Have you ever dreamed of living in Spain?
There is a good reason why the country was one of Hemingway’s favorite spots, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be yours either. I have spent many months in Spain, which was still not enough to travel the whole country, and can vouch for it being one of the top digital nomad destinations in Europe. The language is easy to pick up, and useful to know, the food is great, the prices are great and the culture is radiant and exciting. That being said, there are more than a few places suitable for remote work in Spain, and stressing over making the right choice can be draining. That’s why I wanted to share my personal thoughts on the best Spanish cities for digital nomads, what I like about the cities and what they have to offer. Of course, you should check out smaller and more rural towns, but I prefer sticking to the larger urban areas as a base.
It’s hard to pretend that Valencia is some sort of a hidden gem, with its population of 800 000 and millions of tourists pouring in every year, but it is often overlooked for Barcelona and Madrid when talking about a digital nomad base. The comparisons to Barcelona are apt, as Valencia provides similar amenities: a beach, international environment, Universities, and prominent local culture. Valenciano is essentially Catalan (don’t mention that to the locals) but you can easily get away with just Catalan Spanish here, as the Valenciano dialect is mainly spoken in smaller towns and villages. However, Valencia certainly has managed to preserve its local culture and the atmosphere is much more authentic and Spanish than in global cities like Barcelona and Madrid, which often give off the vibe of a shopping mall. There are major multinational brands to be found around Valencia too, but there is a charm and a vibe more reminiscent of a smaller less international and homogenized provincial city. Valencia feels like Spain and has its own identity that sets it apart from other, ex-pat/tourist/global enterprise, dominated cities.
When it comes to the practical aspects of being an ex-pat or a digital nomad here, Valencia has all of the amenities of a large European city. There is good internet, plenty of cafes and co-working spaces, as well as a vibrant international community. Every year thousands of students descend upon Valencia, mainly as a part of the Erasmus program in the EU. Depending on your age, this can be a huge plus or an annoyance, but the students do provide for a more diverse nightlife and experience. If that’s not your scene, there are plenty of remote workers and nomads that are eager to socialize and explore. There are also many locals that want to improve their English and will be more than happy with a foreign friend. On top of all this, the prices are low, with some of the cheapest rents on this list, certainly much lower than Barcelona and Madrid, and plenty of cheap restaurants and bars to attend. The clubs can be pricey, but that has sadly become the norm all over Europe.
Seville is one of the most special places in Europe, managing to combine the warm and friendly Andalusian culture and a unique architecture that has an exotic twist to it, owing to the Caliphate of Córdoba that ruled this part of Spain in the past. It is a very popular tourist destination, certainly not unknown, but nowhere near as often discussed as it deserves to be. A lot of what was said about Valencia also applies here. This is a Spanish city, with strong Andalusian roots, and the fact that tapas come from this region tells you all you need to know about it. The joy of ordering a cold beer on a hot evening and receiving a small plate with Jamon, cheese, olives, or patatas bravas with it, for free usually, is incomprehensible. Granted, this tradition seems to be slowly disappearing as the economic factors change, but you will not be hard-pressed to find a great tapas spot in Seville, for a great price, anytime soon. One word of caution that I can share is that it does get very hot here in summer, inhumanly so and there is no beach in town to help you cool off.
Seville is growing in popularity amongst travelers and ex-pats and new coworking spots seem to pop up all the time. Despite the ancient feel and foreign-looking architecture of the city, there is great Wifi and internet coverage all around town. Again, there are many international students and foreigners living here, so finding an English-speaking social circle shouldn’t be too hard. There is also a very conveniently located airport which connects you to the rest of the country and a few destinations in Europe. On most days you can fly directly to the other major Spanish cities, or Italy, Portugal, France, and London for less than 50 euros. The prices here are the lowest of all of the cities on the list and you’ll be hard-pressed to find better deals anywhere in Western Europe. Seville is a magical place and many travelers have told me that it’s their favorite city in Spain, so definitely check it out, even if it’s just for a few days.
It’s hard to make a list of anything about Spain without mentioning Barcelona, which is ironic because the people of Barcelona do not consider themselves Spanish. The Catalan independence movement is clearly present through the city, with many Catalan flags flying from windows, frequent separatist protests, and when talking to locals. Menus and signs are often written in Castellano (the Spanish language) and Catalan, which is a distinct dialect spoken in Catalonia and Valencia. Beyond that peculiarity, however, you are in Spain for all intents and purposes and can get by with Spanish and possibly English, even though not everyone speaks it. Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in the world and for a place so concerned with its independence, it is very Disneyfied. Certainly, there are areas of the city that are not filled with tourists and Erasmus students, but for most visitors and ex-pats the city is a huge global village.
Considering that this is one of the most populous areas in Spain, with around 5 million people living in the province of Barcelona, it should come as no surprise that there is ample opportunity for employment, remote work, and social life in Barcelona. The ex-pat community here is huge and people keep coming and going non-stop. The city is very well connected with the rest of Europe and Spain, so if you want to travel around while keeping Barcelona as your base, that’s very feasible. It also has a beach, with many consider a must-have for residing in Spain. However, the city is expensive. There are no two ways to put it, Barcelona is the most expensive city in Spain and the rent for a one-bedroom apartment in a nice location will almost certainly go above 1000 euros. It’s still not as bad as London, Amsterdam or Paris, but if you want to spend time in Spain, on the cheap, Barcelona won’t cut it. Another aspect to consider is the language, if you want to learn Spanish it’s best to be in a city where the locals speak it, so Madrid will be a better option.
Located conveniently in the center of Spain, Madrid gives off the impression of an imperial capital. The boulevards are wide, the buildings are large and imposing and the details and ornaments present in the architecture are opulent. The atmosphere here is much more different than in Valencia or Seville, which feel provincial in comparison. It’s the second-largest city in the European Union, with a metro population of around 6.7 million, and that size can be felt when living here. Madrid is the political, cultural, and economic center of Spain, though it is worth noting that Barcelona puts up a strong challenge. There is no beach in the vicinity, and Madrid can get very hot in summer and cold in winter, but the airport is one of the largest in Europe so you can escape to pretty much anywhere from here, for a reasonable price. The Spanish spoken here is also one of the clearest, without a local dialect, so if you want to learn the language, Madrid is the place to be.
Once again, there is a huge ex-pat and digital nomad community here so it shouldn’t be too hard to meet people and have a healthy social life. There are also many large businesses and the opportunities for remote work, freelancing and networking are ample. Madrid does suffer from its size and getting around and going to meet people can be time-consuming and involves some logistics. It’s also not a cheap city, slightly better than Barcelona, but still not affordable when it comes to housing. Madrid is also slightly less touristy than the other entries on the list, but still notably international and filled with tourists in certain hotspots, which leads to some problems. Pickpockets and robbers are very common in the city center, like in Barcelona, and are something you need to be very aware of, I personally know people that have had their phones stolen.