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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Barcelona

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  • Matthew Brown

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Relocating to Barcelona

Barcelona is probably the most cosmopolitan and exciting city in Spain. The bars, restaurants, and museums, as well as the busy seaside, are definitely a reason for moving to Barcelona. However, the city also impresses expats with its history and tradition, an aspect the locals are particularly proud of.

Location and Landscape

Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is located in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula. With about 1.6 million inhabitants, Barcelona is also the second biggest city in Spain, right after Madrid. It is considered Europe’s largest urban center on the Mediterranean Sea, enveloped by the rivers Llobregat and Besòs.

You will discover different hills around Barcelona which lend their names to the neighborhoods that have developed on them. Montjuïc, for instance, offers an exquisite view of the harbor, and is home to several cultural venues, including a fortress. Expats moving to Barcelona benefit from its close proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, where the water is warm and the weather is balmy almost all year round. On the other side of the city, in the west, you will find the Sierra de Collserola ridge with vast woodlands, meadows, and fields.

Catalonian Politics and Language

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and, due to Catalonia’s political autonomy within Spain, has a particularly important status within the region. Catalonia is ruled by the Generalitat, which has its seat in Barcelona. The first version of this autonomous government dates back to medieval times when the Diputació General de Catalunya was in power. Due to the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, Barcelona’s city government enjoys a large amount of decision-making authority.

Castilian, Spain’s official language, is not the only language spoken in Barcelona: Catalan is the second official language and is widely used in the city and the rest of Catalonia. Catalonians are not obligated to fall back on Spanish, even for official purposes. For expats moving to Barcelona, this poses an entirely new language barrier which is not easily overcome.

Getting Your Identity Number in Barcelona

Foreign residents from EU member states and non-EU nationals are subject to different requirements and restrictions. EU/EEA citizens simply need a valid passport or ID to enter the country. For a stay exceeding three months, an NIE (Número de Indentificación de Extranjeros), an identity number for foreigners, is required for every foreign national in Spain. You will need this number to rent or buy property, open a bank account, or simply work in Barcelona.

There are many Departments of Foreigners (Extranjería) in Barcelona which handle all bureaucratic issues of foreigners moving to Barcelona. In order to apply for an NIE, you need to submit the following documents at the respective office:

  • the original application form and a copy thereof
  • your passport and a copy of the information page
  • for non-EU residents, documents indicating the reason they need an NIE (e.g. purchasing a house, business purposes)
  • a fee of 10 USD (2014) paid by money order

Visas and Transportation in Barcelona

Not an EU National — What Are Your Options?

Some countries have entered into international treaties allowing their citizens to visit the Schengen area for a period of less than 90 days without needing a visa. For non-EU citizens whose country is not on this list and for those looking to stay for an extended period of time, the following visas are of interest:

  • Family reunification visa (visado de reagrupación familiar): expats married to a Spanish citizen or are related to one can apply for this visa.
  • Work visa (**)**: before applying for a work visa, you need to secure an employment contract, which you can later submit with your visa application.
  • Student visa (visado de estudiantes): you can apply for a student visa if you are studying at a school or university, or are part of an exchange program. With a student visa, you can also secure a visa for your spouse or children.
  • Tourist visa (visado de turismo): it is necessary to apply for a tourist visa if you are a non-EU/EEA citizen and if your country does not have a visa agreement with Spain, or for the Schengen area in general. A tourist visa is valid for up to 90 days.

For more information on visa restrictions and requirements, please contact a Spanish embassy or consulate near you. The Ministry of Foreign Relations is also a great place to find more information.

Taxis — Hail, Call, App, or Order Online

Taxis are available all over Barcelona and can be hailed on the street, booked over the phone, or you can use an app such as Hailo or MyTaxi. Keep in mind that calling a taxi will require a surcharge. Furthermore, you should be prepared to pay extra for big luggage, as well as trips to the airport. If you require a taxi between 21:00 and 07:00, the fare is higher. The basic fare is 2.10 EUR, with an additional 1.07 EUR for each kilometer.

There are many taxi companies which offer their services throughout Barcelona. Fono Taxi and Taxi Amic cater particularly to people with disabilities. Catalunyataxi and T033 Radio taxi service even allow you to book your taxi service online. Many companies allow you to pay with credit card. This is not always the case, though, and you should definitely not depend on it.

Public Transportation: Road and Rail

Buses are an important mode of transportation both in Barcelona proper and in much of the Pyrenees and along the Costa Brava as railroad services are incredibly limited there. In Barcelona, buses run every few minutes or so and are replaced by a Nitbus (night bus) network starting between 22:40 and 23:40 and ending at some point between 05:00 and 06:00. Barcelona’s bus network is operated by Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona. The city’s suburbs are connected to the city via six tram lines, operated by Tram.

Barcelona also has a comprehensive metro system with eleven lines spreading all across the city. The different lines are color-coded, making it easy to find the right connection. The train network also connects Barcelona to other bigger Spanish cities like Valencia or Madrid, but travelling by train also makes sense if you are trying to reach smaller towns outside of Barcelona.

Bikes, Boats, and Barcelona

For athletic types, Barcelona is the place to be considering how easy it is to explore the city by bike. The large network of bike paths is constantly being extended. In addition, Barcelona’s city government started the “Bicing Service” in 2007 — a public bicycle system for residents which allows them to use the red-and-white bicycles at stations across the city for a monthly fee. Cyclists are, unfortunately, not allowed to travel on bus lanes and footpaths. So, when there is no bicycle lane for you, be careful when navigating Barcelona’s crowded traffic.

If you are looking for a quick get-away, you may also travel by boat or ferry. Acciona Trasmediterránea, among others, offers frequent connections from and to the Balearic Islands. You can choose between standard ferries and high-speed catamaran ferries. The latter are a lot more expensive. Other companies also offer connections to Italy and Morocco. It makes sense to shop around, however, as a plane ticket might end up being a lot cheaper.

Connect with like-minded expatriates

Discover our welcoming community of expats! You’ll find many ways to network, socialize, and make new friends. Attend online and in-person events that bring global minds together.

Jul 28, 2024, 7:00 PM
269 attendees
What better way to end your weekend than with a sunset party at a hotel rooftop? Enjoy good music and even better company at this central location! Doors will open at 7pm, please arrive on time if yo
Aug 3, 2024, 7:30 PM
144 attendees
It’s time to get together and enjoy Tardeo, very popular in cities like Valencia and Alicante where you meet your friends and enjoy drinks from early evening on! Make new connections and join your in
Aug 10, 2024, 9:00 PM
114 attendees
Great weather in town we are ready to enjoy it at its best! We are excited to invite you to join us at the rooftop terrace of the Hotel Espanya, at the hearth of Barcelona city center, next to Las R
Aug 17, 2024, 7:30 PM
50 attendees
Get ready for an Official Event in one of the best kept secrets of Barcelona. The garden of the Petit Palace Boqueria Garden hotel! We will have food on demand for those who get hungry during the eve

See all upcoming events for expats in Barcelona

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