Are you thinking about moving to Barcelona? You’re certainly not the only one who’s been lured in by the Catalan capital’s charm. The city is home to a thriving international community with plenty of people who decided to make the move here.
Still, even when you’re moving to a place as exciting as Barcelona, it can be hard getting everything set up. It’s not easy moving to a new country where you’re not a native speaker of the language. It’s also not easy moving somewhere with a challenging job market.
But it can definitely be done. You’ll need a bit of patience, and in the end, it’s worth it! So, here’s everything you need to get set up in Barcelona! I’ve included practical steps for how to do these things, not just “get a job.” Unless you’re independently wealthy, you’ll clearly need one of those!
Just one warning: they say “Barcelona engancha”, so you might find yourself coming to stay for longer than you expected!
Here’s your guide to getting set up with everything you need for living in Barcelona.
Step 1: Find an apartment in Barcelona
First things first, you’ll need to have somewhere to stay. A lot of people stay in a hostel or hotel for the first few days, but this gets expensive pretty quickly.
Unfortunately, apartment hunting in Barcelona can be a bit of a nightmare. Prices have gone up significantly in recent years, and there’s stiff competition for rooms and flats. There are also lots of places that just aren’t that nice, with few windows, cramped living spaces, and noisy streets.
So, finding a place to live usually takes a bit of legwork here. One thing you may consider is to get a short-term rental apartment while you search for a place to live long-term. This will probably be cheaper and more comfortable than staying in a hotel.
When you do see somewhere you like the look of, let the person renting it know ASAP.
Here are the websites you’ll need to look for an apartment:
You can also check out Facebook, where you can find groups for finding apartments and roommates. Just search “Barcelona expat” or “Barcelona accommodation” and join the ones you like the look of.
Often, the very best way to find an apartment in Barcelona is by knowing somebody who is moving out and having them pass it along to you.
*Thanks to Nestpick for helping with this post! They feature centrally located apartments in Barcelona for both short and long-term stays.
2. Find a job in Barcelona
You may hear that the job market in Barcelona isn’t the best. This is true – but mostly when talking about the general job market. When you’re talking about finding a job as an expat in Barcelona, you’re talking about something a bit different. Let’s talk about both of them.
The general job market isn’t great, but it has picked up recently as compared to a few years ago. There are two areas that are easier to get work in: tourism and tech.
The expat job market is a bit different. There are three main ways you can find work in Barcelona for expats. First, there’s always work in teaching English. This is where lots of people from other countries start their job hunt (myself included!)
There are also lots of companies where English is spoken either entirely or partially that are based in Barcelona. This is where you can get work experience outside of teaching English without having to speak much Spanish.
The third option is to find a local company that needs an English speaker. These companies usually don’t have English language skills past the conversational level. That means they really need English speakers! Usually, to get one of these jobs, you do have to speak Spanish.
One note: wages aren’t huge here, so you may have to adjust your expectations for how much you’ll earn. But, living costs aren’t huge either, so it works out.
Here are some helpful websites to find a job in Barcelona:
- LingoBongo (language jobs)
- LinkedIn – keep your profile updated
3. Get your paperwork in order
Spanish bureaucracy can be a nightmare. When you first arrive to Barcelona, you’ll need to get a few paperwork things set up, so be prepared for an uphill battle.
You’ll need: a NIE (foreigner’s ID number), to register with your local town hall, and to set up your social security account. After that, you can get the CatSalut medical card.
Here’s how you can do all of this! This is arranged in order – you’ll need your NIE first,then you can use that to register at the town hall, and so on.
Step 1: NIE:
For non-EU citizens, you’ll also need a TIE:
Step 2: Register with town hall (“empadronamiento”):
Step 3: Sign up for social security:
Step 4: Get a medical card with CatSalut:
For more information, these are the official government links (though these are frequently confusing and difficult to navigate):
- The Spanish government’s Information for Foreigners
- The City of Barcelona’s page for new residents
It’s always a good idea to make an appointment (“cita previa”) if you can. Take any and all documentation you have to each appointment, just in case.
4. Open a bank account in Barcelona
To open a bank account in Barcelona, you usually need to take your NIE, your passport, an employment contract, and some sort of proof of your address in Spain.
The requirements can vary a bit from bank to bank. The easiest way is just to go to he bank and ask what you’ll need to provide. There are some banks that will open non-resident accounts if for whatever reason you don’t have a NIE.
Here are some good articles with in-depth information about how to open a bank account in Barcelona:
One thing to keep in mind: pick the office you choose to open your bank account at carefully. This is where you’ll go in case you have any issues, like ordering a new card. I opened mine at an office near my first job in Barcelona, which was nowhere near my apartment. A few years later, I needed a new card. To switch which office my account was located at, I had to open an entirely new account.
Of course, you can’t predict where in the city you’ll be in a few years, but think about opening one at a location that’s not too far away.
Step 5: Get social!
With getting everything practical set up when you first move to Barcelona, you may find that your social life takes a bit of a hit in your first couple of weeks here. (Mine certainly did). It can also be hard making friends in a new place.
Once you’ve met a few people you click with, it gets easier and easier to meet people. But meeting those first few can be challenging. Here are a few ways to make friends in Barcelona:
Find events using Meetup or Couchsurfing
These two websites both have a bunch of events, from language exchanges to hiking groups, so you can find one that fits your interests.
Use Facebook groups to reach out to other expats
You can use either Facebook groups or just by searching for events near you to find stuff to go to in Barcelona. There are tons of Facebook groups for expats in Barcelona, and some of them regularly post social events.
Join a gym or pick up a sport
There are lots of gyms to choose from in Barcelona, or you could look for a place to play your favorite sport (TimPik is a good place to start). There are also sporty events posted on Facebook, including running in the Ciutadella park or joining a game of beach volleyball.
Read more: Where to Play Soccer in Barcelona or Great Places to Go Running in Barcelona
Go to Catalan classes
Did you know that there are totally free Catalan classes you can take? They’re a great chance to meet new people and sharpen your language skills.
Keep up with what’s happening in the city
There is always something going on here. To find out about cool events in Barcelona, I usually use either Time Out or Barcelona Metropolitan. There are museum expositions, festivals, traditional celebrations, museum openings, film screenings, and more happening all year round.
Well, that wraps up the guide to moving to Barcelona! I hope you’ve found it useful. Let me know in the comments if you have any more questions about living in Barcelona.
Thanks again to Nestpick for their help with this post! You can head on over to their website to find an apartment in Barcelona.
As someone who literally just went through the nightmare of finding a flat to rent in Barcelona, I can confirm – it is hard. Very few options, most of which disappear within a blink of an eye. Agency fees from the moon. Flat quality… debatable. People’s attitude towards cleanness of buildings very much not-a-ok. But we did it, somehow! Only took us a month…
Yeah, it can be really hard to find a flat here. Glad to hear you finally got one sorted out. 😀 Congrats!
Straightforward and helpful. I am sure there are many ways to settle in this city that might scare newcomers. This article brings a little light on the matter. Thanks!
That is some good advice, Jessica! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Barcelona is a magical place, wouldn’t you say?
Studied abroad, lot of friends I made there complained about how hard it is to get a job. If you’re going, you gotta be prepared.
Looks like a great city to settle in! Thanks for the tips.
Gret guide, I certainly not the only one who’s been lured in by the Catalan capital’s charm. I love Barcelona
Hello, I am looking to move to Barcelona permanently and was wondering what steps I need for visa while in America . I am planning a vacation again to Spain in July for 3 weeks and wasn’t sure if while over there anyone could assist me as well? How long does or will it take for permanent visa that I can continue o stay there without having to come back to America again and again. Thank u
Hello Jessie! I’m afraid I’m not of much help as I’m a dual U.K.-U.S. citizen and didn’t have to get a visa. But Cat at Sunshine & Siestas and Como Consulting can probably help you out more! 🙂
If you have any non-visa related questions, I’m happy to try to answer them.
Hi Jessica, I’m planning to visit Barcelona for about 3 months (I hope I won’t get the “Barcelona engancha”).
I was wondering if finding a studio for this amount of time is possible in Barcelona. I don’t know what the city culture is, but I know that in some cities you can rent for 1 month only, while in others they expect minimum contracts of 6 months or 1 year.
Also, what should I expect in terms of rent?
My friend want to live some time in Barcelona. He has always loved the Spanish culture. I’ll pass this link to him. Thank you.
This is great. Barcelona is a wonderful city.
My best friend recently went to Barcelona for a month but had the advantage of it being work related and was staying with a friend. Still, very useful post!
My boyfriend has been trying to convince me to move to Barcelona for a while now and seeing this sure helps with the anxiety of moving so far away from home.
Barcelona is a really awesome place. I like very much for a move to Barcelona. You share the information about a move to Barcelona is really useful. Great blog. Thanks for sharing valuable information.