Enjoy Architecture and Outdoor Living in the Catalonia Capital of Barcelona

By Sally Pederson

Art lovers, historians, beachgoers, sun seekers, foodies, and everyone in between come to Barcelona every year. The Spanish locals and visitors love outdoor life year-round in Barcelona. The countless plazas scattered throughout the city are the meeting points for locals and tourists. The famous Plaça de Catalunya, Plaça d’Espanya, Plaça Reial, and Arc de Triomf are the most popular in the city center. These plaças are all surrounded by restaurants and cafés that people enjoy outdoor seating year-round. In the winter months, they have heaters, and some have blankets for customers to use.

Park Guell
Park Guell. ©iStock/MasterLu

The history of Barcelona extends over 2,000 years. Originally called Barcino, it was founded at the end of the 1st century by the Romans. A sizeable defensive wall surrounded the small old town of a few thousand residents. Some of the original walls can still be seen today as you walk by Barcelona Cathedral. Barcelona and the entire Catalonia region has been conquered numerous times since being part of Rome thousands of years ago. These include the Visigoths, Arabs, and French, to name a few.

Since hosting the 1992 Olympics, the population and tourism have exploded in this area of Spain. The population of the city is almost 1.7 million people and just over 5.5 million in the greater metropolitan area. More than 17% of the city’s residents are expats from other countries.

Violent crime in Barcelona is very low. However, with the increase of tourism, there has been a surge in theft and pickpockets. This is most common at the metro stations and tourists’ hotspots, where people are too busy looking at the sights and not paying attention to their belongings. Always keep wallets in your front pocket, purses zipped closed, and be aware of people getting too close and “bumping” into you.

A big draw to Barcelona is the year-round sunshine and beaches. Barcelona gets hot in the summer, and thousands of people flock to the 10 beaches in the city. You will see people at the beach all year, even in the winter months. Sometimes you can enjoy the sun and sand in November with shorts and a t-shirt. December through March is colder, but some still enjoy the sun with some food and drinks and warm clothes on a blanket on the sand. If it is a little too chilly for you, there are restaurants along the beach with heaters to keep you warm.

Retire in Barcelona

View of Barcelona and the Sea. ©Sally Pederson

Things may seem a little easier if you are retiring to Barcelona with your spouse or significant other. However, I moved there as a single female and did not know one person when I arrived. In either situation, single or a couple, it is essential to make friends. Barcelona has hundreds of groups on meetup.com that you can join and immediately get to know people that have the same interests as you. There are also multiple Facebook groups that you can join. These groups are good for meeting new people and even asking where to find things or how to get something done if you don’t know.

Barcelona is a melting pot of people from around the world. You can live here without speaking Spanish or Catalan as many people speak English. However, if you choose to live in another country that speaks another language, you should learn the language. Think about how you feel if someone moves to your country and does not try to speak your language. Not only is it a sign of respect, but you will also miss out on things if you don’t know some Spanish. You may not participate in some group conversations, miss essential announcements on the trains or news, and not understand some great deals at stores or markets. There are several Spanish classes and language exchanges all over the city.

Healthcare in Spain is excellent. Several JCI Accredited hospitals can be found throughout the country, including four in Barcelona. One of the most technologically advanced hospitals in Europe, Hospital General de Catalunya, is also located in Barcelona. Several private healthcare companies are available. Premiums are lower than the amount U.S. citizens are paying. Retiring individuals are required to have private healthcare insurance. If you are working in Spain, you may be able to access the public healthcare system.

Commuting within Barcelona and to other Spanish cities is very easy. Within the city are the underground metro system, above-ground trains, and countless buses. If you want to travel to other cities or towns, you can catch a train or hop on a flight. The most popular trains run from Barcelona to Madrid ($70), Málaga ($69), Valencia ($26), and Sevilla ($83). The Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport, known as El Prat Airport, has hundreds of flights a day arriving from and departing to various countries around the world.

Lifestyle in Barcelona

Lifestyle in Barcelona
Food items at the La Boqueria. ©Sally Pederson

Barcelona has a relaxed and laidback lifestyle. People enjoy the outdoors and spending time with family and friends. When not working, locals take pleasure in spending time at the beach, socializing at a local café or bar in a Plaça, or having a long lunch with family and friends. Numerous festivals are held throughout the year in Barcelona.

Barcelona can be considered a city that never sleeps. Shopping, dining, and nightlife hours are very different than in most other countries. Most shops don’t open until 10 a.m. and usually close for a few hours in the afternoon during lunch and siesta time. Lunch is generally the most substantial meal of the day. It starts around 2 p.m. and can easily last two hours or more. Many Spanish also take a siesta during the afternoon and therefore, you will find many shops closed.

Dinner time for Spanish and locals is rarely before 9 p.m. It is usually at 10 p.m., sometimes even as late as 11 p.m. After dinner people typically go for a walk to a nearby Plaça and sit at a bar or café for a drink and socializing. For those who want to enjoy the nightlife, clubs open at 12 a.m. but don’t get busy until 3 a.m. and close around 6 a.m.

Real Estate in Barcelona

Barcelona Cathedral. ©Sally Pederson

Barcelona is one of the more expensive places to buy or rent in Spain. The prices of an apartment can vary dramatically. You can live in the ancient and busy city center areas of El Raval, Gothic, or El Borne. The Eixample area was constructed in the 19th and 20th centuries. It bridged the gap between the old city and surrounding towns. With boulevards lined with palm trees, bistros, and wine bars, Gracia is a popular area of the city.  In all of these areas, rent will start at $1,350 up to $4,000 or more. The purchase price can range from $260,000 to in the millions. These vary due to size, amenities, and location.

Cost of Living in Barcelona

Cost of Living in Barcelona
Barcelona Beach and Olympic Village. ©Sally Pederson

Millions of people come to Barcelona every year. Sometimes these vacations turn into desires to move there for the short term or long term. These things affect the cost of living in the city. I find Barcelona to be cheaper than many North American cities. However, it is not the most competitive city in Spain.

Here is a sample monthly budget for two people living in one of the areas mentioned above:

Expenses USD $
Rent (two-bedroom apartment) $1,350
Utilities (electricity, cable & internet, water, mobile phone) $200
Groceries & Household Items $380
Entertainment (shows, eating out, concerts, etc.) $200
Gym Memberships – unlimited classes $90
Health Insurance $252
Unlimited bus and metro (as a senior resident) $28
Monthly Total $2,500

 Featured Image Copyright: ©iStock/Brzozowska


IL’s Guide to Barcelona