Getting the perfect rented apartment in Madrid or any place requires careful attention to details. You must bear in mind certain information that aids the rental search. Here are a few tips that will aid you in renting a great apartment in Madrid.
7 Things to Consider When Renting an Apartment in Madrid
This tip may sound basic but it is very important especially when it comes to renting an apartment. You must work out the budget needed for the apartment. Make sure that your budget works fine with your monthly budget. Your budget should be a realistic one, you should not spend more than 30% of your annual income on housing. Your renting budget could depend on the area you want to rent an apartment.
2. Furnished or Unfurnished Apartment:
You should also consider if you want to rent a furnished or unfurnished apartment. It is best that when you are renting for the short term, you get a furnished apartment. When going for an unfurnished apartment, it is best done on long-term rentals in Madrid. Then you can do your furnishing yourself. You must also bear in mind that furnished apartments are more expensive and they require a larger deposit.
3. Look Online:
When you are ready to rent an apartment you should start browsing for some Spain rental websites. You can also call the numbers listed on the websites instead of sending an email or message. Most good houses in Madrid do not stay long in the open market so, don’t wait on it. When you get or see an apartment you love, it is best to get in touch with the landlords or agents.
4. Using an Estate Agent:
When making use of some websites, the contact numbers listed there are usually that of agents. When using an agent, you should also bear in mind that you can incur some extra expenses. Sometimes, you can get in direct contact with the landlord of the less expensive building. Although, estate agents are normally the ones that advertise the best apartments.
5. Pick out the right questions to ask when viewing apartments:
You should ask the right questions when viewing apartments with the landlord or agents. Some very good questions include the following; what is the deposit? Are the bills included? and Are their community fees or if they are included?
6. Air and Heating Condition:
You must find an apartment that provides you with great air conditioning or heating system. Since Madrid weather can be very cold in the winter and incredibly hot in the hot summer months.
7. Energy Certificate:
It is important that you also check for an energy certificate in any apartment in Madrid. When an apartment ranks the G certificate, the bills are likely to be on the higher ends unlike apartments with the A certificate.
So there you have 7 Top Tips for finding an apartment in Madrid. Go through each of the mentioned tips carefully in order to get the most out of them while searching for your apartment. You should give yourself plenty of time to find an apartment that suits you.
Many people dream of buying property abroad. If you are thinking of doing so, we strongly recommend you do your homework and spend plenty of time carrying out research!
I’m sure you will not be surprised to hear that Spain continues to reign supreme when it comes to Brits looking at buying property abroad. In fact, the country outshines the rest of Europe for enquiries from overseas buyers.
A whopping 2,513,374 searches are made every month for property in Spain by Britons looking to move to Spain or buy a holiday home here, according to property website Rightmove figures. This figure is 74 per cent more than in France, which is the second- most searched for European country with Italy third and Portugal fourth.
There’s no north-south divide at play here either with Spain being the No 1 sunny destination for people from across the UK including Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and London. Incredibly, 54 per cent of searches for Spanish property came from Glasgow with Liverpool coming a close second.
With its relatively mild winters and wall-to-wall sunshine in the summer, it’s no wonder Spain continues to attract UK property buyers. With an average flight time of just over two hours from the UK to Spain, it’s easy enough to fly out for a weekend or head back to the home country to visit family and friends whenever the fancy takes you.
Where to buy in Spain?
The favourite resort for Brits seeking to buy in Spain is Alicante, where the average enquiry price is €126,054 followed by Mallorca, which is much more expensive with an average enquiry price of €397,813 and Malaga is in third place, with an average enquiry price of €191,830.
What are people looking for in property in Alicante?
Alicante has the lowest average enquiry price in Spain. According to Rightmove’s figures, 62 per cent are searching for villas while 38 per cent are looking for apartments in Alicante. The popular Costa Blanca beaches, golf courses and low-cost flights into Alicante are all great reasons why people want to move here. The property prices are also very reasonable, especially when compared to the second-favourite destination, Mallorca.
As a guide, it is still possible to buy a two-bedroom apartment with communal pool for €45,000 in Torrevieja, south of Alicante. Further north, there is a two-bedroom apartment on Rightmove’s website in Javea for €75.000.
Malaga ticks so many boxes for Brits looking for property in southern Spain with its famous Costa del Sol beaches and golf courses as well as the splendid mountain ranges, ski resorts, white villages and Andalusian hospitality. Villas and apartments by the beach or golf courses are popular choices when it comes to buying property in Malaga while the cave houses and little mountain villages are also unique experiences for expats moving abroad.
Property prices vary enormously from resort to resort but you can buy a two-bedroom apartment on the Mijas Costa for €89,000, a a two-bedroom apartment in Malaga city for €127,000 or a charming five-bedroom rural cavehouse for €39,000.
Is it a good time to buy property in Spain?
Many people dream of buying in Spain – flights are generally economical and take a little more than two hours, the quality of life (and the wine!) is very good, plus property prices are very reasonable compared to much of the UK. But while some dream, others turn it into a reality. You may be surprised to find that a second home in sun-drenched Spain could be within your reach.
While living the UK has its high points, the weather and the warm beer aren’t among them. This could explain why there are more than 2.5 million online searches for property in Spain from British residents each and every month, according to Rightmove’s research. These property seekers are looking for a balance between affordable plane fares and short flight times so they can enjoy a long weekend away or a permanent move but be able to head back to the UK at short notice for work or to see family and friends.
The top destination for British property-seekers is – sunny Spain! The average price of property these bargain-hunting Brits are seeking is €156,940, which won’t get you much – if anything at all – in many parts of the UK. Rightmove has also found that the most popular locations for Brits seeking holiday homes abroad tend to be in the top holiday hotspots too. So which is the most popular destination? Alicante and the Costa Blanca resorts of course.
Alicante has the most of those 2,513,374 enquiries a month with people searching for an average price per property of €126,054. Mallorca is second with an average price search of €397,813 while Malaga comes in third where the average enquiry price is €191,830.
What’s so attractive about Alicante?
With about 320 days of sun each year and an average temperature of 29oC in August and 11o in January, it’s no wonder the Alicante region is so appealing. Plus many budget airlines such as Ryanair, EasyJet, Monarch and Norwegian fly into Alicante airport, which is the fifth busiest airport in Spain, so it’s easy to get to.
Alicante province includes the attractive Costa Blanca resorts with hundreds of kilometres of sandy beaches to soak up the sun or try watersports. This is a fabulous area for sports such as:
- cycling along the same routes you’ve seen in the Vuelta de España
- sailing in the same waters as the Volvo Ocean Race round-the-world yacht teams
- playing tennis on the same courts as David Ferrer
- playing golf on competition courses
- or simply sampling yoga on the beach; horse-riding in the mountains; paragliding; rock climbing; stand-up paddle and so much more.
It’s a paradise for food lovers too. You can visit the markets to buy the finest selection of fresh shellfish and fish, such as the special Denia red prawn, or head to the restaurants to sample some of the many rice dishes including paella and arroz a banda (rice cooked in fish stock).
With vast beaches, super theme parks, great nightlife, glorious mountains, traditional little Spanish villages and bustling cities, there are so many reasons to buy property in Alicante.
What’s magnificent about Malaga?
Malaga is Spain’s fourth busiest airport since it serves the city and the entire Costa del Sol resorts. It’s another favourite with budget airlines so you can enjoy an affordable flight to your chosen destination. The Costa del Sol is a long favourite with British expats and holidaymakers who can choose from the `fun in the sun’ resort of Fuengirola to the chic Marbella resorts and everything in between.
With endless sunny days, an average temperature of 26oC in August and a lovely 12oC in January, it’s no wonder that so many people head to the Costa del Sol throughout the year. As well as topping up the tan, people love the region for its countless golf courses to test all handicaps as well as amazing water sports facilities, particularly around Marbella and the swanky Puerto Banus.
Many people are also fascinated to learn there are impressive ski resorts in the region. It takes about 90 minutes to drive to the Sierra Nevada for skiing or snowboarding. It seems incredible that you could be skiing in the snow in the morning and then one hour later be having lunch on the beach – but it’s absolutely true!
Food lovers can sample fresh fish or shellfood straight from the sea; or try the cold gazpacho or salmorejo soups to beat the summer heat; migas made with bread, garlic and olive oil; or rabo de toro (oxtail). Simply delicious!
With its selection of beach resorts, mountains, white villages, historic cities, culture and friendly welcome, it’s no wonder so many people are looking for property in Malaga and its surrounding district.
Your next move?
If you are looking for property in Malaga or Alicante, please take a look at the Move to Malaga website for further information. Our contact details are there so you can get in touch to let us help you make your move to Spain.
Tell me how you can help me save time and money on my purchase …
New Series: What Is The Real Cost of living in Spain?
Welcome to our new series of posts looking at the cost of living in Spain. In this introductory post, we will inform you of general costs and provide you with great sources of information that you can use to calculate your own budget.
Your own personal cost of living in Spain will depend on the size of your family, your chosen destination and, of course, your expected standard of living. The information we provide serves as a guideline and it is up to you, to be honest when making your own calculations. A “Tapas in Malaga” kind of lifestyle budget will be nowhere near a “Popstar in Marbella” kind of lifestyle budget 😉
When talking about why they made the move to Spain, many expats will say the quality of life is one good reason while others point to the sun which seems to be constantly beaming down from the sky. Great food, endless fiestas and friendly environment are also major attractions.
Pensioners find their money goes further in Spain than in the UK and other north European countries, despite the poorer exchange rate compared to a few years ago. However, workers, unless they are self-employed with most of their income earned from outside Spain, will find the wages to be disappointingly low. That said, it is still fair to say your money goes a long way. For most people, the cost of living in Spain is generally lower than in their home country.
As we mentioned, in future articles we will be looking in detail at the cost of living in the top Spanish destinations for expats but now we are going to give a general overview of how much you need to live in Spain.
Living costs vary between the regions and from resort to resort – the top cities of Madrid and Barcelona are expensive but Spain’s third largest city of Valencia is surprisingly cheap. Likewise, the Balearic islands and swanky resorts such as Marbella will cost more than living in Torrevieja or Malaga. It’s worth bearing that in mind if you are still unsure of where to move to in Spain. You will find that some of the most expensive Spanish cities also have the highest incomes. For example, the cost of living in Barcelona is 30.17% higher than the national average, San Sebastian is 27.85% higher and Madrid is 22.72%. However, while. the average salary in Spain is about €23,000, in Madrid, it is €36,000, €33,000 in Barcelona and €29,000 in San Sebastian. Figures also show the cost of living in Madrid or Barcelona is still 40% cheaper than London.
Cost of living in Spain: Day to Day Expenses
These data are based on 26070 entries in the past 18 months from 2114 different contributors.
Last update: March, 2017 Source: Numbeo.com
Tips for reducing your own cost of living in Spain: Food shopping
It goes without saying that you’ll also need to adapt to your new life in Spain, particularly when doing the weekly grocery shopping. Buying everything in one large supermarket is often not the best option.
In Spain, the indoor markets are great for buying fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. This is simply because you can buy as much or as little as you want – no pre-packed stuff there!
Each supermarket has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Lidl can be great for meat, frozen and fresh veg, and fruit while Mercadona is a favourite for toiletries and bread. Other top supermarkets in Spain are Carrefour, Consum, Dia, Supercor and Aldi. (Click on the supermarket’s names to access their websites and compare prices)
Take your time with the food shopping. Visit new places and embrace the change. And it goes without saying, that you should always try to buy fresh products that are in season.
The best idea is to be versatile – as a Spanish teacher advised: “If chicken is expensive then eat fish. If potatoes are dear, eat rice instead.”
What you will find, in almost all parts of Spain, is that it’s much more affordable to go out to eat – and a that is a great way to start integrating.
Internet and mobile phones:
Cost of internet packages vary along with the speeds but, thankfully, fibre optic is making a breakthrough in many areas. The best deals are with Movistar, Orange and Vodafone, although you’ll need to check what their coverage is like in your area. You may also find firms in your area offering packages too.
If you think your children would benefit from being taught in English or following the British curriculum, you will find many private international schools in Spain. There is more information in our articles about international schools in Malaga and Alicante.
A litre of petrol is currently about €1.28. Use this website to check current petrol and diesel costs in your chosen destination: https://www.elpreciodelagasolina.com/
The results show you the location of petrol stations near to where you are …
Cost of Living in Spain: Monthly Expenses
Rent can be anything from about €450 to over €5000 (subject to your requirements) and location. For researching rental prices in different areas, the best online sites are Kyero, ThinkSpain and Idealista.
This article will help you to decide on the best location for you: http://movetomalagaspain.com/property-finder-malaga/where-to-live-in-malaga/
This article explains how to use portals to check out specific rental properties in different destinations: http://movetomalagaspain.com/how-to-find-your-ideal-long-term-rental-in-spain/
Use this table to calculate the rent in your chosen area: http://www.fotocasa.es/indice-alquiler-inmobiliario__fotocasa.asp
TIP: Rent prices are rising and good rental properties are difficult to find. Be ready to act quickly as soon as you find something you like!
Here is a breakdown that serves as a guideline as to where your money will go
Cost of Living in Spain: Annual Expenses
You will also need to factor in annual expenses such as:
- car insurance (average of €600 a year)
- house insurance (contents and building is from €129 with Linea Direct)
- travel insurance (from €70)
- health insurance if not eligible for SIP card (from €40 a month for a 30-year-old male)
Check out our article on how to save money on insurance in Spain
- car tax (€90 for a four-year-old family car)
- municipal taxes (about €125)
- IBI tax as a homeowner (depends on property value but from €200 to €800)
You should budget for a further €1,800 to cover these annual bills.
If you run a business, you will have to pay:
- tax on earnings
- IVA (the equivalent of VAT) of 21% which you collect from your customers
- any insurance needed such as public liability insurance.
You can read more in our articles about the costs of setting up a business in Spain as a freelance and whether it is such a good idea or not.
As you can see, many costs are fairly low in Spain, especially the fun ones such as having an after-work drink or dining out. When you add the other benefits of living in Spain such as the sheer beauty of the country, the crazy fiestas and the attitude of the locals, it’s worth every penny!
Take the first step towards living in MALAGA or ALICANTE. Contact us now!
We are often asked where is the best place to live in Spain.
Guess what we answer?
If you read our posts and follow us on Twitter and Facebook, you will see all the photographs we post. Most of them are from where we think the best place to live in Spain is. It is, of course, our, hometown of Mijas in the province of Malaga. We must also point out that it is Mijas Pueblo, the village, not the coastal area. Mijas Pueblo and Mijas Costa are two very different areas, but we’ll talk about that another day.
Here are a few pictures to give you an idea …
The Malaga province has so much to offer. It is not just all about Marbella or the Costa del Sol!
If you’d like to know more about the different areas of Malaga, read our post about the Malaga province HERE.
Here are our A to Z Reasons for living in Malaga
… maybe the best place to live in Spain ???
Airport: Malaga’s International Airport is a modern state of the art terminal that is being continually improved and updated. It is the fourth busiest airport in Spain after Madrid, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca. It offers flight to over 70 destinations worldwide with passenger numbers in 2011 close to 13 million. The majority of traffic through Malaga Costa del Sol Airport (or Pablo Ruiz Picasso Airport as it is also known) comes from within the EU, although there are regular flights to Moscow, Riyadh, Kuwait, New York and Montreal. For more details visit this website: Aena
Beaches: The extensive beaches on the Costa del Sol, their diversity and climate have transformed the region into the best holiday destination. Enjoy them in the summer and almost all the year round! Malaga boasts more than 160km of coastline with a multiplicity of beaches. Malaga is proud to be home to many blue flag beaches.
Chiringuito: Malaga’s coastal region is simply littered with beach bars of all types. The most traditional and the most frequented by both tourists and residents alike are the little chiringuitos which traditionally serve locally caught fish and seafood. The image of sardines being cooked in a sand filled fishing boat is a popular image of this region.
Donkey Taxis: In Mijas, in the early 60s, visitors to the village asked if they could photograph the workers travelling home on their donkeys and have a ride themselves. This soon became a regular occurrence and the donkey taxi was born. Donkey-Taxis are today an institution in Mijas and one of its main attractions.
Education: Whether you are looking for a state-run Spanish or a private International school for your children, you have plenty to choose from. Educational options exist from pre- school nurseries, primary, junior, secondary and further education. (Read more about Schools in Málaga here).
Feria & Flamenco: Málaga is home to flamenco and fería. Every village and town in the province enjoys ferias throughout the year. The main Málaga fería takes place each year in the month of August. If you have not experienced the Feria de Málaga, be sure to add it to the top of your “to-do” list! Flamenco is performed by young and old, male and female. Flamenco is passion!
Golf: Spain has a huge number of golf courses, approximately 500, more than 70 of which are in Andalucia. What is more, the Costa del Sol is home to the highest concentration of greens and fairways to be found, not only in Spain but, in the whole of Europe. Not without reason has the Costa del Sol, with the finest golf facilities in Europe, become known as the Costa del Golf. It´s simply a golfers paradise! The 160 kilometre stretch of coastline, from Nerja in the east to Manilva in the west, is home to over 50 golf courses all of which are ideal locations in which to enjoy this popular sport. Add the fabulous year round climate and it’s most definitely golfing heaven.
Holidays: Where better to spend your holidays. The Costa del Sol in Malaga is one of Spain´s most popular holiday destination for a multitude of nationalities. It is a great place to own a holiday home whether it be for your own use or as a source of income.
International: Due to the diversity of nationalities who live and also visit the Malaga province, there is a very international and cosmopolitan feel to many areas. This applies predominantly to coastal areas, however, there are many inland towns and villages that are also inhabited by a high percentage of non-Spanish citizens.
Jamon: Jamon Serrano, Jamon Iberico … Spanish cured ham. A local delicacy and a common starter or tapa.
Kids: What does Malaga have to offer for children? Here´s just a few options to look out for: Water parks, Tivoli, Crocodile Park, Selwo Adventure safaris park, Selwo Marina, Sealife Benalmadena, numerous outdoor free parks inc Parque La Bateria, Parque la Paloma ….
Lifestyle: The number one reason for moving to Malaga!
Montes de Malaga: Montes de Málaga Natural Park is located quite near the capital of the Costa del Sol and can be said to serve as a “green lung” for the city. This park – found in the central-western zone of the Baetic Range – encompasses a mid-mountain landscape of gentle topography, criss-crossed by small valleys populated with extensive pine forests. It offers a range of outdoor activities and some amazing food. Look out for the famous “plato de los montes”.
Nightlife: The province of Málaga and the Costa del Sol have one of the most thriving nightlife nationwide. From beach bars and restaurants, bars, or pubs to nightclubs. Malaga offers both traditional and exclusive establishments. The towns come alive at night.
Olives & Olive Oil: Olive groves line many a road in the Malaga province. Unlike the bitter olives tasted in some other countries, Spanish olives, particularly the manzanilla variety are juicy and even sweet. Iberian olives are usually cured and eaten, often after being pitted, stuffed (with pickled pimento, anchovies, or other fillings) and packed in brine in jars or tins. And, of course, almost everything is cooked in olive oil!
Proximity: The excellent location of Málaga Province and Costa del Sol, plus the effective road infrastructure make it easy to access them by air, by road, by sea or by rail. Málaga’s size, the road infrastructure and modern vehicles make the province easily accessible from different Spanish locations. Málaga Airport is located 8 miles from downtown and well connected with Costa del Sol. The airport is the chief of all Spanish airports and one of the original locations with the first airline that was established in Spain in 1919 .The most important traffic in the airport is the European Union. London Gatwick is the destination with the most travellers, followed by Manchester, Dublin, London-Luton, Paris Charles De Gaulle and Brussels.
Quitapenas Bodega: Home to one of the most ancient wines of Spain. Although a relatively new DO compared with the many other wine regions of Spain, Malaga produces the distinctively flavoured wins such as Moscatel, Malaga Dulce, Malaga PX, Vegasol and Vegasur. Visit the bodegas website for more details visit this website: www.quitapenas.es
Recreation: The province of Malaga offers a multitude of recreational activities to suit all ages and interests. Watersports, golf, ice skating, inland rural activities, water parks, theme parks, animal rescue centres, bars, restaurants, shops. Whatever your favourite past time, you will be almost certainly able to find it here.
Sierra Nevada: Ok we are cheating a bit here as the Sierra Nevada is actually in Granada! However, it is only a 2 hour drive from Malaga and so is a popular option for day trips or weekends away. It is also possible to ski in the snow and swim in the sea on the same day! Details about Sierra Nevada here: http://sierranevada.es/
Tapas / Tinto de Verano: Tapas are a wonderful Spanish tradition and can be found in many bars in Malaga. Tapas are small plates of food that are a great way to test the local specialities. Tinto de verano is a refreshing summer drink. A mix of red wine and lemonade poured over ice and topped with a slice of lemon. Beware of drinking too many in the sun!
University: Málaga University (UMA) is a public institution which promotes outstanding research and teaching within the European Higher Education Area. The institution follows an educational model to promote competitive, quality teaching which is employment-orientated and accredited in Europe. Its vigor and growth over recent years have resulted in it becoming a reference point for universities in Spain. University School of Nursing (Provincial). Plaza Hospital Civil. s/n, 29009, Malaga (Spain).
Villages: Famous for its whitewashed villages scattered around the province, this is where you can experience the “real Spain of old”. In contrast to the modern and cosmopolitain coastline areas, the white washed villages of Malaga maintain their cultures and traditions.
Weather: One of the reasons why the Costa del Sol has become a world-class travel destination is the Mediterranean climate: mild all year round with an average temperature of 18º C. In the summer, temperatures rise to 25º C-30º C, whereas in winter they never go below 14º C during the day. There are hinterland areas, however, where the climate is continental and therefore marked by greater diurnal and seasonal variations in temperature.
X … marks Malaga as the spot to move to! (and if you want another substitute for the letter X: Xavier Dupre designed the Malaga font)
Yurts & Glamping: Glamping (glamorous camping) is a growing global phenomenon that combines camping with the luxury and amenities of a home or hotel. Also called boutique camping, luxury camping, posh camping or comfy camping, glamping allows travelers to experience nature without the hassle of finding camp space, carrying their tents, and erecting and taking down their own tents. Lodgings at a glamping sites include structures such as yurts, tipis, pods, bell tents, safari tents, tent cabins, and tree houses. Find some glamping options here: GoGlamping.com
Zoo Bioparc Fuengirola champions a new model of zoo based on respect for nature and the preservation of natural species, a model which has already established itself as a flagship for Europe. What Bioparc Fuengirola represents is a different concept of zoo. A zoological park where animals live side-by-side, recreating their natural habitat and so fostering their development at all levels. For more information: Visit http://www.bioparcfuengirola.es/en There are also Marinas, Crocodile Parks, Selwo Safari Park and many other places to visit animals in the Malaga area.
For more information about this beautiful area of Spain, contact : Costa del Sol Tourist Board – Plaza del Siglo, nº2 – 29015 Málaga Tel: +34 952126272 Fax: 34 952225207 firstname.lastname@example.org www.visitcostadelsol.com
So, what do you think? It’s a pretty great place with lots to offer. Where do you think is the best place to live in Spain?
Molly previously compared Barcelona and Granada. Read her thoughts here.
Would you like to write about your chosen home in Spain? If so, please get in touch. We’d love to tell everyone about where you live.
Thanks for reading and we hope you love Malaga as much as we do!
PS: Do you want to know a little secret? Well, if we didn’t have children we’d probably head off to the province of Cadiz … but that will have to wait for a few years yet 😉
If you are thinking about Moving to Spain, our book will answer a lot of your questions …
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You can see videos about out adventures on Our Family in Spain YouTube Channel.
If you are thinking of moving to Spain and wondering where to live, it is always interesting to hear what other expats living in Spain have to say about areas they have lived in.
In this article, Alicia gives us her thoughts on two popular locations on the Costa del Sol. She talks about living in Benalmadena and the maybe lesser known Alhaurin de la Torre.
Over to you Alicia …
When you think of the Costa del Sol, sun and sea instantly come to mind. Benalmádena sounds familiar to many, having been a popular holiday destination for many years, but the less well-known Alhaurín de la Torre is very close by and can offer an alternative way to be on the Costa del Sol but with fewer of those holidaymakers.
Living in Spain has many advantages, and for a majority of people the decision to relocate here can be reduced to several key factors (lifestyle, climate, or work) and the location of a new life in Spain will depend on the priorities each of these factors has. Once this has been decided, and the Costa del Sol has been ‘chosen’ as a location of interest, there are still many choices of places to live, each with their pros and cons.
This is where the comparison of Alhaurin de la Torre and Benalmádena comes in handy.
As per many places along the coast, Benalmadena has its roots in the fishing industry. However, what used to be a sleepy attractive fishing community is now a buzzing spot for visitors (both international and national). Pretty Torremolinos on one side and an increasingly international Fuengirola on the other flank Benalmádena’s long stretch of coastline.
Beside the seaside
Benalmadena boasts some lovely beaches. Well cared-for and with gentle coves, the inviting Mediterranean sea suits families and sun-lovers alike. The beaches are nice for swimmers, and a personal preference was enjoying the peace and ‘early-morning’ sun between 08.00 and 11.00am before the hoardes of tourists descended.
A town of three parts
Benalmádena is not just all coast. In fact it has three very distinct areas – the beaches and port area, Arroyo de la Miel, and Benalmádena Pueblo.
Each of these are very different, and will target a different set of criteria. Puerto Marina (the port) is an attractive area with expensive looking yachts surrounded by a unique architecture of residential buildings. A relatively newly constructed area (launched in the early 80’s) this is a desirable location for many, seeing as it also boasts many shops, restaurants, bars as well as mini-golf and the sea-life centre (http://www.visitsealife.com/benalmadena/).
For those who want more of a ‘town’ lifestyle, Arroyo de la Miel is just that. Situated further up the hill and maybe a 20 minute walk from the coast, this is a traditional Spanish town without any pretensions of being something it’s not. Supermarkets, libraries, schools, shops and bars are all at hand, and the railway station on the cercanías line (running from Fuengirola to Malaga centre) is right in the centre of the town. Up here you have Tivoli (an attraction park with all the fun of the fair all year), Selwo Marina where you can watch dolphins play, swim with the sea-lions, or observe other sea-based creatures (www.selwomarina.es), or even head up the mountain via the cable car (www.telefericobenalmadena.com) where you can enjoy amazing views of the whole Costa del Sol.
Benalmádena Pueblo is a traditional looking Andalucía village, even further up the hillside and further away from the other two areas of Benalmádena, but offers a different sort of lifestyle. For those looking to integrate themselves into village life this would be ideal, as the small town offers all the shops and amenities that you may need, wonderful views, and a true community feel. Its location means that it is also very accessible from the motorway connecting the various towns along the Costa del Sol.
Alhaurín de la Torre
Alhaurín de la Torre (frequently referred to as simply Alhaurín) is not to be confused with its larger neighbour Alhaurín el Grande. Alhaurín is often overlooked by visitors to the Costa del Sol, in search of more eye-catching or more well-known places, but in fact has plenty to offer, and is rapidly growing in popularity.
House prices are notably cheaper than those in the coastal areas, either for renting or buying. Rent-wise 500€ a month in the coast may get you a one bedroom flat, but with 400€ in Alhaurín you may be able to enjoy 2-3 bedrooms, plus an outdoor space. For anyone interested in living in the middle of the countryside even more bargains are to be had, with small cottages available to rent for similar prices. Buying property in either area has similar proportions with regards to what you can get for your money. Food prices are also slightly cheaper, as Alhaurín is not considered such a tourist hub, and this is reflected in these other costs.
In the ‘campo’
Despite being a town with a population close to 40,000 inhabitants, Alhaurín still feels very village like and the centre itself is relatively small. Only 30-40 years ago what is now the main shopping area in town was an un-asphalted space, with dust tracks instead of roads. In fact, the area behind where I lived (now a small car park) not so long ago was used to keep pigs and other farm animals. This feeling of being in the countryside (or the campo) is not easily forgotten as both fields and mountains surround the town, and it is an excellent area to go hiking or walking.
Despite the growing numbers of foreign residents in Alhaurín there is a strong emphasis on the Spanish influence in the town, and languages other than Spanish are rarely heard. The local residents are welcoming and friendly and there are many ferias and local events, ranging from the medieval fair, to concerts or art exhibitions at the local ‘cultural centre’ Centro Cultural ‘Vicente Aleixandre’ (http://www.culturalh.com/centro-cultural-vicente-aleixandre/)
Location, location, location
Although Alhaurín is not on the coast, it is only 15-20 minutes away from the beaches of Torremolinos and the same distance from the centre of Malaga and all it has to offer. It isn’t on any train lines, although the one located at the outdoor shopping centre Plaza Mayor is nearby, but it is very close to the airport (strategically located only 10 minutes away, yet is not on any flight lines). The closeness to the airport makes it very convenient for visits abroad and is close enough to dash back home for a forgotten passport (speaking from experience…).
Both Benalmádena and Alhaurín de la Torre are great places to live and have plenty to offer in terms of amenities and natural environments. Benalmádena is better equipped for tourism, with plenty to see and do, and understands the need for information and structure that many visitors like to have, although this does mean that you are rarely without tourists nearby. It also has a strong ex-pat community which may be a plus or a minus depending on your perspective. Alhaurín is a bit more authentic and feels more Spanish, although this can be less easy to deal with when it comes to finding out where to go/what to do. They are both near enough to ‘the big city’ (Malaga) for anyone interested in other cultural activities, so a key factor may simply be the proximity to the sea.
As Benalmádena has various ‘faces’, this allows for a certain level of flexibility when choosing where to live within the area, but for me Alhaurín offered the perfect balance of countryside living and town-life, yet still being close enough to the seaside without the stress of sharing my space with holidaymakers.
About the author: Alicia Shelley
Alicia studied Cognitive Science at Leeds University, graduating in 2005. In 2006 she moved to the Costa del Sol and although was originally based in the tourism sector she now works in an international association in the Technology Park of Andalusia, as well as teaching English in her spare time. She loves living in Spain and is a collaborator with www.andaluciainterior.com where she writes articles in English, sharing thoughts and information about inland Andalucía.
Do you agree or disagree with Alicia’s thoughts? Where would you rather live? Post your comments and we will welcome other ideas too about where to live in Spain.
Don’t forget to read Molly’s thoughts about Granada v Barcelona HERE
and Caroline’s thoughts about Madrid and Valencia HERE
Diana’s positive comments about Archidona and Frigiliana HERE
Cat and Hayley’s opinions on Antequerra and Seville HERE
And, of course, our totally biased opinion HERE
If you are thinking about moving to Spain, watch out “Moving to Spain videos” for lots of essential information.
Living in Seville versus Antequera: Comparing the South’s Biggest City to its Most Centrical
If you are thinking of moving to Spain and wondering where to live in Spain, it is always interesting to hear what other expats living in Spain have to say about areas they have lived in.
In this article, Cat and Hayley, two young, North Americans give us their thoughts on living in Seville and Antequera …
Seville is Southern Spain’s de-facto capital and a must-see on the tourism circuit. It’s also the center of politics and culture in the south. Antequera, on the other hand, is in the dead center of Andalusia and about as typically Spanish as you can get.
Here we give you the battle between settling in Andalusia’s largest city, Seville, or enjoying the small town charm of Antequera.
The Pros for living in Seville …
Proximity to the beaches and mountains: Seville is located in the Guadalquivir Valley and sits at just one hour from both the beaches in Huelva and the mountains in the Sierra Norte or Cádiz. It’s also not far from the Portuguese border.
Interurban transportation and friendly on cyclists: Home to an international airport, a major train station, and two bus depots, it’s easy to travel from Seville to destinations all over Spain. Several major motorways service the city, too. Seville has also received the accolade of being Spain’s most bike-friendly city, thanks to its flat terrain and over 100 kilometers of bike lanes.
The tapas and dining scene: Seville is well-known for its tapas, a small dish consumed at mealtime. Locals say the bar culture has kept the economy afloat, and the establishments are practically a Sevillano’s living room. What’s more, Seville offers several other types of cuisine, from Indian and Mexican to Argentinian, so you won’t have to eat tortilla española at every meal.
Beauty, folklore, and history: It’s impossible to keep Seville’s charm a secret. From the horse-drawn carriages to the eclectic architecture, the city is full of beautiful corners to explore. Seville is also quite traditional, so flamenco and bullfighting are common art forms and synonymous with the city. Living in Seville means never getting bored of its beauty.
Historic Seville is one of the many culture and contributions to Spanish patrimony. After all, it was here that the Catholic Kings gave Christopher Columbus money to discover the New World, and the riches the conquerors brought back were funneled through the city. This has left its legacy in both architecture and language, making Seville a culturally rich city.
Local festivals: Known for both its extravagant Holy Week and colorful local fair, Seville actually has a local minister solely dedicated to the springtime festivals. Because Seville is a cultural capital, there are plenty of flamenco shows, music festivals, and gastronomic markets throughout the year.
Strong international contingent: Truly a city with international flair, Seville has become home to people from many cultures without being too overwhelming. There are several international groups for expats to join, allowing us to stay in contact with our language and culture. Seville is also home to two universities, meaning Erasmus students arrive in droves during the academic year.
In the Pros Antequera corner…
Location, location, location: Antequera was nearly chosen as the capital of Spain’s Southern Autonomous Community for its strategic position in the geographic center of Andalucía. Nowhere are you better positioned to visit the South’s most famous cities than in Antequera. Head north to Córdoba or south to Málaga and arrive in just under an hour; while a trip west to Seville or east to Granada will take you around an hour and a half.
Antequera is also within an hour’s drive to the famous Costa del Sol beaches. Are mountains more your scene? Just 15 minutes outside the city is the famous El Torcal Park and Nature Reserve with Jurassic age rock formations that will take your breath away and transport you to another time.
Transportation: If you’re looking leave Andalucía, book high-speed train travel to Madrid from Antequera’s Santa Ana AVE station and arrive in two and a half hours. Or try Málaga’s International Airport, Spain’s fourth busiest with major routes servicing Spain, Europe, America, and Asia.
Eat on the cheap: If you’re looking for a traditional tapas experience look no further. Antequera keeps Spain’s culinary tradition alive and well by charging clients just over 80¢ for a small plate of food to accompany their drink of choice. Take advantage of the small portion sizes to sample a variety of tapas and expect to spend a mere 10€ on a meal out.
Still not full? Don’t forget to save room for breakfast! Antequera is known throughout Spain as home to the mollete, a delicious white bread roll served lightly toasted and spread with any number of typical breakfast toppings from tomato and olive oil, to jam or even paté. Though you’ll see mollete on menus all over Spain, the best can only be found in Antequera.
Culture: Where better to soak up Spanish culture than in this typical mid-sized city? Antequera hosts two ferias each year, one in May and the other in August, which coincide with bullfights at its bullring, built in 1848. Other festivals throughout the year keeps things lively: don’t miss the Tapa Fair usually held in June, September’s Medieval festival or February’s Carnival celebrations.
Practice makes perfect: Looking to perfect your Spanish? Try living in a small town rather than a capital city. With very few fellow ex-pats to depend on it would be almost impossible not to improve your Spanish while living in Antequera.
Cons for living in Seville
For every upside to living in Seville, there seems to be a downside. It’s actually an odd paradigm that expats get used to, but the annoyances sometimes creep up from time to time.
Limited flights from the San Pablo airport: Seville’s airport is quite small and doesn’t fly to many international destinations. This means flying from Málaga or Madrid is sometimes necessary, or catching several flights to reach your destination.
Still one hour from beaches and mountains: Seville is relatively close to the coast and to the mountains, but not that close. When you choose not to have a car, escaping the city can be tricky.
City-wide public transportation: While Seville is considered a transportation hub, the local public transportation leaves much to be desired: it’s expensive, slow and doesn’t reach every part of the city. Biking and walking is the best way to get around.
The heat: Seville is one of continental Europe’s hottest cities, and May to October feel like living in a sauna. Because the city sits in a valley, all of the hot air remains trapped over the city, a meteorological phenomenon known as El Bochorno to locals. No wonder so many sevillanos head to the coast every weekend!
Cost of living is higher: Naturally, living in a city means paying more for rent, entertainment and transportation. Aspiring expats should check out the cost of living as part of their research before choosing a city over a small town.
Small town blues: Life’s certainly far from perfect in Antequera. While locals are friendly and open, with only one cinema, a small shopping mall and a handful of grocery stores, expect to run into the same faces again and again. If you’re a fan of anonymity, Antequera is not the place for you.
Missing home?: It’s been a long day and nothing would make you happier than to kick back with some fellow English speakers in front of a hot plate of Mexican nachos, some spicy Indian curry or even a bowl delicious Thai noodles. Not in Antequera. If you’re a fan of frequent international flavors and company this traditional Spanish town may not be for you.
Buy a car: Antequera is well positioned in the heart of Andalucía; but you’ll be hard-pressed to take advantage of its stellar location without your own transportation. While busses and trains to major cities and small villages do exist, their timetables are famously irregular and inconvenient.
Have we peaked your interest? Have you made a decision? Are you a North American thinking of relocating to Spain? Get in touch.
Do you agree or disagree with Cat and Hayley’s thoughts? Where would you rather live? Post your comments and we will welcome other ideas too about where to live in Spain.
Don’t forget to read Molly’s thoughts about Granada v Barcelona HERE
and Caroline’s thoughts about Madrid and Valencia HERE
Diana’s positive comments about Archidona and Frigiliana HERE
And, of course, our totally biased opinion HERE
If you are thinking about moving to Spain, watch out “Moving to Spain videos” for lots of essential information.
The next post in our series of guest posts about living in Spain and looking for the best place to live in Spain, written by people who have actually lived there. This time Diana tells us about the maybe lesser known towns of Archidona and Frigiliana in southern Spain.
No negatives from Diana this time. Have you lived in either Archidona or Frigiliana? We’d love to hear your thoughts…
I am lucky to have had the privilege of living in two of the most beautiful towns in Spain, in my opinion. Frigiliana, which is close to the coast of the Costa Del Sol, east of Malaga and Archidona, which is inland of Malaga, close to the borders of Seville and Cordoba and the almost dead centre of Andalucia. Here are my views on each place, I love them both equally and can recommend either one to anyone moving to Spain, but I will let you make your own minds up…
The good points of Frigiliana
- The café and restaurant life in Frigiliana is fabulous, there are so many bars and restaurants to choose from and all have stunning views. You also have a huge choice of international cuisine in nearby coastal towns such as Nerja and Torrox.
- The nightlife is a little quieter, apart from the bars that are open until late, but there is a great choice of bars, clubs, shows etc in nearby towns if that is what you enjoy.
- Frigiliana is close to the beaches of the Costa Del Sol and all the attractions there, all of the main motorways and airports are easily accessible.
- You are close enough to the international school at Almunecar if that is the type of education you would prefer for your children. If not there is a primary school in Frigiliana and other primary and secondary schools in nearby Nerja.
- If you need to use public transport there is a regular bus service from Frigiliana to Nerja daily and from Nerja you can travel to other major cities by bus.
- There are lots of great walking routes and mountains to explore in the area if you enjoy walking or climbing then this is the place to be.
- Frigiliana old town is steeped in history with many winding cobbled streets and steps leading to who knows where to explore.
- There is a large expat community in this area, as, in most areas of the coast, this means contacts and friends are made easily here.
- Frigiliana has its own microclimate giving a more moderate climate all year round compared to some other places in Spain. The summers warm and humid and the winters are mild here with snow being very rare.
- There is a more international feel in this area and the Frigiliana 3 Cultures festival is testament to that, celebrating the history and multi-culture of the town.
The good points of Archidona
- Archidona is more or less central in Andalucia so if sight-seeing and travel are your things it is a fabulous base to explore the whole of Andalucia.
- There are two primary schools and two secondary schools here so a great choice of education and all are equally as good as the next. Granada, Seville, Malaga and Cordoba universities are all within easy driving distance for those with older children.
- The town and surrounding villages are very family orientated, everyone knows each other and what you are up to, you can judge for yourself whether you think that is a good thing or a bad thing!
- Inland Spain is much more “Spanish” than the coastal areas, you won’t find many people who speak English so learning the language is a must here. Archidona is very traditionally Spanish, there aren’t many people of different backgrounds living here so it’s a great place to immerse yourself in real Spanish life.
- The bars and restaurants in Archidona all serve Spanish food and free tapas and you won’t find it difficult to find a cheap and filling “menu del Dia” for around 7 or 8 euros for 3 courses.
- There are local walking groups and lots of lovely walking routes to get you out and about in the glorious countryside.
- If you prefer more defined seasons, weather wise, then you will prefer to live inland where summers are hotter and much less humid than the coast and winters are cooler, we even get snow here every other year or so!
- If you are visiting or moving to Spain to get away from all the hustle and bustle of home then you will love it here, it is quiet and has fewer tourists and visitors than the busier Costa Del Sol.
- There are 2 lakes in Archidona which are nature reserves and we are also close to Lake Iznajar and the El Chorro lake district for water sports, fishing and sailing.
- Local festivals are an intimate affair where locals meet up to dance and drink the night away and you can see toddlers and great grandparents until all hours of the morning enjoying the festivities.
I can’t really give you the bad points as in my opinion there aren’t any for either! It depends entirely on your age, family life, work and education needs as to which you prefer. Some like the more cosmopolitan atmosphere of the coast with its more modern lifestyle and infrastructure while others prefer the more laid back and traditional life that inland Spain offers.
Diana is the owner of Supported Holidays Spain providing holidays for adults with learning disabilities and she also has a beautiful holiday apartment for self-catering holidays: www.supportedholidaysspain.com www.cortijo-los-almendros.co.uk
Do you agree or disagree with Diana’s thoughts? Where would you rather live? Post your comments and we will welcome other ideas too about where to live in Spain.
Don’t forget to read Molly’s thoughts about Granada v Barcelona HERE
and Caroline’s thoughts about Madrid and Valencia HERE
If you are thinking about moving to Spain, watch out “Moving to Spain videos” for lots of essential information.
For details about how we can help you Move To Malaga, visit our relocation website: www.MoveToMalaga.com
We have recently recorded a series of Moving to Spain videos that cover subjects that we are regularly asked about.(As we mentioned in our post: The 12 days of christmas 2013 a confession and #wabas12) Although entitled “Moving to Spain with Children“, the majority of the information discussed will be useful to all ages and for anyone looking for moving to Spain videos with hints and tips.
We cover important issues that you should consider, before, during and after your planned move to Spain.
Once you have watched them, send us any questions you have that we have not already covered and we’ll use them in our next series ..
VIDEO 1: The important facts about applying for an NIE in Spain and Spanish residency. Many people are unsure whether they should apply for an NIE or a residency certificate. We explain the differences and how to easily submit your own applications.
VIDEO 2: Location, location, location : When you are deciding where is the best place to live in Spain, particularly if you have children, it is very important to do your research. To receive my checklist, just email me via the contact form on our website
VIDEO 3: Money Matters: Using currency transfer specialists can help you to save money when moving to Spain. You do not need an NIE to open a Spanish bank account ….
VIDEO 4: Vehicles & EU Driving Licences: Is your UK driving licence valid for driving in Spain? Is it cheaper to import your UK reg car to Spain or would it be better to purchase a Spanish car? Watch and find out …
VIDEO 5: Understanding Spanish Healthcare: I talk to Maria Cecilia from Compass Healthcare guidance about finding your way around the Spanish healthcare system. What are you entitled to? What to check when taking out health insurance…
VIDEO 6: Education in Spain: Ensure you check out the education options for you children before deciding where to live in Spain. This is only the beginning of a series on Education in Spain… (meet Joshua my son too!)
VIDEO 7: The importance of timing: Timing your move to Spain is fundamental for a successful relocation.
Factors to consider:
1. The time in your life
2. The time in your child’s life
3. The time of year
VIDEO 8: Making friends and meeting people: Too many people worry about not making friends when they move abroad. Social media is a great tool for making new friends. I chat with Ali Meehan, founder of Costa Women about making friends in Spain.
VIDEO 9: Language issues: Learning Spanish will only enhance your experience of living in Spain. Do your research: not everyone in Spain speaks Spanish (ie castellano), regional languages also exist!
VIDEO 10: Keeping in touch: What are the best methods for keeping in touch with family and friends when you move to Spain? We use telephones, emails, skype, social media and blogs …
So, there you have our first series of Moving to Spain Videos . We hope you found the information useful. Pleae fell free to add your comments and give feedback. We look forward to your requests for subjects to cover in future videos …
To keep updated with our new videos on our channel: SUBSCRIBE HERE
Valencian street art
If you are thinking of moving to Spain and wondering where to live in Spain , it is always interesting to hear what other expats living in Spain have to say about areas they have lived in.
Today, Caroline gives us her thought on the beautiful cities of Madrid and Valencia…
From the stimulating and spontaneous Mediterranean coast, to the noble and austere heart of Spain, Valencia and Madrid have much to offer for both holiday-makers and those wanting to make Spain their home. While the luminous coast and the sagacious inland cities are different, they both have much to offer.
Valencia – The good
So often a cliché, but with at least 300 blue-sky days per year, your soul with thrive in the light and warmth of Valencia. Spain gets cold in winter, something often forgotten by outsiders, but while most of Spain shivers in the depths of winter, Valencia remains milder than its counterparts. Have no fear, skiing is not far away if you like to chill, but be prepared for 20-degree winter days, as well. When summer rolls around, I love to relax in the hot sunshine, or kick back on the beaches tantalisingly close to the city centre.
Valencia boasts a park to die for, nestled in a dried riverbed. Seven kilometres of both revelry and solace runs through the city like a vein of indulgence. It starts with the wondrous Bioparc zoo; the green belt weaves its way past lucky locals with sports fields, playgrounds, cafés, cycle lanes, paths to stroll along, ponds and fountains, and greenery all around. The park comes to rest gently near the sea, blessed with the magnificent Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, the City of Arts and Sciences complex, giving all day beauty and entertainment. Sitting under a tree for a picnic or watching a dolphin perform – the Turia has it all.
Don’t bother driving this amazingly compact city; you can walk from one side to another. From the beaches just north and south of the city centre, to the majestic old town, and everything in between, you will see it all in no time. Airport and train links can have you anywhere in hours. Smaller towns and the stunning Albufera Lake also beckon nearby, giving a whole new perspective on the Valencian region.
Valencia has an air of spontaneity and enjoyment. From the lavish and exciting Las Fallas festival to everyday activities, Valencia makes me feel young. Less concerned with an official identity compared to other cities, Valencia allows freedom and contentment. Whether I want to walk around wearing my best, or take it casual, I slot right in. When I first moved to Valencia, I had no idea about the Spanish lifestyle, but Valencia has no set rules.
First settled by the Romans over 2000 years ago, the jewel of a city has been a prize ever since. The ruins of the first settlement remain; right alongside many more structures carefully crafted and adored over 1000 years or more. The Valencia Cathedral, the Gothic Torres de Serranos and Torres de Quart, La Sonja silk market, Mercado Central, Miguelete bell tower, Virgen de los Desamparados basilica, medieval churches and a host of art museums are just some of the sights to explore. Valencia’s commitment to ensuring its place as a beautiful eternal city rewards locals and visitors alike.
Valencian is an official language right alongside Spanish in the region. This variant of Catalan is taught in schools, to preserve the tradition. Valencia city itself has its own unique variant, but if you only speak Spanish, that’s okay too. Increasingly, people in the city are speaking more English if you are truly stumped, a stark contrast to a decade ago. You won’t get authentic paella anywhere but Valencia, and you can swap the usual churros and chocolate for more local horchata and fartons if you want to immerse yourself more. Las Fallas, a truly Valencian fiesta, will make you feel at home as you learn to burn giant statues on every street corner to welcome in springtime.
Valencia is a top Spanish city but doesn’t boast the prices of its counterparts. Shopping provides both the larger national stores along with local varieties, and everything from the food to the properties won’t have the hefty price tag other European cities carry around. From the old town restored apartments to beachside or rural homes, your euro will go further. You can walk out of a restaurant after dinner, wondering you just accidentally ripped off the owners with the small bill; but you can also take on a Michelin star quality experience since Valencia provides all the choices.
Valencia – The not-so good
Noise. One study showed that 40 percent of Valencians have poor hearing, and that wouldn’t surprise me. I have gotten more peace on Barcelona’s La Rambla than in an average Valencian street. If you live or stay in the old town, prepare to get no peace. One of my Valencian apartments was on the 30th floor, which blocked out some noise, but my neighbours were always there to shout conversations at each other at 2am.
Plaza de la Virgen Valencia
After moving from damp New Zealand to dry Valencia, I loved that I could hang out laundry at midnight and have it dry by morning – until the ever present Valencian dust lands on everything. The city is so often covered in a fine layer of yellow dust, giving the city a dirty look. However, when it rains, the city gleams again.
Valencia’s service industry needs a kick in the pants. Many cities could claim the same, but whether it’s the waiters, shop assistants, or the gas repair guy, the attitude can be a pain. Manners and patience go a long way, but still, expect to feel exasperated. Be direct, or you’ll never get a drink.
Go to bed at midnight, hoping for an early night because you have to have your face on live TV tomorrow and you don’t want bags under your eyes… BOOM! Some idiots are letting off enough fireworks outside my apartment to ignite a small nation outside. Why? Chances are some obscure fiesta is occurring. The party calendar is pretty full in Valencia, but between the noise, delays in getting official things completed and traffic blockages, it can become annoying.
Madrid – The good
Metropolis building madrid
In one city, the different barrios have so much to offer in terms of lifestyle variety. The Salamanca and Retiro barrios have designer stores and architecture, beautiful parks and leans against the some of the greatest art museums of them all. Sol, the literal and spiritual heart of the old town brims with mystery on every little street. Lavapies is filled with both Spanish history and those moving coming to Madrid, giving a superb multi-cultural vibe. Gran Via provides the shopping, Huerta and Santa Ana are packed with bars and cafés, and Chueca has nightlife to die for. No matter your choice, there is a barrio for you and your budget.
The golden triangle of art sits proudly in Madrid – the Museo del Prado, Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and the Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofía offer endless hours of delight. But there is more – Museo Panteón de Goya, Museo Sorolla and Museo Lázaro Galdiano among others hidden gems.
You will never go hungry in Madrid. From the oldest restaurant in the world, to modern places churning out new ideas, I always feel spoiled for choice. No expertise is needed; simple wander the streets for delicious, traditional and imaginative offerings. All budgets are catered for, as well as all tastes. Even the tapas portions given out with each drink are generous.
Madrid was only a small town until 1561 when it was selected as the new capital of Spain. Since then, royalty has built grand structures all over, giving the architecture a deep-rooted and proud style. The Hapsburgs and Bourbons allowed design and size flourish, and each century left its mark. While severely damaged in the civil war, the beauty of the city has been nurtured.
Madrid can be seen as the heart of Spain in more ways than one. The airport provides many flights to locations near and far, and the train systems can get to across the country in no time. Public transport is well-organised, so if you don’t wish to navigate the streets on your own by car (like me), seeing everything is certainly an option.
Despite being a bustling city, with green spaces like Buen Retiro Park, Casa del Campo and Campo del Moro Gardens, the Sabatini Gardens and the El Pardo forest bordering the city, you can sit back grab some space.
Madrid – The not-so good
I’m not a big fan of crowds, so the streets of Madrid can feel like a mission in patience. On an average Saturday, walking the streets of central Madrid can be an absolute crush. Even in these times of recession, people are on the streets, shopping and eating. Frustration creeps in with every turn.
The weather – it’s not called nine months of winter and three months of hell for nothing. I’m not adept at inland living, and Madrid feels like a pressure cooker in summer, and the winter is biting cold which freezes the bones.
Madrileños are strong, proud people who know their own minds. It can feel easy to be written off as a no-nothing foreigner when in a group of locals. If you want to make friends, be prepared to need to work for it.
Madrid traffic can be a nightmare! Streets aren’t always well-labelled, and people just step out with an air of invincibility. If you want to drive to the coast for the weekend, the four hour drive will involve 45 minutes of swearing at lights just to leave the city.
There is no question that Madrid is the most expensive city in Spain. Buying or renting an apartment will make you cringe in fear, and what you get for your euro can leave a nasty taste in your mouth. From food, to schooling, healthcare, hotels – you name it, the price can certainly annoy.
Valencia and Madrid are incredible cities, vastly different to one another, and perfect for travellers and migrants to use as a guide of how different Spanish regions are. As a tourist, both cities are a must-do. For those who love the bustle of the city, Madrid will delight, and those seeking relaxation will favour Valencia. For long-term Spain lovers, work would be the biggest issue, with jobs hard to come by in both cities. Study costs in depth before making a decision. They say you never forget your first love, and for me that is Valencia. The good outweighs the bad by a mile.
Caroline Angus Baker is a New Zealand author, specialising in Spanish history and politics. Her ‘Secrets of Spain’ novel series, set in Valencia and Madrid, is available now. For more on Valencia, plus book giveaways and free weekly reads, visit www.carolineangusbaker.com
Do you agree or disagree with Caroline’s thoughts? Where would you rather live? Post your comments and we will welcome other ideas too about where to live in Spain.
Don’t forget to read Molly’s thoughts about Granada v Barcelona HERE
If you are thinking about the Malaga province or Costa del Sol, read the article HERE.
Read our thoughts about the best place to live in Spain HERE.