Moving to Barcelona: Where Work and Play Hit the Sweet Spot
Relocating to the capital of Catalonia for work? Here's all you need to know
If you’ve succumbed to the lure of Barcelona, you’re in good company. More than half of Barcelona’s residents are foreign-born, drawn to the city for its enticing mix of sunshine, beach and mountains. A relocation to Barcelona means opting for a more leisurely quality of life. Think savouring not guzzling. Ambling not racing. Sound good? This is a city that’s got its priorities right. And here at Plum Guide, we've done extensive research on how to settle when making the move, so follow our expert advice for a seamless transition to Spain.
Move to the perfect location
Settle down in El Born
If you fancy yourself a bit of a bohemian, get yourself to El Born. Medieval streets, charming balconies, grassy squares softly humming with locals exchanging gossip (at least you’ll think they are, best get to those Catalan lessons asap). The backdrop can’t help but inspire your creativity, which is why it’s home to many new designers and artists – wander along the backstreets and you’ll discover independent boutiques, design studios and workshops. It’s as charming as the famous Gothic Quarter, but more authentic. Top of your settling-in list: learning to sleep through the hustle and bustle after sundown.
Move into Sarrià-Sant Gervasi
For a more tranquil and altogether more upmarket lifestyle, Sarrià-Sant Gervasi is just the ticket. Located in the upper northwest of Barcelona, it’s attracted some of Barna’s most affluent for generations. As one of the wealthiest areas of the city, it’s home to embassy villas, private schools, well-laid out gardens, and some cracking examples of 20th-century Modernist architecture.
Bring the family to Gràcia
Many moons ago, Gràcia was a town in its own right. And it has still got that sense of independence, attracting an eclectic bunch of residents: young, old, hipsters, families, and older (sometimes feisty) Catalonians. It’s a great family-friendly neighbourhood, with leafy boulevards and copious cafes and restaurants. And these people know how to enjoy themselves. They even have their own five-day festival every August, the Festa Major de Gràcia.
Choose your ideal home
Think Barcelona, think Gaudí. The city is renowned for its famous architecture. And while you might not shack up somewhere as ornate as La Pedrera, moving to Barcelona will give you the pick of beautifully designed housing. Inner-city apartments with classic tiled floors, rooftop terraces and sunny balconies. Spacious villas with sought-after gardens in the ‘burbs. Or, like almost 60% of foreigners opt for, spanking brand new build developments. Be warned: buying or renting can be a complex and lengthy process, so make sure you do your homework.
Embrace the thriving business community
Whether you’re part of a big corporation or heading out on a start-up, Barcelona is a thriving community. It’s the tech hub of the region, dubbed the Silicon Valley of Southern Europe, and at the end 2018, 34% of all Spanish start-ups were based here. The growing number of international companies (think Deloitte, Facebook or Microsoft) makes for a vibrant, multinational vibe. There’s a real sense of fresh creativity throughout the city (it has over 300 co-working spaces), making it perfect for flexing your entrepreneurial muscle.
Adapt to the slower working days
The pace of work in Barcelona is considerably more relaxed than other major cities around the world. Don’t expect things to happen quickly. When moving to Barcelona, slow down, roll up your sleeves, and switch your ten-minute Pret for a leisurely three-course lunch. Most Fridays, offices wind down by two, allowing time to head to the beach in the summer, or mountains in the winter. And for many, from June to August, the working day ends at 3pm, so you can while away the golden hours lounging around plazas or sipping cava on your own private terrace.
Really enjoy the downtime
When you’ve downed tools, you’re spoilt for choice with how you spend your time. After you’ve worked your way through the plethora of architectural goodies, there’s posing on the beach, schmoozing over tapas, ambling round hidden galleries. And as for food… For chefs that know their stuff, head to Fismuler. Founded by three ex- El Bulli chefs, the menu changes daily and its imaginative dishes are centred round the exceptional local produce. Or wander to La Mar Salada. While its Menu del Dia is cheap as chips, you’ll be treated to some of the best seafood in Barcelona.
Learn to speak the language
While there are plenty of expats around to hobnob with in your native tongue, to get the most out of your relocation to Barcelona, learn to speak the language. Don’t deprive yourself of the subtleties of the culture and the chance to chat with those born and bred in the city. Both Castilian and Catalan are official languages. It’s entirely possible to get by without speaking either perfectly, but even a little, goes a very long way with locals. Especially if you’re setting up your own business (it’s all about building strong relationships over here). And as part of the CPNL’s mission to promote Catalan, it offers free beginner lessons.
Travel with the whole family
If you’re moving to Barcelona with children in tow, you have choices: free state Spanish schools, subsidised private schools, bilingual schools, and independent international schools. Head to Pedrables for the pick of international schools. Located in the Sarria-Sant Gervasi district, its well-heeled residents enjoy elegant villas and neatly mowed lawns, while their neatly-scrubbed children head off to Kensington School or Benjamin Franklin International School. And most international schools in the city offer parts of the curriculum in Spanish or Catalan. Your kids will be fluent before you.