The best cities to live in Spain as a foreigner: gastronomy, culture and coastal areas

Home » Blog » The best cities to live in Spain as a foreigner: gastronomy, culture and coastal areas

Moving to another country is more than just a change of location: it means immersing yourself in an ocean of new cultures, venturing into the unknown and reinventing yourself. But one of the most important questions that arises when considering this change in life is: What is the perfect destination? Spain shines amidst the options and the search for the best cities to live in spain for foreigners becomes a topic of great interest to many.

With a rich and diverse culture, gastronomy that captivates even the most demanding palate, and coasts bathed in shades of blue and gold under the sun, Spain emerges as the ideal paradise for those seeking to live a full life.

If you find yourself looking for an idyllic place to move to outside your country of origin and near the sea, we invite you to remain with us in this article. We at Quadratia will unravel the secrets of Spain and discover the corners that best suit your aspirations and lifestyle. 

Keep reading and take the first steps towards your next home!

What are the 10 best cities to live in Spain?

Benidorm, one of the best cities to live in Spain for foreigners.

Spain, a country bathed by seas and shaped by mountains, is not only rich in culture and history but also offers a surprising diversity of destinations for people seeking to settle there. When talking about the 10 best cities to live in Spain as a foreigner, it is difficult to limit the list, but the favourites certainly include:

Top 5 best cities to live in Spain

  • Alicante, a Mediterranean refuge where the imposing Castillo de Santa Barbara castle stands watchful over golden beaches and avenues full of life. This city offers a perfect balance between coastal relaxation and urban vitality.
  • Málaga, bathed in the nearly eternal Costa del Sol sun, is a compendium of fortresses, beaches and a vibrant cultural life.
  • Murcia resembles a garden and orchard in the middle of Spain, from its orchards that bear fruit to traditions and festivals that define its essence.
  • Madrid, the beating heart of Spain, bursting with culture, arts and a history that converses with contemporary streets and vibrant squares.
  • Barcelona, represented by the mosaic of Gaudi’s modernist work, the bustle of Las Ramblas and the cultural diversity that combines tradition and the avant-garde.

Top 10 best cities to live in Spain

  • Valencia, more than a city, is a song to tradition and modernity, where its gardens and orchards merge with golden beaches and futuristic architecture.
  • Seville, resonating with the echo of flamenco, dazzles with its architectural heritage, its deep-rooted faith and its authentically Andalusian spirit.
  • Bilbao, with one foot in tradition and another in modernity, is a melting pot of culture where the audacity of the Guggenheim Museum contrasts with its historical backstreets and traditional pintxos.
  • Granada, at the foot of Sierra Nevada, conjures up stories of kings and queens in the shadow of the Alhambra, and its streets whisper Andalusian legends.
  • Cadiz, lulled by the waves, carries with it the name of the West’s oldest city, recounting tales of Phoenicians, Romans and sailors.

With its distinctiveness, each city promises unique experiences, whether you prefer the excitement of a metropolis or the peacefulness of the coast. Settling down in any of them means immersing yourself in a melting pot of traditions, flavours and experiences that define the essence of Spain.

Which province in Spain has the best quality of life?

Deciding which Spanish province has the best quality of life depends to a large extent on what you are looking for. However, there are some provinces that, due to their intrinsic characteristics (well-being, health, education, security, etc.), tend to stand out:

  • Alicante: This province on the Costa Blanca is famous for its year-round lovely weather. Mild winters and warm summers are ideal for people seeking a healthy environment. In addition, air quality and access to natural spaces encourage an active and healthy lifestyle. The healthcare infrastructure in Alicante is robust, with several hospitals and primary care centres spread throughout the province.
  • Málaga: With its Mediterranean climate, it’s one of the provinces with the most hours of sunshine a year in Spain, which is beneficial for mental and physical health. In addition, its excellent transport infrastructure and the wide range of cultural and recreational activities contribute to the high overall well-being. The security in the province is remarkable, and its residents enjoy a comparatively low crime rate.
  • Murcia: This province is notable for its balance between urban and rural life. The abundance of fresh products – thanks to its fertile land – ensures a healthy diet for its inhabitants. Murcia also has a more affordable cost of living compared to other provinces, which allows its residents to enjoy a fine quality of life without large financial outlays.

Each province has its own strengths in terms of quality of life. The most important thing is to find the one that best aligns with the individual priorities and needs you are looking for. 

What is the best city in Spain to live and work in? Where do you live most peacefully?

In this regard, Barcelona and Madrid, Spain’s two largest cities, not only shine as hubs for the economy and culture but also offer a vast range of job opportunities in an environment full of vitality and sophistication. These metropolises are the perfect setting for professionals seeking challenges and a constant urban beat. 

On the other hand, if what you’re looking for is the opportunity to combine solid job growth with a leisurely life surrounded by nature and the sea, Alicante, Málaga and Murcia are unbeatable alternatives. These cities on the shores of the Mediterranean offer the perfect balance between the serenity of their horizons and a growing business ecosystem. In short, it’s a combination that invites professional excellence without sacrificing quality of life.

Culture in Spain

Woman dressed as a flamenco dancer at an Andalusian party.

With its vast history and cultural wealth, Spain has been forged by multiple influences: from the Iberians and Celts, through the Romans and Visigoths, to the Arabs and more recent European currents. This amalgam has left an indelible mark on every corner of the country, and today we will immerse ourselves in a journey through the culture of Spain, region by region.

Come with us!

Valencian Autonomous Community

Every March, Valencia, with its fragrance of orange blossoms, lights up with Las Fallas, an explosion of art, fire and tradition. In the same vein, we can’t leave the Hogueras de San Juan in Alicante, a festival that celebrates the summer solstice with monuments made of wood and cardboard that are burnt at dusk. 

For its part, Elche captivates us with the Misteri d’Elx, a liturgical drama that has been declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. On the other hand, Alcoy takes us back to ancient times with its vibrant Moros y Cristianos festivities, which commemorate the region’s historical battles.

And speaking of coastal gems, we mustn’t overlook Calpe, with its imposing Peñón de Ifach rising from the sea, a natural symbol of the Costa Blanca that boasts unparalleled panoramic views. Located in the north of the province, Denia not only delights us with its historical castle and fishing port, but it is also the gateway to the Balearic Islands thanks to their maritime links. Villajoyosa – or La Vila as its inhabitants affectionately call it – stands out for its colourful houses on the Mediterranean shore, and its chocolatier tradition, with factories that have brought fame to its sweets beyond its borders.

The area boasts exquisite rice dishes, particularly the emblematic rice from la Albufera, which has achieved culinary recognition across the seas. Without a doubt, this area is a tapestry of tales and traditions that are waiting to be explored and savoured.

Andalusia

The land of flamenco, tapas and fairs. The Moorish influence is palpable here, especially in cities such as Granada with its iconic Alhambra, or in Córdoba with its Mosque-Cathedral. Its capital, Seville, is the cradle of flamenco and celebrates its Holy Week and the April Fair with fervour. Not to be forgotten is its Carnival of Cadiz, one of its main festivities.

On the southern coast, Málaga serves as a gateway to the Mediterranean, combining its rich history represented by the Alcazaba with a vibrant cultural life fuelled by theatres and museums. Meanwhile, Estepona dazzles with its colourful gardens that decorate the old town, and Marbella offers a touch of glamour with its famous Puerto Banús and its luxurious yachts.

Murcia

With a rich Arab heritage, Murcia is notable for festivals such as the Entierro de la Sardina (Burial of the Sardine) and the Fiestas de la Huerta y Primavera (Garden and Spring Festivals). Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Cartagena is a spectacle that combines religiosity with a grand tradition of artistic and stage design. 

At the same time, the coast of Murcia – with beaches such as Calblanque, Bolnuevo and Aguilas – is a heavenly refuge for anyone seeking the peacefulness of the Mediterranean Sea.

All in all, Murcia offers a rich amalgam of culture, tradition and natural landscapes that make it a must for anyone looking to live an authentically Spanish experience.

Catalonia

From Barcelona, with its modernist buildings by Gaudí, to Girona, with its festivities such as “Temps de Flors”, Catalonia is a melting pot where tradition and the avant-garde converge, with events such as the Sant Jordi celebration and the well-known castellers in Tarragona.

Basque Country

With Bilbao at the head and its Guggenheim Museum as an emblem of contemporary art, the Basque Country is also a land of ancestral traditions, with festivities such as the Tamborrada in San Sebastian.

Galicia

Land of meigas, legends and the mystical pilgrimage route of the Way of St James. Celtic culture lives on in festivals such as the one celebrated in Ortigueira.

Castile and Leon

The cradle of Castellano, the language that became the Spanish we know today. With heritage cities such as Salamanca and Avila, this province is a journey through the history of Spain.

Madrid

A geographical and cultural centre, the capital is home to renowned museums such as the Prado and the Reina Sofía. Its San Isidro and Noche en Blanco (White Night) festivals are but a sampling of its cultural life.

Extremadura

Cáceres and Mérida take us back to Roman and Arab times. The Fiesta de Los Escobazos in Jarandilla de la Vera y el Festival de Teatro Clásico de Mérida are on their cultural calendars.

Aragon

Its capital, Zaragoza, is notable for its Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and the festivities celebrated in its honour. Mediaeval traditions live on in festivals such as that of the Amantes de Teruel. Aragon is also a land of legends, such as those about mountain witches.

Asturias

Spain’s natural paradise, where traditions such as cider and the festivals in honour of the Virgen de Covadonga are emblematic. Bagpipers liven up the festivals and gatherings, while the Festival de la Sidra de Nava and the San Juan festivals in different towns and cities highlight its rich cultural heritage.

Cantabria

With a mix of sea and mountains, Cantabria is known for its prehistoric caves, such as the one in Altamira. The Festival Internacional de Santander and the Semana Grande de Santander celebrations demonstrate this region’s love for music and dance.

Castile-La Mancha

Its Moros y Cristianos festivals in Almansa, Semana Santa in Toledo and the Feria de Albacete fair are just some of the festivities that are notable in this region. The Ruta de Don Quijote is a literary journey through the landscapes that inspired Cervantes.

Navarre

World-famous for Pamplona’s San Fermín festivals, Navarre is a region where ancestral traditions merge with the landscape of the Pyrenees. The Brujería en Zugarramurdi events hark back to the region’s ancient beliefs.

La Rioja

The Fiestas de San Mateo en Logroño, which celebrate the grape harvest, are an example of this land’s deep connection with vineyards and wine. The Batalla del Vino en Haro, where participants throw wine at each other, is another can’t-miss event on La Rioja’s cultural calendar.

Balearic Islands

Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera: each island has its essence and traditions, but they all share a culture linked to the Mediterranean, with festivals such as the correfocs or the Canto de la Sibil·la on Christmas Eve in Mallorca.

Canary Islands

Seven islands, each with its own personality. Here, the culture is a mixture of Spanish influences with vestiges of their ancient inhabitants, the Guanches. The La Rama festivals in Gran Canaria and the Carnaval de Tenerife are examples of their rich festive tradition.

This tour barely covers Spain’s vast, rich culture. Each province is a world unto itself, with its own traditions, festivals and artistic events worthy of being explored and lived in depth.

Gastronomy in Spain

Close-up of Alicante rice, part of Spain's gastronomy.

In addition, Spain’s gastronomy is world famous. Below, we offer you a gastronomic tour of some of Spain’s most emblematic provinces.

Gastronomy in Spain region by region

Gastronomy bathed by Spain’s Mediterranean Sea

  • Valencian Autonomous Community: It’s known for its Paella Valenciana, a rice dish cooked with chicken, rabbit and vegetables and seasoned with saffron and paprika. It is also famous for its Paella Alicantina, which distinguishes itself by the inclusion of seafood – sometimes combined with meat – and a short-grain rice that absorbs the flavour of the broth magnificently.
  • Andalusia: The famous gazpacho is a cold tomato, pepper, cucumber and onion soup, ideal for hot days in the south. Salmorejo is thicker and based on tomato and bread, and is also a regional delicacy.
  • Murcia: Caledero Murciano, a rice dish prepared with fish, and Ensalada Murciana, made with tomatoes, tuna and olives, reflect the region’s rich culinary heritage.
  • Aragon: This region is known for its Ternasco de Aragón, tender roasted lamb that is delicious. Huevos a la Alcarreña and Pollo al Chilindrón are other traditional dishes that are notable for their robust and authentic flavours.
  • Catalonia: It offers Escudella, a meat and vegetable stew, and Crema Catalana, a dessert similar to crème brûlée but with a touch of citrus.

Culinary art of central Spain

  • Madrid: Its star dish is Cocido Madrileño, a chickpea stew with meat and vegetables. There is also something less elaborate, but very traditional: the Calamares a la Romana sandwich.
  • Castile-La Mancha: This region offers us Pisto Manchego, a kind of Spanish ratatouille. In addition, the internationally famous Queso Manchego is a must on any cheese board.
  • Castile and Leon: The region is proud of its Sopa Castellana, made with garlic, bread and paprika and of its Lechazo asado.
  • Extremadura: It’s known for Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, a delicacy from acorn-fed pigs.

Gastronomy bathed by the Cantabrian Sea

  • Navarre: Stuffed Pimientos del Piquillo are a treat not to be missed in Navarre. Also outstanding is Estofado de Toro, especially during the San Fermín festivals.
  • La Rioja: Bacalao a la Riojana, prepared with capsicums and tomatoes, is an outstanding dish. Chuletón de Álava and Patatas a la Riojana are other dishes that reflect the region’s rich culinary tradition.
  • Basque Country: Here, it is all about Marmitako, a soup made of white tuna and potatoes, and pintxos, delicious bites that vary in terms of ingredients and presentation.
  • Galicia: This region is renowned for its Pulpo a la Gallega, octopus cooked and seasoned with paprika and coarse salt, and for its empanadas with various fillings.
  • Asturias: It’s famous for its Fabada, a hearty stew of white beans with chorizo, black pudding and picnic ham.
  • Cantabria: Cocido Montañés, a stew made of pork and beans, is Cantabria’s star dish. We mustn’t forget about Anchovies de Santoña, considered some of the finest in the world.

Spanish island gastronomy

  • Balearic Islands: Ensaimadas, fluffy sugary pastries of Mallorcan origin, are renowned throughout Spain. In addition, Sobrassada – a sausage made of pork and paprika – is another of the region’s flagship products.
  • Canary Islands: Papas Arrugadas con Mojo, small potatoes boiled in salted water and served with a spicy sauce, are a must in Canarian gastronomy, just like Plátanos de Canarias

The 3 best coastal areas to live in Spain for foreigners

Image of the beach of Calpe, on the Costa Blanca. One of the best cities to live in Spain for foreigners.

So, considering all the above information, if you’re looking for the best cities to live in Spain for foreigners, you can’t miss these three coastal areas that are notable for their particular characteristics and the welcome they offer to newcomers.

Costa Blanca, Spain: Alicante and its province

The Costa Blanca (Spain) is praised for its extensive line of white sand beaches and natural coves that are complemented by a mountainous inland landscape. Cities such as Alicante, Benidorm, Calpe, Denia, Altea and Villajoyosa draw people not only for their beauty but also for the diversity of activities and services they offer:

  • International community: A large expatriate community has settled here; this makes it easier to integrate and access networks and services in various languages.
  • Housing and cost of living: There’s a wide variety of housing options, from luxurious villas to apartments with sea views (see our newly built properties on the Costa Blanca). Compared to other European areas, its cost of living is quite attractive.
  • Activities and leisure: In addition to nightlife, there is a wide variety of sport activities, from golf courses to water sports, and numerous festivals and cultural events throughout the year. Likewise, Alicante’s gastronomy is considered one of the best in the world.

Would you be interested in knowing more about where the Costa Blanca (Spain) is located? Learn more in this other article.

Costa del Sol, Spain: Málaga and its province

In southern Spain, the Costa del Sol is synonymous with luxury, culture and a vibrant atmosphere. Cities such as Málaga, Marbella, Nerja and Estepona are all landmarks offering golden sandy beaches and many other facilities:

Do you want to know more about where the Costa del Sol (Spain) is located? Learn more in this other article.

Costa Calida, Spain: Murcia and its province

The Costa Calida (Spain), less known internationally, is a treasure to discover. Its laid-back pace and more authentic atmosphere make it an ideal option for people seeking a more localised experience. Murcia as the capital and Aguilas as the coastal area are notable for: 

  • Nature and relaxation: The coasts of Murcia offer an idyllic setting for relaxation and water sports.
  • Housing and cost of living: It offers some of the most affordable housing options on the Spanish coast, without sacrificing impressive views from luxurious villas to apartments with sea views (see our newly built properties on the Costa Calida).
  • Culture and tradition: Being less touristy, it allows for a deeper immersion in Spanish culture and traditions, with local festivals and markets reflecting the authentic lifestyle and rich culinary offerings of the Mar Menor’s gastronomy.

Will you discover with us where the Costa Calida (Spain) is and what it has to offer you? Learn more in this other article.

Conclusions

In conclusion, Spain has established itself as one of the destinations preferred by foreigners when they are looking for a place to reside permanently. This interest is particularly focused on coastal regions, with the Costa Blanca, the Costa del Sol and the Costa Calida being the most attractive. 

These areas not only offer a pleasant climate and beautiful beaches but also a vibrant cultural life, quality infrastructure, a reasonable cost of living compared to other European regions and remarkable tax facilities.

In addition, these coastal areas have experienced a boom in the construction of modern, quality housing, designed to meet the expectations and needs of foreigners. These properties usually combine aesthetics with functionality, offering all the amenities you would expect in a contemporary home. 

For foreigners interested in buying property in these areas, Quadratia offers a selection of newly built homes on the Costa Blanca, Costa del Sol and Costa Calida. This developer facilitates the buying process, allowing people interested to find the ideal home in one of the best cities to live in Spain.

With Quadratia, finding the housing abroad that you long for is easier than ever. Come in and ask us everything you need! 

What do you think of our article on the best cities to live in Spain for foreigners? Share our post and follow us on our social networks!

Subscribe to our newsletter


    * I have read and accept the legal notice