Where Do Expats Live in Spain?

8 mins read

To answer the question of where expats live in Spain is not easy. According to local newspaper reports, expats make up a staggering 12% of the population and live in many of Spain’s 17 official regions. As creatures of habit, we gather in areas where we find similarities so, for example; many Americans live in Madrid while Brits group together on the Costa Del Sol and Brava, and Alicante.

Regardless, it is easy to understand why so many people choose Spain as a place to buy property and retire. Diversity is one of its key strengths, but a variety of landscapes, cuisine, lifestyle, weather, islands, and hundreds of miles of beaches also do a great job in luring citizens of the world. Its central European location is also easy to get to, especially for British expats who find themselves able to nip across the channel whenever they want thanks to a frequent and cheap flight schedule.

map of spain

If you plan to buy Spanish property to live there all year round, the following places are high on the list of destinations to consider. We look at why they stand out. However, a key point when deciding where to live is to match the lifestyle with your expectations.

Popular Places Where Expats Live in Spain

1: Marbella and the Golden Mile

Sitting on the Costa Del Sol of the Malaga province, many people underestimate Marbella. Tourism, the region’s main trade features highly in day-today life but architecture, education, arts, shopping, culture, and many restaurants serving up traditional Spanish dishes and international food are other attractive lures.

Without a doubt, Marbella’s focus is Golden Mile, a beachside road and district, although it is four miles long. This stretch is home to some of Marbella’s most expensive real estate, the Puerto Banus marina, five stars plus hotels, a business centre, and a golf course. Separated by a motorway, residential mountainside neighbourhoods are expanding and boosting Marbella’s reputation.

A tourism stronghold is an old town, an enchanting destination with whitewashed houses, while other prominent places include Nueva Andalucía, known as a golf valley. Overall, anyone living in Marbella can enjoy 17 miles of stunning beachfront locations. Read: Marbella area guide to shopping, nightlife, and buying property.

2: Alicante City

Sitting at the heart of the Costa Blanca region, Alicante proves to be a winner with British expats. Attracted by the year-round facilities and amenities, Alicante does rest, relaxation, and fun in style. The good part is that you do not have to be a millionaire because Alicante caters for everyone regardless of budget. Much happens around the Explanada promenade, running from Puerto de Alicante to Parque de Canalejas.


Recognisable by a tiled floor resembling ocean waves, this nerve centre offers residents countless choices of restaurants and bars. Alicante connects to Europe via its international airport, and local businesses recognising the growing number of expats offer many services from healthcare to education. Overall, Alicante is a winner for any expat looking to live in Spain all year round.

3: Majorca: Part of the Balearic Islands

This Balearic island known for its hidden coves and gorgeous beachside resorts often ends up in a topic of discussion whether the name is Majorca or Mallorca. Look past that though to discover stunning places to live including Migjorn, Cala d’Or, and Canyamel. Otherwise, Palma, a cosmopolitan metropolis and tourism centre is more populated than other destinations.


Beach lovers will adore Majorca boasting of gorgeous stretches of sand. Five hundred kilometres of coastline hide small coves and bays, so exploring them all is a lifetime bucket list item. Along with beaches comes standard water sports which Majorca excels in, but the highlight of day-to-day living is a seaside lifestyle which Majorca does with finesse.

The island also suits golfers, history lovers and gastronomy fans thanks to its eight Michelin star restaurants. 40% of the island is protected from development, so anyone who wants to swap an urban lifestyle for the great outdoors will fare well when looking at Majorca.

Also read: Majorca towns to start a new life in.

4: Torrevieja: An All Rounder Place

Belonging to Costa Brava, Torrevieja has seen much expansion over the last 24 years thanks to its long-established reputation as the place for foreigners to feel right at home. Also, part of the Alicante province, the main city, 30 kilometres away allows expats to step up their choices of shopping, nightlife and eating out.


The large Salt Lake at the back of town has affected the climate and boosted Torrevieja’s reputation as a good place to live. But what else makes Torrevieja a worthy contender? Well, foreign tourism is strong, but domestic is as well, and when locals give it the thumbs up, they must be doing something right.

Within Torrevieja, a good place to look is Punta Prima boasting of a stunning beach, promenade, and that typical Mediterranean lifestyle. Don’t think that’s all there is though because Torrevieja has an abundance of historical attractions, theme parks, and other activities to keep young and old entertained.

5: Javea: Pearl of the Costa Blanca

Javea, known as Xabia, sits at the bottom of the Montgo massif mountain range, sheltering it and ensuring an average year-round temperature of 20 degrees. Its nickname, the pearl of the Costa Blanca is an accurate reflection of beautiful landscape scenes awaiting all who set foot there. Alicante city is 90 minutes’ drive while the airport is 52 miles away; hence, Javea’s strategic location means residents have easy access to main sites and attractions.

Ask any hardcore fan of Javea what keeps them there, and they will say stunning beaches, but the historic old quarter that has kept its traditional charm also charms the masses. For expats looking for hobbies to fill their time, Javea offers many sports including golfing, horse riding, tennis, windsurfing, diving and much more.

Do not think Javea’s low key reputation on the international expats’ scene means it offers little because, after dark, a fine selection of restaurants and bars keep everyone entertained regardless of nationalities.

3 Popular Cities Where Expats Live

6: Madrid: An American Favourite

Breaking down into 18 neighbourhoods, Madrid is a driving force for the working expat who outside of working hours, get the chance to sample the best of Spain for shopping, nightlife and eating out. Unrivalled arts and culture scenes, excellent international schools for families, and well-connected transport links to the rest of Spain are just a snippet of benefits.

Each neighbourhood offers something unique, and first-time visitors considering whether to live there should take their time to explore each. The one that suits you will feel like home. Austrias, Madrid’s old quarter is home to the charming Plaza Mayor district. Barrio de Las Letras’s heritage stems around Spanish literature, while upmarket Barrio de Salamanca highlights the best of fine living in Spain through Michelin starred restaurants and stylish after-dark partying.

Castellana is the financial district while Chamberi offers traditional charm with old-style architecture. In trendy Chueca, shop till you drop and meet fellow expats for brunch, but Conde Duque’s narrows streets and traditional pubs also captivate. The choice is endless.

7: Living in Barcelona

If you want an urban landscape offering a more diverse expat community, consider Barcelona. People often compare it with Madrid, but it stands in a league of its own. Hence tourists often return year after year. The one thing that Barcelona offers that Madrid does not is that beachside lifestyle. Combine this with the Mediterranean climate, and you are onto a winner.


Often called the cradle of Catalan culture, expats find this spoken alongside Spanish, but for those who struggle to learn languages, a decent number of locals speak English, especially in communities where expats live. As the world’s first city to have the biodiversity certification, it will delight environmental lovers to know Barcelona puts sustainability and environmental issues high on its list of properties.

8: Valencia: You Won’t Get Enough

Known as the city of Arts and Science, Spain’s third-largest city after Madrid and Barcelona, also stretches out into rural areas. Sitting on the Turia banks, its historical and cultural heritage draw in tourists and expats from around the world. Festivals feature highly on the social calendar, including the annual tomato fight and Falles, where locals serve big pans of traditional paella to the masses.


As a bilingual city, swapping between Spanish and Valencia, many locals also speak English thanks to roaring tourism trades. Another jewel in its crown is the Barrio Del Carmen district’s varied architecture, but Valencia excels in modern architecture and both blend, to present a pleasant urban landscape.

Know Your Geography: The Costas

Anyone who wants the seaside lifestyle in Spain would fare well to brush up on their Costas. The name refers to coastline districts of which there are 13 covering 4,000 kilometres. Northern Costas front the Aegean ocean, while the eastern and southern Costas front the Mediterranean.

The northern Costa Verde, Vasca and Galicia aren’t as famous as the south and east coasts because of a lesser developed tourist industry and lower weather temperatures. If life in the sun is what you are after, get yourself to more popular Costas which are….

where do expats live in spain

Costa Del Sol: Sitting on the south coastline, this 100-kilometre stretch, nicknamed the coast of sun garners international fame thanks to many nationalities of tourists arriving every year. Several high-profile towns and cities belong to this Costa including Marbella, Torremolinos and Malaga. Although tourism dies down in winter, the region carries on all year round, making this a perfect destination for expats who want to live in Spain.

Costa Calida: On the south-eastern coastline, 250 kilometres make up Costa Calida. The name means sunny coast, which refers to higher water temperatures. Popular places include La Manga, boasting of beaches stretching for 22 kilometres and sitting next to Mar Menor, Europe’s largest salt water lake. Cartagena and Mazzaron’s old architecture also make them stand out from the rest.

Costa Blanca: Brits and Germans love the Costa Blanca stretching for 200 kilometres on its south-eastern coastline. Also called the white coast, there is no chance of ever being bored thanks to many golf courses, beaches, arts, culture, and gastronomy choices. Prominent places include Javea new and old towns, famous Alicante, and Benidorm.

Costa Brava

As you can see pinpointing where expats live in Spain reveals major cities or towns along the east and south coast are the most popular. If you want to buy property in Spain, to live there all year round, and would like more information on these prominent places, call us today.

Also, browse our portfolio of homes for sale in Spain. Each listing includes photographs, key property features, location information and details of how to arrange a viewing time and date or request more information.

Also of Interest

Best Places to Buy Spanish Property: We look at regional real estate markets, prices, and destinations that forge ahead of others for international property sale in Spain. Including investment opportunities, and property advice, we also discuss key regions for buy-to-let property purchases.

Spain Area Guide: Our area guide to Spain gives a brief introduction of the country and includes further links to all prominent regions for tourism and expat living. Including shopping, eating out, nightlife and getting there, it highlights the uniqueness of what each region offers.

About Natalie

Natalie is a dedicated real estate professional currently working at Spot Blue International Property. With over a decade of experience in the industry, she has acquired a wealth of knowledge and expertise regarding global properties.