Picture a sun-drenched, white-washed house with a shady courtyard, perched on a cliff-top site in Spain. With the deep blue sea beyond, and an olive grove nearby, it’s the stuff of which fantasies are made.
Beaches…mountains…fabulous cities…colorful festivals, and, of course, sunshine almost everyplace. It’s not surprising that Spain is the most popular country for Europeans seeking a home overseas. Now North Americans, too, are starting to see the allure of Spain for laidback yet cultured European life.
Western Europe’s second-largest country (just slightly smaller than France), Spain offers fantastic variety in terrain, culture, and lifestyle. To start with, Spain has nearly 3,100 miles of coastline, and much of it is beach. In Northwest Spain, the hills are green, the climate is humid and mild (much like Oregon), and the coast is the chilly but dramatic Bay of Biscay. Spain’s eastern coast and part of the south border the warm waters of the Mediterranean, while the far-western reaches down south look out on the Atlantic. All the coastal areas have relatively temperate climates…cooler in the north, hotter in the south, but generally with only about 40 degrees Fahrenheit between average highs and average lows year-round.
Looking for culture? Spain has a rich, millennial history. The Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs all settled here and left ample remains, language, and customs. Walk in the steps of sultans at Granada’s Alhambra, take the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, or gaze on Segovia’s mighty Roman aqueduct, over 2,000 years old… You’ll find plenty of cities in Spain, large and small, which merit exploration.
And, thanks to rapid public transportation, it’s easy to get around Spain. High-speed and suburban train lines connect many cities, and bus routes crisscross the country. You can get from Madrid to destinations on the southern coast in three to four hours, to Valencia in two, and up to Barcelona in about three. In addition to the large airports in Madrid and Barcelona, smaller airports around the country—served by discount airlines as well as the major carriers—connect Spain with the rest of Europe.
This is First-World Europe, after all. You’ll find modern services, efficient transport, and excellent medical care. You’ll also find a lively, outgoing lifestyle and some of the best food and wine around. In Spain, life is meant to be enjoyed, and hanging out is an art. And, even better, it all comes at an affordable price: Spain has one of the lowest costs of living in Europe. So if you’ve ever dreamed of a romantic, affordable European lifestyle, take a look at Spain.
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- Population: 47,370,542
- Capital City: Madrid
- Climate: Temperate; clear, hot summers in interior, more moderate and cloudy along coast; cloudy, cold winters in interior, partly cloudy and cool along coast
- Time Zone: UTC+1
- Language: Spanish
- Country Code: 34
I’ve traveled widely throughout the Iberian Peninsula and stood watching the wild Atlantic crash on the shores of Portugal and the Mediterranean Sea lapping long beaches to the south of Spain. From a traveler’s point of view, this whole Peninsula—with its Moorish and Basque influences—is charming and intriguing. This is where you’ll find some of Europe’s best weather…as well as good food, good wine, and dramatic landscapes.
I’d like to let you in on one of Spain’s best-kept secrets: Logroño. This small but bustling city in the heart of Spanish wine country is the perfect place to while away mornings sipping coffee and people-watching, and your afternoons with delicious wine from a nearby bodega.
If you want to get in on the Costa del Sol’s undervalued real estate, this is your moment to act. The window here is set to close. Members who have acted have done well. Right now we have two strong opportunities to buy at deeply distressed prices. Both opportunities happen to be in golf communities. That’s a nice perk whether you care for golf or not—golf is big business on the Costa del Sol.
A few years back, I was working a full-time, regular 9-to-5 teaching job. My bosses were inflexible, I was stressed, and I couldn’t stand the work. When you’re a teacher, you can’t just take time off to travel. I’m also not a morning person, and waking up at 6 a.m. every day was tough. I was following the rules…and I don’t like following rules. Writing was always my passion, but I had no idea how I would go about actually earning a living writing. Writers don’t earn livings, everyone knows that. Right?
In the heart of Spain, nestled between mountains, sunburnt hills, and row after row of thriving olive trees, sits Madrid. Despite being the third largest city by population in the European Union, Madrid maintains the feeling of tranquility and neighborliness that is so often replaced by the rushed and stressed life of other big cities. That’s precisely why I, a fast-walking, fast-talking girl from New York, stepped off the plane and into the blaring July sun of Madrid, took a look around, and traded it all in for a slowed-down, low-stress life in Spain’s metropolis.
Way before I ever make a recommendation for a foreign real estate buy, I know exactly what the market is doing—and how certain real estate trends are likely to play out. Identifying and understanding market trends is key to smart real estate investment overseas. It’s the difference between buying a nice and low-priced property that will stay at the same price point for years to come…and buying a property that’s set to rise quickly in value over the coming years.
I’m a middle-aged woman who pays taxes, owns property, and has a career of sorts. I’m a Serious Person, and so are my friends. Mostly.
So when I find myself standing by the side of a road in rural Spain, holding a sign written in lipstick (Burt’s Bees Raisin, to be exact—my favorite shade—and sacrificed for the occasion), I can’t help asking myself: How did I get here?
The road is empty and so is the Spanish landscape, which stretches for miles around me, except for the six-house village across the road.
Here on the Costa del Sol, there are almost no visible signs left of the crisis. Empty retail units have been filled with trendy new stores and restaurants. Shiny new preconstruction is starting back right along the Costa del Sol with prices from the mid-€300,000s ($335,000) and up. There’s an opportunity for one member to act right now.
Ever since I’ve known my husband, he has declared 72 F to be the perfect temperature. When we arrived on the Costa del Sol on Spain’s southern coast, we knew we had found 72 F at its finest. The Costa del Sol averages 320 days of sunshine per year and there are plenty of long, powdery, white-sand beaches on which to enjoy that warm weather. We had come to Southern Spain to explore what was on for offer for a long-term stay…and what we discovered was an abundance of sunshine and bargains. We decided to base ourselves in the popular coastal town of Benalmadena Costa due to its proximity to Malaga (it’s just a 30-minute drive on the highway) and access to the glittering Mediterranean Sea.
In this seaside city, you can stroll the beach in short sleeves as early as March and as late as October. In winter you need only a jacket. And the sun shines most days. Just steps from its long, urban sandy beach is a historic center of flag-stoned pedestrian streets and cream-colored buildings housing cafes, restaurants, and small hotels.
With its historic castle and medieval streets, the Portuguese town of Óbidos has a lot to offer visitors. And if you have a sweet tooth, you have another big reason to stop off in this town if you’re rambling through Europe. At this time of year, Óbidos plays host to its annual International Chocolate Festival, which draws attendees from across Portugal and beyond. Amid the many showcases lining Óbidos’s streets, you’re sure to find a chocolate (or two…or 10) to suit your tastes. Professional chocolatiers compete for the Chocolatier of the Year award, while visitors can revel in the many chocolate statues—provided they don’t melt in the Portuguese sun.
Open any cupboard in any home and you’ll find tableware of all shapes and sizes. Shelves groan with ornaments of cats, clowns, and cottages; many homes today have something made of china. But what the owners of these fine artifacts don’t know is that antique china, delft, and porcelain have become highly collectible over the last few years…so much so that those dusty dishes on your shelf may be worth a lot more than what you paid for them many years ago. So collectible has antique china become that a rare, 500-year-old cup decorated with a hen and cockerel sold in 2014 for $36.3 million to a Shanghai-based billionaire; he shocked his counter bidders by drinking tea from it right there in the auction room.
There’s something special about wine country. All around you, rows of vines stretch off to the horizon. A short stroll to your local café is all you need to enjoy the regional vintage, with each wine variety tempered by the terroir of the region: the combination of factors (including weather, soil, and even bedrock) that feed into a wine’s flavor.
Cosmopolitan cities, glorious sunshine, delicious cuisine, and low costs—as a retirement or second-home destination, Spain is hard to beat. The southern province of Andalucia, particularly the area around the Costa del Sol, is the epitome of good-value, romantic Spanish living. It has everything: long sandy beaches perfect for strolling on…romantic, white-washed hill towns cling to the Andalusian hillsides…
On a sunny spring day last year, I spent a pleasant hour or so shopping at my local market. The produce was fresh and appealing, the fish and seafood incomparable. My produce included goodies like ripe tomatoes; big bunches of fresh greens; tender artichokes picked so young that they have no fibrous choke; and juicy oranges and plums. On top lay my purchases from the fish hall: a pound of small shrimp and another of freshly caught tuna, from which I got three thick tuna steaks. I filled two large shopping baskets with food, for a total cost of about $18.
The Costa del Sol, a stretch of coast that runs along Spain’s southern coast, has struggled with a mixed reputation over the years. It was long known as a place where visitors from northern Europe came for cheap beer and sunshine. And the city of Málaga, east of the better-known Marbella, had an even worse reputation. It was the place even those “cheap-beer-and-sunshine” visitors wanted to avoid—a dirty, grimy, and crime-ridden port city. Millions of passengers landed each year in Málaga airport, to head west along the coast to the beaches, golf courses, and English pubs. They didn’t even think about visiting Málaga. It seemed as though this ancient city had been lost: 2,800 years of human settlement decaying.
For many retirees thinking of moving abroad, climate is a crucial factor. The climate rankings in International Living’s annual Global Retirement Index is one of the first comparisons many potential expats and international retirees will make between possible destinations. Here are the top countries ranked for climate on the 2016 International Living Global Retirement Index.
A forgiving climate works wonders for your health and complexion. But what’s too hot or cold for one person can be just right for another. In looking for the countries with the best climate for our 2016 Global Retirement Index, we assessed not only the hard data, temperatures, rainfall and humidity, but we also assessed the comfort level of each destination’s climate by talking to as many expats as we could find.
In 2004 Karen McCann, now 63, and her husband Rich, 71, embarked on a year-long adventure in southern Spain. The newly retired couple had always loved the idea of living overseas, so they decided to try it for a year, making a home for themselves in sunny Seville.
“We got here, and it was like, ‘Oh my God, we really like this,’” says Karen. “It’s so much like California—the weather, the Spanish speakers, the palm trees. We were comfortable with the whole atmosphere.
Now that January is bringing lots of cold, snowy weather, some friends in the U.S. are saying that one of their goals for 2016 is to get away to someplace warm…soon. My suggestion: Head to southern Spain, to sunny Jerez de la Frontera. It’s warm, colorful, exciting, and—thanks to the current low euro—very affordable.
Rich in history, culture, and romance, Europe has long had a strong appeal for North American retirees. But many people who would love to retire to the Old World fret that it’s beyond their budget. And while Europe on the whole is more expensive than Latin America or Asia, that’s not to say that there aren’t countries here where a more affordable retirement can be found—without sacrificing the Old-World romance you crave.
Retiring abroad is easier and more affordable than ever before. These days it really is possible to spend your days relaxing beneath palm fronds on a Caribbean beach, enjoying farm-fresh produce in a mountain haven with year-round spring weather, or wandering the storied streets of a historic and cultured European city…or all of the above. But with so many choices available, finding the right one can seem daunting.
As an American expat, I like having a home in Berlin…but I also like being able to leave it when the desire strikes. Cold weather is not my friend. I’d prefer to spend my winters someplace warm, so I escape the chill Germany experiences from November through March. Since my work lets me be almost anywhere I want—as long as there’s a good internet connection—this is when I head south.
“Would you like to…take my fiancé?” My student looked at me for approval and despite my best efforts, a giggle escaped. I apologized and explained what “would you like to take my fiancé” means…versus, “would you like to meet my fiancé.” He laughed at his mistake.
ying at the heart of sunny Andalucía, Seville is one of southern Spain’s most beautiful cities. Waves of conquerors, from the Romans to the Moors, have left their stamp on its spectacular architecture. Thousands of tapas bars line the streets, and the warm Spanish sun nurtures parks full of palm trees.
A warm, clear blue-green sea lapping long, sandy beaches… Families eating and laughing together over slow, relaxed dinners with lashings of good food and even better wine… If you’ve ever watched a movie set in the Mediterranean, you might believe the region is solely a playground for the rich—the romping ground of Hollywood starlets like Brigitte Bardot. Scratch the surface and you’ll discover that is definitely not the case—an adventure in the Mediterranean could be yours for less than you might think.
Towering sand dunes, an expansive, golden-sand beach that goes on for miles, kite-surfers battling the strong, but warm, Atlantic wind…although Spain’s tourist hub of Marbella is just 63 miles to the east, here at Punta Paloma it feels a world away. It’s a sunny Saturday in early September as I stroll along this beautiful beach, looking for a spot to lay down my beach towel. But I’m not pushing my way through thronging crowds of sun worshippers to claim my little piece of sand.
Coming from Los Angeles, a bustling city that moves at breakneck speed, to a cave house in a village with less than 1,500 people in Spain’s southeastern region of Andalusia was quite a shock. I traded in being kept awake at night by police helicopters shining spotlights arbitrarily into my windows and the smoggy skyline of downtown L.A., for a much slower pace of life and clear views of the peaceful Sagra mountain range that surrounds my new hometown of Galera.
The Golden Age of Europe’s royal houses may be long over, but the Old world beach resorts where the continent’s aristocracy summered still cling to a fin de siècle grandeur… In these spots, you can enjoy urban luxuries as fine as the enticing, sandy beaches. Biarritz, on the southwest French coast, has attracted European royalty and jet-setters ever since Napoleon III and his Spanish-born empress, Eugénie, built a palace there in 1854.
For affordable European living, it’s hard to beat Spain these days. It’s always been one of my favorite countries—a place I return to over and over, thanks to its enjoyable, laidback lifestyle; the great food; warm, sunny weather; beautiful beaches; and rich culture. Whether I’m looking to sit at a seaside cafe enjoying a meal and a drink, stroll a historic city by night, or relish a world-class museum, Spain delivers.
An argument with a girlfriend was how I ended up in Spain. Having set sail on a cruise ship from Genoa, Italy, and following a tour of the Canary Islands, we were on our way home, and docked in Spain’s southern port city of Malaga. In a moment of stubbornness, and after being told there was no other berth for me to move in to, I packed up all my worldly belongings and walked off the boat. My Spanish life had begun…and it was probably the best decision of my life.
The short stretch of coast you find south of Barcelona is called the Costa del Garraf. Here you’ll find a string of three small towns that offer upscale amenities, relaxed living, easy access to Barcelona, and great-value real estate…
The Romans’ influence stretches down the millennia into architecture, literature, theater, warfare, politics… They are a pillar upon which Western civilization is built. At its height, the Roman Empire held sway over much of Europe, the Near East, and North Africa. Its borders expanded over the centuries as the Romans took new lands… or shrunk in the face of barbarian hordes that invaded as the empire declined.
Before the automobile came along, people lived life on a more intimate scale. You shopped at the local butcher, baker, and grocer (whom you knew by name). The café downstairs, or down the street, was your second home, and its patrons your second family. You scheduled your day by how long it took to walk from place to place…and nobody was in a rush, anyway.
Trailing in the footsteps of tragic poets is one of my favorite pastimes. So after reading the words of a letter sent by Spain’s best-known poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, I had to visit Lanjaron. Lorca and a host of writers, musicians, and intellectuals spent the summers of the 1920s in this Andalusian spa town.
It’s past midnight on yet another balmy evening and Barry Ogden and Karen Taylor are strolling home along the beach after a spontaneous gathering of friends at a café. When they first moved to Altea, Spain, last March, they were usually home in the early evening but they’ve now adapted to the Spanish way of life…often staying out late unintentionally.
For millions of folks, golf satisfies something in the soul: hitting that one pure shot…breathing fresh air…and walking an immaculate course…the fast friendships forged on the fairway (and in the clubhouse bar). The game we know today has its origins in Scotland in the 15th century. popularized by British royalty, it soon spread throughout Europe and beyond.
Sunshine…that’s what I went to Spain seeking this spring: sunshine, warmth, and a reprieve from the chill of winter. And where better to escape to than the sunniest option on mainland Europe…Spain. So I spent April (and a tiny bit of May) in the mid-sized Spanish city of Toledo—an ancient walled city on a hill, half surrounded by a river, and just 30 minutes from Madrid.
A cobbled square, an outdoor café, a sky full of stars. Vincent van Gogh’s Café Terrace At Night is laden with the romance of place—I always want to step into the picture and sit at one of the tables…drink a glass or two of wine…join the patrons in idle conversation. Van Gogh painted the picture during his time in Arles—a small city in Provence in the sunny south of France.
Sitting down to write at the brightly-colored Mexican tile table on my patio, I let my eyes rest on the back garden… giant ferns…red geraniums in glazed green urns…and a stone fountain where goldfish swim and lilies bloom. The front garden is just as luxurious, with sweet-smelling jasmine climbing the wall and a central fountain providing night music.