Moving to Barcelona from the UK
Those moving from the UK to Barcelona and worried about surmounting the language barrier can take solace from the large number of courses available in the city for learning both Spanish and Catalan. In order to get by you probably only need Spanish - you’ll pick up the odd Catalan phrase as you go.
The population density of Barcelona, at nearly 16,000 heads per km2, is one of the highest in Europe and considerably greater than that of, say, London. However, urban parks cover around 10% of the city’s surface, offering respite from the busy, narrow streets.
As an EU citizen you already have the right to relocate to, and work in, Barcelona though you may be asked to provide proof that you have the means to support yourself and any dependents.
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Unemployment in Spain has increased dramatically since the Eurozone crisis and the implementation of austerity measures by the Spanish government. Though less badly affected than some parts of the south, as a manufacturing centre Barcelona has seen the rate of unemployment rise to more than 15%.
Few in Barcelona observe the traditional siesta time of 2-5pm, opting for shorter lunches and earlier finishes to the working day.
Living in Barcelona
Comparing Barcelona vs London
Moving from London to Barcelona will not only increase your exposure to sunshine by about 70%, you’ll also feel the benefit in your bank account. The cost of groceries, restaurants and, all importantly, rent is considerably lower in the capital of Catalonia than in the capital of the UK.
Barcelona’s compact layout, excellent transportation network, and the fact that living near the city centre is affordable, all mean that you’ll spend less time commuting than in London and more time enjoying the permanently buzzing bars and cafes.
Culturally The City of Gaudí serves up a feast that makes even London look anaemic by comparison. Moving around the centre of Barcelona one must be prepared at all times to be confronted by a masterpiece of Gothic or Catalan Modernist architecture. The city contains no less than eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among which the Works of Antoni Gaudí, including the Park Güell and the Casa Batlló, figure prominently.
There are more than 60 theatres and concert venues in Barcelona - the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Gran Teatre del Liceu foremost among them - complementing nicely the street performances of Las Ramblas.
When you get bored of the art works at the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art or the Fundació Joan Miró, you can always hit one of the world’s best beaches at Sant Sebastià, Barceloneta and Somorrostro or take a hike up Tibidabo for panoramic views of the city.
Property in Barcelona
A huge glut in Spanish housing, due to vast overbuilding during the boom years, particularly along the Mediterranean coast, means that property prices in Barcelona are projected to continue falling for years to come.
At the end of 2012 the average price of a three bedroom property in Barcelona was €528,000 (£448,800), 113% greater than the Spanish average.
Luxury properties in sought after areas are likely to retain more of their value in the coming years: a three bedroom villa on the hills of Vallvidrera, just outside the city, with a private pool, costs around €2,730,000 (£2.32m).
In Catalonia you’ll pay about 9-10% of the purchase price of the property in taxes and fees, including property transfer tax of around 6%.
You can rent a one bedroom apartment in the centre of Barcelona for roughly €600 (£510) per month - though it will be rather small.
You can rent a small family villa (3 bedrooms) in the Zona Alta for closer to €3,000 (£2,550).
- Family Friendly: L’Eixample is only a twenty minute walk west of the CBD. It features great public transport links, spacious, good value apartments, architectural gems and proximity to several schools.
- Hip and Trendy: Gracia, just outside the city, has a small town vibe accentuated by its bohemian types and array of trendy bars.
- Upmarket: Sarrià, one of the neighbourhoods to the west where plains turn to foothills, features luxury mansions and top international schools.
- Up and Coming: El Raval borders the CBD to the southwest. Traditionally an area high in crime, it’s multicultural, cheap and the artistic types have already started colonising it.
Schools and Education in Barcelona
The state school system in Catalonia is free, provides for children from the ages 0 to 18 and makes provision for the integration of foreign students with special ‘bridge’ classes to bring Spanish standards up to scratch.
Enrolment in state school is done by registering on the town hall list, the Padrón Municipal de Habitantes. A place will normally be allocated at a local school and, in Barcelona where there are many schools, you may find yourself with a choice.
For children entering at secondary level, extra documentation on the child’s education record is needed to satisfy the Ministry of Education - a process known as convalidación.
In addition to state schools there are also private schools that are part funded by the state and which adhere to the national curriculum (escoles concertades) as well as entirely independent private schools (escoles privades).
The former, many of them Catholic schools, charge lower fees of around €800 (£680) per annum. The latter, including prestigious international schools like the British School of Barcelona, the Schiller International School, the French Lycée or the American School of Barcelona charge tuition fees closer to €15,000 (£12,750) per annum.
The University of Barcelona is a world renowned research institution.