Moving to Barcelona

The complete guide to living in the city short term

May 27, 2024
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Barcelona has always been a popular city to relocate to. Thriving, modern and diverse, it combines the industry of northern Europe with the relaxed lifestyle of the mediterranean. It is a major hub for sport, art, architecture, culture, and business. Throw in the beaches, gastronomy, night life, the spectacular weather- and you’ve got the recipe for the perfect city.

In recent years living habits have started to change. While many people still move to Barcelona permanently, more and more are choosing to live here short term. The rise in digital nomads working remotely has opened the door to people looking to get to know a new city and a new culture, without committing to a permanent move.

In this guide we tell you everything you need to know if you’re thinking about moving here for a few months.

Why move to Barcelona?

First things first; if you haven’t quite made up your mind yet, you probably want someone to point out some of the highlights so you’re certain you want to stay here for a few months. Here you are then:


Everyone knows it’s hot here right? It’s definitely true that the summer (and spring, and fall) are great times to be at the beach, or sat outside in a lovely plaza with a cold drink. What you might not have thought about though, is that while it does get colder in winter, even the darkest months are full of clear, sunny days. This is great for both your physical, and mental wellbeing.


This is of course relative to where you’ve come from, but most visitors to the city will be delighted about the price of everything. Renting an apartment, transport, food and drink are all considerably cheaper than in most other major European cities.

Social Life

Affordability and nice weather make people want to get out and about more, so the social life in Barcelona one of its great assets. Restaurants, bars and nightclubs are plentiful and thriving, and you can take up any hobby you like. While many people move here to work, it’s definitely a city for those who care about a good work/life balance.


Barcelona is a city that really does believe in sustainable living. Their public transport network is excellent, diesel cars will be banned from the city in 2024, and they are aiming to go fully electric by 2030. This is not just great for the conscience- the lack of pollution also makes strolling around the city even more pleasant.

What paperwork do I need?

Let’s get the boring stuff out the way early shall we? If you’re only moving to Barcelona short term, you won’t need to do much. There are still a couple of bits of paperwork you should be aware of though, especially if you’re staying over 3 months. Not to worry, everything you need to know is right here:


Nationals of EU countries can skip this section, but most will need a visa. The exact rules vary depending on where you come from, but there are several types:

  • Short term (visado de corta duracion): Valid for 90 days. UK and US citizens, among others, do not need this, and can live here for 90 days without one.

  • Long term (visado nacional): Visa that grants non-EU nationals permission to live and work in the country.

  • Residence only (visado de residencia no lucrativa): For those not planning to work or study, often used to retire or reunite with family.

  • New International telework visa: Created with digital nomads in mind, this visa allows you to live and work remotely in Spain for up to 5 years.

To apply for a visa you’ll need to contact the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country, which you can find here.


Only necessary if you wish to live in Barcelona for more than 3 months. You need an identification number (NIE) for the Spanish administration system and it’s essential to work here, open a bank account, or rent an apartment. The process can be done from your home country or when you arrive. Here you can find more information. Non-EU nationals will need an identity card (TIE), which you can find out how to get here.

Social security number

Not essential if you’re only moving here short term (up to two years) and working remotely. However, getting one will allow you to contribute towards, and therefore use, Spain’s excellent public healthcare system. Find out more here.

Empadronamiento (Citizenship)

This process makes you a legal resident of Barcelona. It is only necessary if you are living here for more than 6 months, but will allow you to get the TIE card, and use the healthcare system. Here is more information.

How do I sort out accommodation?

There are plenty of websites, such as Idealista, which can help you if you need to rent long term. Renting long term has its problems though: you will often already need to have your paperwork in order, which might not be the case when you first arrive. You will also generally need to pay a 2 months rent up front as a deposit, and 1 month as an agency fee. Depending on who you rent from you may also be expected to communicate in Spanish, which might be a problem at first.

Another option is to rent an apartment with us. We cut out the hassle that goes with longer term rentals, and fully furnish and service them. This makes them perfect for digital nomads, and others moving to Barcelona for only a few months.

Which neighborhood should I live in?

Picking the right place to live really can help you enjoy Barcelona to the fullest. There are far too many great neighborhoods (or barrios) to list them all, but here are a selection of the most popular:

Barrio Gótico

The gothic quarter. This is the place to be for history, it’s also very central, making it a great spot for shopping, nightlife, and all things touristy.

Paseo de Gracia

The more upmarket side. Branching off from Plaza Catalunya, the very center of the city, Paseo de Gracia is the number one place for luxury shopping. It’s also an important business hub.

El Born

Near Barrio Gótico, El Born might be the prettiest area of Barcelona. A lovely place to walk around, there is a great selection of bars and restaurants. Perfect for a romantic date in the evening, it gets livelier later on.


Hipster central, Gracia is where the cool kids go to be cool. The bars and restaurants are predictably excellent round here, and when there’s no more room in the bars, hundreds spill out into Plaza del Sol to enjoy a drink (nb. drinking on the street is not allowed, despite what you’ll see here).


Also hipster, but the beach version. Poblenou is a spectacular place to live, especially in the summer. Boasting beautiful beaches and a fantastic Rambla, Poblenou is the place to choose if you want your stay to feel like a holiday.

Do I need to speak Spanish?

Short answer: no. It helps of course, but in the city, enough people speak English that you can get by for a few months. It’s a waste of an opportunity though. While you’re here, why not take the time to learn a new language? As well as being really useful, it’s a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture.

Spanish or Catalan?

If you are going to learn a language, you need to decide which. This region of Spain has two official languages, Spanish and Catalan. Unofficially, Catalan is the number one for natives, and some who live in more rural areas barely speak Spanish. In Barcelona, all Spanish people speak Spanish, but Spanish speakers from the rest of Spain or Latin America often don’t speak Catalan.

Given that you can also use Spanish in other places, it is clearly the more useful of the two, but the locals really appreciate it if you make an effort with Catalan. However much you flounder while trying to order some pa amb tomaquet, (bread with tomato- much better than it sounds) the Catalans will always be eager to help. So it’s a good way to make friends.

What’s the best way to get around the city?

You can drive cars in the city, but it’s not recommended. Heavy rush-hour traffic, scarcity of free parking, and an obscene number of traffic lights mean it’s not the best way to get around the city center. Motorbikes can get around more easily and are not a problem to park. Taxis are also a good option, especially when you’re still learning your way around.

Your best bet though, is to take advantage of Barcelona’s superb public transport network. The metro is cheap, and easy to navigate. It is also considerably cleaner and less cramped than in many other major cities. The bus service is also good, and covers any routes the metro doesn’t. Thanks to apps like Google Maps and City Mapper, you’ll have no problem working out the best option for you.

Which ticket do I want?

Start off with a T-usual, this gives you 10 trips for just over 11€. A very reasonable price anyway, but they are currently 7.95€ as part of a government initiative to help with the cost of living. Trips are valid for metro, train, tram and bus, and if you need to use more than one for the same journey, it still only counts as one trip. Once you know how many trips you need, you might want a T-usual. This gives you unlimited use for a month, and is paired with an ID number, so don’t forget yours. They are normally 40€ but currently reduced to 20€.

You get all tickets from train, metro, and tram stations. You can also buy them at the newspaper kiosks on the street, and in some tobacconists.

What about something even greener?

Barcelona has lovely weather, a fantastic network of cycle lanes, and is a surprisingly compact city. All this means that bikes, electric scooters, and your own feet, are great ways to get around the city.

There are various private companies that you can rent scooters and bikes from, but if you’re moving for a few months you should definitely get yourself a Bicing card. Bicing is the city’s official bike sharing service and you’ll see their distinctive red bikes all over the place. You’ll need to order yourself a card online before you can use the service, and you also have to pay for a whole year. This isn’t ideal if you’re staying for less time, but it’s cheap enough that it’s probably worth it. You can pay 50€ for the year and use the bikes for free, or pay 35€ and then 35 cents each time you use them (the electic bikes carry a small surcharge).

What should I do in the city?

I can barely scratch the surface here, as there is so much to see and do. Here are some routes you could go down though, if you need inspiration:

Get some Gaudi

Barcelona is famous for its architecture, the works of Gaudí above all. La Sagrada Familia is clearly his most famous work, and due to finally be completed in 2026. There are many other spectacular works in the city: Parc Güell, Casa Milà and Casa Vicens to name a few.

A little culture?

Barcelona has a huge number of museums and art galleries all over the city, guaranteed to have something to please everyone. Some are free, and many more offer free entry on the first Sunday of every month. This includes the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC), the Picasso Museum, and Barcelona History Museum (MUHBA).

How about some sport?

You can do pretty much any sport you can think of in or around Barcelona. Beach sports, ball sports, mountain and even snow sports. If you want more information on what to do and where, then check out our Barcelona sports guide.

Or watch someone else do it?

You may have heard of Barça, the legendary soccer team (not to be confused with Barna, the abbreviation for the city). The famous Camp Nou is one of the biggest stadiums in the world, and worth a visit even if you’re not watching a game. Barça also have basketball and ice hockey teams (among others) if you’re not into soccer. If you prefer backing the underdog- check out the city’s second team: Español. Tickets are much cheaper and easier to get hold of, and their fans say the atmosphere is even better!

Festival time!

Barna’s festival calendar is packed all year round. At one end of the scale you have the globally-known super festivals, such as Sonar and Primavera Sound. At the other, local festivals in every neighborhood happen at different times of the year. In between you have La Mercè, the city’s biggest free festival, in September; and Sitges carnival is in February if you fancy dressing up. Whenever you’re here, the festival calender is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Get away for a while

With so much to do in the city, it's easy to forget all the great places nearby. Be it the snows of Andorra, the sands of the Costa Brava, or the mountains of Monseny, Barcelona is in a fantastic location for countryside escapes.

I’ve heard there are some bars in Barcelona?

Oh yes, and some restaurants, and shops, and nightclubs. There are of course, far too many to list here, but we’ll help you get started.

Bars and Restaurants

As mentioned in the neighborhood section, there is a general theme to some of the districts. More commercial places in the center, more hipster in Gracia, and a little classier in Born. But every area has its own highlights, so wherever you are- get out and explore. As well as the places that look the part, Barcelona is full of others which forgo the fancy decor, but are blessed with fantastic chefs. So don’t let looks deceive you, go out and find your barrio’s hidden gems. Here are some great restaurants to keep an eye out for.


There are clubs dotted all over the city, but two hotspots: Plaza Real in the center, and Paseo Maritimo down at the beach. The former covers all sorts of music for all sorts of people, and at the beach you’ll find the swankier places. The biggest clubs in the city are Razzmatazz and Apolo, both definitely worth checking out if you’re a partygoer.


As with bars, there are great places all over the city. Some of the most famous are Las Ramblas and La Boqueria: the most famous street in Barcelona, right next to its most famous market. Paseo de Gracia is the place to go for luxury shops, and Carrer de Sants is one of the longest shopping streets in Europe- it starts in the city center and ends in a different town!

What’s the healthcare system like?

Excellent. How good will depend on who you ask, but Spain consistently ranks in the top 10 healthcare systems in the world. Brits almost always agree that it is far better than what they have at home, while Americans are generally just happy to have one. Once you have all your paperwork (see above) you just need to find your closest center and go register.

Can I bring my dog with me?

Barcelona is a pet-friendly city, in particular they love dogs here. Most parks have an area for dog walking, and it can actually be a nice way to meet people. Whether you can keep pets in your apartment will depend on the owner, so check beforehand or use an agency to do that for you.

Well what are you waiting for?

Hopefully our city guide has helped you make up your mind about coming to this wonderful place, and will continue to help as you get settled. Whether you’re moving here for work, sunshine or love, Barcelona is a city that has everything. It’s somewhere everyone should experience, even if only for a few months. So jump on a plane and come and enjoy some Catalan culture- ¡Fins ara!