As the capital city of the Catalonia region, and the second most populated city of Spain, Barcelona is a leading European centre for finance, tourism and culture, with a strong influence in media, fashion and the arts.
Barcelona is located in North West Spain, facing the Mediterranean Sea, so the residents of Barcelona can benefit from warm summer weather and mild winters.
Combining urban living in a major global city, with a Mediterranean lifestyle by the beach and a rich, cultural history, you can see why Barcelona is a popular choice for expats moving to Spain.
Find out important information about immigrating to Spain.
Where to live in Barcelona
As Barcelona is divided into ten districts, there are a number of areas to live in when you move to Barcelona, with each of them offering different amenities to suit your new Spanish lifestyle.
If you’re moving to Barcelona for work, it is a good idea to ask your colleagues about where they would recommend as the best places to live, as they will be aware of the nice areas of the capital and the best areas for commuting to your new job.
A trendy, vibrant area, Gràcia is a popular place with families and young couples in Barcelona. It is close to Park Güell – designed by Gaudi - and is home to one of Barcelona’s most lively week long festivals, the Festa Major de Gràcia every August.
Parking can be difficult in Gràcia, but it does have good access to the motorway and has a metro station that can get you into the centre of Barcelona in minutes.
This fashionable, upmarket residential area offers a fantastic sample of Modernista architecture, wider streets than in the centre of Barcelona and excellent transport links into the capital’s centre. With the metro crossing through a number of stations, and a good social scene of restaurants, bars and shops, it is a popular district for city workers.
Eixample is also a popular area for families, with schools and hospitals close by. The neighbourhood is safe, clean and centrally located in Barcelona. The desirability of the location means that you will, however, find property to be expensive here.
Known for being home to the FC Barcelona’s ground, Camp Nou, Les Corts is on the western side of Barcelona. It has great transport connections into the city centre and takes just 45 minutes to walk into the centre of Barcelona.
In the 2005 census, Les Corts had 82,588 inhabitants, so it is less populated than some parts of Barcelona.
This district has a residential, calmer atmosphere, becoming more peaceful in the evenings than many areas of Barcelona, with the student and local workers returning home. Les Corts is, however, a great place for designer shopping, and does have bars and restaurants.
At the top of the hill, Sarria-Sant Gervasi is a traditional, tranquil district of Barcelona, great for those who like to live in the peace of quiet of a friendly, community-oriented area.
This is a historic area dating back to the Romans in the 900s and the area still has exquisite small houses and narrow streets.
Sarria-Sant Gervasi is an expensive area of Barcelona, where a number of celebrities and FC Barcelona football players call home. The area has boutique and independent shops, and classy bars and restaurants.
It is good for families, as it has wide open spaces and is on the edge of the 800 hectare Collserola Natural Park. Some dedicated parking is available with certain properties and there is easy access to the motorway.
Life in Barcelona
The city has excellent transport hubs. There are buses, trains and the underground service to help you travel around Barcelona.
The railway service, the Barcelona Metro, consists of 11 lines operating across around 150 stations. It runs from 5am to midnight between Monday and Thursday, from 5am to 2am on Friday and the eve of public holidays, and until midnight on Sundays and public holidays. On Saturdays it runs through the night.
The Barcelona Metro operates a continuous service on festival days, such as the Gràcia Festival in August. There is also a night bus available in the city.
If you’ll be using the Barcelona Metro frequently, there is the option of a Barcelona Card (costing €20) or Hola Transport Card (€16,30), offering unlimited travel around Barcelona. The Barcelona card will also give you extra perks, such as free or discounted entry into many museums in the area.
Parking is very difficult in Barcelona, so people tend to use public transport most often.
You’ll find meal times in Barcelona differ from the UK, with breakfast, lunch and dinner usually taken later in the day.
The long gap between lunch and dinner makes tapas a strong feature in the Spanish diet as an appetiser before dinner. There’s a large variety of choice in tapas dishes, reflecting the different tastes of Spain, so you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy.
The cuisine of Barcelona is typically Mediterranean, using fresh vegetables, breads, pasta, legumes, olive oils, and wine. Fish and pork are popular meats in Catalonian cooking.
In terms of cost, a basic lunch within the business district will cost an average of €15, whereas a fast food lunch will be around €8. A standard 3 course dinner for two with wine, in a restaurant, will cost an average of €50, while a simple pub dinner will be around €33. Do rememeber though that these prices are just an average, and actual prices may scew higher or lower depending on where you go in the city.
Barcelona is a tourist city, so you will get crime in the tourist areas, such as pickpocketing, or taking your phone off a table. In the quieter residential areas, however, it is safe to walk the streets, even at night. But as always, you should remember to stay cautious and observant.
Entertainment in Barcelona
Barcelona is a big city, so you can expect to see high street shops alongside designer stores and independent boutiques. You should find a large proportion of the shops in the centre of the city, so you won’t have to travel too far to make the most of a day of shopping.
Weekends in Barcelona
There’s plenty to do and see in Barcelona in addition to the excellent shopping amenities. Barcelona is also only an hour or two to the French border and close to the Pyrenees if you like winter sports.
There are many cultural past times, such as art museums and galleries, and the distinctive architecture in Barcelona is also a popular attraction. Gaudi’s architecture is an important aspect of the city; Sagrada Familia and Park Güell are good starting points to view Gaudi’s designs, however, you can see his unique style across the city centre.
If you are a football fan, you’ll certainly want to visit the Camp Nou, the home of one of the best teams in Europe, FC Barcelona. If sport isn’t your thing, there are many music venues to cater for all tastes, such as Razzmatazz, Sidecar Factory Club and Palau de la Musica Catalana.
In addition to the Barcelonta beach 10 minutes from Barcelona’s centre, the beaches of Sitges and Tarragona are very close to the city too.
Barcelona Property Prices
With the housing market in Spain recovering, Barcelona property prices are amongst the highest in the country. The average price for a property in Barcelona is around €4,815 per square metre in the city centre and €3,036 outside the city centre.
If you are planning to rent in Barcelona, you can rent a small 1 bedroom apartment in the city centre for around €938 a month. For a 3 bedroom property in Barcelona’s city centre, the monthly rental price increases to around €1,531. If you would rather live outside the centre of the city, a 1 bedroom apartment will cost an average of €733 a month, and a 3 bedroom property would be €1,121 a month.
Moving to Barcelona with children
Schools in Barcelona
The state schools in Barcelona all speak Catalan, rather than the national language of Castellano. They teach Castellano as a school subject. Children who are not Catalan by birth normally have their lessons and speak at school in Catalan, but may well revert to Castellano in the playground or at home.
Apart from state schools, Barcelona has a good variety of international private schools, Bilingual schools and English schools.
Learn more about choosing schools when moving abroad.
Children pick up languages very easily, especially at a young age, so your child should not struggle to learn the language once they start making friends and begin school. If you send your child to an international or English school, it might take a bit more time.
Barcelona is a vibrant and interesting city to live and work, so it shouldn’t take you long to settle into your new life in Spain.
Updated: January 2021.