Granada (Spain) as an expat – could we live here? The Pros and Cons

Granada (Spain) as an expat – could we live here?
When I wrote about places where we could potentially live in Spain Granada was pretty high on the list
. In theory, it checked off many of the points on our list of criteria: it’s a small to mid-sized city with convenience to city life and nature, it’s within 3 hours of a major airport (it’s a 2 hour bus ride to Malaga airport), it has nearby mountains and the sea is not too far away, it has an affordable cost of living.

With some of the above in mind, we spent a week in Granada to get a feel for the city.

So what was our reality in Granada?

 

Views of the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada in Granada, Spain

 

The Pros of Granada as a place to live as an expat

Environment. As you approach Granada, you can’t help but be impressed by the huge snow-covered peaks of the Sierra Nevada that lie right behind the city. It’s a stunning backdrop to the city. I always said that I wanted to be close to the mountains and/or sea. You have that in Granada. I could see myself doing a lot of hiking here.

The city itself has varied faces. You have the incredible Alhambra which looks out over the city. There is the old Moorish quarter (the Albaicin) that climbs up the hill opposite the Alhambra – it is a large neighbourhood of steep streets and steps, whitewashed walls and buildings, and pretty plazas where locals and tourists have drinks and tapas. The Albaicin and the Alhambra are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The city center lies at the base of both the Alhambra and Albaicin. It has churches (including the colossal Granada Cathedral) and lots of large squares with fountains. Unlike Malaga which has a lot of ugly modern highrises, the city center in Granada has attractive, low-rise buildings with lots of squares.

Below: A few photos of the Albaicin

Granada (Spain) as an expat – could we live here? The Pros and Cons

Albaicin in Granada Spain

Albaicin in Granada Spain

Below: the City Center

Granada (Spain) as an expat – could we live here? The Pros and Cons

City center in Granada Spain. Could we live in Granada?

Plaza in city center, Granada Spain.

 

Attractive, clean and pedestrian friendly. Besides being attractive, one of the things that really impressed us about Granada was the cleanliness. The city is also pedestrian friendly with many pedestrian only streets. The only caveat I would put here is that the Albaicin is all steps: so if you’re someone like Lissette who’s a bit clumsy on their feet you might not enjoy this neighbourhood.

The Tapas. Granada has a really chill air and we would enjoy walking around and stopping at different bars. Order drinks and they’ll give you free tapas which can be anything from potato salad to a pork chop on a slice of bread to a piece of chicken. And the wine is excellent and affordable (usually between 2.50 to 3.00 Euros for a decent sized glass).

Tapas in Granada Spain

Free tapas in Granada Spain


The people
. In keeping with the “chill air” that we found in Granada, we thought the people were relaxed and friendly. It’s a smallish city and we didn’t feel that big city vibe. We would go to our favorite square (Placeta de San Miguel Bajo) and have drinks and tapas surrounded by people who were mostly local.

The cost. Apartment rentals are very affordable in Granada. Going on Idealista, I see some really nice 3 bedroom apartments renting at around 700 Euros/month.

 

Building in Granada Spain


Getting around
: The city center and Albaicin are served by small buses that can navigate all the small streets in the area. They’re very frequent so when we wanted to get somewhere without walking we’d hop on the bus (just pay the driver). The city has a tram but it is outside the center (where the city gets more modern and the streets wider).

Tourism. I can see us one day having an Airbnb in Granada and maybe even giving tours to guests. I like meeting other travellers and the day we settle somewhere I don’t want to stop that. We also saw lots of overpriced, poor value Airbnb options in Granada (including the one we stayed in) – I think there are some investment opportunities there for the future.

 

So a beautiful environment, a clean and attractive city, friendly people, a relaxed lifestyle, and a decent public transit system. These are the things that stood out for us.

 

Plaza Nueva in Granada, Spain. Could we live here?


The Cons of Granada as a place to live as an expat

Size. Granada is not that big. That’s the flip side of some of the pros that I mention above. Would we get bored with time? Does it have all the amenities of big city life? We could only find out by spending more time.

Heat. It gets very hot in the summer. Lissette has a hard time with heat. But, as a Spaniard we met mentioned: it’s a dry heat and doesn’t get unbearable. In his opinion places like Alicante and Valencia are worse because of the humidity.

Getting in and out. The 2 hour bus ride to Malaga went well. We initially had reservations about taking the bus based on all the dirty bus rides we experienced in the Balkans – but Spanish buses are cleaner, better organized, and have toilets. Spain is civilized. In an ideal world we would like to live in a city where we can fly out directly but when you weigh out the pros and cons that seems minor in the case of Granada.

 

fountain in Granada Spain

 

Where could we potentially see ourselves living in Granada?

If we chose to live in Granada it would have to be just south of the center in Realejo. It’s minutes away from the tourist center, it is more modern and has better accessibility and has ‘real life’ stores. We made the mistake of staying the week in the Albaicin which is fine if visiting for a few days as a tourist – but for living it isn’t really close to groceries stores or anything else that is practical.

 

Views of Granada from the Alhambra

 

So, could we live in Granada?

Yes, Granada will definitely make it on the shortlist.

 

 

A few other articles for a different perspective

7 reasons why I love My City (and 3 Why it Sucks)
The Best Neighborhoods to live in Granada
Why we chose to live in Granada

 

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Granada (Spain) as an expat – could we live here?

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9 Comments

  1. I think your above reply says it all, Frank. It IS a lifestyle choice as long as you have some flexibility in your budget. When we decided to retire early in 2012, it made sense for us to leave the US. It’s a lot more fun to spend the money living abroad and foreign travel versus paying monthly insurance premiums. I’m glad Granada has made the cut as it would be great to have you as neighbors. And, from reading this post, there’s a lot more exploring I want to do in that pretty little city!

  2. A timely post. We did a bike tour of Spain last year and fell in love with Madrid — thinking we’d work remotely from there for a month this winter. We also thought maybe Granada would work but didn’t get there on our trip. In the end, we decided on Mexico City (which has been great). We’re still thinking of Spain for next year. The only downside is the time difference from Canada. I’m not sure I’m keen on the 2-hour bus ride to the airport.

    1. Interesting Deb. We have some administrative things to do before we go back to Canada and I was wondering if we should go to Madrid for an extended time to get them done while also exploring the city. What did you like so much about the city?

  3. What about general safety?
    I read about incidences of robbery and pickpocketing which were reported to be quite prevalent in various parts of Spain.
    It got me worried and I am now like having second thought of going there.
    I would think Canada is still a much better place to based at as compared to Spain.

    1. You can say the same anywhere Wendy. There are parts of Montreal where you can be robbed. My condo, in a good part of town, was once broken into. Barcelona is known for pickpocketing so you just have to be careful. But you should always be careful wherever you go.
      We were in your country (Malaysia) in Ipoh and people in a certain neighborhood were warning us to be careful. There’s always bad elements anywhere, we’re just careful about the places we hang out in and the time of day.
      5 years of full-time travel in many places people consider dangerous. Never had anything happen. Had our first pickpocketing attempt last year in Sarajevo but that was caused by our own negligence. But they were unsuccessful.
      Spain generally very safe Wendy.

  4. Very interested in your exploration of Spain for long term retirement Frank. You must have considered the tax consequences. My understanding is that Spain taxes your worldwide income at rates up to 49 percent. Is this not a concern for you and your wife? Thanks again for your fantastic travel insights.

    1. Thanks for the comment Bruce. We’re retired, so we’re living mostly off our savings. Our days of earning big bucks are over. Also, I’m familiar with high tax rates – worked in Quebec all my life (highest tax rates in North America). Honestly not much of a difference. Also, with a non-lucrative visa you’re not supposed to work in the 5 years until you get your permanent residence (one of the requirements is that you show proof of sufficient means to provide for yourself).

      So we’re lucky enough that it’s not really a consideration for us.

      1. Thanks Frank. From what I understand they tax pension and dividend and interest income. Not just earned income. There is also a wealth tax.

        1. We will be taxed in Canada anyway and, since there is a tax treaty, won’t be double taxed.

          I think you have to look at it more globally. Yes, taxes are higher, but costs are significantly lower. And I don’t know where you’re from, but if it’s the US then you’ll be saving a lot on health care. For us as Canadians it’s definitely cheaper: no 15% sales tax on top of already high prices, much cheaper transport costs, great wine at 5 Euros/bottle.

          For us, while finances are of course important, it’s not a financial decision. It’s a lifestyle choice.

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