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Housing and Healthcare in Barcelona

Living in Barcelona is incredibly popular, particularly among younger expats. This is mostly due to the mild climate, the rich culture, and the exceptional architecture dominating life in Barcelona. Read our Barcelona guide and learn about neighborhoods, housing, healthcare, and more.

The Housing Search in Barcelona

Expats who think about living in Barcelona or another city in Spain should make sure to secure housing before their move. Short-term rentals are often quite difficult to come by, especially considering that Barcelona is not just popular among expats but also among the many Erasmus students who move to the city each year to study.

You have the option of renting directly through a private owner. Private owners (particulares) usually refrain from using an estate agent to rent out their property. That way, you can save the agency fee and the bureaucratic hassle. However, negotiations can prove quite nerve-wracking, particularly for expats who are not fluent in Spanish, or Catalan, for that matter, yet.

Another factor working against renting through a particular is that the majority of the real estate market in Barcelona is controlled by real estate agencies. This may work in your favor as you can refer to different agencies and let them search for a place that fits your needs. On the other hand, of course, you should be prepared to pay the agency fee which usually amounts to one month’s rent plus tax.

What Will Your Home Look Like?

In a city like Barcelona, where lots of people are eager to find a place to live, apartments are the preferred type of accommodation. If you don’t mind living outside of the city, however, houses and even small chalets are a viable option as well. Apartments are either for rent (alquiler) or available for purchase (ventas). Most apartments are rented unfurnished (sin amueblar), although in rare cases you might be able to find a furnished apartment (amueblado) as well.

Different types of accommodation are available:

  • Estudios are small one-room apartments which are ideal for singles.
  • Apartamientos usually come with one or two bedrooms, as well as a kitchen, bathroom, and a living room.
  • Pisos, on the other hand, take up the entire floor, with two or three bedrooms, and are often the first choice of expat families.

Healthcare in Barcelona

Spain’s public healthcare system has an excellent reputation, with high-quality care readily available. Every legal resident (empadronat) is eligible to receive public healthcare throughout his or her stay in Barcelona. Simply present your Targeta Sanitària Individual (Individual Health Card — TSI) when you visit a doctor or hospital. In order to qualify for a TSI, you need to have a social security number or fall under a social security agreement between Spain and your country of origin. Register at the Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social (INSS) before heading to your local primary-healthcare center (centre d’atenció primària — CAP) to hand in the necessary documents and obtain your card.

Public and Private Care: In Search of Quality and Reliability

As soon as you have secured your TSI, you should receive the details about your general practitioner (metge de capçalera) at your local CAP. Your doctor should be the first person to contact for any health-related questions or issues. If necessary he or she can refer you to a specialist. Appointments can be either made in person or online.

For medical attention outside of the usual opening hours from December through to March, expats can visit a continual attention center (Centre d’Atenció Continua — CAC) — a regular CAP but with different hours. These centers are open Saturdays and on holidays. However, not all CACs are open at the same time and you need to consult your CAP to see which CAC is responsible for your area. In case of an emergency, you are better off calling the European emergency number 112. Dialing numbers specific to Spain is also an option.

For many expats living in Barcelona, private healthcare may be the preferred option. The advantage is that you have immediate access to medical specialists, a wider choice of medical care providers, and shorter waiting times. The following are some options for private healthcare coverage:


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

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Matthew Brown

"The Internations Events in Barcelona are just the best: There is no better way to get to know fellow expats here in Catalunya."

Maggy Roswick

"I was looking for a spacious flat near Las Ramblas. Thanks to some help from fellow expats on InterNations, I've found it! "

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