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Moving to Barcelona

Set against a backdrop of mountains and hills, Barcelona is 125 miles (200km) south of France and located on the Costa Dorado between the Llobregat and Besòs river mouths.

Expats moving to Barcelona will find themselves in one of the most picturesque and charming destinations in Europe. The city is world-renowned for its architectural beauty, its cultural character and its seamless blending of tradition with innovation.

Living in Barcelona as an expat

Aside from its architectural and cultural charms, the city is characterised by a pulsating social scene and sprawling, eclectic neighbourhoods that sprawl alongside the sparkling Mediterranean. 

While Barcelona has a thriving economy, salaries tend to be lower than in other major European cities. That said, the tourism industry generally pays rather well and employs many expats but, due to the pandemic and border closures, it has taken a knock. Other major industries where expats may be able to find work are manufacturing and tech. 

Accommodation is usually an expat’s biggest expense but, as prices have continued to drop since the outbreak of coronavirus, Barcelona is currently a highly popular city for property investments. The process of finding a home to rent is cut-throat, as people scramble to secure property close to transport hubs, schools and shops.  

Cost of living in Barcelona 

The cost of living in Barcelona is relatively low compared to cities such as New York and London, and even Madrid is more expensive to live in. That said, as salaries in Barcelona are lower than in these cities, it can seem rather expensive to people who live here. 

That said, everyday expenses such as utilities, transport and groceries are not expensive in Barcelona, and the major costs for expats will rather be things such as rent and international schools. 

Expat families and children

With plenty of activities available for children in the city, expat parents will have no trouble entertaining their little ones. Parks abound in Barcelona, and there are also gorgeous spots for day trips or weekend getaways with the family not far from the city. Spain's extensive rail network also allows for easy travel around the country with the whole family. 

There are plenty of high-quality Spanish instruction schools, as well as international schools in Barcelona. For parents with young children, it may be recommended to send them to a Spanish school to assist them in immersing into the language and culture. 

Climate in Barcelona

Barcelona is blessed with hot summers and mild winters, making the weather ideal for most of the year. Expats will never find themselves weather-bound, but will be able to entertain themselves outdoors all year.

New arrivals who have emigrated for pleasure or those who have been lucky enough to secure a job beforehand will find no better place to explore. As a city that is shaped by Catalonian heritage, expats who make an effort to learn the language and immerse themselves in the culture will find it hard to ever leave Barcelona.  

Weather in Barcelona

Expats will love the fantastic Mediterranean climate in Barcelona. The city boasts warm, sunny weather during summer and pleasant, cool winters.

Summers in Barcelona can last up to six months, spanning from May to October. In August, the hottest month of the year, the heat can become almost unbearable, and expats may want to take a break from the city. The average temperature in summer is 82°F (29°C). 

Winters in the city are extremely mild and snow is rare. Temperatures don't usually get any colder than 50°F (10°C), and average around 59ºF (15ºC) during the day. 

While the city doesn't get much rain, the end of summer is generally wetter than the rest of the year, with thunderstorms occurring between August and November.

With long summers and shorter winters, Barcelona generally only has two transitional months in the year, those being April and November. The weather during these months is generally unpredictable, but temperatures will be either rising or falling as the seasons turn. 


Working in Barcelona

Expats move to Barcelona not only for the lovely weather and sun-soaked beaches, but also to work in what has traditionally been considered an economically-powerful European city. 

As one of the first European centres to industrialise, trade and industry have long been a part of the Catalan capital’s makeup. Manufacturing continues to play a major role in the economy of Barcelona, even though it was taken over by the tourism industry prior to the outbreak of Covid-19. Since then, tourism has taken a backseat, and other industries have grown. 

The job market in Barcelona

Automobiles and appliance manufacturing are among Barcelona's main industries. Banking is also a major sector, and the city’s logistics industry is fairly large too, given its situation as a port city. 

Barcelona has also become a centre for high-tech industry, with the greatest concentration of businesses found at the Parc Tecnològic del Vallès (Science Park of El Vallès) to the northeast of the wider metropolis. 

Salaries in Barcelona tend to be relatively low, despite the rising cost of living. One possible exception is the tourism industry, which has in the past attracted record numbers of tourists. While tourism has occupied a large portion of the city's economy, and has also traditionally employed many expats, the coronavirus has put major strain on this industry. 

Finding a job in Barcelona

Expats with experience and qualifications in the city’s leading business sectors are more likely to find a job that is able to sustain them, although this is no guarantee. Those who are looking for work in Barcelona should try their best to find a position prior to their arrival, but those who do arrive without a contract are sometimes able to fall back on jobs such as teaching English or working in one of the city’s many call centres.

Being able to speak Spanish or Catalan will give expat applicants an extra advantage since, while the city is accustomed to English-speaking tourists, these are the primary languages in which business is conducted. Expats who are able to speak a third language such as German will be at even more of an advantage since there is a fairly large foreign investment presence in the country.

When it comes to job hunting in Barcelona, though, it is often said that what someone knows is less important than who they know. The best resources for finding a job in Barcelona, for those without the necessary contacts, are through local English language media as well as online job portals. 

Work culture in Barcelona

Spain's business culture is strongly rooted in tradition, and some business practices may seem old-fashioned to expats. Nevertheless, once they adjust to this, expats should find it relatively easy and pleasant to do business in Spain.

Hierarchy is paramount to business in the country. Spanish managers are autocrats of a sort, having the authority to make important decisions without consulting their employees. That said, the business culture is evolving, and those of a younger generation may uphold slightly different ideals and subscribe to more egalitarian practices.

Making contacts and networking in Barcelona is also important. The power of connections is not to be underestimated and is a principle ingrained in the Spanish working world. Expats should take advantage of any attempt to interact with decision makers and should make an effort to attend job fairs and group events.

It is also important for foreigners to learn at least some Spanish or Catalan. International business may be conducted in English, but other transactions will most likely occur in Catalan.

Cost of living in Barcelona

Barcelona’s stunning beaches, great cuisine, incredible architecture and sunny climate, not to mention its world-famous football club and stadium, attract visitors from all over the world. Visitors often return as expats thanks to the city’s laid-back atmosphere and excellent quality of life, but Barcelona is far from cheap. The city's cost of living ranked higher than Madrid's in Mercer's 2022 Cost of Living Survey, which compares the cost of goods across 227 countries; the Catalan city ranked 78th while Madrid placed 90th.  

That said, the average salary in Barcelona is high enough to accommodate the city’s cost of living, but is generally lower than in other major western European cities. Housing will always be a significant expense that comes with city living and expats can expect the same in Catalonia’s capital. Fortunately, public transportation across Barcelona is not only efficient but also cost effective, as the city runs on single and integrated ticket systems allowing passengers access to all modes of public transportation.   

Cost of food in Barcelona   

Barcelona is a foodie's dream and its more than 20 Michelin-starred restaurants are testament to the city’s strong food culture. The streets are chock-full of eateries and restaurants for every price point, making eating out not only a delicious but also affordable experience.  

Those who like to cook should note that certain groceries, such as meat and cheese, can be quite expensive, but given the fact that Spain is one of the leading fruit and vegetable exporters in Europe, expats can expect to pay less for fresh produce in Barcelona than in other European cities. Expats can also save by shopping at affordable outlets such as Aldi and Lidl. 

Cost of accommodation in Barcelona  

As is the case in most cities throughout the world, rental prices will vary according to proximity to the city centre. The rental market in Barcelona is the most expensive in Spain, and remains highly saturated. It is common to find flatshares across the city, which is considerably cheaper than renting a single-bedroom apartment.   

Of course, it is more affordable to live outside the city centre in areas such as the Nou Barris district. Utilities in Barcelona are generally reasonably priced.

Cost of transport in Barcelona   

Public transport in Barcelona is highly efficient, affordable and integrated. The integrated ticket allows passengers to access different modes of transport like buses, trains and taxis across the city. Buying a car requires a Spanish residency or citizenship and the process involves dealing with the country's infamous bureaucracy and paying an annual road tax, all of which generally deters expats from owning cars.

Cost of entertainment in Barcelona   

Barcelona is famous for its buzzing nightlife, but it doesn’t come cheap, as buying drinks at a pub or club in the more affluent areas can be very pricey indeed. Attractions such as the theatre and cinema are also fairly expensive in Barcelona.   

As previously mentioned, the city’s food scene caters to diners from all income brackets, and expats can find a restaurant or eatery to enjoy well within their budget.  

While health and fitness clubs in the city’s business district tend to be costly, it may be worthwhile for expats to consider taking advantage of Barcelona’s idyllic Mediterranean beaches and leafy parks to keep fit.

Cost of living in Spain chart

The list below shows average prices for Barcelona in July 2022.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

EUR 990

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

EUR 785

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

EUR 1,700

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

EUR 1,300


Dozen eggs

EUR 2.63

Milk (1 litre)

EUR 0.94

Rice (1 kg)

EUR 1.25

Loaf of white bread

EUR 1.26

Chicken breasts (1kg)

EUR 6.81

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)


Eating out

Big Mac Meal

EUR 9.32

Coca-Cola (330ml)

EUR 1.93


EUR 2.41

Bottle of beer (local)


Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two

EUR 55


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

EUR 0.21

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

EUR 39.31

Basic monthly utilities (includes electricity, water, refuse)

EUR 175.39


Taxi rate/km


Bus fare in the city centre 

EUR 2.40


EUR 1.95

Accommodation in Barcelona

Nestled between sea, mountains and rivers, Barcelona is a city rich with history and beauty, but also densely populated and, due to the city's layout, high-rise apartments abound.

Rent and property prices in Barcelona tend to be significantly lower than major European capitals such as London and Paris, and slightly lower than Madrid. That said, this is matched by lower levels of employment and lower average salaries. 

Expats should keep in mind that it is helpful, and in many cases necessary, to speak Spanish when searching for accommodation, and particularly when arranging leases. For this reason, many expats hire a real-estate agent to assist in the process of finding and securing a place to live in Barcelona. 

Types of housing in Barcelona

The city centre of Barcelona is packed with apartment buildings where expats will be able to rent or buy accommodation. Most expats rent property in Barcelona first, even if it is not on a short-term basis.

Given that there are many options for short-term accommodation in the city, many expats prefer to arrive in the city before committing to a long-term lease. The range of this kind of accommodation includes flatshares, single rooms in larger houses or vacated student accommodation, all of which aren't particularly suited to large expat families.

Houses in Barcelona are often difficult to find, more expensive and more challenging to secure than apartments. Several months of rent are expected to be paid in advance as a security deposit, in addition to the first month's rent and an agent's fee – usually the equivalent of one month's rent. 

Barcelona is fairly unique in that its neighbourhoods tend to have a mixture of residential and commercial property, rather than solely consisting of one or the other. It is also usually possible to access essential services such as healthcare within a short distance of where one stays. 

It may be a good idea for expats who will be working in Barcelona to find a property in close proximity to their workplace. Expat parents who send their children to a private school may also want to live closer to the school. In cases such as these, it is a good idea to find accommodation close to public transport.

As a general rule, areas that are closer to the beach – which tend to have more space and are close to important amenities – tend to be more expensive.

Finding accommodation in Barcelona

One of the first things an expat should do when looking for a place to stay in Barcelona is to identify areas of the city that appeal to them and serve their needs. This can either be done through research online, speaking to residents or exploring the city in person.

After searching for a suitable area, the search for an individual property begins. There is a multitude of online listings and property portals, and newspapers often have classifieds sections. 

Unfortunately, the vast majority of these are in Spanish, although there are a few English websites and publications that are aimed at the expatriate community. Many expats make use of real-estate agents who can speak English and knows the property market to assist them in their search. 

Renting accommodation in Barcelona

Expats who are going to be paid at Spanish salary levels should try to ensure that a housing stipend is included in their contract, as rent can take a significant amount out of a person’s wages. Students and young professionals in the city have increasingly taken to sharing apartments for this reason.

Deposits and leases

Thankfully, landlords often choose their tenants based on who contacts them first and can pay the stipulated amount. They will generally require proof of income and a security deposit of between one and six months’ rent.

After the terms have been settled with the landlord, the new tenant will sign a lease agreement or Contrato de Arrendamiento. The contracts are often in Spanish or Catalan, and this is therefore another one of the cases where hiring a real-estate agent would come in handy. 

Costs and fees

On top of the first month's rent and the security deposit, if hiring a real-estate agent, tenants will also have to pay the agent's fee. This is generally the equivalent of one month's rent. Community fees, paid for the upkeep of communal areas and services, are generally included in the monthly rental amount.


Utilities are generally not included in rent and tenants will therefore have to pay for the usage of things such as electricity, water and gas. That said, in comparison to other big European cities, utilities in Barcelona are rather cheap. 

Buying property in Barcelona

Investing in property in Barcelona is quite an attractive proposition for foreigners. As the Spanish housing market has taken a knock since the outbreak of Covid-19, house prices in Barcelona have fallen and are expected to continue to drop. 

Expats who move to Barcelona to retire or live in the city and can afford it will find the relatively low cost of real estate in the city appealing. The fact that residency is granted to property purchases of more than EUR 500,000 is an added bonus.

It will be more challenging to buy property in the city for expats who plan on making a profit by renting out property or who plan to live and work in the city. The high levels of unemployment, a fragile economy and the unavailability of credit means that low to middle income earning expats are likely to struggle.

That said, expats who do their research into the real-estate market in Spain and have a steady income should have plenty of opportunity for finding a property that suits their needs.

Areas and suburbs in Barcelona

Each of the areas and suburbs in Barcelona offers different facilities and options for housing. So, depending on a person’s circumstances and preferences, there is no shortage of options for expats looking for a place to live in Barcelona.

There are 10 municipal districts in Barcelona that are further divided into zones and are often named after the closest metro or train stop. These districts include Cuitat Vella, L’eixample, Sants-Montjuic, Les Corts, Sarria-Sant Gervasi, Gracia, Horta-Guinardo, Nou Barris, Sant Andreu and Sant Marti.

Below is a list of popular neighbourhoods in Barcelona that are often favoured by expats.

Family-friendly areas in Barcelona

Family-friendly areas in Barcelona


Pedralbes is an elegant residential area in the district of Les Corts, with wide avenues and green, open spaces. Many apartment buildings here date from the 1970s, and have swimming pools, doormen and garages for two cars per apartment. 

Close by are the serene gardens of the Palau de Pedralbes, the hilly Parc de Cervantes with its playgrounds and rideable miniature train, the Carretera de les Aigues which is great for jogging and cycling and offers spectacular views of the city, and the beautifully preserved, ancient Real Monestir Santa Maria Pedralbes, known as Monestir Pedralbes. 

Pedralbes has fewer metro stations than the more central areas. The bus network is reliable but not as well developed as in some neighbourhoods, so owning a car is recommended.

A mainly residential area, it has few shops and cafes. It is very close to several of the most prominent English-speaking schools in Barcelona

Pedralbes appeals to expat families wanting to live in a safe neighbourhood. The fact that a car is needed in Pedralbes, and that it's quite an expensive area, makes less appealing to younger expats.


To the east of Pedralbes, in the Sarria-Sant Gervasi district, Sarria is a pleasant, slightly less upmarket residential area with better shop and restaurant choices. There is a mixture of older and newer apartment blocks, many of which have a doorman. A few detached and semi-detached houses can be found in the hilly streets to the north.

The FGC suburban train connects Sarria to the centre of town, and the area is very well served by buses. 

There are several parks which are good for running and have children’s play areas. Sarria is also convenient for its proximity to a number international schools in Barcelona, so it appeals to expat families with children. 

Tres Torres

Also in the Sarria-Sant Gervasi district, Tres Torres is a quiet residential area in the northwest corner of Barcelona. Most apartments provide garage space for two cars with each unit. It is, however, not recommended for young people without a car, as it is some way outside the city centre. 

The area is served by the FGC suburban train and has an excellent bus network, but metro stops are scarce. There is a good municipal market, some supermarkets, and the Avenue Diagonal shopping area is close by. 

St Gervasi

To the north of the old city, St Gervasi is one of the most central districts in Barcelona, located north of L’Eixample and west of Gracia. 

Shopping possibilities are unlimited, and there is no shortage of bars and restaurants.

Rental prices are relatively low, but parking can be troublesome, although many apartment buildings offer a parking space.

The FGC suburban train connects St Gervasi to Placa Catalunya and buses cross the district in all directions. As this area is quite central, walking can also be an option, and the John Talabot School is fairly close by.

St Just Desvern and Esplugues de Llobregat

Located in northwest Barcelona, St Just Desvern and Esplugues de Llobregat are spacious inner suburbs that provide plenty of green space, tennis clubs, and even horse-riding facilities. Both areas are popular with expatriates and convenient for the American School of Barcelona. 

A car is essential here as there are no metros or trains, and buses to the city centre take over an hour. That said, traffic congestion can be a real problem when driving to work. These suburbs are completely self-sufficient, with plenty of supermarkets and small, traditional shops. 

Areas for young and single expats in Barcelona

Areas for young and single expats in Barcelona

Esquerra Eixample

South of St Gervasi and nearer to the heart of the old city, Esquerra Eixample is a busy area with many restaurants, bars and shops. Eixample is divided into a right and left-hand section (Dreta and Esquerra) but both have the same octagonal grid formation that typifies Barcelona. 

Apartments generally don’t have garages, but spaces can sometimes be rented in a nearby parking complex. The FGC suburban train, metro and buses provide good transport links. 

There are three buildings designed by Gaudi close by, and La Rambla de Catalunya, with its perfect low-angle view of Mount Tibidabo, is fantastic for walking. Parks and children’s play areas are more scarce here, however, and most recommended schools are in the northwest, so this is a district better suited to expats without children. 

Vila Olimpica

Originally built to house athletes for the 1992 Olympics, Vila Olimpica is close to the bars and restaurants of the pleasure port. The beach is easily reachable, and there are opportunities for running, cycling, roller blading, sailing and wind surfing. The area attracts both tourists and locals, and tends to get busy on weekends. 

Most apartment buildings here have good light, are three or four floors high and provide a community garden and swimming pool. Quality was sometimes sacrificed in the rush to finish them, and sound insulation can be poor. Nevertheless, rent is expensive.

There are supermarkets, shops and a cinema, but the best international schools are at least an hour away. The metro and bus services connect the area to the centre of town, but commuters will need to transfer between lines for destinations in the north and west of the city.

Suburbs outside of Barcelona

Suburbs outside of Barcelona

Castelldefels and Gava

Castelldefels and Gava are around 12 miles (20km) south of Barcelona, and close to fine, sandy beaches that fill with city dwellers in summer. Weekends can be busy as people flock to the area’s seafood restaurants. 

Accommodation is mainly in the form of houses, some of which are partitioned off as summer apartments without heating facilities. 

Trains in and out of Barcelona are convenient and frequent, reaching the city centre in less than 20 minutes. Several shopping malls can be reached by car in 15 minutes, as can the airport.

Castelldefels is home to the British School of Barcelona. 

Sant Cugat del Valles

Sant Cugat del Valles is situated behind Mount Tibidabo and the Collsera Natural Reserve, seven miles (12km) north of Barcelona. Frequent trains connect it to the centre of Barcelona in around 20 minutes. The area is popular with American and French expatriates.

It has its own cinemas, shops, concert hall, golf course and sports clubs. It has detached houses with gardens and occasionally swimming pools, and is ideal for expat families. The Benjamin Franklin International School runs a bus service for pupils in the area.

Healthcare in Barcelona

As is generally the case in Spain, the system of healthcare in Barcelona is of excellent standard and holds a good reputation among both locals and expats. Even international patients have taken notice of the country’s exceptional treatment, and a fair amount of foreigners travel to the city as 'medical tourists'. As a result, both the public and private healthcare sectors in Barcelona have risen to meet the challenge.

The Catalan public health system is known to locals as CatSalut, and offers largely subsidised care for those who have a Targeta Sanitària Individual (TSI) healthcare card. That said, it is often associated with long queues for simple examinations or seemingly endless waits for routine operations.

EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state healthcare here during a short-term visit. UK citizens can make use of their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC for UK citizens post-Brexit.

Expats moving to Catalonia are advised to make use of the robust private healthcare system in Barcelona and to invest in private health insurance. Private hospitals in Barcelona tend to be less crowded and more efficient than their public equivalents.

The Catalan capital contains more than a quarter of all of Spain’s private clinics, and such a wide variety of options has raised the standard of care in the cosmopolitan centre.

That said, expats can be assured that they will be treated by well trained doctors at good public healthcare facilities, if opting to go that route. 

Hospitals in Barcelona

Below is a list of some of the most prominent hospitals in Barcelona:

Hospital Plató

C/Plató 21, 08006, Barcelona

Centro Médico Teknon

Carrer Vilana 12, 08022, Barcelona

Hospital Universitari Dexeus

Sabino Arana 5-19, 08028, Barcelona

Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children’s Hospital

Santa Rosa Street., 08950, Esplugues de Llobregat

Education and Schools in Barcelona

The education system in Spain is decentralised. Schools in Barcelona have to adhere to guidelines set out by both the government of Catalonia and the country's Ministry of Education.

Schools in Spain are generally either público (public), privado (private) or concertado (semi-private). Each system has its own unique benefits and shortcomings, and expats will want to evaluate their priorities when finding the school that best suits their child.

Unlike public schooling in much of the rest of the country, the teaching language in Barcelona is Catalan, which is the official language of the province. 

Children in Barcelona are required by law to go to school between the ages of six and 16 years old. 

Public schools in Barcelona

The public school system in Barcelona is free, but parents will need to pay for books and materials, although uniforms are not required. 

Expat parents who send their younger children to a Barcelona public school can provide them with a fantastic opportunity to learn the language and integrate with local residents. That said, older students will most likely need instruction in their first language with a slower immersion into Catalan and Spanish.

It can be difficult for expat students to gain admission into certain public schools due to overcrowding, as well as the fact that in some areas a lottery system may be the only means of entrance. Expat parents will also have to fill out the necessary paperwork in either Catalan or Spanish. Alternatively, it may be a good idea to find an individual who can help with the process.

Semi-private schools in Barcelona

Semi-private schools are subsidised by the government and are either free or offer low school fees. The standards of these schools differ between districts but it is generally assumed that schools in more affluent areas are of a better standard.

These schools are a good option for parents who would prefer smaller class sizes for their children, but who cannot afford a private international school in Barcelona.

Expats should be aware that these schools generally follow the Spanish curriculum and the primary teaching language will usually be Catalan.

International schools in Barcelona

International schools in Barcelona are private schools that uphold the teaching language and curriculum of a foreign country, and generally provide an excellent standard of education. 

It is common for space in these institutions to be limited, as demand is usually high and some schools admit students based on nationality quotas.

International schools offer pupils the benefit of continuing with language instruction and a curriculum that should be familiar. That said, all international schools have annual tuition fees, which can be rather pricey. It is best to consult schools individually to find out more about these costs.

Special-needs education in Barcelona 

It is a government requirement that mainstream Spanish schools attempt to educate special needs children if they have the necessary facilities and teachers. The government offers grants to schools that have specialist teachers available to educate special-needs students, as well the necessary facilities. 

Alternatively, there are special needs schools in Barcelona that are equipped to teach children with a range of needs. 

Children with special needs may also qualify for a government grant to help pay for treatments, tutoring or the fees for a special-needs school if necessary.  

Tutoring in Barcelona 

Private tutoring is available in Barcelona and can be done either at home or in a tutoring studio, provided the tutor has access to a studio. A number of companies have registered tutors in Barcelona, and parents can therefore apply for a tutor through one of these. Two such companies in Barcelona are Tutoring Barcelona and Apprentus.

As tutors offer school support, it may be useful for expat children to have a tutor assist them to adjust to the new school and curriculum. Tutors can also help children to adapt to learning in Catalan, if they attend one of the public or semi-private schools in the city. 

International Schools in Barcelona

There is an assortment of bilingual and international schools in Barcelona. In fact, international educational standards are so commonplace that many of the schools that teach British and American curricula have a student body predominantly made up of Spanish pupils.

International schools in Spain are obliged by law to teach either Spanish or a co-official regional language. In Catalonia, international schools will teach both Spanish and Catalan, as well as give additional focus to local content in subjects such as history and geography.

International schools in Barcelona

American School of Barcelona

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Curriculum: American, International Baccalaureate and Spanish

Barcelona High School

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 12 to 18
Curriculum: American (including Advanced Placement)

Benjamin Franklin International School

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate

British School of Barcelona

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels

Colegio Akua

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 12
Curriculum: Montessori

Europa International School

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 1 to 18 
Curriculum: Spanish and International Baccalaureate

International School of Catalunya

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate, English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels

Oak House School

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE, International Baccalaureate and Spanish

SEK Catalunya International School

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 4 months to 18 years
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Spanish

St. George's British School

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 2 to 18
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate

Lifestyle in Barcelona

Expat life in Barcelona is filled with exciting cultural events, attractions, fine food, nightlife and great shopping. 

People in Barcelona generally place equal importance on work and living well. Most stores and businesses in the city open around 9am or 10am and are open until late. The busiest time for restaurants in Barcelona is around 10pm, while clubs and bars can still be filling up well after midnight.

Evenings out in Barcelona often start with alfresco dining in the city squares or sundowners at the yacht marina, or a local chiringuito (beach bar). Afterwards, residents often proceed to trendy bars and clubs in areas such as Barri Gòtic, Las Ramblas or nearby Port Olimpic, which also hosts some of the best seafood restaurants in Spain.

There is plenty for expats to see and do in Barcelona, with ballet, music, dance and opera performances at venues such as the Greek Theatre, the Joan Miro Foundation and the Liceu Opera House. Barcelona also hosts several annual events to entertain the population each year. 

Given the city’s Mediterranean climate it is no surprise that life in Barcelona is often characterised by cafes, long lunches, late night parties, festivals and other outdoor attractions. Expats can also expect to soak up the sun along three miles (4.8km) of golden coastline.

Beaches in Barcelona

The high season for Barcelona’s beaches is from early April to the end of September. The city’s beaches are well equipped to handle the throngs of tourists and locals, with sunbeds, facilities for the disabled, and plenty of lifeguards. 

The most popular beaches in Barcelona include Barceloneta and Nova Icaria, both of which are walking distance from the city centre. A little further away, Mar Bella and Nova Mar Bella beaches are popular with water sports enthusiasts, while cyclists and joggers make use of longer, quieter parts of the shore. 

Expats will be able to access all of the beaches in Barcelona with public transport if they use a combination of buses and metro, and are prepared to walk a short distance.

Shopping in Barcelona

For the best shopping in Barcelona, expats should head for the Las Ramblas pedestrian mall, Placa de Catalunya (Catalonia Square), Passeig de Gracia and Avenue Diagonal.

There is also a bus from Placa de Catalunya that stops at retail centres throughout the city. Expats looking for something a bit more refined can head to El Born, which is packed with trendy boutiques and tasteful stores.

Barcelona’s malls and shopping centres have many upmarket stores that sell fashion by world-class designers such as Armani and Burberry as well as Spanish outlets, including Zara and Mango. Bargains can be found during the winter sales in January and summer sales in July.

Shops are often open from 9am to 8pm, with a siesta between 2pm and 4pm. Large department stores are usually open from 10am to 10pm. Almost all of the shops in Barcelona are open on Saturday morning, but many are closed in the afternoon and on Sundays and holidays.

Nightlife in Barcelona

The nightlife in Barcelona is as varied as it is famous. With a workday that usually ends at around 8pm, most restaurants and bars are at their busiest late in the evening. The trendiest clubs in the city are also known to only really get going at 3am, as revellers party until dawn.

Residents have a wide selection of choices when it comes to nightclubs and bars in Barcelona. Expats can lounge around with a designer mojito at upmarket clubs or have a few drinks at a hole-in-the-wall pub. Both Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter are packed with as many party goers at night as they are with shopaholics during the day. The more bohemian Raval area is an edgier nightlife spot, although expats should be aware of the area’s seedier parts.

New arrivals in Barcelona should consider taking one of a few club or pub tours that show the best the city has to offer visitors and residents alike.

Eating out in Barcelona

The meeting point for Europe, the Mediterranean and Northern Africa, Barcelona has become a melting pot of international cuisines and its own distinct flavours. The city is home to a host of world-class restaurants where expats can sample a range of local and international cuisines. The Catalan capital also boasts an impressive offering of fresh seafood as a result of its exquisite coastal position.

Those looking to experience traditional Catalan cuisine will be delighted by the scores of tapas bars and traditional eateries dotted in and around the city. Eating out forms an essential part of its culture and an authentic Barcelona experience would be incomplete without sampling delectable regional specialities such as crema Catalanpaella and sangría.

Sports and outdoor activities in Barcelona

Expats can spend time in one of the city's numerous parks if looking for some fresh air. Alternatively, Barcelona's location and clement weather allow expats to take part in plenty of outdoor activities, such as hiking and mountain biking on its many mountain trails that overlook spectacular views of the city.

The gorgeous coastline, dotted with stunning beaches, also provides expats with snorkelling, diving and kayaking opportunities, and there are also plenty of adrenaline-inducing activities available, such as bungee jumping and sky diving. 

Expats can also get involved in the sporting scene in Barcelona as a spectator, with football matches and Formula 1 racing events taking place in the city each year. 

Kids and Family in Barcelona

Expats moving to Barcelona with children in tow are bound to have a fantastic experience. The mild weather and dense urban centre make it a fun and easy city to explore as a family. 

Children in Barcelona are welcomed and loved. The Catalan capital’s location on the beautiful Mediterranean and its proximity to the Pyrenees Mountains make it an ideal spot for families to take a break from city life and explore nature. 

Families from around the world call the city home. As a result, foreign parents will have access to many expat organisations, shops stocked with goodies from back home, and a variety of international schools in Barcelona.

Meeting other expat parents in Barcelona

Parents should have no trouble meeting other expats in Barcelona. Even expats who plan to get to know the locals need an outlet where they can speak their own language and ask questions of others who understand their experiences. 

The Barcelona Women’s Network, for instance, is a group of more than 210 women from around the world which offers a wide range of activities and a source of support for foreign women in Barcelona.

There is a range of these kinds of organisations and they can easily be found online.

Entertainment and activities for kids in Barcelona

Nearly every month, the city organises a festival with loads of free children’s activities. There are many interesting museums, beautiful parks and exciting activities for children in Barcelona. Below are some favourites.


An interactive science museum that is as beautiful as it is engaging; children and adults of all ages will be delighted with what it has to offer. A highlight is the Flooded Forest, where visitors stroll through an Amazonian rainforest that is occupied by birds, turtles, snakes, crocodiles and piranhas. These animals live in a large enclosure that replicates the environment they would be living in in the wild. 

One of the planetariums shows 3D movies about science, while the other teaches children about the stars. Families can register for workshops, where visitors can see real animals and insects from different places. On a clear day, the rooftop cafe has magnificent views of the sea.

Teleferic Trams

Kids will love taking a ride on the high-wire cable car tram stretching from the port of Barceloneta to the Montjuic Hill while offering beautiful views of the city and sea. There are great sights at both ends. Barceloneta boasts the Maritime Museum and a medieval shipbuilding yard, while Montjuic has beautiful gardens, parks and museums to explore. There is also another aerial tram on Montjuic that takes visitors up to the Montjuic Castle.


Another high altitude attraction, Tibidabo is a unique, old-fashioned amusement park with just the right mix of modern rides to keep older children happy. The charming Tramvia Blau funicular takes visitors to the top of the hill from the train station.

Art and theatre for kids in Barcelona

Barcelona boasts a full cultural agenda for children. Music halls, theatre companies and museums all offer cultural programmes for families and children. Some of the activities, such as concerts, shows and tours, can be done as a family. There are also various programmes for children only, which means that expat parents can stroll the museum on their own. 

One of the most famous attractions is the Petit Liceu Opera House, which offers a fabulous and engaging programme for children.


Parents will love the world-class exhibitions at this art museum, which is housed in an old textile factory. Children will love the interesting monthly concerts, theatre and film programmes. While the museum entrance is free, workshops, concerts and films require tickets. Expats with a Barcelona library card usually receive a discount.

Food and eating out with kids in Barcelona 

Catalan food is flavourful, simple and showcases the bounty of the Mediterranean. But sometimes expats miss a good old burger and fries. Of course, these can be found in chain restaurants such as the Hard Rock Café. 

Sometimes it takes a little investigation, but hard-to-find food and ingredients from back home can usually be found in speciality stores and online. El Corte Ingles in Plaza Catalunya stocks a good variety of ingredients for international cuisine. American and British goodies can be found at A Taste of America and A Taste of Home, while Asian ingredients can be found at the Extremo Oriente supermarket near Plaza Catalunya.

See and Do in Barcelona

There are plenty of things for expats to see and do in Barcelona. Residents and visitors can enjoy vast municipal parklands and sun-flooded beaches.

The views from the surrounding mountains take in the entire city, including the tree-lined Las Ramblas avenue that stretches from the city centre to Port Vella, Barcelona’s oldest harbour.

There is a wealth of ancient and modern architecture to explore, with many of the local buildings designed by famous architect Antoni Gaudi having been declared World Heritage Sites. There are also a number of museums and galleries in the city that are worth visiting.

Popular attractions in Barcelona

Barri Gotic

Dating back to the Roman era, the Gothic quarter, or Barri Gotic, is the oldest district in the city. The medieval streets are filled with trendy bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as many gothic buildings and cathedrals that are worth exploring.

FC Barcelona Museum and Stadium

Camp Nou is one of the world’s greatest football stadiums, and the largest in Europe. A collection of photographs, trophies, memorabilia and documents connected to the city’s beloved football team, FC Barcelona, can be seen here.

Joan Miro Foundation

The Joan Miro Foundation is a museum on Montjuic Hill that celebrates this surrealist sculptor and painter's life and works, with displays of sculptures, paintings, drawings and textiles.

Las Ramblas

A pedestrian avenue in Barcelona’s old city, Las Ramblas is one of the most famous streets in Europe and is home to numerous cafes, restaurants and boutiques for expats to enjoy.

La Sagrada Família

Known as the Church of the Holy Family, this is an unfinished but intriguing Modernista Basilica designed by Antoni Gaudi in the late 19th century. It has been under construction since 1882 and is expected to be finished in 2026.

Montjuic Hill

Overlooking Barcelona’s city centre, Montjuic Hill is an excellent viewing point from where expats can see many of the local landmarks and stroll in the fountained parks.

Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art was designed to make the most of natural light and has a spacious interior filled with modern art by the likes of Basquiat, Klee, Fontana and Barcelo.

Park Guell

Discover the delightful designs of Gaudi in the fascinating gardens of Park Guell. Located on Carmel Hill, it is the city’s most popular recreational park.

Picasso Museum Barcelona

Five medieval palaces from the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries in one of Barcelona’s greatest Gothic areas have been converted into the Picasso Museum. This site houses an impressive collection of the great artist’s early work, consisting of over 4,200 pieces – a fantastic find for art-loving expats. 


Tibidabo is another hill in Barcelona worth climbing and is linked to the city by funicular services. Those that make the effort to mount the summit often do so to visit the fantastic Parc d'Atraccions, Barcelona’s only remaining amusement park.

What's On in Barcelona

With an events calendar packed with everything from traditional Catalan religious festivals to cutting-edge technological events and large-scale music concerts, there is always something on in Barcelona. 

Whether a visitor to the city or a new arrival who plans to stay for a few years, it is worth knowing about some of the most prominent celebrations among the city’s many festivals.

Expats can do everything from celebrating the city’s patron saint amid dragons, devils and showers of sparks, to enjoying the sound of roaring engines at the Spanish Grand Prix. 

We've listed some of the most popular festivals and events in Barcelona below.

Annual events in Barcelona

Carnival (February)

In a lead-up to the fasting practised during Lent, Carnival is a week long festival of indulgence held in February each year, featuring plenty of feasting and dancing. An over-the-top carnival parade to bring the period of plenty to a close is the highlight of the festival.

Barcelona Marathon (March)

An annual race that has been running since 1978, the Barcelona Marathon takes participants past some of the city’s most popular sights, including Sagrada Familia, the Camp Nou soccer stadium and the beach. 

Palm Sunday (March/April)

An important holy day for the Catholic Church, Palm Sunday is celebrated in Barcelona with a procession involving many beautiful floats, sculptures and artworks, as well as the sound of beating drums. 

Spanish F1 Grand Prix (May)

The Spanish Formula One Grand Prix always attracts a crowd, with thousands of spectators converging on Barcelona to watch the world’s best drivers compete. 

Sonar Festival (June)

The Sonar is a contemporary arts, design, and electronic and experimental music festival. The festival takes place over a weekend and is split between two different sites around the city: one in the city centre for Sonar by Day, and one further afield for Sonar by night. 

European Balloon Festival (July)

The sky fills with colourful hot-air balloons in a four-day event that draws thousands of tourists and participants from all over the world each year. It includes a hot air balloon competition and fireworks.

Barcelona Summer Festival (June to August)

The Barcelona Summer Festival, commonly referred to as the Grec Festival, is an international cultural event that features theatre, dance, music, flamenco, film and circus. The Grec festival is held throughout the summer months, between June and August each year. 

Festes de la Mercè (September)

A week-long festival towards the end of September, the city gathers to celebrate its patron saint, Our Lady of Mercy. The event starts with a bang, as parades of dwarfs, dragons and giants open the festivities. Residents enjoy fireworks, music and sporting events, until the final parade when around 100,000 people gather at the Barri Gòtic to watch. 

Fira de Santa Llúcia (December)

A traditional Christmas fair held at  Avinguda de la Catedral, with a history that goes back to the 18th century, expats can explore stalls that sell all kinds of handcrafted Christmas gifts and decorations. Expats are likely to be at least slightly taken aback by the caganer, a famous Catalan figure that features in many of the city’s nativity scenes.

Frequently Asked Questions about Barcelona

Expats moving to Barcelona are likely to have many questions about life in the Catalan capital. Below are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about moving to Barcelona. 

What language is spoken in Barcelona?

Spain is divided into different regions, each with its own unique culture, history and language. The official language in Barcelona is Catalan, a language in its own right with Spanish and French influences. The local people have worked hard to make their language relevant in modern life and it is a big part of the city's culture. Though most locals can also speak Spanish and many, especially in tourist areas, can speak English as well, schools teach in Catalan. Don't make the mistake of thinking Catalan is little more than a regional dialect not worth learning; as an expat in Barcelona, one will probably need to learn both Spanish and Catalan to get by.

Are there English schools in Barcelona?

While the public and semi-private schools in Barcelona teach in Catalan and Spanish, there are a number of international schools in the city that teach in English. These schools teach either the English National Curriculum, American Curriculum or International Baccalaureate. 

How do I find accommodation in Barcelona? 

There are a number of online listings and property portals, as well as the classifieds sections of newspapers, where expats can look for accommodation. That said, it may be helpful to hire a real-estate agent as these professionals know the city well and they also speak the language, which will come in handy when dealing with landlords and leases. Expats should keep in mind that real-estate agents do charge quite a hefty fee for their services, which is generally equivalent to one month's rent. 

Do I need a car in Barcelona?

Public transport in Barcelona is cheap and reliable; cars are quite unnecessary in most areas of of the city. That said, there are areas and suburbs situated further afield and expats living in these spots may require a car. Parking can be extremely difficult to find though, which makes driving more frustrating than liberating.

Is Barcelona safe? 

As cities go, Barcelona is rather safe. Pickpocketing is common and expats should watch out for opportunists. It is also recommended that expats don't leave anything visible in their car when it is parked as this could invite a break-in. This is generally the extent of the crime in Barcelona though, and vigilant expats won't have much to fear. 

Where can I meet other expats in Barcelona?

There are many expat groups in Barcelona that are a great way to be engaged in the community. Many of the groups are purely social but others serve some aspect of community service. Many of these also include locals, which is a wonderful way to further integrate into the culture. Expats are plentiful in Barcelona so it shouldn't take too long to make friends.

Where's a good place to go for lunch in Barcelona?

There's a host of affordable cafes, ethnic eateries, five-star restaurants and everything in between in Barcelona. Take a stroll by American-style restaurants along the beachfront at Barceloneta, walk by the tucked-away coffee shops in Las Ramblas or head for Michelin-starred spots such as Can Fabes.

Getting Around in Barcelona

Public transport in Barcelona is efficient, affordable, well-maintained, clean and safe. Regional trains and the more city-focused Metro are the friendliest to foreigners, with signage and ticket purchases in English. 

Expats moving to the city centre can definitely depend on public transport to get around. Those in surrounding towns will also find plenty of affordable and convenient modes of transit.

Some expats find driving in Barcelona easier than in other large Spanish cities, but drivers face heavy congestion and parking difficulties. Expats should also keep in mind that signage and street names are in Catalan.

It is advisable to master the vocabulary for transport whether driving or using the public networks, such as 'ticket' and 'addresses' in both Spanish and Catalan.

Public transport in Barcelona

The majority of Barcelona’s transportation services participate in an integrated tariff system. One fare can be used for the subway, buses, trams or the regional FGC and RENFE commuter trains. If the journey lasts for less than one hour and 15 minutes, only one trip will be charged.

The wider region is divided into six zones to calculate fares. Central Barcelona is in Zone One. Expats living outside the city will most likely live in Zone Two. Prices increase as the number of zones travelled through increase. 

A range of ticket options exists based on the number of journeys or the number of days used. Discounted tickets are available for people younger than 25 and seniors, while children under four do not pay. Monthly passes and multiple-trip tickets are also available.

Metro trains

With six subway lines and one funicular train, Barcelona’s Metro is the best bet for stress-free travel. Signage is posted in Spanish, Catalan and English. Automated ticket machines can be used in all major languages, though announcements are made in Spanish and Catalan. Metro tickets can be purchased at local Metro stations and at ServiCaixa bank machines.


Learning the bus routes in Barcelona takes practice and patience, but familiarising oneself with the extensive system of over 100 routes is time well spent.

While the Metro might place commuters in the general vicinity of where they need to be, the bus can bring them to their destination’s doorstep.

Bus stops have maps and a schedule posted in the bus shelter waiting area. If there is no shelter, there will be a street sign displaying the bus route. Many different bus lines use the same stops, so when someone sees their bus approaching they should hold out their arm to alert the driver.

Single journey tickets can be bought upon boarding, while travel cards and monthly passes can be purchased at Metro stations.


Six lines make up the above ground, zero emissions tram system which extends to a larger area than the Metro. Lines T1, T2 and T3 cover some popular neighbourhoods not well-served by the Metro, including Pedrables, Esplugues de Llobregat and Sant Just Desvern. Line T4 runs on the opposite side of Barcelona and stops in Vila Olímpica and Diagonal Mar, areas where many expats choose to live.

RENFE trains

Officially La Red de los Ferrocarriles Españoles, RENFE trains refer to the Spanish railway network. RENFE Cercanías are regional commuter trains that operate in Spain’s major cities. RENFE trains are part of the integrated tariff system in Barcelona, although non-integrated fares are also available. These trains link surrounding towns to Barcelona, while some RENFE stations connect with the Metro and FGC.


Barcelona’s black and yellow taxis are plentiful and easy to hail. Rates are reasonable and should be posted in the cab. Expats should ensure the meter is reset before they begin their journey.

Tipping is not required and will probably result in a surprised, but happy driver. Some people give the driver the remaining change or a small tip of around five percent.

Drivers are generally trustworthy, friendly and reliable. While some may understand some basic English, to avoid pronunciation confusion it is very helpful for expats to have their destination in writing or to know a landmark near it.

While lift-sharing services have been banned in the past, this has changed recently. Uber and Lyft are therefore available and are convenient ways to avoid pronunciation or fare confusion.  

Walking in Barcelona

Walking the streets of Barcelona is an outright pleasure. Expats will find the city’s mild weather, amazing architecture and medieval alleys make for plenty of pedestrian opportunities.

Of course, expats should exercise more caution in transitional neighbourhoods, tourist hotspots and under the cover of darkness. Barcelona has been appointed the pickpocket capital of the world but, apart from petty theft, expats need not be too worried about more serious crime. 

Cycling in Barcelona

Barcelona has recently become much more bike-friendly and accommodating to cyclists. With designated lanes, signs and traffic lights in the city centre, cycling in Barcelona has never been safer. Bicycles can also be brought on the Metro, Trams and FGC during non-peak hours, when there are less commuters. 

Buying a bicycle is not a necessity as the city's popular Bicing bike-sharing service offers a practical alternative with bike stands positioned throughout the city. 

To take advantage of the service, riders simply insert their membership card at one of the designated stands, choose a bike and get going. When a person arrives at their destination, they re-insert their card and drop off the bike. Charges are incurred based on the time the bike is used, and it can't be for longer than two hours. 

Driving in Barcelona

Expats moving to central Barcelona may want to reconsider purchasing a car. Parking is extremely limited, and those who do own vehicles in the city centre are often forced to hire a space in a private garage. Rates are typically expensive but vary greatly depending on the neighbourhood and the type of garage.

Drivers should also prepare themselves for their fair share of dents and scrapes. No matter where a person parks in Barcelona, the insanely narrow spaces and the congestion during crunch times mean that no vehicle goes unscathed for long.

Many expats live on the city outskirts or surrounding towns where cars seem more necessary, but even here it’s not essential. 

Avancar, the community sharing programme, allows residents to rent a car for trips to the supermarket, weekends at the Costa Brava and anything in between. Cars can be booked online and retrieved at a nearby parking garage.