Spain’s Seven Best Retirement Cities—InternationalLiving.com

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Spain is one of the world’s most popular overseas retirement destinations—with reason. A new report from the editors at InternationalLiving.com explores the appeal—sunshine, beaches, mountains, vibrant cities, great-value living—and pinpoints the country’s seven best cities for retirement today.

Valencia, Spain

One of the biggest factors attracting expats to Spain is the low cost of living. Right now, Spain is more affordable than it’s been in decades.

Beaches…mountains…fabulous cities…colorful festivals, and, of course, sunshine almost everyplace. It’s not surprising that Spain is one of the most popular European countries for those looking to retire overseas.

One of the biggest factors attracting expats to Spain is the low cost of living. Right now, Spain is more affordable than it’s been in decades. Day-to-day expenses can be very low. International Living Editor Glynna Prentice says that throughout Spain “a couple can live well in many destinations for as little as about $2,200 a month—even less if they own their home.”

“I love all the cultural amenities Spanish cities offer,” Prentice says. “And for me, a big plus to Spain is that you can find a good level of cultural amenities—Cineplexes, museums, and a music and theater scene—not only in the very large cities, like Madrid and Barcelona, but also in smaller cities. Alicante, San Sebastián…these cities are well under half a million people, yet they offer plenty to do.”

Below are seven Spanish cities that make great retirement havens.

1.    Madrid
Madrid is where Spain comes to you. Cider from the Asturian Highlands, seafood from Galicia, flamenco music from the south… The Spanish capital is like a cocktail shaker full of traditions, culture, and delicious dishes. It’s the place to get a taste (literally) of everything this diverse country has to offer. And it offers excellent value, too.

“Eating out here is seriously affordable,” says Lori Zaino, who moved to the city from Chicago eight years ago. “Even after all these years, I'm still shocked when the bill arrives after a night of drinks and tapas with friends, realizing I've spent just $10 all evening.”

2.    Alicante
Alicante, on Spain’s eastern Mediterranean coast, is a city of about 334,000 people, with all the modern conveniences—including an international airport. It is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, attracting beach lovers from Spain, the rest of Europe, and beyond. Yet despite the tourists, this remains a very Spanish city, with a friendly, welcoming, small-town feel.

Although Alicante is known as a tourist hotspot, prices here are low. “A couple should be able to live comfortably on $2,000 a month,” Prentice says. “In terms of real estate, you can find apartments for sale right in central Alicante for under $100,000. A decent meal in a restaurant with a caña (glass of beer) can set you back as little as $7, and there’s an abundance of fresh food available at even cheaper prices at the daily central market.”

3.    Valencia
As Spain’s third-largest city, Valencia has all the amenities of a major metropolis: convenient air and rail connections, major hospitals, universities, and plenty of parks. There are lots of green spaces across much of the city. This city abounds in culture, with science and art museums, concert halls, and one of Europe’s largest historic centers.

Yet it’s also a beach town, right on the Mediterranean. And with a population of only about 800,000 in central Valencia, it’s compact and manageable.

Day-to-day costs are reasonable—a filling lunch special, including a beer or wine, will run to about $12. And as far as entertainment is concerned, a ticket to see a classical concert in one of Valencia’s many concert halls might set you back a reasonable $17. Rents for one- and two-bedroom apartments in some of Valencia’s best neighborhoods start at only about $550 a month. For expats looking to buy, sale prices start at about $110,000.

4.    Málaga
Málaga is clean and bright, with a pedestrian-only city center and a revamped harbor area that is a joy to stroll. The city is brimming with museums, great dining, and plenty of shopping to suit all tastes and budgets.

There is daily sunshine, miles of seaside, winter temperatures are balmy (days average 63 F in January), and sea breezes blow off the Mediterranean, cooling the hot summer days. Málaga is cheerful and vibrant, exuding its trademark Andalusian charm. Best of all, it remains a very Spanish city, even in the prime tourist areas.

To top it all off, even the cost of living seems too good to be true. In the centro histórico (historic center), within walking distance of shops and the sea, casual lunches start at about $8 and proper sit-down meals cost $15 to $20. Apartments for sale in the area start at under $200,000.

5.    Barcelona
Overflowing with color, culture, and creativity, Barcelona offers up an intoxicating medley of old and new. Its highlights include Gaudí’s eye-popping architecture, the Ramblas, and the atmospheric maze of the medieval Barri Gòtic.

Here expats can enjoy fine dining, beaches, culture, and great weather. Spain’s second-largest city, Barcelona is the capital of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia (Cataluña).

“I’ll never get tired of mornings in our new home,” says Texan Linda Fernandez of her new life in Barcelona.
Barcelona provides everything Linda and her husband Kurt were looking for in retirement: climate, culture, infrastructure, public services, cost of living, accessibility.

“We consider our living expenses to be minimal. Since we own our own apartment, our regularly occurring expenses (minus groceries and entertainment) average about $860 a month,” Linda says.

6.    Bilbao
Bilbao (Bilbo in Basque), on Spain’s green north coast, is a modern urban miracle. In the last 20 years, this industrial port city—the pride of the Basque country—has transformed itself from a gritty metropolis into the poster child for urban renewal, all the while preserving its romantic, medieval heart. The transformation has garnered it a fistful of awards, an explosion of tourism, and made it one of the most enviably livable cities anywhere in Europe.

This city of about 352,000 people has miles of park on both sides of the estuary. Locals and tourists stroll, bicycle, and skate along this promenade, while children romp in playgrounds. The two sides of the estuary are connected by delicate pedestrian bridges that arc over the water.

7.    San Sebastián
This stylish seaside city on Spain’s north Atlantic coast has a legendary charm and arguably one of the world’s most beautiful urban beachfronts. Here curving, golden-sand beaches like Playa de la Concha, with its long promenade, offer a feast for the eyes. Equally beautiful is the city itself, with wide boulevards and frothy belle époque buildings.

San Sebastián—Donostia, in Basque—has been a resort since the mid-1800s. It first became popular under Queen Isabella II, who summered here and wanted to create a resort to rival France’s Biarritz, just over the border (which was patronized by the French empress—and fellow Spaniard—Eugénie). Where the queen went, the court followed…and over the years San Sebastián became an architectural (and shopping) delight. In fact, with all that this sophisticated city offers today, the beaches are simply the icing on the cake…

The complete International Living story on the seven best retirement cities in Spain can be found at: 7 of the Best Cities in Spain for Your Retirement.

Editor's Note: Members of the media have permission to reproduce the article linked above once credit is given to InternationalLiving.com.

Further information, as well as interviews with expert authors for radio, TV or print, is available on request. Photos are also available. To learn more please contact InternationalLiving.com Associate Editor, Carol Barron, tel. (772) 678 – 0287, e-mail: CBarron(at)internationalliving.com

For 37 years, InternationalLiving.com has been the leading authority for anyone looking for global retirement or relocation opportunities. Through its monthly magazine and related e-letters, extensive website, podcasts, online bookstore, and events held around the world, InternationalLiving.com provides information and services to help its readers live better, travel farther, have more fun, save more money, and find better business opportunities when they expand their world beyond their own shores. InternationalLiving.com has more than 200 correspondents traveling the globe, investigating the best opportunities for travel, retirement, real estate, and investment.

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