Move to Spain before Brexit: Moving to Barcelona

Posted on November 5, 2019

Barcelona remains a very popular destination for many of our clients, so much so that we have 2 brand new vehicles dedicated for clients moving to Barcelona.  So here we have a little Click Moves look at living in Barcelona.


Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous region in northeastern Spain. Street signs, maps, and names of landmarks and neighbourhoods are primarily in Catalan, the city’s co-offcial language. Catalan history and identity is an integral part of the city – you’ll spot many pro-independence estelada flags pinned to balconies above the streets. Catalans are proud of their heritage and there remains a strong demand for independence.


It is possible to live in Barcelona and not speak a word of Spanish, but aside from being culturally indolent, you’ll find it means being labelled as a guiri (a disparaging term for foreigners). There are plenty of language schools in Barcelona, and some employers also offer Spanish lessons as part of their salary packages. One of the Romantic languages, Spanish is a relatively easy language to learn and its poetic rewards are infinite. Take the phrase Lo siento (‘I’m sorry’), for example, which translates literally to ‘I feel it.’ Or rasaca – the word used for hangover which literally means ‘the undertow that leaves debris and driftwood scattered across a shore following a storm.’ A metaphorical state you’re bound to find yourself in after dipping a toe in Barcelona’s famed nightlife.

The Siesta

You’re a true Barcelona expat when you’re breakfasting at midday, when lunch happens sometime after two, and dinner plans are made for 10pm. Bars are quiet before midnight, and the time people stumble home tends to correspond with the sunrise. The first thing to do when you arrive in Barcelona is alter your pace. The siesta is still very much an institution of Barcelona life, with shops, bars and eateries closing down between 2pm and 4pm. Be mindful that this easy-going mentality also seeps into everyday interactions – don’t expect quick service in restaurants, banks, post offices and the like. While its relaxed pace is just one of Barcelona’s many charms, it also means that nothing gets done in a hurry.

Moving to Barcelona

Barcelona’s neighbourhoods

Barcelona is a big city, but it’s the perfect size to explore on foot. The metro is easy to use and cheap, or consider investing in a bike and making the most of the sunshine. Las Ramblas is the city’s wearying main thoroughfare, bogged down with ambling holidaymakers, pickpockets and touts. It’s a necessary evil that divides the Barri Gotic, or Gothic Quarter, from El Raval. The former is a gorgeous labyrinth of bars and beautiful architecture, while El Raval is shaking off its seedy past and has become a mecca for the bearded, tattooed hipster set. For a Barcelona you won’t find in guidebooks, check out the lesser-known Sant Antoni, an upcoming hot spot for good food and drink; Eixample, Barcelona’s elegant 19th century neighbourhood; and Gracia, a lively, bohemian area that was an independent town until the late 19th century and even now feels like a different world from the rest of the city. 

Going Out

Though Barcelona boasts a colourful, quality array of international cusines, it’s somewhat harder to find authentic Spanish food in the city. Though more synonymous with Andalusia and Madrid, tapas is big in Barcelona, with good options to be found in quiet Poble Sec and the aforementioned Sant Antoni. Catalan cuisine is also taking off; try the rustic Ca l’ Andreu, or for a contemporary twist visit La Cuina d’en Garriga. Satan’s Coffee Corner and Federal Cafe (both in the Gothic Quarter) do good coffee; in El Raval, try Caravelle for brunch, Bun Bo for cheap Vietnamese and even cheaper cocktails, and Betty Ford’s for after-dinner drinks. La Boqueria is Barcelona’s giant produce market and though it can be suffocating with tourists, it’s a must-see, though it’s cheaper to do your grocery shop at smaller, local markets and supermercados.

And remember virtually all shops close on a Sunday.

Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of ordering expensive seafood paella at touristy restaurants (it’s often factory made and frozen) or drinking overpriced sangria (it’s the same Don Simon you can buy for €1 a carton in supermarkets). Spend a year in Barcelona and you still won’t have discovered all of its culinary treasures and drinking spots – finding them for yourself is half the fun.

Living and Working in Barcelona

Spain’s economic crisis still weighs heavily on the country, with the youth unemployment rate (for people under 25) hitting upwards of 50% in recent years. For most vocations, you’ll need a proficient level of Spanish, unless you’re working for an international company. And you’ll need a NIE – a tax identification number in Spain known as the Número de Identidad de Extranjero. Obtaining a NIE involves a complicated, infuriating system of online appointments, obtaining employer’s documentation, in-person appointments, and waiting in a long line at a bank to pay your application fee. The rule of thumb in Barcelona is, take the whole day off whenever there’s official paperwork to do. 

A knock-on effect of the city’s popularity with tourists and seasonal visitors is that housing in Barcelona is in high demand. Sites like Craigslist offer rooms on a short term basis, but quality varies, and expect to pay anything from €300-500 a month for a room in a shared apartment. Longer term, a better option financially is to rent your own apartment directly from an agency or private landlord. English isn’t always spoken when it comes to dealing with landlords and bureaucrats, so this is where those Spanish lessons you’ve been taking will come in handy. 

Click Moves is an International Moving Company offer door to door service too and from most major cities across the World. We like to help, so if you are contemplating relocating overseas, and you have any questions,  please don’t hesitate to contact us