Best places to retire in Spain for expats

Spain has established itself as a premier retirement destination for expatriates with its sunny climate, stunning landscapes, cultural richness, reasonable living expenses and superb healthcare as well as a wide spectrum of options tailored to all preferences and priorities.

InterNations crowned Málagas as the premier European destination for expatriate living in 2023 following a survey of more than 12,000 expats. Two additional Spanish cities—Alicante and Valencia—ascended to the second and third positions, respectively. Since the survey started in 2014, Spain has continually secured a position within the top 10. Overall, an impressive 87% of expats express satisfaction with their life in Spain, significantly higher than the global average of 72%.

Why retire in Spain?.

The warm weather is the top reason for choosing Spain to retire. The majority of the country has a Mediterranean climate characterised by mild winters and hot summers, making it an ideal destination for individuals seeking year-round warmth and sunshine with minimal rainfall and no harsh cold weather. Retirees can enjoy their days exploring the countryside, unwinding on beaches and savouring the cuisine and wines of the region.

 The cost of living in Spain, especially in some coastal towns and rural areas, offers significant advantages. Property prices in Spain are typically lower compared to those in the UK, USA,  CANADA  and many European cities. The overall expenses for utilities, household bills and daily purchases are more budget-friendly while expenses such as road tax and heating costs are notably reduced. Retirees with pensions from other countries will find that their funds stretch further in Spain.

Another compelling aspect of retiring to Spain is the country’s exemplary healthcare system, renowned for its quality across both public and private sectors. Citizens, EU members and residents who have contributed to the Spanish Social Security system or through the S1 form, can avail themselves of public healthcare services. Alternatively, those ineligible for public care can access Spain’s excellent private healthcare sector. Even among those eligible for public care, many opt for private insurance to circumvent lengthy wait times.  Whether utilising public or private providers, Spain maintains a favourable ratio of doctors to residents throughout the nation. Medical professionals in both sectors often speak English fluently and are equipped with state-of-the-art technology.

Public transportation in Spain is of exceptional value and convenience. RENFE, the country’s renowned rail service, is known for its excellence in engineering and customer satisfaction. The high-speed train, AVE, connects major cities in under 3 hours. Spain has over 40 airports and a range of airlines catering to different budgets. Even traveling by bus is comfortable and affordable and it remains a popular choice for both locals and tourists.

Acquiring residency in Spain comes with numerous benefits, including visa-free travel to 26 European cities. Spain offers a specialised non-European residency visa designed for retirees, known as the “non-lucrative”. This visa permits residence in Spain without the need for employment or economic activities and is initially granted for one year with the option for subsequent renewals for an additional two years.Following the third renewal period you can apply for a longer-term, five-year permit as a permanent resident. 

Interesting read : How to buy property in Spain

Top retirement destinations in Spain

  • Malaga’s well-planned layout and efficient public transportation system offer easy navigation for residents, complemented by pedestrian-friendly streets and a strong emphasis on safety. Its rich cultural scene,exceptional gastronomy and pleasant climate, coupled with its historical landmarks and vibrant streets, makes Malaga a top retirement destination. Additionally, Malaga’s affordability, with diverse housing options at reasonable prices, positions it favourably for retirees seeking a comfortable lifestyle.
  • Madrid is also a premier retirement destination in Spain, boasting exceptional quality of life marked by excellent transport links, a robust healthcare system and a vibrant cultural scene. With a significant English-speaking population and an array of activities catering to its more than one million foreign residents, the city offers retirees ample opportunities for exploration and engagement. Renowned for its magnificent architecture, world-class museums and culinary delights, Madrid provides retirees access to some of Spain’s finest cultural experiences and cuisine. The city’s favourable climate encourages outdoor activities such as cycling, hiking and leisurely park strolls, facilitating social connections within its lively expat community.
  • Barcelona offers a wide range of activities and benefits for senior citizens and retirees to encourage them to enjoy the city. The “Tarjeta Rosa” social card provides discounts on transportation and various establishments such as health centres, cultural venues and sports facilities. Additionally, the Barcelona City Council organises diverse activities for the elderly, including trips, conferences, workshops and language courses. The IMSERSO program offers affordable travel opportunities for retirees to socialise and explore new places. “Casals,” belonging to the city council, host daily activities like bingo and dances, some of which are free or offered at a low cost. With its warm climate, Barcelona boasts numerous swimming pools, both public and private, facilitating an active lifestyle. Furthermore, the “Go by bike” program promotes the use of electric tricycles, enhancing mobility and well-being among seniors.

Do you need a professional help to retire in Spain for expats?

Interesting read  How to move to Malaga 

Coastal retreats

  • Alicante, dubbed Europe’s sunniest city, offers an idyllic climate with 320 days of sunshine annually, perfect for outdoor activities. Its well-developed infrastructure, including an airport and transportation network, facilitates travel domestically and internationally. Diverse housing prices provide options within varied towns and beaches. Residents enjoy a vibrant social scene, multicultural culinary delights with its stunning beaches and rich history, Alicante attracts retirees seeking affordable housing, excellent healthcare and a warm community atmosphere. The districts of Ruzafa and El Carmen boast the highest concentration of retirees.
  • Costa del Sol offers an ideal retirement setting with its sunny weather, renowned healthcare services and affordable cost of living. The region boasts high-quality medical care facilities and numerous options for elderly care centres, fostering community connections. Property options are diverse, ranging from luxurious homes to affordable rentals. Its expansive sandy beaches and clean environment add to the appeal, with local authorities prioritising pollution control. The relaxed atmosphere and high quality of life make Costa del Sol a popular choice for retirees and expats alike.
  • Retirement life in Palma de Mallorca offers a serene and fulfilling experience. The city’s relaxed pace, Mediterranean climate and an active expat community make it an ideal destination for retirees. Palma’s rich cultural scene includes historic landmarks, museums and art galleries. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy beaches, golf courses and mountain activities, even the nightlife offers diverse entertainment options, including live music and festivals. The city provides essential amenities, including supermarkets, shops and healthcare facilities, with excellent public transport connections, making  Palma de Mallorca a perfect balance of relaxation and activity in a beautiful setting.

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Cultural hubs

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN), founded in 2004, is dedicated to fostering creativity and supporting cultural industries. Presently, nine Spanish cities are integral members of this network, including:


  • Seville, renowned for its rich musical heritage, stands out as a vibrant hub of creativity and musical activity.
  • Barcelona and Granada are literature hub cities; They boast a legacy of poets, writers and intellectuals and host hundreds of literary events annually.
  • Burgos, City of Gastronomy, pioneers of innovative research in food science, safety, biotechnology and nutrition, raising awareness globally about the intricate relationship between food and human evolution. Collaboratively, they develop foods tailored to improve cardiovascular health.
  • Bilbao´s development strategy lies in creativity and design.Is the leading hub in various domains including architecture, industrial and interior design, new technologies, fashion and crafts.

Terrassa and Valladolid have emerged as hubs for independent film production and education. They provide support to artists through creativity grants, particularly for experimental audiovisual projects. With a commitment to utilising cinema for education, integration and socioeconomic advancement, the cultural businesses in these cities play a substantial role in their local economies.

The European Capital of Culture initiative positions culture as a central focus for European cities, offering significant opportunities for generating cultural, social and economic benefits. It serves as a catalyst for urban revitalization, reshaping a city’s image and enhancing its international visibility and profile

Over sixty cities across the EU and beyond have been designated European Capitals of Culture, with four Spanish cities among them:

  • Madrid, honoured in 1992, stands as a vibrant hub of contemporary cultural expression, boasting nearly 90 public museums and close to 150 art galleries.
  • Santiago de Compostela, recognized in 2000 as part of the “millennium year,” holds UNESCO World Heritage City status since 1985.
  • Salamanca, designated in 2022, also holds UNESCO World Heritage City status and is renowned as a centre of culture, knowledge and academia, earning the title of the “city of the Spanish language.”
  • San Sebastian, honoured in 2016, symbolises peace in the realms of art, culture and law.

Looking ahead to 2031, Burgos, Caceres, Granada and Jerez de la Frontera stand as potential candidates for the title of European Capital of Culture.

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Hidden gems

  • Tarraco, the ancient Roman settlement in Tarragona, Spain, offers a rich blend of history, culture and natural beauty. Established in the 3rd century BC, it’s the oldest Roman settlement on the Iberian Peninsula. Just an hour from Barcelona, Tarragona is a hidden gem for retirees, boasting affordability without compromising luxury. Recognized by UNESCO for its Roman heritage and vibrant culture, Tarragona hosts a variety of festivals and events year-round. Its coastline, with 15 kilometres of pristine beaches, provides a serene escape and showcases untouched natural ecosystems.
  • Calpe, nestled along the Costa Blanca, boasts breathtaking landscapes and a rich tapestry of exploration, particularly within its charming old town adorned with cobblestone streets and remarkable architectural marvels. Its flat terrain makes it perfect for leisurely strolls, while ancient city walls, exquisite dining establishments and meticulously designated cycling lanes offer endless delights.

Renowned as one of Spain’s warmest cities, Calpe beckons retirees with its abundance of sunny days, vibrant activities and a thriving expatriate community comprising over half of its residents.

Retirement in Spain
  • Mijas, nestled in the mountains of Spain, is renowned as one of the top retirement destinations, particularly beloved by expats. Its Andalusian village charm, stunning beaches and white-washed architecture create an idyllic setting for retirement. The semi-tropical climate ensures year-round enjoyment, with breathtaking views of the town’s white houses against lush greenery.

Highlighted by ‘International Living’ magazine, Mijas is a preferred spot for retirees from various countries, including Britain, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and the United States. Noted for its beauty, climate and recreational offerings, including access to the renowned ‘golf valley’ of the Costa del Sol, Mijas appeals to outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking a leisurely lifestyle.

Interesting read Temporary  Residency for Non EU Citizens in Spain 

Requirements for retirees to live in Spain

In Spain, retirees do not have a dedicated visa. EU retirees simply need to register with the Foreigners’ Citizens Registry and acquire a residence permit, demonstrating adequate pension income to reside in Spain. Non-EU retirees have two visa options tailored to their requirements: the Golden Visa and the Non-Lucrative Visa, both of which we will elaborate on later in the text.

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EU retirees.

For retirees from the EU who wish to settle and enjoy their retirement in Spain, it’s worth noting that they do not need a visa to enter the country. Instead, they must follow a different procedure, which involves registering with the Central Registry of Foreigners, provided they meet certain requirements.

Primarily, they must demonstrate sufficient financial resources both for themselves and, if applicable, for any accompanying family members residing in Spain. Retirees can typically prove this through documentation of their pension payments.

For both EU and non-EU retirees, this necessity is typically met through the acquisition of the S1 form, which is issued in their country of origin. This form serves as a certification, facilitating the transfer of their healthcare entitlements from their home nation to Spain.

It validates their eligibility for public and cost-free healthcare within Spain, under the coverage of their home country’s healthcare system. This documentation assures that individuals relocating to Spain are covered medically and, as per international agreements, are entitled to healthcare benefits within the Spanish Social Security system.

It’s worth noting that as European citizens, they can stay in Spain for a maximum of 90 days without needing to apply for residency. However, for longer stays, they must apply for the corresponding residence permit within three months of their arrival in the country.

This residency application would entail tax implications in Spain, which we’ll discuss shortly.

Lastly, retirees who have been legal residents in Spain for 5 consecutive years can opt to apply for permanent residency in the country.

non-EU retirees

For non-EU retirees, it’s crucial to note that once residency is acquired in Spain, it enables visa-free travel within the cities of the Schengen Area.

Non-EU citizens, particularly retirees seeking to settle in Spain, have two main visa options:

  1. The Non-lucrative visa, is ideal for citizens who wish to establish themselves in Spain to enjoy their retirement, as it provides the corresponding residency permit without requiring any employment.

The non-lucrative visa is initially issued by the Consulate of the Country of Origin for a period of 1 year, but it’s renewable for an additional 2 years thereafter, and then for another two years. After 5 years, applicants become eligible to apply for permanent residency. Moreover, after 10 years of continuous residency in Spain, these individuals may pursue Spanish citizenship

The primary requirements to qualify for this visa include:

  • Demonstrating stable income of €28,800 annually for the applicant and €7,200 for each dependent family member. It’s important to note that these amounts will double for future renewals, typically for two-year periods.
  • Private health insurance coverage

2. The Golden Visa, also known as an investor visa, stands as an exceptional choice for retirees aiming to settle in Spain through property acquisition. However, it’s important to note that the primary requirement for eligibility is purchasing one or more properties valued at a minimum of €500,000.

This visa type holds significant appeal due to its streamlined application process within Spain, in contrast to the previous requirement of initiating it at the Consulate of one’s home country. Opting for this visa process directly in Spain not only saves considerable time and costs but also offers flexibility.

Upon application through the consulate, recipients are granted a one-year visa. However, upon arrival in Spain, they have the duration of that year to apply for a residency permit, which is initially valid for 2 years and renewable for 5 years. Subsequently, after 5 years, applicants can pursue long-term residency, followed by citizenship eligibility after 10 years.

Key requirements for this visa include:

  • Proof of property investment totaling at least €500,000
  • Evidence of stable income, amounting to €28,800 annually for the applicant and €7,200 per dependent family member
  • Private health insurance coverage.

At Tejada Solicitors, we strongly recommend pursuing this visa process from within Spain for its efficiency and convenience

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Tax implications 

Many retirees from both EU and non-EU countries dream of establishing permanent residency in Spain, a situation that entails fulfilling tax obligations as a tax resident in Spain.

According to Article 9 of the Income Tax Law, individuals who spend more than 183 days in Spanish territory or possess significant economic interests in Spain are deemed tax residents. Consequently, as tax residents in Spain, they are obligated to adhere to the following tax requirements:

To alleviate the risk of double taxation, a bilateral tax treaty between Spain and their country of origin is employed to prevent income from being taxed in both jurisdictions.

  • Form 720: Compulsory for both individuals and legal entities, it must be submitted to declare overseas assets exceeding 50,000 euros outside of Spain.
  • Wealth Tax: Imposed on global net assets exceeding 3,700,000 euros.

Property Conveyancing

Rosana Tejada, as a tax advisor at Tejada Solicitors Law Firm, provides expert assistance and guidance in organising your tax affairs prior to your relocation to Spain. We offer our clients a thorough assessment of the tax implications in Spain upon obtaining residency, along with considerations for future tax obligations such as capital gains upon the sale of properties in their home country. At Tejada Solicitors, we strongly recommend gaining a precise fiscal perspective before finalising any decisions

Do you need a professional help to retire in Spain for expats?

Navigating your retirement in Spain

When considering retirement in Spain, the non-lucrative visa stands out as a popular choice among expatriates. Tailored for individuals with sufficient passive income or savings, this visa option offers a pathway to legal residency in the country. To qualify for Spain’s retirement visa, applicants must meet specific criteria:

  • Be a non-EU citizen
  • Maintain a clean criminal record
  • Demonstrate good health and obtain private health insurance
  • Show proof of financial stability.

Once approved, the retiree, their spouse/partner and dependent family members can reside in Spain legally. However, holders of this visa are not permitted to engage in any form of employment. Upon issuance, the visa grants a one-year residence card, renewable for up to two additional years. After five years in the country, retirees can apply for permanent residency.

Another avenue available to non-EU retirees seeking to invest in Spain is to pursue the Golden Visa. To qualify, applicants must demonstrate investment in Spanish real estate or capital. Unlike the non-lucrative visa, this authorization permits employment in Spain and offers a longer duration of validity.

One of the primary attractions for retirees considering Spain is its renowned healthcare system. Retirees under non-lucrative and Golden visas typically opt for private healthcare. Spain’s public healthcare system, the Sistema Nacional de Salud (SNS), offers nearly cost-free medical services to its citizens. Expatriates in Spain have the option to access this state-funded service if eligible, by enrolling in the Convenio Especial insurance scheme, which covers pre-existing conditions, by paying a monthly fee. Those preferring private medical care can purchase private insurance, which may include coverage for non-emergency dental treatments, not covered by the public system.

For expats choosing not to register with the Convenio Especial insurance scheme, proof of adequate private medical coverage is necessary for visa/residency purposes.

Interesting read  Property Conveyancing Spain 

top retirement destinations in Spain

Living the Spanish dream

Relocating to a different country poses its own set of hurdles, as departing from familiar faces and embarking on a new chapter can be daunting. However, in Spain, this transition is eased by a multitude of opportunities for social inclusion. Life in Spain underscores the importance of seizing the moment, embracing a slower pace and cherishing communal experiences. Integrating into Spanish society requires more than just linguistic proficiency, though mastering Spanish can certainly expedite the process. It also entails embracing and appreciating the cultural diversity and lifestyle that contribute to the enriching experience of settling in Spain. Spanish culture and traditions remain deeply intertwined with religion and its architecture is largely rooted in religious heritage, with over 90 cathedrals gracing the country’s landscape, more than 60% of Spaniards regularly attend church services.

One of the cherished customs in Spanish culture is the siesta—a leisurely midday nap. So cherished, in fact, that many businesses shut down for a couple of hours each day, allowing their employees to recharge their energy for the remainder of the afternoon.

Interesting read  Spanish Inheritance Tax 

Tax, immigration, and real estate matters in Spain can be challenging for foreign individuals without the right guidance. At Tejada Solicitors, we approach your case from a 360-degree perspective. Our immigration specialist, tax lawyer, and property conveyancing expert will jointly study and analyze your case. We are here to streamline this process, reduce stress, and ensure your move to Spain is a success. Trust in the confidence and support of our team of specialized lawyers with extensive experience in these procedures.

If you’re a EU or non- EU retiree considering establishing any ties with Spain, then dealing with tax, immigration and real estate matters can present significant challenges. At Tejada Solicitors, we strive to offer our clients a comprehensive 360-degree service. Our team, composed of specialists in immigration, tax consultancy and property law, collaboratively examine and analyse your particular situation. Our objective is to streamline the process, alleviate stress and ensure the success of your relocation or investment in Spain

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