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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 renowned for its architectural beauty, cultural character and 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, publishing, logistics and the technology industry. 

One of the biggest drawbacks of living in Barcelona is the city's infamous bureaucracy. Expats will need to be prepared to go through multiple hoops to secure essential things such as an NIE number and Empadronamiento. Proficiency in Catalan or Spanish will also go a long in making expats' stay in Barcelona more fruitful. 

Accommodation is usually an expat’s biggest expense, as 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 those 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. Green spaces 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. Expat parents also needn't worry about healthcare in Barcelona, as the Catalan public health system is free and accessible. 

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 moving to Barcelona 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 late 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. 

The job market in Barcelona

Automobiles, appliance manufacturing, publishing and wine production 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 attracts record numbers of tourists and employs many expats.

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 before their arrival, but those who 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.

New arrivals from EU countries will need an NIE (Número de Identificación de Exrenajeros) number to legally work in Barcelona, while those from non-EU countries must have both NIE and TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) numbers. Expats must register with their local municipality as soon as possible as they enable them to complete all legal processes in Barcelona, including renting accommodation, securing social benefits and navigating the Spanish tax system. 

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 such as LinkedIn and Infojobs. 

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 cost of living in Barcelona 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 affordable access to all modes of public transportation.   

Cost of food in Barcelona   

Barcelona is a foodie's dream, and its 26 Michelin-starred restaurants are a 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 an 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 Lidl, Super Sol and Mercadona. 

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 are 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 and Horta-Guinardó. Utilities in Barcelona are generally reasonably priced.

Cost of transport in Barcelona   

Public transport in Barcelona is highly efficient, affordable and integrated. The T-mobilitat 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

Prices may vary across the city, depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Barcelona in March 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

EUR 1050

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

EUR 820

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

EUR 1,750

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

EUR 1,300


Dozen eggs

EUR 2.55

Milk (1 litre)

EUR 0.99

Rice (1 kg)

EUR 1.33

Loaf of white bread

EUR 1.39

Chicken breasts (1kg)

EUR 7.41

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)


Eating out

Big Mac Meal


Coca-Cola (330ml)

EUR 2.10


EUR 2.13

Bottle of beer (local)


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

EUR 58


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

EUR 0.22

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

EUR 38

Basic monthly utilities (includes electricity, water, refuse)

EUR 164


Taxi rate/km


Bus fare in the city centre 

EUR 2.40


EUR 1.91

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 or Catalan when searching for accommodation in Barcelona, 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 the city. 

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 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 near 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.

Areas and suburbs in Barcelona

Barcelona is a huge city with 10 districts and even more neighbourhoods for expats to choose from. Each Catalan barrio has different attractions, so expats will always have something to look forward to in their suburb. Ciutat Vella, the Old Town, is one of the most popular districts in Barcelona and is home to neighbourhoods such as La Barceloneta, El Gòtic, El Raval, and Sant Père. Located a short distance from the Old Town, Eixample is one of Barcelona's trendiest areas with some of the best shopping and dining experiences.

Expat families looking for residential suburbs with gardens and family-friendly amenities should look no further than Pedralbes, Tres Torres and Esplugues de Llobregat. 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.

See Areas and Suburbs in Barcelona for more information on the best neighbourhoods in the city. 

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 on social media or at work, 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 know the property market to assist them in their search. 

Renting accommodation in Barcelona

Expats who are going to be paid 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.

Making an application

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. Some landlords will accept a bank statement or a personal guarantee from an employer or Spanish citizen as proof of income. 

Leases and deposits

After the terms of the contract 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, so hiring a real-estate agent would come in handy.

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, which are paid for the upkeep of communal areas and services, are generally included in the monthly rental fee.

Generally, lease periods are one year and payments are due at the start of each month.

See Accommodation in Spain for more detail on leases and the rental process in the country.  


Utilities are typically 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. 

Expats may need to transfer the electricity, gas and water accounts into their name when moving into a new place in Barcelona. Those who have negotiated their lease agreement through an estate agency will have the formalities arranged by their agent. Otherwise, expats will need to supply the utility companies with their NIE number, passport copy, bank details and lease number among other documents. 

Utilities are usually paid via direct debit monthly and expats will be able to choose a supplier of choice for electricity, gas, internet and telephone lines, as Barcelona's market is free. 

Aigües de Barcelona is Barcelona's sole water supplier, and the city's tap water is considered safe for consumption. Still, many families choose to filter their water or purchase bottled water. Water bills are sent and paid every three months. 

As is the case throughout Spain, Barcelona is committed to increasing its recycling rates. As such, Barcelona has a recycling system consisting of five differently coloured bins which are usually placed next to sidewalks, apartment buildings and on residential streets. Green bins are for glass, blue for paper, yellow for plastic packaging, brown for organic waste and grey for hazardous materials. 

Buying property in Barcelona

Investing in property in Barcelona is quite an attractive proposition for foreigners. 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 mean that low to middle-income 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 opportunities 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 housing options. 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 areas and suburbs in Barcelona that are often favoured by expats.

Family-friendly areas in Barcelona

Family-friendly areas in Barcelona


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

Nearby 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 is great for jogging and cycling and offers spectacular views of the city, and the beautifully preserved 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 cafés. It is very close to several of the most prominent English-speaking schools in Barcelona

Pedralbes appeals to expat families who want to live in a safe neighbourhood. The fact that a car is needed in Pedralbes, and that it's quite an expensive area, makes it 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 fantastic for keeping fit and are equipped with children’s play areas. Sarria is also convenient for its proximity to several 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 an excellent 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. Rental prices are relatively affordable, but parking can be troublesome, although many apartment buildings offer parking spaces.

Shopping possibilities are unlimited, and there is no shortage of bars and restaurants. 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 is also 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 with 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 neighbourhood 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 here typically don’t have garages, but spaces can sometimes be rented in a nearby parking complex. The FGC suburban train, metro and buses provide reliable 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 rare here 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 accessible, 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 communal amenities such as garden spaces and swimming pools. In some cases, quality was sacrificed in the rush to finish them, so sound insulation can be poor. Still, 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. Castelldefels is home to the British School of Barcelona. 

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 and the airport are within 15 minutes reach by car.

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 within approximately 20 minutes.

With detached houses with gardens and occasionally swimming pools, Sant Cugat del Valles is ideal for expat families. Both children and parents will always have something to see and do as the neighbourhood is also home to a wide range of amenities, including cinemas, shops, a concert hall, golf course and sports clubs. 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 excellent 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. Alongside the health card, expats will need an NIE number and Empadronamiento to access state healthcare. 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 is home to 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 highly qualified doctors at public healthcare facilities, if opting for that route. 

Read more about healthcare and health insurance for expats in Spain

Hospitals in Barcelona

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

Hospital Plató

Address: Carrer de Plató, 21, 08006

Centro Médico Teknon

Address: Carrer Vilana 12, 08022, Barcelona

Hospital Universitari Dexeus

Address: Sabino Arana 5-19, 08028, Barcelona

Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children’s Hospital

Address: 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 a school that best suits their children's needs. 

Unlike public schooling in much of the rest of the country, the language of instruction 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, such as a gestor, 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 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 typically be Catalan.

International schools in Barcelona

International schools in Barcelona are private schools that uphold the language of instruction 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 frequently high, and some schools admit students based on nationality quotas.

International schools offer pupils the benefit of continuing with a language of instruction and 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 as the necessary facilities. 

Children with special needs in Barcelona are typically sent to a Center for Special Needs (Centro de Valoración y Orientación de Discapacitados) for assessment to determine the level of support they will require to successfully integrate into mainstream classrooms. 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.

Childcare and nurseries in Barcelona 

Similar to primary and secondary schools, there are public, state-assisted and private nursery schools in Barcelona. Children can attend guarderías from four months to three years, and continue to nursery school for children aged between three and six years old. Demand is typically high in public nursery schools, so parents are encouraged to find out how many spots are available in their district and apply in advance to guarantee a placement for their tots.  

Expat parents who would prefer for their little ones to get individual attention will also have plenty of childminders to choose from. Childcare is generally expensive, so parents will have to budget accordingly to access this service. 

Private nursery schools are usually pricier than state-assisted and public schools, but some offer bilingual instruction and they frequently have excellent facilities. 

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. Several 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 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, International Baccalaureate, French and American curricula have a student body predominantly made up of Spanish pupils.

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

This gives expat children an opportunity to quickly overcome culture shock and fully immerse themselves in their new community while also engaging in cultural exchange. Most of the best international schools in Barcelona are located in affluent areas and suburbs. International schools in Barcelona are typically quite pricey, but parents will be delighted to know that these institutions offer excellent facilities, including STEM labs and a wide range of extracurricular activities to engage children.

Listed below are some of the best international schools in Barcelona. 

International schools in Barcelona


American School of Barcelona

The American School of Barcelona (ASB) prides itself on providing quality education and focusing on the holistic development of children. Founded in 1962, ASB was one of the first international schools in Spain to offer the International Baccalaureate qualification along with the US High School Diploma. 

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

Barcelona High School

Barcelona High School officially opened its doors at the height of the pandemic in 2020 with a strong focus on student-centred learning rather than archaic teaching methods. The school has developed an engaging and innovative digital learning platform to ensure learning flexibility and quality education for the leaders of tomorrow. 

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

Benjamin Franklin International School

The Benjamin Franklin International School's mission is to ensure success for all students through offering differentiated curricula. As one of the best international schools in Barcelona, Benjamin Franklin International School offers a truly international and welcoming school community that drives academic excellence. 

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

British School of Barcelona

With more than 65 nationalities and four campuses across Barcelona, Sitges and Castelldefels, the British School of Barcelona (BSB) is home to excellent learning and sporting facilities. BSB aims to foster a love for lifelong learning and academic excellence through its rigorous British and International Baccalaureate curricula. 

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Curriculum: British (Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels) and International Baccalaureate

Colegio Akua

Colegio Akua is an accredited and trilingual Montessori school that provides personalised education. The school's curriculum integrates the educational philosophies of María Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Pestalozzi while developing multiple intelligences and emotional awareness in students. 

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

European International School of Barcelona

Catering to more than 1,400 students, the European International School of Barcelona's educational programme is focused on three main pillars: language proficiency, education in values and academic excellence. The school offers instruction in English, French, German and Chinese. 

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

International School of Catalunya

Located in La Garriga, the International School of Catalunya aims to develop students who are independent thinkers while optimising student-teacher relationships through small-group learning. 

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and British (Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels)

Oak House School

Oak House School combines the British, Spanish and International Baccalaureate curricula, along with a variety of subjects to offer students holistic education. Oak House School also has a forest school, allowing students to connect with nature and learn more about the environment. 

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Curriculum: British (Cambridge IGCSE), International Baccalaureate and Spanish

SEK Catalunya International School

SEK Catalunya International School is a place where students of different nationalities come together in a cultural exchange environment while learning the three International Baccalaureate programmes and achieving academic excellence. The school offers a renowned music programme as well as outdoor and mountain activities. 

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 2 to 18 years
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

St. George's British School

Students at St. George's British School follow the full British curriculum and learn English from native Teachers. The school boasts specialised music, art and computer classrooms and laboratories and also focuses on differentiating learning in line with students' unique abilities and interests. 

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 2 to 18
Curriculum: British (Cambridge IGCSE) and International Baccalaureate

Lifestyle in Barcelona

The expat lifestyle in Barcelona is filled with exciting cultural events, attractions, fine food and great shopping as well as nightlife. 

People in Barcelona generally place equal importance on working 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 cafés, 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 within 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 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 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 partygoers 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 neighbourhood'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 culinary influences 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 thanks to 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 skydiving. 

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. 

See and do in Barcelona

Residents and visitors in Barcelona 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 also a wealth of ancient and modern architecture to explore, with many of the local buildings designed by famous architect Antoni Gaudí having been declared World Heritage Sites. Below is our list of favourite things to see and do 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 appreciated 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 cafés, 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 Gaudí 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 Güell

Discover the delightful designs of Gaudi in the fascinating gardens of Park Güell. 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 more than 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. We've listed some of the most popular festivals and events in Barcelona below.

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 dating 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.

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 more than 20 different countries 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 their natural environment 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 café 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 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 offers a full cultural agenda for children. Music halls, theatre companies and museums all provide 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.

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.

How do expats deal with all the Spanish bureaucracy?

Dealing with Spain's red tape, particularly in Barcelona, starts with an expat's work permit and continues once they arrive when it comes time to get an Empadronamiento or an NIE number or place their child in Spain's public school system. It is not easy, and it can be frustrating for expats that are used to more streamlined bureaucracy. Speaking Catalan and Spanish, hiring a gestor or having a translator are all great options. 

Are there English schools in Barcelona?

While the public and semi-private schools in Barcelona teach in Catalan and Spanish, there are several 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 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 cafés, 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 Barcelona's 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 public transport and driving vocabulary, 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 known as T-mobilitat. 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 rise as the number of zones travelled through increases. 

A range of ticket options exists based on the number of journeys or 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 are available 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. Therefore, Uber is available and is a convenient way 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 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 fewer 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. Prices are charged based on the amount of time the bike is used, and the service doesn't allow bikes to be rented for longer than two hours at a time.

Driving in Barcelona

Expats moving to central Barcelona may want to reconsider buying 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.

Prospective drivers must be ready to deal with the notoriously challenging Catalonian bureaucracy when buying a vehicle, as expats will be required to produce an NIE number. 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 peak 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. 

Ubeeqo, a car rental service, 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.

See Transport and Driving in Spain for more on securing a driving licence in Spain as a foreigner.