Is Spain a good place to retire? The scenic country offers older generations a wealth of lifestyle benefits, including over 320 days of sunshine a year, an excellent healthcare system, an affordable cost of living, and plenty of cultural and architectural appeal. Furthermore, there’s a wide range of properties on the market, buying real estate is relatively straightforward, and acquiring a visa is easy, particularly for EU nationals.
Data from the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Services, and Migration highlights that 6,007,553 foreigners called Spain home at the end of 2021.
And according to Statista, 38.2% of the country’s foreign elderly population is from the EU, 32.4% from the rest of Europe, and 14.2% from South America, with the remainder spread across the rest of the world.
The country’s popularity is clear to see, but where is the best place to retire in Spain? The answer to that question is a matter of taste. With a varied landscape, there are options galore to consider, from beachside villages and bustling metropolises to island retreats. Below, we explore the topic in detail, offering insights into the best city in Spain to retire, the best places in Spain to retire by the sea, and the best towns to retire in Spain.
1. Costa Blanca: One of the best places to retire in Spain by the sea
Population: Approximately 1.4 million
When it comes to deciding where is the best place to retire to in Spain, the Costa Blanca rates highly. Spread across over 200 kilometers of fantastic Mediterranean coastline in the southeast of the country, the region is exceptionally beautiful, featuring pretty coves, pine-covered mountains, and impressive limestone cliffs.
Furthermore, with real estate sales soaring, now’s the time to invest in this picturesque part of the country. The area extends from Dénia in the north to Pilar de la Horadada in the south, spanning places like charming Jávea and characterful Altea, where the atmosphere is peaceful and laid-back. And then there’s Moraira: Small, unspoiled, and surrounded by mountains and vineyards, it offers authenticity and is one of the best beach towns in Spain to retire.
Pros of retiring in the Costa Blanca
- Scenic landscape sprinkled with top-class beaches and bays
- Not overwhelmed by tourists
- Active ex-pat community
Cons of retiring in the Costa Blanca
- Quiet atmosphere (this is seen as a benefit by some)
- More expensive than other coastal areas in Spain
Homes for sale in Costa Blanca
2. Bilbao: One of the best cities to retire in Spain
Population: Approximately 355,000 (1.1 million metro area)
Located in the Basque Country and home to the iconic Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao is known for its top-quality culinary scene and backdrop of verdant green mountains. The Basque people are all about culture, and they’re fiercely proud of their heritage. As such, living in Bilbao offers a totally different experience from much of the rest of Spain.
Additionally, Bilbao has an extensive healthcare network, provides residents with a high quality of life, and is close to San Sebastian, another mecca for foodies. As of June 2022, there were approximately 375,000 retirement pensions across the Basque Country.
Pros of retiring in Bilbao
- Thriving ex-pat community
- Old Town filled with bars and restaurants
- Semana Grande (Aste Nagusia), a nine-day-long summer festival
Cons of retiring in Bilbao
- Relatively short summers compared to the rest of Spain
- More expensive than other parts of the country
3. Mallorca: Best beach towns in Spain to retire
Population: Approximately 950,000
The biggest of The Balearics, retirees are drawn to Mallorca for many reasons. These include the first-rate infrastructure, the renowned golf courses, the laid-back outdoorsy atmosphere, and the UNESCO-designated Sierra de Tramuntana. What’s more, an array of secluded coves and pristine beaches dot the island, including Cala Agulla, Portals Vells, and Playa de Canyamel. Indeed, as of June 2022, there were around 132,000 retirement pensions across The Balearics.
In terms of where to settle, there’s the vibrant capital of Palma – a hotbed of contemporary bars and innovative restaurants – the traditional picture-postcard town of Andratx, and the idyllic village of Valdemossa, to name just a few. The isle entices people with its creative energy, thanks to its bustling community of writers, musicians, and artists. No wonder many people think it’s the best place in Spain to retire.
Pros of retiring in Mallorca
- Unparalleled scenery and nature
- Welcoming ex-pat community
- Plenty of outdoor activities
Cons of retiring in Mallorca
- More isolated than mainland Spain
- Strict zoning laws
4. Costa del Sol: One of the best places to retire in Spain by the sea
Population: Approximately 1.6 million
The Costa del Sol is perhaps one of the most popular places to retire, offering people both beach and city life. Indeed, it’s estimated that more than 300,000 British retirees live in Spain, and there were approximately 934,000 retirement pensions in Andalucía as of June 2022.
With one of the best year-round climates in Europe, there’s an array of places to consider along the 150-kilometer coastline. Options include the glamor of Marbella and Puerto Banús, the historic city of Málaga, cultural Mijas, and the old fishing village of Torremolinos. Wherever you choose, you won’t be far from the inviting Mediterranean.
Pros of retiring in the Costa del Sol
- Best-in-class golf courses
- Relaxed lifestyle
- Exploring the region’s cultural side
Cons of retiring in the Costa del Sol
- Tourist areas hibernate in winter (viewed as a positive by some)
- Slow pace of life may be frustrating
Homes for sale in Costa Del Sol
5. Madrid: One of the best cities in Spain to retire
Population: Approximately 3.3 million (6.7 million metro area)
Both the capital and the largest city in the country, Madrid is a cosmopolitan area that was home to almost one million foreign residents as of January 2021. Moreover, there were around 809,500 retirement pensions across the Community of Madrid as of June 2022.
Seamlessly fusing the bustle of a contemporary metropolis with the charm of a historic city, Madrid also boasts a top-class healthcare system and has 21 districts and over 100 neighborhoods to settle down in. Furthermore, an array of green spaces offer a restful retreat from the busy streets, including El Retiro, Capricho, Sabatini Gardens, and Casa de Campo.
Pros of retiring in Madrid
- Vibrant capital city
- Steeped in art and culture
- Excellent public transport
Cons of retiring in Madrid
- One of the most expensive cities in Spain
- Lacks the allure of coastal districts
6. Canary Islands: Best place to live in Spain with arthritis
Population: Approximately 2.25 million
Located off the northwest coast of Africa, The Canaries span eight main islands – the most popular are Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, and Lanzarote. Known for rugged volcanic terrain, black and white sand beaches, and a sub-tropical climate, each isle has something different to offer, attracting many retirees each year. Indeed, there were approximately 196,000 retirement pensions across The Canaries as of June 2022.
Tenerife is the biggest and most populous, with a large British ex-pat community. There’s much to enjoy, from Teide National Park and local food and wine to robust healthcare facilities and a slow pace of life. Meanwhile, Gran Canaria is the second most populated, where the rural interior provides a tranquil outlook with its mountainous landscape. Fuerteventura is quieter and arguably has the best beaches, and Lanzarote has a spirited art and culture scene.
Spain ranks number one in Bloomberg’s 2022 Global Health Index, so it’s no surprise retirees flock to places like The Canaries.
Pros of retiring in The Canary Islands
- Inexpensive cost of living
- Year-round sun and warmth
- Relaxed way of life
Cons of retiring in The Canary Islands
- More prone to rain than other parts of Spain
- Relatively remote location
Homes for Sale in the Canary Islands
7. Barcelona: One of the best cities in Spain to retire
Population: Approximately 1.6 million (5.6 million metro area)
The second largest city in Spain and the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona is perhaps best known for its architecture at the hands of Antoni Gaudí. Other highlights include Las Ramblas, parks such as Ciutadella, UNESCO-designated Güell, and Doctor Pla i Armengol Gardens, and 4.5 kilometers of coastline.
Neighborhoods to choose from range from cultural Barrio Gotico and Barceloneta for beach vibes to Sarria and Sant Gervasi for calm and quiet. As of June 2022, there were approximately 1,152,000 retirement pensions across Catalonia.
Pros of retiring in Barcelona
- City, beach, and mountain life combined
- International community
- Clean and very walkable
Cons of retiring in Barcelona
- One of the most expensive cities in Spain
- Mass tourism
Find your retirement property in Spain
Looking for the best places to live in Spain for retirement? Browse JamesEdition’s selection of upscale homes for sale in Spain, spanning architectural masterpieces in Marbella, beach-facing apartments along the Costa Blanca, rural getaways in Mallorca, city center condos in Barcelona and Madrid, plus more.