Expats in Barcelona: Everything You Need to Know
Thinking about joining all the expats in Barcelona?
One of the best places to live in Spain, the city is a hugely popular place for a relocation… and people from all over the planet pursue a new life here.
Barcelona is home to around 1.7 million people—and it’s estimated that around 20% of these city-dwellers are non-natives. So no matter why you’re moving, or where you’re moving from, you’ll be welcome, happy, and comfortable in Barcelona.
In this guide, your ever-reliable friends at Homelike are here to help you out. We’ve brought you helpful little tidbits on prices, perks, pros, cons, neighborhoods, nightlife, where to live in Barcelona as an expat, expat groups in Barcelona, and much more.
Want to know if expat life in Barcelona is the right match for you? Slap on some sunscreen and come join the fun!
Pros and cons of being an expat in Barcelona
Pros of living in Barcelona:
- Lots of outdoor adventure: Barcelona has great nearby beaches, it’s backed by mountains, and it’s surrounded by excellent day trips and weekend escapes. If you like spending time outdoors, you’ll love expat life in Barcelona.
- Many other foreigners: there are many other expats in Barcelona (representing a massive 179 different nationalities!). It’s easy to make friends wherever you’re from—and to find others who are interested in whatever you’re interested in.
- Excellent weather: in Barcelona, it’s rarely too hot, and it’s rarely too cold. Average January temperatures sit at around 10°C, while average August temperatures sit at around 24°C. And best of all, the city experiences very little rain.
- Fantastic food: as you probably already know, Spanish cuisine is some of the most lip-smacking stuff on the planet. You’ll find excellent local food in Barcelona, along with meals and morsels from every pocket of the globe. This place is a foodie’s dream.
- You’ll always find something to do: this is one of the biggest perks of expat life in Barcelona. Artistic and edgy, the city is packed with interesting venues and events.
- It’s popular with endless types of people: some trendy cities are overwhelmingly young. That’s not the case in Barcelona—here, you’ll find families, older citizens, lots of kid-friendly stuff, lots of dog-friendly stuff, and a whole range of different people.
- Excellent public transport throughout the city: but more on that coming very soon!
Cons of living in Barcelona:
- Somber Sundays: in some ways, Barcelona is strangely traditional. You’ll especially notice this on Sundays, when malls close, supermarkets shut down, and museums stop operating after 2pm. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it can be annoying.
- Finding a place to live: this is often the most frustrating part of expat life in Barcelona. The rental market is oversaturated, and there are more home-hunters than homes. It’s often way easier to instead get yourself a short term apartment or flat.
- It’s difficult to find a job: like the housing market, the job market is also oversaturated. You might struggle to find even an entry-level job… and when you do, you’ll be surprised by the low salaries. That said, that’s of course no issue if you’re a digital nomad.
- The pace of life is slow: some people are attracted to a slow pace of life. But in Barcelona, even bureaucracy is slow… so any life-admin plans you need to tackle; they’ll take a lot longer than you expect. You need to be pretty patient to live here.
- Endless packs of tourists: there are lots of expats in Barcelona. But there are also lots of tourists in Barcelona. That said, tourists usually only hang around the central parts of the city, so they might not impact your life too much, depending on where you live.
- It’s relatively expensive: compared to most other places in Spain, Barcelona is pretty pricey (we’ve brought you some specific figures soon). But it’s not all bad news: Barcelona is still cheaper than most other significant cities in western Europe.
Public transport in Barcelona
Barcelona’s public transport system is excellent, and can bring you to every corner of the city. Largely made up of buses, trams and metros, the system is modern, reliable and well-maintained, and pretty much runs around the clock.
You probably haven’t experienced many public transport systems as good as this one.
There are many options for paying for trips. You can buy tickets for single journeys, groups of journeys, unlimited monthly passes, and more.
But for long-term expats in Barcelona, the most convenient option is usually buying a T-mobilitat. This T-mobilitat works much like any travel card in any other part of the world, and it’s perfect if you’ll be using lots of public transport.
Best of all, if you take numerous journeys (across any and all public transport types) within a 75-minute period, you’re charged as if you’ve only taken one journey.
Opening a bank account for expats in Barcelona
You don’t legally need a Spanish bank account when you move to the nation… but without one, you won’t get very far through your expat life in Barcelona. For paying bills, getting a mortgage, and getting paid, and all that other life-admin stuff, you’ll need a local account.
To open your bank account, you’ll usually need to provide the following documents:
- Proof of identity (such as your passport passport)
- Your unique foreigner identification number (NIE), and the certificate you were given when you received this number
- Proof of your address (something like a tenancy agreement is fine)
- Proof of your employment status (such as a work contract, or a student card)
Expats in Barcelona can get a traditional branch-style bank account, or an online-only account.
Some of the best traditional-style banks are BBVA, Santander, and Banco Sabadell. The best online-only options are bunq and n26 (both of which have no physical branches, and swift sign-up processes). Getting an online-only bank is often more simple and stress-free, and a great choice for expats in Barcelona.
Oh, and while we’re talking about bureaucratic stuff, don’t forget to apply for your empadronamiento after you arrive in Barcelona!
Best neighborhoods to live for expats in Barcelona—where to live in Barcelona as an expat
Want to know where to live in Barcelona as an expat? Here are some of the most popular neighborhood options…
- El Raval: trendy, hip and happening, central El Raval is brimming with quirky venues, bohemian bars, and a whole load of edgy hangouts. If you like nightlife, multicultural neighborhoods, and finding strange things to do, you’ll love life here.
- Barceloneta: this seaside district is popular with locals, who flood the place on sunny weekends. You’ll find nice beaches, great restaurants, pretty promenades, and fancy yachts. It’s an authentic area with few tourists, but it’s a pricey place to live.
- El Born: right beside the Gothic Quarter, charming El Born is like someone took all the cozy Barcelona clichés, and packed them into one neighborhood. It’s also a very international area—and trendy in a classy way.
- Gracia: on the western outskirts of the city, Gracia is one of Barcelona’s best family-friendly districts. Green and clean, it’s home to wide boulevards, fantastic schools, and a safe atmosphere. It also has some excellent independent and artsy venues.
- Les Corts: one of the priciest neighborhoods in the city, Les Corts features middle-class families, the city’s business hub, and lots of luxury townhouses. Because there are two university campuses here, the district also has a relatively young population.
For extra information on all these districts and more, check out our bumper fact-packed guide to the best neighborhoods to live in Barcelona.
How to find apartments in Barcelona
This is often pretty tricky… and for most new expats in Barcelona, it’s the most frustrating and inconvenient part of life here. Because the city is so popular with tourists, Spanish people, expats, and everyone in between, there are always new-home-hunters in the city.
And the supply can’t keep up with the demand.
You’ll likely spend endless hours searching for places, viewing places, negotiating prices, and considering living in subpar apartments. For those reasons, it’s usually easier to find a short stay rental in Barcelona (and that’s especially true if you’re only sticking around short-term).
But with some patience and perseverance, it’s of course (eventually!) possible to find a home in the traditional way. Barcelona’s best house-hunting websites for unfurnished flats include Idealista and Fotocasa—while real estate agents can be useful once you’ve already arrived in the city. If you want to find a furnished flat to stay for over 6 months, Homelike has a good selection of long term rentals in the city too.
Best areas for restaurants and bars in Barcelona
No matter where you wander in the city, you’ll always find plenty of places to munch and slurp. But some of the best neighborhoods for Barcelona’s endless food and drink include…
- Gracia: for authentic eats, great local fayre, and non-touristy food, Gracia is excellent. Here, you’ll mainly find classy joints, such as Con Gracia (with its high-end tasting menus) and Gasterea (a pincho-packed place with great regional treats).
- The Gothic Quarter: okay, this super-central district is where all the tourists hang out… but it’s still full of great places to eat and drink. Top choices include upmarket Michelin-starred Caelis, laid-back local spot La Plata, and bistro-style El Salón.
- Poblenou: edgy and underrated, seaside Poblenou offers trendy cafes, laid-back tapas joints, and excellent seafood. If you’re on the hunt for fresh fish, check out Els Pescadors. And for what’s possibly the best paella in the city, visit Xiringuito Escribà.
Best areas for Barcelona nightlife
Barcelona has some of the best nightlife in Spain—and for lots of people, that’s one of the city’s biggest draws. Some of its must-visit late-night neighborhoods include…
- El Raval: expats in Barcelona often head here to experience an edgier and authentic side to drinking in the city. For no frills and no pretense, check out Bar Pastis and La Confiteria. For techno, dancing, and late-night fun, Moog is a good place to start.
- Port Olimpic: brimming with beach clubs and non-stop dancing spots, Port Olimpic is always full of late-night drinkers (who often sip and slurp ‘til sunrise). Some good places to start are Opium Mar, Pacha Barcelona, and popular Shoka Club.
- El Born: trendy and upmarket, El Born is a well-known neighborhood for classy cocktails, wine bars, and lots of elegant places to drink. Historic La Vinya del Senyor has a gigantic wine list, while ELDISET has a varied selection of delicately-flavored stuff.
Best parks in Barcelona
Barcelona is home to a huge number of brilliant and beautiful parks (around 28% of the city is made up of green space). Some of the best include…
- Ciutadella Park: the biggest park in the city, this place is home to Barcelona Zoo, a large lake, lots of weekend festivals, and a whole bunch of picnickers. Everyone loves it.
- Park Güell: one of the world’s wackiest parks, this place was of course crafted by Gaudi. A UNESCO site, it offers green pockets, strange monuments, and more.
- Parc de Cervantes: one of the classiest parks in the city, this landscaped green zone has a popular rose garden, lots of quiet places to walk, and a relatively romantic vibe.
Expat forums in Barcelona, and expat groups in Barcelona
Expat life in Barcelona will obviously be much more fulfilling if you find a friendly crew of new amigos.
Here’s some good news: because there are so many other non-natives (and lots of welcoming locals!) in the city, that’s super easy to do. You’ll find endless people, endless events, and lots of interesting hobbies to pursue.
To get going with your buddy-hunt, it’s best to use Facebook, where you’ll find many groups of friendly faces. Two of the best expat groups in Barcelona and expat forums in Barcelona are here and here. For finding events (and people to attend them with!) this group is excellent.
And if you search a little deeper, you’ll also find groups of hikers, language learners, and more—if you want to get involved with specific activities or hobbies while in Barcelona, you’ll probably find a way to do it.
As you might already know, Couchsurfing is also a great platform for finding friends and events across the world. On the platform, you’ll find both locals and expats in Barcelona, and plenty of fun things to do.
Cost of living in Barcelona
At the time of writing, expats in Barcelona (and anyone living in Barcelona) can expect to encounter these costs:
- 1-bedroom apartment in the city center: €1,022
- 1-bedroom apartment outside of the city center: €791
- 3-bedroom apartment in the city center: €1,692
- One-way ticket on local public transport: €2.40
- Regular monthly pass for local public transport: €40
- Meal for 1 at an inexpensive restaurant: €13
- 3-course meal for 2 people at a mid-range restaurant: €60
- Large draught domestic beer in a bar or restaurant: €3
- Regular cappuccino in a cafe or restaurant: €2.27
- Regular liter of milk from a supermarket: €0.94
- Loaf of white bread from a supermarket: €1.44
- 12 regular eggs from a supermarket: €2.43
- 1kg of chicken breast filets from a supermarket: €70.9
As always, we’ve taken these prices from the accuracy-loving relocation experts at Numbeo.
The trash disposal system in Barcelona
For new expats in Barcelona, the city’s waste management system can at first be a little confusing. But once you get used to how it works, it’s all pretty simple.
There are lots of multi-colored waste points throughout the city—and the government claims that every home is within 100 meters of at least one of these waste points.
Waste is separated and color-coded into five different categories (green containers for glass, blue containers for paper and cardboard, yellow containers for plastic, brown containers for organic waste, and gray containers for everything else). Residents are expected to routinely place their trash into the appropriate containers.
In some parts of the city, a weekly pick-up service is also offered, outside of residents’ homes. If you live in one of these areas, you simply place your trash bags outside of your door (once a week).
Expats in Barcelona: final thoughts and further reading
And just like that, we’ve reached the end of this tell-all guide on expat life in Barcelona.
For even more information, check out our guides on Spain’s golden visa and Spain’s proposed digital nomad visa—and our introduction to expat life across Spain (no matter which city you want to live in).
If you think the Barcelona life is for you, it’s easy to find a home right away—we have lots of serviced apartments, serviced flats, and serviced studios in the city. They’re all comfy, homely and fully-furnished… and they’re all ready to move into today!
And if you’re looking for something luxurious, we have plenty of outrageously-upmarket places too.
Thanks for reading, thanks for choosing Homelike, and thanks for being so lovely.