Is This Sun-Soaked Spot Europe’s Happiest Expat Haven?

A recent study into expat happiness around the world saw Old World great Spain dominate the rankings.

Valencia was crowned the number one city for quality of life for expats while Malaga, Madrid, Alicante, and Barcelona all earned a place in the top ten.

In addition, Spain was first runner up when it came to countries with the happiest expats (coming in a close second to Mexico).

Spanish cities Madrid and Barcelona also rank in a recently released report into emerging trends in global real estate as two of the top cities to consider for property investment this year.

As founder of Live And Invest Overseas and publisher of our annual Global Retirement Index, Spain’s winning ways come as no surprise. Indeed, Valencia also took the top spot in our 2024 ranking of the world’s best destinations for an overseas retirement.

The second biggest country in the EU after France, Spain is a beautifully diverse nation, offering rich culture and proud tradition.

Its miles of coastline run to the shores of the Mediterranean, the Cantabrian Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean, and you can drive to neighboring Portugal or France.

One of the biggest misconceptions North Americans have about expat life in Europe is that it’s financially out of reach. Happily, Spain is one of the most affordable regions in Western Europe. Here, you can enjoy a cost of living that’s, on average, 49% cheaper than in the U.S.

In Valencia—Spain’s third-largest city and home to 800,000 people—a monthly budget of $2,477 would see a couple enjoying a comfortable lifestyle.

This geographically blessed region gets some of the best weather in the world, with about 2,700 hours of sunshine—300-plus sunny days—per year.

Long famous for its architecture, to walk the streets is to journey through 2,000 years of rich history. But this is a place that’s also moved with the times, offering residents reliable and well-maintained infrastructure, from convenient public transport systems, to affordable, world-class health care, and first-rate connectivity and utilities.

This isn’t a spot which rests on its laurels, either. A host of developments and initiatives are planned far into the future, with a focus on renaturing, reducing the city’s carbon footprint, and enlarging car-free zones.

Another key draw here is safety. Spain is ranked as the sixth-safest country in Europe and 29th-safest in the world by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

In Valencia, the crime rates are the lowest among Spain’s big cities. Day-to-day safety isn’t a concern, a fact which attributes considerably to the happiness and satisfaction expressed by expats who call the city home.

Add to that, delicious local cuisine, a range of entertainment options, Mediterranean beachfront, and a welcoming local community, and it’s not hard to understand Valencia’s popularity with expats or its moniker as the “City of Joy,”

Apartment rentals average around €1,000 a month—following a rise of some 14% last year due to growing demand. If you’re looking to buy, you can still find apartments for under €100,000. For a sea-view home, you’ll need to up that budget to €250,000 or more.

There are no restrictions imposed on foreigners looking to purchase real estate in Spain. The country encourages foreign investment in property through its golden visa program.

Spain doesn’t have a retiree-specific visa but its Non-Lucrative Visa (NLV) is aimed at retirees and those with passive incomes who can support themselves financially.

To qualify, you need to be able to prove a monthly income of around $2,400. Under then NLV, you will be granted a one-year residence permit, which may be extended for four years.

For those seeking a sunshine, opportunity, and a happily ever after in Old World Europe, Spain ticks all the boxes.

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