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From Tapas to Tiles: Navigating Spain’s Property Playground

Madrid, Spain cityscape a

In 2019, Spain ranked as the second most-visited country in the world, with almost 84 million tourists. If you’ve enjoyed spending time in Spain, you’ll understand why many folks want to vacation there.

Spain offers something for everyone. There are gorgeous landscapes – long stretches of sandy coastline, snow-capped mountains, and rolling countryside vistas. Culture lovers flock to museums, theatres, and art galleries. You’ll find plenty to tempt you if you’re a foodie, from fine dining to tapas to fresh-cooked fish at a humble chiringuito. And, of course, all kinds of local wine to accompany your meal.

For decades, Spain has been a holiday playground, particularly for Europeans. They come on summer vacations to escape their cold winters. They play golf, relax on the beach and enjoy the good life. Many of them have also purchased a second home in Spain. The number of foreign buyers has risen sharply recently. In the second half of 2022, foreign buyers accounted for 21.1% of all property purchases in Spain, a record. The number of American buyers was up an astonishing 36.64% yearly. If you’re considering buying a home in Spain, here are some places popular with foreign buyers.

#1 Madrid

Ornate buildings illuminated at night, Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Ornate buildings illuminated at night, Madrid, Madrid, Spain

This is a truly metropolitan city that will impress and delight. It boasts eye-catching buildings such as the Palacio de Cristal and Edificio Metropolis, the Prado and Reina Sofia museums, Michelin restaurants, vibrant nightlife, and great shopping. It also has excellent schools and hospitals and transport. It’s a very walkable city, with many parks and green spaces scattered around it.

#2 Málaga

Malaga, Spain Cityscape
Malaga, Spain Cityscape

Malaga’s a small but lively city, home to a cruise ship port, a Roman amphitheatre, and the Moorish Alcazaba. Over the last two decades, it’s seen a renaissance with new museums, a pedestrianized city center, and a revamped port area. The birthplace of Picasso is now a destination in its own right, offering beach, culture, and shopping on its famous Calle Larios.

#3 Valencia

architecture in valencia
architecture in valencia

Valencia is Spain’s third-largest city, but it’s much more low-key than Madrid or Barcelona. With a thriving arts, cultural and dining scene, it attracts tourists, retirees, and digital nomads. There’s a long sweep of beach, a buzzing old quarter, and futuristic buildings like the City of Arts and Sciences. With fewer tourists than Madrid or Barcelona, it feels more relaxed and more affordable.

#4 Marbella

Beautiful Puerto Banus in Marbella, Spain on a beautiful day
Beautiful Puerto Banus in Marbella, Spain on a beautiful day

Long established as a tourist hot spot, many foreigners own second homes in Marbella. It’s famous for its Golden Mile – where you’ll find expensive homes, upscale restaurants and cafes, and the Puerto Banus marina. Old Town is compact, but features whitewashed traditional houses and charming plazas. Beach lovers, golfers, and sailors will be happy here. It’s also well served with good schools, spas, shopping, and nightlife. If you enjoy jogging or cycling, a path runs from Rio Real to Puerto Banus, with plans to eventually stretch to 180 kilometres along the coast.

#5 Barcelona

Barcelona city view
Barcelona city view

Although often painted as a classic example of over-tourism, there’s a reason why this place is so popular. It’s a cosmopolitan city set on Mediterranean beaches, something Madrid can’t match. Throw in some incredible architecture (thanks to Antonio Gaudí), a historic Gothic Quarter, and a vivid contemporary art scene, and Barcelona becomes an intriguing destination. Spain is known for its food, and Barcelona is no exception. There are food markets like La Boqueria, little tapas bars, and local Catalan specialties.

#6 Seville

Plaza de Espana, Seville
Plaza de Espana, Seville

Located on the Guadalquivir River, the largest navigable river in Spain, legend has it that Hercules founded Seville. Following the discovery of the Americas in 1492, wealth flooded into this city in southern Spain. Today, the city is best known for flamenco, its oranges (used to make marmalade), and its three UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s a fun city to explore, with narrow cobblestone streets leading to expansive plazas and impressive city views from the Setas (a huge wooden latticework structure that’s amazing in its own right).

Where you choose will depend on why you’re buying. If you want a second home that will generate rental income, the Costa del Sol is a good bet, with year-round appeal. If you buy in the right neighborhood, Madrid is good for its “blue chip” appeal. If you plan to spend extended periods in Spain, personal preference will be foremost in your buying decision.

Spain has a couple of extras for foreign property buyers. First, they offer a Golden Visa with an investment of €500,000 or more. This allows you to live and work in Spain. (Other visa options include a digital nomad and a non-lucrative visa.)

If you’re not going for the Golden Visa (where the €500,000 investment must be cash), banks in Spain are very open to lending to foreign buyers. This makes buying a property much more accessible.

In summary, Spain has much to offer discerning property shoppers, whether seeking the metropolitan allure of Madrid or Valencia, the beachside charms of Barcelona or Marbella, or the traditional vibe of Seville and Malaga. There’s a considerable lifestyle opportunity for those investing in Spain, and profit opportunity, too, if you buy right.

This post was authored by guest contributor:

 Ronan McMahon, Founder of Real Estate Trend Alert (RETA) and Executive Director of Pangea Research Group.

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Guest Author

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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