontera
best smaller towns
The list of the best villages to retire in Spain is endless! With so many areas to discover, sometimes you need to get to Spain and then take time to explore. We have happened upon many, just by driving by and exploring. For most of these locations, you will just need to visit them, as there isn’t too much information about them online. If there is, we will provide you with a link to more information.
- Almuñécar – This is the website we started about the area, as there wasn’t much online in English when we moved to Costa Tropical.
- Ronda or the nearby village of Setinal de las Bodegas for a real Spanish experience.
- Estepona – This area has a great feel of a small town, yet boasts the conveniences of the city. It is close to Marbella, which is a higher-end area to live in. There are more activities and clubs in the Marbella area, but Estepona is nice for daily living.
- Castril – A tiny Spanish village in the mountains, with amazing personality and fiestas.
- Guadix – How about living in a cave house? There are so many small villages in the Granada province, full of inexpensive cave houses!
- Altea and Calpe
- Pollenca, Mallorca
- Antequera – more information
Other things to consider before you retire to Spain
Spain retirement visa
We have a very detailed post about the various Spain visa options available to you. These are perfect for you to make the move. Once you are in Spain, explore and try out different areas to see which is perfect for you.
As mentioned in many of our posts, plan a scoping trip. It is highly recommended to come to Spain for a couple of weeks or even live in Spain for 3 months, without having to request a visa at all. What you read online isn’t always what you find in reality and some of the best gems we’ve found weren’t online.
Worried about medical care and private health insurance in Spain? Read our post and you will see how inexpensive health insurance can be. If you come for a short period, it may be best to just get travel insurance, as the private health insurance policies are all for a full year.
Cost of living in Spain
The big question is “How much do I need to retire in Spain?” It is one of those “it depends” answers. We have written an eBook with over 100 pages to help you answer this question for your lifestyle. This is our guide to budgeting offering money-saving tips and essential information on how to estimate the cost of living in Spain.
Where is your “best place to retire in Spain”? Tell us about it in the comments below. We’d love to build up a great list of places to retire in Spain for our readers.