A guide to the biggest mistakes when moving to Spain, and some tips on how to avoid them.
Spain is known for its sunny days and more than 8,000 kilometers of coastline and Barcelona in particular is a perfect combination of the two. Along with the beaches, Barcelona is a great place to live in for fans of art and architecture as it’s home to many important pieces, including the still-in-progress Sagrada Familia. Football fans will also feel at home as they take in FC Barcelona games at Camp Nou, about five kilometers east of the city center. As if that’s not enough to make you start packing boxes, the food and wine is another highlight of Barcelona’s culture, with easy access to some of the best ham, cheese, seafood and Spanish wine in the world.
While considering a move to Spain’s second biggest city, it’s important to figure out the guidelines for your apartment search. Will you need a whole apartment or just a room in a shared apartment? The average cost of a furnished apartment in Barcelona ranges between €916 and €1,287. Renting just a room will bring the average cost closer to €400, depending on the neighborhood. Are you looking for a long-term home base or would you like to move around a bit inside the city until you find your favorite neighborhood?
Many new residents of Barcelona prefer to find a short-term apartment or rental while they explore the city and figure out the best location for their needs. Something else to consider is the amount of time and effort required to find a place on your own, and whether working with an agency to help you sort through the options is the better option for your schedule.
The basics of apartment hunting won’t change too much based on these decisions, but where you look and your search method certainly will. This guide will walk you through the most important things to know when you’re looking for an apartment in Barcelona.
Most of the heavily-populated areas of Barcelona are full of apartments - either converted townhouses or newly built buildings. Outside of the main city center there are single family homes, which are still great options for most people thanks to Barcelona’s great public transportation.
Since Barcelona is such a popular destination for holidays, it’s possible to find short-term, furnished apartments. More often, however, your rental won’t include furniture. When looking at unfurnished apartments, you should be aware that the word has many different meanings ranging from completely bare to having a few large pieces left by the landlord, but not enough to be considered fully furnished.
Although there are many options of varying length for renting in Barcelona, it’s important to understand that most lease agreements are at least 12 months long, if not more. This is because short term leases have slightly different laws surrounding them and landlords who choose to rent their apartments out short-term are required to obtain a special license.
Most long-term leases start as one year, with the option to automatically renew for one to five more years. This is great for people looking to stay in one apartment long-term, but does make it more difficult to leave, since breaking the lease on a longer-term contract usually requires paying a large penalty fee.
For students who can’t commit to such a long lease, many study abroad programs offer assistance with housing. However, longer programs typically encourage students to get housing around the city on their own. Most universities don’t offer on-campus housing, but some do offer suggestions or assistance to students. One of the easiest options for students is to find a flatshare or room to rent. Although there are websites that help match roommates together, these situations are most easily found through in-person connections, like your classmates who already live in Barcelona.
Barcelona is home to a range of neighborhoods, each boasting their own vibe, cost of living and amenities. Some favorites among expats include:
Les Corts is a well-known location for expats moving to Barcelona with their families, as the area is home to several international schools.
Known more for the nightlife than the schooling, Las Ramblas is a good choice for young professionals or anyone who enjoys heading out for dinner followed by the club.
One of the more scenic neighborhoods in the city, Barceloneta is often chosen by expats who want to be near the water.
Nou Barris is very affordable and contains a large mix of people - not just expats.
Horta-Guinardo offers affordable housing for young people and students (though usually much smaller options), and is known for its many hills. Look out for outdoor escalators on the streets!
Overall, Barcelona is incredibly walkable and most neighborhoods have convenient access to great public transportation. The closer to the city center that you look, however, the more options you’ll have. Regardless, there are few wrong answers when it comes to moving to Barcelona.
- Papaya Pods
- Tucasa (Spanish only)
- Venta de pisos (Spanish only)
Alternatively, good places to find roommates include:
Looking for an apartment in your own language can be confusing, let alone trying to do so in a language you don’t speak. Try to keep these key terms in mind as you’re searching for housing:
- Habitacion: room
- Dormitorio: Bedroom
- Baño: Bathroom
- Cocina: Kitchen
- Azotea: Rooftop
- Piso: Floor
- Calefacción: Heating
- Aire acondicionado: Air conditioning
- Ático: Top floor
- Principal: First floor
- Amueblado: Furnished
It would also be a good idea to get a Spanish-speaking lawyer to look over your rental contract if you don’t understand or speak much Spanish.
In 2013, rolling contracts were introduced. They’re similar to a month-to-month rental situation, but require one or two months’ notice to terminate. They’re not often used, but they’re possible. Also in 2013, the minimum term for a lease changed from 12 months to six months. This change is much more popular in modern renting. Most landlords will instead expect to rent out an apartment for a fixed period and to reevaluate and renew the contract for another term after the first period finishes.
Negotiating on price, utility payment, and apartment perks are allowed, but aren’t common. When negotiating, make sure to keep the entire deal in mind, because gaining a discount in one area may mean a raise in price in another. Landlords will also want to be sure you’re financially stable and have decent employment or a bank guarantee, as your deposit usually only covers one to two months rent.
While there are some apartments in Spain that will ask you to pay your rent in cash, it’s much more common to do so through a direct bank transfer. Usually this must be a national bank, so if you’re planning to transfer money to a new Spanish bank account from your account at home, it’s a good idea to look into using a service like Wise to ensure you’re not forking over a ton of extra money in international transfer fees. Wise uses the real exchange rate and applies a low fixed fee - leaving you with more money to enjoy your retirement.
Most agencies in Barcelona charge about €250, plus one month’s rent for placement. There are many expat-friendly and expat-focused options and are great for people looking for a place quickly, however, many choose to look for apartments on their own to avoid putting that money down.
Spain is home to many great cities - Madrid is about twice the size of Barcelona, and there are many small coastal cities that are just as metropolitan and expat-friendly, but more affordable and local-feeling. If you’re planning to rent an apartment in Spain, however, Barcelona is one of the most rental-friendly cities in the country.
When in Spain and looking for an apartment, it’s helpful to have a Spanish phone number that you can use to contact listings. It’s easier for scammers to create an email address than to hide behind a telephone number, so talking to them via phone is a good way to prevent being ripped off. Also, to avoid being scammed when renting from a private renter, you can ask for a copy of that person’s DNI or Passport. You can also ask for a proof of ownership like a bill related to the property or the Impuesto de Bienes Inmuebles.
With that, you’re ready to start your search. Many days of great weather, great food and great adventures are waiting for you upon your move to Barcelona. Good luck!
This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.
We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
Spanish citizenship is one of the most desired ones in the EU. Our comprehensive guide explains how you can obtain it.
Everything you need to know about selling your property in Spain, including the process, fees, taxes and timescales.
Everything you need to know about the S1 form Spain, including how to get and register one as a UK retiree living there.
Everything you need to know about moving to Spain from the UK, including visas, post-Brexit rules, tips for retirees and more.
Everything you need to know about retiring in Spain from the UK, including where to live and how to get a Spanish retirement visa.