Living Working and Retiring in Spain

Are you considering retiring in Spain?

Spain is an incredibly diverse country and depending on where you chose to move to, will offer a different experience. Smaller cities like Seville and Toledo have a different dynamic from Madrid. The Basque region is another area with its own unique challenges and gorgeous landscapes, amazing food and stunning beaches. Cities like Valencia and Alicante, have long been favourites for ex-pats looking for a place to relocate.

Of course, Spain includes the Canary Islands, that in the summer cater to a cosmopolitan crowd but can feel isolated during the winter for certain people. Also, one of the biggest drivers for people moving to Spain is being well connected to other European cities, so that might make some of the smaller cities without a large airport, unsuitable for you. As always the choice is a personal one, but in this guide, we will attempt to make the process of deciding and relocating as easy as could be.

Spain has always been a tourist favourite, but the financial crisis of recent years has made things challenging for the economy and the life of the people. Having said that, Spain is well-positioned for future growth, and following Brexit, there are more investment opportunities especially in commercial real estate. For business-minded individuals looking to invest, Spain is an overall great place to be.

This guide to “Living, Working and Retiring” in Spain offers a quick but extensive overview of everything you need to know to make a decision. 

living in spain

Living in Spain Overview

Most popular cities: 

Madrid, Valencia, Alicante, Barcelona, Málaga, Bilbao, and Seville

Similar countries: 



  • Bureaucracy
  • Can be hard to operate outside the norm “enterpreneurship and digital workers” (even though they are making improvements)
  • High unemployment


  • Amazing weather
  • Great work-life balance
  • Access to European cities

Quick tips:

  • Learn Spanish or take Spanish lessons. It will make integrating easier
  • People are very friendly and open towards foreigners
  • Socializing and spending time outdoors is part of the culture
  • Tipping is not generally expected or required. When dining in restaurants you are expected to round up a small 5% or leave the change.
Living Working Retiring Spain
Living Working Retiring Spain


A lot has been said about the Spanish or Mediterranean lifestyle. Phrases like “laid back”, and “family-focused” are often used to describe the vibe of a country like Spain. While lifestyle is to a large degree dictated by the things you enjoy, it is always good to know that you are stepping into a country that values downtime, siesta naps after lunch and good food combined with great wine.

If you are a keen explorer, Spain is a country with so much to offer; from the countryside to the islands, the coastlines and beaches to the snowcapped mountains in the winter. One thing is for sure, you will never run out of activities, whether you are a nature enthusiast or a culture buff.

In 2019, Spain claimed the first stop, in Bloomberg’s Healthiest Country Index, which ranked 169 economies around the world. Other European countries that made it on the list are Iceland, Switzerland, Sweden and Norway. The study focused on life expectancy, eating habits and environmental factors.

Religion in Spain is not as important as it once was, with 66% of Spaniards identifying as Roman Catholic. However, the feast days of saints, religious celebrations and events are fervently observed by everyone and are a great opportunity to become acquainted with the culture.


 For citizens of the European Union, relocating to Spain for work is relatively easy without restrictions. You must obtain a work permit if you want to legally stay in Spain and conduct professional activities. Non-EU residents may need to secure a job offer first to arrange the rest of the paperwork. The unemployment rate in Spain is steadily declining in recent years. In 2019 it was at 13.96%. 

Taxes in Spain:

Taxes are always complicated but more so in Spain, which has a complex and confusing system that you is best to navigate through the help of a professional. The income tax rate is decided based on whether you are a tax resident (meaning you reside in Spain for more than 183 days) or you are employed in Spain.

Cost of Living 

Living Working Retiring Spain


Overall, Spain has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Residents are guaranteed universal coverage and more than 90% of the population relies on the public health healthcare system. If you are living and are employed in Spain, and making your social security contributions,  you will have free access to Spanish healthcare.

Pensioners that are also residents are entitled to receiving the same benefits. There is also the possibility of private health insurance and for citizens from the EU/EEA the EHIC card can provide coverage for emergencies during temporary stays.

Real Estate and Housing

Spain was hit hard by the global recession of 2008, forcing house prices down by almost 40% in certain areas. In recent years, the housing market has started to bounce back, however, the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic has partially slowed down expected growth.

If your dream is to own a holiday property, house or business in Spain, however, then you are in luck. The Spanish government is actively encouraging foreigners to invest in real estate, and the Golden Visa scheme allows you to apply for residency if your investment fits certain criteria. You can read more about the Golden Visa Scheme in Spain here.

A wide selection of available properties can be found here.

New Off-Plan Villa Coin, Costa del Sol


With excellent weather, great quality of life and low cost of living, it is not surprising that Spain is an ideal retirement destination. In order to legally retire, you will need to apply for a long-stay visa (visado nacionale). All foreigners who do not possess a European Union passport will require a long-stay visa, for stays longer than 90 days within 6 months.

Keep in mind that a residency visa does not allow you to work or “perform professional activities” and you will need to spend at least 6 months within a year in Spain. This is why an investment visa makes great sense for those wishing to stay long term. To qualify for a Standard Visa (visado residencia) you will also need to provide “Proof of Funds”. The exact numbers fluctuate depending on the region, but in general, the minimum non-working monthly income is more than €1,000.

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