If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to experience Barcelona as a resident, then now is the time to get to Barcelona and be a digital nomad.

The city has only been swelling with more and more tourists in recent years. It’s inevitable that the city will eventually become “played out” in the digital nomad scene, but for now, it’s thriving.

That said, while Barcelona is an extremely attractive destination for nomads, it’s not uncommon for people to have serious reservations about the city. After staying a month there, lord knows I have some of my own.

In this piece, we’ll offer an honest review of the pros and cons of living in Barcelona, balancing the city’s undeniable charm with some of its lesser-known challenges. Let’s delve into what life in this city truly entails, shall we?

Pros of living in Barcelona

If you don’t have time to read through every pro of living in Barcelona, here they are:

  1. Convenient beaches.
  2. Well-established digital nomad community.
  3. Great weather in spring and fall
  4. Abundant coworking spaces and laptop-friendly cafes.
  5. Access to beautiful architecture and historical sites.
  6. Vibrant local culture and festivals.
  7. Delicious and diverse food scene.
  8. Easy access to other European destinations.
  9. Availability of public transportation.
  10. Large range of neighborhoods to choose from.
  11. Plenty of opportunities for socializing and networking.
  12. Laid-back Spanish lifestyle.
  13. Outdoor activities, including hiking and water sports.
  14. The Digital Nomad Visa makes long stays possible.
Pros and Cons living in Barcelona
Pros and Cons living in Barcelona

Convenient beaches

There’s something special about sliding open your laptop, glancing out of the corner of your eye, and being greeted by the sight of a sparkling blue sea. Now imagine, this could be your daily workspace view in Barcelona. Oh yes, dear reader, you can literally take your work to the beach here, thanks to the city’s fantastic Wi-Fi connectivity. From Barceloneta to Nova Icaria, you can indulge in a leisurely lunch break with a quick dip in the Mediterranean Sea, or an evening jog along the sandy stretch. It’s like being on a permanent vacation where every day feels like a postcard brought to life. Believe me, after the first time you enjoy a sunset picnic after a day’s work, you’ll wonder how you ever lived away from the coast!

Well-established digital nomad community

Barcelona is a city teeming with digital nomads of all stripes, given how multifaceted Barcelona is, it’s little surprise that the people who choose to travel here are just as varied. 

The digital nomad community here is robust and extremely welcoming, ready to swap stories over a cup of Spanish coffee or share tips on the best local haunts. Networking events and meetups happen frequently, so you’ll never feel alone in your journey. I recall when we first moved to Barcelona, we barely knew anyone in the city. However, within a month, thanks to the nomad community, we made a few good friends, some of whom we keep in touch with to this day.

Great weather in spring and fall

 With an easygoing climate, Barcelona truly shines in the spring and fall. The city becomes a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. During these seasons, the weather is a perfect blend of sun-kissed days and cool breezes, giving you an ideal environment to work from parks, terraces, or even the beach. I remember one afternoon, working from the Parc de la Ciutadella, with the city’s historic architecture peeking through the lush greenery. I had a deadline to meet, but the weather was so serene that the stress just seemed to melt away. It’s these picture-perfect days, dear reader, that make Barcelona an irresistible destination.

Abundant coworking spaces and laptop-friendly cafes

Barcelona is a city that understands the digital nomad lifestyle. Every corner you turn, you’ll find a cozy café with strong Wi-Fi and even stronger coffee. You could choose to set up your portable office in a bustling café in El Born or find a quiet corner in a hidden gem in Gràcia. As for coworking spaces, you’re spoilt for choice! With a mix of tranquil environments and collaborative spaces, they offer the perfect balance for work and networking. Betahaus, for instance, is such a dynamic workspace, filled with creative minds. I was even able to collaborate with a graphic designer I met there!

Access to beautiful architecture and historical sites

Living in Barcelona is like living inside a history book with stunning illustrations. You’ll never run out of sites to visit. Whether you’re taking a leisurely stroll around the Gothic Quarter or marveling at the grandeur of La Sagrada Familia, the city serves as a constant source of inspiration. Sometimes, just taking a walk on my lunch break feels like a mini vacation. Eixample is a prime example of the type of vibe I’m talking about.

Digital Nomad Eixample
Digital Nomad Eixample

Full of life local culture and festivals

 Barcelona is a city that knows how to celebrate. There’s always a festival around the corner, an event happening, or a local tradition being observed. La Mercè, the biggest street festival of the year, is an absolute spectacle. Not to worry, if you miss that one (it’s in September), there are plenty of festivals to go around throughout the year.

Delicious and diverse food scene 

Barcelona has a culinary scene to die for. From hole-in-the-wall tapas bars to Michelin-starred restaurants, every meal is a feast for your taste buds. Remember those ripe tomatoes and fresh olives from Mercado de La Boqueria? There’s something about food in Barcelona – it’s just more vivid, more flavorful. But the real secret? It’s the seafood paella at a beachside chiringuito, especially after a long day of work. That first bite, with the warm ocean breeze and the sound of waves nearby, it’s just pure bliss.

Easy access to other European destinations

Living in Barcelona is like having a golden ticket to the rest of Europe. With its strategic location and well-connected airport, Barcelona serves as a launchpad for your Euro trips. You can catch a quick flight to Paris for the weekend, or hop on a train to the sun-soaked beaches of Costa Brava. Once, on a whim, we decided to spend a weekend in Lisbon. It was as easy as packing a bag and catching a flight. A couple of hours later, we were strolling through Alfama’s narrow streets!

Availability of public transportation

Barcelona’s public transportation is, in one word, reliable. You have metros, buses, trams, and even funiculars at your disposal. And let’s not forget about Bicing, the city’s bike-sharing system. It seemed like every week, we ditched our workstations and hopped on bikes to explore the city. In fact, some of my best memories of Barcelona are of us pedaling our way through the city streets, chasing sunsets, and hunting for the best churros in town. It’s an efficient and affordable way to move around, and the best part? It lets you stay on top of your fitness game while you’re at it.

Diverse range of neighborhoods to choose from

Do you know what they say about Barcelona? It’s like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. And it’s so true! Each neighborhood has its own distinct charm. There’s the calm residential feel of Gracia, the glorious Art Nouveau edifices of Eixample, the picturesque narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter. It’s like living in multiple cities at once, and I didn’t even mention the beach! We’ve spent countless evenings ajust strolling around, discovering new corners, and finding little gems tucked away in each district. Find out more about Barcelona’s best neighborhoods in the article I wrote!

Plenty of opportunities for socializing and networking

Barcelona is the kind of city that makes you feel like you belong, no matter where you’re from. There’s a sense of community here, a real melting pot of people from all walks of life. It’s the kind of city that can turn a coffee run into a networking event. I still remember the time we walked into a local cafe, struck up a conversation with a fellow nomad, and ended up becoming good friends ever since. It’s these chance encounters that make living here so special and exciting.

Laid-back Spanish lifestyle

This might just be the best part. Barcelona is all about enjoying life. Siestas, late-night dinners, long leisurely strolls on the beach – it’s a place that teaches you to slow down, to savor the little moments. Here, work is important, but not at the cost of living. We have our fair share of hustle and grind, but we also know when to close our laptops, pour a glass of sangria, and soak in the setting sun. It’s a lesson in work-life balance that’s been a game-changer for us. It’s not just about working from anywhere, it’s about living everywhere. And boy does Barcelona know how to live!

Outdoor activities, including hiking and water sports

Now, if you’re anything like us and can’t resist the allure of the great outdoors, Barcelona is your playground. Who would’ve thought that a city known for its architecture could be a hub for outdoor enthusiasts? Just a short train ride away and you’ll find yourself at Montserrat, a stunning mountain range perfect for a day of hiking. Now let me tell you, we’ve done some hikes, but the view from the top of Montserrat is unforgettable. And don’t even get me started on water sports! Ever tried paddleboarding at sunset? It’s an experience that makes you pinch yourself, just to make sure it’s real.

The Digital Nomad Visa makes long stays possible

As digital nomads, the constant visa hopping can get tiring. But Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa is like a breath of fresh air. It lets you live and work in Barcelona for a year, without the stress of visa runs. Admittedly, the barriers are a bit stringent: you need to have at least 3 years of experience in your field. At the end of the day, it could still be worth it to explore Barcelona and the rest of Spain.

Cons of living in Barcelona

Unfortunately, Barcelona has a lot of downsides that are hard to ignore. Read through these if you don’t want to be in for a big shock when you get there.

  1. Finding a short-term rental is challenging
  2. High tourist presence.
  3. Air pollution in some areas.
  4. Street noise can be bothersome in certain neighborhoods.
  5. Barcelona is colder than you think.
  6. Pickpocketing and petty theft can be a concern in tourist-heavy areas.
  7. Cost of living can be high in popular neighborhoods.
  8. The influx of tourists can make the city crowded, particularly in summer.
  9. Can be difficult to find long-term rental contracts.
  10. It can be hard to make truly local friends.
  11. Increased living costs during peak tourist season.
  12. Housing scams targeting foreigners are not unheard of.
  13. Some areas can be quite dirty with litter or graffiti.

Finding a short-term rental is challenging

Finding an apartment on Airbnb in Barcelona is an uphill battle. Especially given that Barcelona stopped issuing new Airbnb licenses in 2015. That makes finding accommodation for a month or 2 a major nuissance. Some hosts in Barcelona don’t even possess the required license, which means that if anything goes wrong during your stay, you could be in for a world of trouble.

As a result, we’ve decided to develop a list of fully legal, digital nomad-ready apartments, complete with functional workspaces and usable kitchens. We’ll start releasing apartments in Barcelona and the rest of Spain shortly. Enter your email below to stay tuned.

High Tourist Presence

It’s not an exaggeration when I say that Barcelona is a tourist magnet! The city is blessed with breathtaking architecture, vibrant culture, and an exceptional culinary scene. But, all this also means that the city sees a high influx of tourists throughout the year, especially in the peak summer months.

As soon as you step out in the centre, you find yourself amidst a sea of tourists. Everywhere you look, you see people holding maps, posing for selfies, and stopping every few feet to admire the city’s sights. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a certain charm to witnessing people fall in love with your city. But the high tourist presence also means crowded public transport, longer waits at restaurants, and, sometimes, a certain detachment from the local lifestyle and culture. It feels less like living in a city and more like being perpetually stuck in a bustling holiday destination.

Air Pollution in Some Areas

As we know, every rose has its thorns, and in the case of Barcelona, one of the thorns is air pollution. Barcelona is a buzzing metropolis and, like any other major city, it grapples with air pollution issues. This is primarily due to the high number of vehicles on the road and industrial activities in and around the city.

Consider this, on one hand, you have the stunning beach vistas, the mesmerizing Gothic Quarter, and the picturesque Parc de la Ciutadella. On the other, you have areas clouded with pollution, where the air sometimes gets so dense it feels like you’re trying to breathe through a woolen blanket! There are days when you want to step out, enjoy a bike ride, or maybe take a run by the beach, but the quality of air can dampen these plans.

Street Noise Can Be Bothersome in Certain Neighborhoods 

If you’re a night owl or someone who thrives in the hustle and bustle of city life, you might not mind the street noise in Barcelona. But if you’re someone who prefers peace and quiet, or perhaps you’re a light sleeper, then the noise level can be a real issue.

Barcelona is colder than you think

Alright, let’s dive into Barcelona’s cooler side, and I don’t mean that in a “hip” sense. Listening to everyone talk about how pleasant the weather is in Barcelona might make you think of a tropical paradise. You might start expecting the type of weather that makes ice cream melt before you can take a bite. But alas, the Mediterranean breeze can surprise you. It’s not freezing per se, but it’s not always tanning weather either. 

The worst part is, even when the temeperatures are a little higher, the damp, windy climate is very unfriendly. Many homes are not equipped with proper heating either.

Pickpockets abound

This is one of the first downsides that people talk about in Barcelona. It’s never a good idea to walk around looking like a vulnerable tourist. Barcelona is the type of city where you need to keep your head on a swivel. The more aware and put-together you look, the less the nefarious pickpockets that populate Barcelona’s center will target you. Take normal precautions, and you should be fine.

Cost of living

Oh, the cost of living! Picture a sunset dinner overlooking the city, tapas for two, a lovely bottle of Cava – and then the check arrives. Yikes! That’s when we realized living the high life in Barcelona could quickly drain the travel fund. Rents are rising too, especially in the trendier parts of town. By the time we started looking for a flat, it was clear that our savings weren’t going to stretch as far as we’d hoped.

Too Many Selfies, Not Enough Space

Let’s talk about those summer months in Barcelona. Yes, it’s as appealing as a sun-drenched Instagram post, but honey, it’s also filled to the brim with tourists. If you want to leisurely saunter down La Rambla in the middle of August, just forget about it. It will feel more like a contact sport, as you dodge selfie sticks left and right. Trust me, we learned our lesson: summer in Barcelona is best spent discovering its lesser-known delights away from the maddening crowd.

The Elusive Long-Term Rental

Finally, let’s tackle the big one: securing a long-term rental contract. When my sweetheart and I found a picturesque apartment with an envy-inducing city view, we thought we’d hit the jackpot. Until, of course, we discovered the landlord only offered a six-month contract. Suddenly, we found ourselves back at square one. Hunting for that perfect long-term rental in Barcelona turned out to be a bigger challenge than running with the bulls in Pamplona. Plus, beware that landlords are required to take a first-month deposit from you according to Spanish law.

Becoming a Local – The Reserved Catalans

One afternoon, I thought I’d join my sweetie and his local friends at a beach-side bar, thinking it would be the perfect opportunity to forge some local connections. Imagine my surprise when the conversation was mostly in Catalan and the warmth I was used to from friends back home was replaced with a kind of polite reservation. It was a lesson learned – integrating into local circles in Barcelona isn’t an immediate process, it’s a slow dance that takes time and patience.

The Peak Season Price Jump

Barcelona’s tourist season doesn’t just bring crowds, it also brings a spike in living costs. The influx of tourists makes everything from rental prices to tapas soar sky-high. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly trip, I advise you stay away from Barcelona.

The Shady Side of the Housing Market

I’ve heard some bad stories, some people find the deal of their lifetime on Facebook groups or other rental marketplaces only to find the wool was pulled over their eyes.

We were lucky enough to dodge the bullet, but other expats weren’t as fortunate. From deposits that vanished into thin air to keys that opened doors to entirely different (and much less appealing) apartments, we learned that housing scams aimed at naive newcomers are a harsh reality of this charming city. So, if you’re eyeing that unbelievably perfect apartment, tread carefully, double-check everything, and maybe, just maybe, keep your optimism in check.

Gritty Graffiti and Litter – Every City Has Its Flaws

Barcelona may be a city of sun-soaked beaches and awe-inspiring architecture, but there’s also a gritty side to its beauty. During one of our early morning walks around our neighborhood, we found ourselves weaving through a labyrinth of graffiti-tagged walls and sidewalks littered with the remnants of yesterday’s revelry.

At first, we were taken aback, we didn’t expect this level of garbage here . It was a jarring contrast to the postcard-perfect vision we had in our heads. But as we lived and breathed the city, we learned to see it as part of Barcelona’s character. Just like that one rebellious, eccentric cousin in every family, it’s a part of Barcelona that you grow to understand, though it’s forgivable for you to turn your nose up too. Be prepared, the city isn’t always as spotless as a holiday brochure, but it doesn’t make it any less enchanting.

The Bottom Line

That was the unfiltered view of life in Barcelona from someone who has walked the labyrinth of its charming streets, experienced its exhilarating highs, and navigated its surprising lows. Whether you are enticed by the rich history, stunning architecture, delicious cuisine, or the promise of a more relaxed lifestyle, remember, Barcelona isn’t a perpetual vacation, but it’s a city with a soul of its own.

Barcelona is a city of contrasts. It’s where the old and the new intermingle seamlessly. It’s where sun-kissed beaches meet graffiti-covered streets. It’s a place that might push you out of your comfort zone, challenge your perceptions, and test your adaptability. But isn’t that what makes life exciting?

As you embark on this adventure, remember to keep your heart open, stay vigilant, and immerse yourself in the unique rhythm of this city. Barcelona, with its flaws and its charm, might just end up being the city you’ll fall head over heels for. After all, we did, and it’s an affair we wouldn’t trade for the world. So is it worth it? Only you can make that call. But whatever you decide, just remember – life is too short for what-ifs. And who knows, Barcelona could be the adventure you’ve been waiting for. 

If you want to learn more about being a digital nomad in Barcelona, peruse our full guide to get all the details on what makes this place tick.

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