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Moving to Barcelona

Are you dreaming of moving to Barcelona? Well, you’re not alone! Many expats opt for a move to Barcelona, and not just because of the city’s close proximity to the sea. Read our guide on Barcelona and learn all about the city, visa requirements, and local transportation.
Barcelona is proud of its artistic tradition, and rightly so.

Barcelona is probably the most cosmopolitan and exciting city in Spain. The bars, restaurants, and museums, as well as the busy seaside, are definitely a reason for moving to Barcelona. However, the city also impresses expats with its history and tradition, an aspect the locals are particularly proud of.

Location and Landscape

Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is located in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula. With about 1.6 million inhabitants, Barcelona is also the second biggest city in Spain, right after Madrid. It is considered Europe’s largest urban center on the Mediterranean Sea, enveloped by the rivers Llobregat and Besòs.

You will discover different hills around Barcelona which lend their names to the neighborhoods that have developed on them. Montjuïc, for instance, offers an exquisite view of the harbor, and is home to several cultural venues, including a fortress. Expats moving to Barcelona benefit from its close proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, where the water is warm and the weather is balmy almost all year round. On the other side of the city, in the west, you will find the Sierra de Collserola ridge with vast woodlands, meadows, and fields.

Catalonian Politics and Language

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and, due to Catalonia’s political autonomy within Spain, has a particularly important status within the region. Catalonia is ruled by the Generalitat, which has its seat in Barcelona. The first version of this autonomous government dates back to medieval times when the Diputació General de Catalunya was in power. Due to the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, Barcelona’s city government enjoys a large amount of decision-making authority.

Castilian, Spain’s official language, is not the only language spoken in Barcelona: Catalan is the second official language and is widely used in the city and the rest of Catalonia. Catalonians are not obligated to fall back on Spanish, even for official purposes. For expats moving to Barcelona, this poses an entirely new language barrier which is not easily overcome.

Getting Your Identity Number in Barcelona

Foreign residents from EU member states and non-EU nationals are subject to different requirements and restrictions. EU/EEA citizens simply need a valid passport or ID to enter the country. For a stay exceeding three months, an NIE (Número de Indentificación de Extranjeros), an identity number for foreigners, is required for every foreign national in Spain. You will need this number to rent or buy property, open a bank account, or simply work in Barcelona.

There are many Departments of Foreigners (Extranjería) in Barcelona which handle all bureaucratic issues of foreigners moving to Barcelona. In order to apply for an NIE, you need to submit the following documents at the respective office:

  • the original application form and a copy thereof
  • your passport and a copy of the information page
  • for non-EU residents, documents indicating the reason they need an NIE (e.g. purchasing a house, business purposes)
  • a fee of 10 USD (2014) paid by money order


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

If there’s something you’re still not sure about, check out the InterNations Forum.

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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