Málaga, Spain: Is It REALLY the Best City for Expats? The Pros & Cons

According to an Internations survey of 12,000 expats living in 172 countries, Málaga, Spain was crowned the world’s #1 city for foreign residents. But is it all it’s cracked up to be?

The results of this annual survey were announced just a few days before we were scheduled to arrive in Málaga, so it was good timing for us.

This popular city was on our exploratory trip list for several reasons which is why we wanted to check it out to see if it might be a good place to live.

Here’s the good, the not-so-good, and whether we could picture ourselves living the Málaga life.

Watch Our Video About Málaga Spain

The Pros of Málaga Spain

Safety 

Spain is considered a safe country and we heard that Málaga is also a safe place to visit or live. We walked around all times of day and night and never felt uncomfortable. Even late at night, we saw families with small children and groups of women walking together – you know, the things that make you feel relaxed in a new place.

Mild Winters

Malaga Spain Alcazaba La MalaguetaIf you’re a sun worshipper, Málaga might be your paradise. Winters here are short and mild—think comfy jeans and light jacket weather. We visited in December, and it was a welcome change from the cold we were used to in Colorado. We understand why people from northern European countries flock here to escape the gloom.

Sunny & Dry

Málaga boasts over 300 days of sunshine yearly—seriously!  It’s not too humid and sticky because the weather is Mediterranean meaning it is hot and dry in the summer. The dry air felt great and it was nice not to worry about the chance of rain.

Nice Train Station & International Airport

Málaga is incredibly well-connected, which is a bonus whether traveling around Spain or venturing further into Europe. The train station is modern and efficient, and we quickly hopped on a train for a day trip. The airport offers direct flights to tons of European cities and even some in North America, which is a game-changer if you plan to visit family back home.

Potable Tap Water

This might seem small, but trust us, being able to drink water straight from the tap is enormous! Especially coming from places where that’s a no-go, it makes life so much easier (and cheaper) not buying bottled water constantly.

Pedestrian and Bike-friendly

Málaga is made for walking. Wide sidewalks, flat terrain, and plenty of crosswalks meant we didn’t have to worry too much about dodging traffic. We loved the dedicated bike lanes and saw people of all ages scooting around on electric scooters – it looked like a blast! One of our favorite afternoons was taking an Uber to El Palo and then strolling back along the beach promenade to La Malagueta.

Good Public Transportation

Even with such a walkable city, sometimes your feet need a break. Málaga’s public transportation system is solid. The metro is easy to understand, buses run frequently, and you can even grab an Uber or taxi when needed. We found fares pretty reasonable, so it’s a viable option for getting around, although slightly higher than Ecuador.

History & Things To Do

Malaga Spain Teatro RomanoMálaga is a city where history buffs and culture lovers will be in their element. As Picasso’s birthplace, his influence is present throughout the city. The Picasso Museum is a must as are the the stunning Moorish fortresses.

Alcazaba, overlooking the town, was incredible. We spent hours wandering its courtyards, admiring the intricate tilework, and soaking up the panoramic views. And don’t even get us started on the Castillo de Gibralfaro – that uphill trek was worth it for the breathtaking vistas and a glimpse into a captivating past.

Low Cost of Living

If you’re budget-conscious, Málaga is a gem. Compared to other major cities in Spain, we were pleasantly surprised by how affordable things were. Groceries, a glass of wine, and a delicious dinner out felt like a good value.

Housing is where you’ll find the variety in size and price. There’s something for everyone, from modern beachside high-rises to cozy apartments in quaint neighborhoods, ranging from $900 – $2,000 per month – a wide range in price, we know! However, it all depends on where you live, what you want, furnished vs. unfurnished, etc.

Lots of Restaurants & Bars

Málaga is a foodie haven. There’s a wide variety of restaurants, from casual tapas bars to white-tablecloth establishments. We loved the abundance of outdoor seating while enjoying a delicious meal and excellent views. One thing to note—some bars only serve drinks and frutos secos (nuts and olives). We ended up doing more home-cooked meals than anticipated, but there were plenty of dining options.

Nice Mercados, Grocery Stores & Fruterías

Malaga Spain El Palo FruteriaMálaga takes its food seriously! The Mercado Atarazanas was a sight to behold – a beautiful, restored building filled with colorful stalls overflowing with fresh produce, seafood, and every imaginable spice you could think of. Wandering through, the sights and smells were intoxicating!

Plenty of supermarkets and local fruterias (fruit shops) lined the neighborhoods for everyday groceries, making it easy to find everything we needed. We even stumbled upon some organic and specialty shops, which is a nice bonus.

Great Shopping

The pedestrian shopping area in the city center is fantastic! It’s a great place to browse and shop, full of local stores and familiar international chains. The streets were clean and well-maintained, and it was interesting to see even delivery drivers using bikes with mini-trucks – a testament to the city’s walkable nature.

Wide Variety of Neighborhoods

Málaga isn’t a one-size-fits-all place. We explored several neighborhoods and got a real sense of their distinct personalities.

Here are a few that stood out:

Malaga SpainCentro Histórico: The old town, bustling with tourists and brimming with history. It is excellent for sightseeing, but it can sometimes feel crowded.

Soho: The artsy district with trendy cafes, galleries, and a relaxed vibe.

La Malagueta: The beach area offers stunning beachfront views and a laid-back atmosphere.

El Palo: This neighborhood stole our hearts. A bit removed from the city center, it felt more local and authentic, with a beachy vibe and a strong sense of community. It reminded us of our favorite park back home—Wash Park in Denver.

The Downsides of Málaga Spain

Before you pack your bags and book your flight, there are a few things to be aware of:

HOT Summers

Those beautiful sunny days come at a price: Málaga summers can get scorching hot – think over 100°F (38°C). You’ll need air conditioning to be comfortable during the peak summer months.

Those Pesky Smells

We have to be honest – there’s a sewer smell issue in Málaga. We noticed it in some areas, even in the more affluent parts of town. It wasn’t a deal-breaker for us, but it’s something to be aware of, especially if you have a sensitive nose.

Crowds

The Historic Center can get incredibly crowded, especially during peak season. It can feel overwhelming trying to navigate narrow streets packed with tourists. If crowds are something other than your thing, consider exploring during the shoulder seasons or early mornings/evenings.

Could We Live in Málaga?

Absolutely! While the main tourist areas felt too crowded and hectic for our taste, Málaga had much to offer. The walkability, easy access to transportation, friendly locals, and abundance of things to see and do were significant pluses.

After exploring a few neighborhoods, we realized El Palo was our speed. It had everything we wanted: a slower pace, proximity to the beach, and an intense neighborhood atmosphere.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a place that offers a balance of vibrant city life and Mediterranean charm, Málaga is worth serious consideration. While it’s not perfect (no place is!), it lives up to the hype of being an incredible city for expats. The ease of transition, sunny weather, welcoming culture, and beautiful setting create a winning combination. Just make sure you explore the different neighborhoods to find the one that best aligns with your ideal expat lifestyle.

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Discovering Granada, Spain: A Hidden Gem for Potential Expats

Granada is home to the ancient fortress that draws people from all over the world. Located in southern Spain, its history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes make it a must visit destination.

Granada is known for its iconic Alhambra palace and lively university scene; it is the perfect relocation spot for those dreaming of a Spanish adventure. However, despite its many charms, Granada has yet to become a hotspot for foreign residents.

We fell in love with the city and we’re excited to share it with you!

Watch Our Video About Granada Spain

Getting to Granada

Our journey to Granada began with a train ride from Seville. Reasonably priced at $50 per ticket, the nearly three-hour trip was affordable and incredibly comfortable compared to flying.

The train ride offered picturesque views of the Spanish countryside, making the time fly by. This smooth, scenic travel option was a wonderful introduction to Granada’s accessibility and charm.

The Allure of Granada

We felt right at home in Granada! Let’s dive in to what makes this city so special.

Small City Charm with Big City Amenities

Despite its size and population of around 230,000, Granada packs a punch. It balances the feel of a small community with the conveniences of a larger city. The presence of a university adds a youthful energy that we found particularly appealing.

Low Elevation

At an elevation of about 2,400 feet (730 meters), Granada offers the unique advantage of mountainous living, which we enjoyed. The city’s higher altitude provides breathtaking views and a pleasant climate, apart from the hottest summer months.

History and Culture

Granada’s history is visible in its most famous landmark, the Alhambra. This “Red Fortress” was built over 800 years ago by the Moors and remains the most visited monument in Spain, drawing around three million visitors each year.

We visited the Walls of Albaicin and took a long walk through the neighborhood of Albaicin and Sacromonte. We also stumbled upon Ermita de San Miguel Alto, a popular lookout.

During our stay we visited the famous Catedral de Granada. Queen Isabella ordered its construction in 1505, and it is considered a masterpiece of the Renaissance.  Besides the Alhambra, the city’s ancient neighborhoods like Albaicin and Sacromonte are rooted in history, with constructions dating back over a millennium.

Safety and Friendliness

The city seemed exceptionally safe. There were many single young women out by themselves and and groups of single women out exploring as well. Seeing the women out day and night by themselves solidified our feeling of safety.The welcoming and friendly locals also contributed to the city’s inclusive atmosphere.

Plenty of Green Space

If you enjoy parks and hiking, you’ll appreciate all the green spaces throughout the area. There are plenty of parks featuring free exercise equipment (Amelia even took advantage of riding a free stationary bike). We found several hiking trails accessible right from the city center so there’s no need for a car.

Affordable Living Options

Granada is generally more affordable than larger Spanish cities like Seville. We found that rental prices were quite reasonable; for instance, a furnished apartment in Albaicin could range from $500 to $1,500 monthly. Utilities and daily expenses are also lower than in more popular expat destinations.

Public Transportation and Walkability

The public transportation system includes buses and a light metro system that links significant parts of the town, making car-free living entirely feasible. The Metro Ligero (Light Metro)  runs north and south through Centro and stops at the train station.  Taxis and Uber were also widely available.

We had no problems walking around the city. Centro and other parts of the city are flat and the sidewalks are wide. However historic areas are hilly and crowded so walking wasn’t as easy but still doable. (You do need to pay more attention since the sidewalks are uneven in this area.)  We were able to walk almost everywhere within 15 to 20 minutes.

Food & Dining

We often cooked at home during our time here. The city has mercados and fruterías with a wide variety of fresh produce at affordable prices. We found ecotienda organic shop that sold specialty food items as well. Additionally, there are bulk stores and big-box supermarkets such as Superkedy, Carrefour Express, Mercadona, Mas, and Aldi.

There’s no shortage of good restaurants in Granada.  We found some new favorites, including Wild Food, Hicuri, Thali Indian, Hannigan, and Sons Irish Pub.

Outdoor dining is very popular, even in the cold (they have heaters).  Places were packed, and not just the tourist places.  Part of the culture is to take time to enjoy your meals and drinks with friends.

Shopping

Granada has its fair share of places to shop.  There is a pedestrian shopping area similar to Seville, consisting of chains and local stores, including vintage.  Calle Calderería Nueva is a street with local shops selling many Arab-inspired clothes and souvenirs.

Challenges of Living in Granada

Despite its many advantages, Granada comes with its own set of challenges.

Noise and Crowds

The city can be noisy outside of the pedestrian areas. There’s a lot of traffic, loud motorcycles and buses, and a lot fewer electrical vehicles compared to other cities in Spain.

Popular spots in the historic area including Alhambra, parts of Albaicin, and Centro are full of tourists. These areas were crowded and there were often very large tour groups blocking the walkways around the attractions. We visited in the low season and we felt overwhelmed by the amount of tourists. Imagine what it must be like in high season!

We stayed near Paseo de los Tristes which is the Walk of the Sad. It is a popular tourist area with incredible views of Alhambra. It’s also a popular spot to take selfies.

The area is wonderful to experience but tricky to naviagate. The road into Centro is Carrera del Darro. It is full of hotels and rentals, restaurants, and shops catering to tourists.

The road is really narrow and pedestrians gave to share the road with cars buses, cars, motorcycles. We were able to find an alternate route by going up the stairs and taking the back roads into Centro.

If you want to avoid crowds we recommend staying outside of the historic area.

Weather

Granada experiences chilly winters and hot summers. We visited in November and we were cold! We both had to buy some warmer clothes.

The air was quite dry and we drank a lot of water. The summers get very hot, over 90 degrees Fahrenheit or 34 degrees Celsius. You’ll also need sunscreen year round since the elevation is higher.

Final Thoughts

With its old-world charm and modern conveniences, Granada reminds us of Cuenca, another beloved expat haven in many ways. It offers a unique lifestyle that could be perfect during the milder seasons of spring and fall. However we wouldn’t want to live there full time due to the hot summers, cold winters, and the tourist season.

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Live In Seville Spain as an Expat: The Pros & Cons

Seville, Spain (or Sevilla in Spanish) is the vibrant capital of the Andalusia region. It’s a city steeped in rich history and culture, offering an enchanting blend of old-world charm and modern conveniences.

Seville was our first stop in Andalusia and it did not disappoint! We were amazed by the beauty and lively culture.

We picked the perfect time to go because it wasn’t too hot or too cold and it wasn’t during the height of the tourist season. Overall we loved our time there, but our visit wasn’t perfect. Unfortunately, a few aspects of Seville weren’t that appealing to us.

In this article, we dive into the experiences and observations from our visit and share the pros and cons of living in Seville as an expat.

Watch Our Video About The Pros & Cons of Seville, Spain

What We Loved About Seville, Spain

There’s a lot to appreciate about this romantic city, starting with:

Safety and Peacefulness

Spain ranks high on the Global Peace Index coming in at #32 on the list for 2023. During our stay in Seville, we felt secure wandering the streets day and night. We observed solo travelers, women, and even children walking by themselves and out after dark.

Beautiful Winter Weather

Monumento a San Fernando Seville, SpainWe visited in November and the weather was warm and dry, with a lot of sunshine and just a touch of rain on one day. Seville is a great place to spend the winter months unless you really like snow and cold!

Walkability and Bike-Friendliness

Seville exudes a big-city vibe while maintaining a compact and highly walkable layout. Many streets are designated pedestrian-only zones.

The city is flat and, outside the historic center, the sidewalks are wide and even, making walking easier and more wheelchair accessible. However, some of the streets in the historic center are narrow and you’ll have to share the road with cars so be sure to stay alert.

We were also impressed by the extensive network of bike lanes and the amount of cyclists and scooters zipping around the streets. Visitors and locals can find bike and scooter rentals all over the city. We didn’t expect two-wheeled transportation to be so popular!

Convenient Public Transportation

Seville offers a reliable public transportation system, including local buses, taxis, and ride-sharing services like Uber. If you’re traveling further outside of the city, Seville has a modern and reliable train station.

We took the train from Seville to Granada and it was affordable, easy, and relaxing. The station is in the heart of Seville and it is clean and easy to navigate. One thing to note is that your luggage must pass through a security screening but that process was quick and painless.

Rich History and Culture

With a legacy spanning over 2,800 years, Seville is steeped in history and cultural heritage. Evidence of its storied past can be seen in landmarks such as the Cathedral and Palace, as well as remnants of Roman and Moorish influence scattered throughout the city.

We were in awe of the medieval city walls and the enduring legacy of flamenco, although we heard that flamenco is often geared towards tourists.

Architectural Marvels and Scenic Beauty

We were also awestruck by Seville’s architectural landscape. The city is full of colorful buildings, picturesque rivers, and elegant bridges that are pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist-friendly.

Serene Parks and Outdoor Spaces

Parque de Maria Luisa Seville, SpainThe amount of green spaces and parks enhances the romantic feel of the city.  From the Jardines de Murillo behind the Royal Alcazar Palace to the expansive Parque de Maria Luisa, there’s no shortage of places to unwind and enjoy nature’s beauty.

We particularly enjoyed finding a quiet spot in Parque de los Príncipes to relax, people-watch, and listen to the birds.

Excellent Restaurants

Foodies will love Seville’s diverse culinary scene. We found plenty of options to suit every palate and budget.

However, dining in tourist areas can be more expensive. We recommend venturing a few streets outside the popular areas to find hidden culinary gems serving up authentic flavors at reasonable prices.

Great Shopping

As for shopping, the city offers everything from small specialty stores to a fantastic pedestrian mall that goes on for blocks! Shoppers can find anything and everything thanks to the variety of stores.

The pedestrian shopping areas get crowded but we still felt safe shopping there and we really appreciated that we didn’t have to watch for cars.

Vibrant Community Atmosphere

Mercado in Seville, SpainThroughout our visit, we were struck by the sense of community in Seville, with locals and visitors alike enjoying the city’s offerings. We loved seeing friends and family hanging out over tapas and wine or beer and enjoying the beautiful evenings. There’s an undeniable energy that infuses every corner of the city.

The Downsides of Seville, Spain

Although we loved Seville there are some downsides:

Sweltering Summers

While Seville’s sunny weather is generally pleasant, summers can be scorching, with temperatures often exceeding 95°F (35°C).

Lots of People

Popular tourist areas can become overcrowded, particularly during peak seasons, necessitating patience and strategic planning to avoid the crowds.

We were shocked by the amount of tourists and large tourist groups when we were there, during the supposed low season!

Limited Grocery Options and Higher Dining Costs

Antonio Garcia Hats Seville, SpainVisitors may find the selection at local grocery stores somewhat lacking in variety, requiring trips to additional stores.

We enjoy going on a “scavenger hunt” as we like to call hitting up the small shops to find everything we need.

However, if you prefer one-stop shopping you’ll need to go to one of the larger supermarkets outside the city center.

Dining out in Seville can be relatively pricey in tourist-centric areas, although still more affordable compared to many other destinations.

We ate at a popular restaurant in the heart of the tourist area and ate at other restaurants in the local neighborhoods. The local restaurants were half the price for more food and an overall better dining experience.

Language Barrier

We struggled to understand the Spanish spoken in Seville because the accent is much different than what we are used to in Latin America. The Spaniards speak rapidly and we had trouble understanding some of the words and slang.

Cultural Differences

We didn’t experience a lot of culture shock but we weren’t prepared for some of the cultural differences.

Stores and restaurants close during the day for hours and that meant we needed to change our schedule a bit. We’re used to eating dinner around 6 pm but restaurants close around 4:30 and reopen for dinner at 7 pm or 8 pm. We had to get used to eating later.

Most stores close around 2 pm and reopen between 4 pm and 5 pm, including some grocery stores. Additionally most stores close on Sundays.

We learned the hard way that we shouldn’t wait to buy groceries! A couple of times we wanted to pick up a few things to cook and the stores were closed.

Another cultural difference is tipping. Tipping isn’t expected or required, except in the tourist areas. However, if you do decide to leave a tip, the norm is 10%.

Popular Expat Neighborhoods in Seville, Spain

Seville is a big city with a lot of interesting neighborhoods. Here are a few of our favorites:

Macarena

Setas de Sevilla SpainDuring our stay, we resided in the vibrant Macarena neighborhood, which is conveniently located close to popular areas. We walked to Setas de Sevilla in around 8 minutes and to the cathedral in around 15 minutes.

Macarena has a lot of history, colorful buildings, funky stores, and great restaurants. There’s a nice Mercado and several small grocery stores making it easy to get your essentials without leaving the area.

We also ventured across the river to explore the popular neighborhoods of Tablada and Triana.

Tablada

Tablada is a local neighborhood with a lot of younger people including young families and university students. We saw lots of high-rise condo buildings, and the vibe of the pedestrian mall, Calle Asunción, was quite a bit different because it wasn’t full of tourists.  You’ll find local shops there and they do close in the afternoons and on Sundays.

Triana

Guadalquivir River, Seville SpainTriana is more touristy although it is still popular with locals. We liked walking along the river past all the lively restaurants and the view of the bridges.

This neighborhood has a big Mercado and its own pedestrian mall which is located on Calle San Jacinto. The pedestrian mall has local stores and popular chain stores along with restaurants, bars, and tourist shops.

Final Thoughts

Despite a few drawbacks, we had an amazing time in Seville, Spain. We fell in love with the charm, vibrancy, and history of this incredible city.

However, due to the hot summers and huge amounts of tourists, we wouldn’t want to live there year-round. But it would be great to go back and spend more time exploring Seville and immersing ourselves in the culture.

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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