Spain is an incredible place for families. But like anywhere, some spots are way better than others when it comes to raising ex-pat kids. Spain is a very diverse country, not only when it comes to its natural landscapes, but in terms of its socioeconomic and cultural landscapes as well. While all of it is worth exploring, expat families tend to have a much easier time in certain places. After living and traveling in Spain and getting to know lots of expats, we wanted to share what we’ve seen and heard on this front with families that are looking to move to Spain. The aim of this list is to highlight a handful of the best family-friendly cities in Spain, so that families looking to make the jump can hopefully narrow in on on a few places to explore further and/or visit during a scoping trip. And when you’re ready to get into the specifics of planning your move, check out some of our other posts on the subject and this book on the details of moving to Spain.

What makes a city good for families in Spain?

When looking for the perfect spot for you and your family to settle down in Spain (or anywhere else), it’s important to consider some key factors.  These include:

Cost of Living

Understanding the cost of living in candidate cities is critical, because it can vary dramatically across Spain.  Barcelona is expensive.  Valencia is pretty cheap.  There are very helpful tools online that can help you get a basic idea of how potential cities compare in terms of costs.

Safety 

Assessing crime rates and safety is key.  There are many on-line resources like Numbeo that can give you an overall idea of safety in a city, but understanding how it varies across neighborhoods requires some city-specific digging.

Education 

Good schools are of course vital.  Some parents may be looking to integrate their kids into local public school, which can be great from an integration and immersion perspective.  It’s also a great way to learn Spanish quickly.  However, we’ve also heard repeatedly that the reality can be really different for kids and it can be socially tough, especially if their Spanish language skills are low.   If you’re looking for a private school that teaches a least partially in English, it can limit your options so it’s good to see a map of where they are. So check out the International Schools Database which provides reasonably up to date overviews of all the private schools in Spain.

Climate and quality of life

For our family, choosing a location that has a good climate for being outdoors year round is central.   Make sure you understand your goals, how you spend your free time and the environment you are seeking when deciding to move.  If you want seasons and are ok with working indoors in the winter, a more urban and cooler climate could be perfect for you.  However, if you would like to spend outdoor time year round make sure to pick a more southerly location.  Be advised that Spain has always been hot in the summer, but has been getting crazy hot in recent years, especially in the inland locations like Madrid, Seville, and Cordoba.  Check out Weather Spark’s useful comparison tool to compare the climate in different locations.

Community and Social Life 

A strong community can make a huge difference.  Look for cities that prioritize family activities. And even if you picture moving to Spain and never speaking English again, it can be helpful to choose locations where there is at least some base level of an expat community. You don’t want to just to make a community with other expats, but they can be a great part of your mix and act as a conduit to locals and activities when you arrive.

10 Best Places to Raise a Family In Spain

1. Madrid

Madrid

Easily a top spot for families to live in Spain is the fantastic capital of the country. Sitting up high on the central plains, about halfway between the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean Sea, Madrid is a stunning oasis.  It might not be the choice for beach enthusiasts, but if culture is what you crave, Madrid is a great choice.  

Here, you can stroll around the grand Puerta del Sol, admire the lavish palaces that once housed Spanish royalty, explore the Barrio de las Letras, and visit the Museo Nacional Del Prado.  Or just accidentally bump into the hundreds of monuments scattered across street corners.  

Madrid has great schools including international schools like the Fontenebro and Maxwell schools. It’s also relatively safe for a major metropolitan area and has good public services and transportation.

There are two downsides to Madrid to be aware of, at least from our perspective.  The first is the cost of living. It’s not the most budget-friendly place to settle in Spain. The cost of renting and buying property near the city center is among the highest in the country, and food and drink prices are comparatively steep.  The second, is the summer heat which is getting to be pretty tough.  

 If you’re planning a scoping trip to Madrid and need guidance on how to make the most of your 48 hours in the city, explore our article Maximizing Your Madrid Experience: A 2-Day Itinerary.  And if you want to go deep, check out this great book, specifically on moving to Madrid.

2. Barcelona

Barcelona

Ranked second in population only to Madrid, Barcelona sprawls along the Mediterranean shores of Catalonia. It is the capital of a fiercely autonomous region with a distinct history and unique traditions, including its own language of Catalan.  Most everyone in the city also speaks Spanish.

It perhaps feels a little more touristy than Madrid, but if you need to be by the ocean, Barcelona is a great way to combine major city with beach life.  But to be clear, it’s not just a tourist destination. Barcelona earns high marks for quality of life, particularly in terms of connectivity and public transport, access to healthcare, and a wealth of cultural attractions. The city is also fun, featuring a lively Gothic Quarter lined with bars, a budding vegan food scene, and some of the best adjacent beach communities in the country.  Like Madrid, it’s pretty expensive by Spain standards and it’s also beginning to face some serious challenges with the long term drought in the region.  

Are you thinking of going to Barcelona? This detailed guide can help you plan a budget-friendly, extended stay. For more details check out the Rick Steves Pocket Barcelona for serious exploring.

3. Seville

Seville

Seville is another great city for families to call home in Spain. It has a rich cultural history and the people are welcoming. The city’s historical treasures, like the Alcazar and the Cathedral are stunningly beautiful.  It’s safe, it’s well run, and has a decent sized ex-pat community.  The city has beautiful  parks, playgrounds, and recreational spaces that local families take regular advantage of.  Seville also hosts a variety of family-oriented festivals throughout the year, including the famous Feria de Abril and Semana Santa processions.  In terms of schools, Seville has a great Montessori school and the well-known British School of Seville.  The city also boasts modern healthcare facilities and services.   At about 700K residents, Seville is a nice size in terms of balancing amenities with the congestion you see in Barcelona.   But it’s hot, hot, hot in the summer,  averaging 96 in July and August.

4. Valencia

Valencia

Valencia is a bustling urban hub that serves as the heart of the Costa Blanca. The city offers great infrastructure, facilities, culture, insane food, and a thriving nightlife. 

Valencia’s rising popularity among expats and digital nomads is not without reason. Valencia is renowned for offering an exceptional quality of life. Sun-drenched days, a strong sense of community, and a reasonable cost of living characterize this city. Moreover, Valencia maintains its distinctive charm while avoiding the excessive tourist crowds that some other cities face.

The warmth of the locals contributes to a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, encouraging outdoor living and socializing on a nightly basis. Getting around Valencia is easy. It’s not too big, so you can walk to most places. The city has good transportation options, including a growing underground train system.

Families love Valencia because it has cool places to visit like the City of Arts and Sciences, good schools, and lots of activities. It’s also a fun place to live with events like the Tomatina festival and the lively Las Fallas celebration.

Valencia also offers job opportunities, especially in industries like tourism. Finding a job here is usually not hard if you have the right skills. It is a wonderful place for families. It combines city life with coastal beauty, culture, and a friendly community. It’s no wonder why many consider it one of the best places to live in Spain.

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5. Malaga

Malaga

Malaga serves as the gateway to the famous Costa del Sol region. It’s a city and resort all rolled into one, offering the lively atmosphere of a Spanish community. Here you’ll find stunning beaches and the inviting waters of the Mediterranean Sea right at your doorstep.

The heart of the city, known as the old town, is a charming maze filled with bars, tapas places, and impressive historic sites like Moorish-era castles and Mudejar churches. Along the city’s main urban beach, Playa de la Malagueta, there’s a beautiful seaside promenade. Additionally, the trendy Soho district is emerging as a hub for hipsters and designers.

Families residing here have the choice of spending days on the sandy shores and enjoying the warm Spanish sun. If you’re feeling adventurous you can venture into the nearby mountains for hikes in the Montes de Málaga Natural Park, located just north of the town. 

Malaga is also conveniently located for day trips to the white villages of Andalusia. These excursions provide a chance to introduce your little ones to the authentic culture and heritage of Southern Spain.

6. San Sebastian

San Sebastian

Consistently claimed to be one of Spain’s most enjoyable towns, San Sebastian shines as a gem in the Basque Country. It is situated in the northern part of Spain. While there’s a fair argument for elegant Vitoria-Gasteiz and the more industrial yet artistic Bilbao, the fact remains that San Sebastian is a truly delightful place to call home.

Living here means having access to some of the best northern beaches. Stretching from the French border and westward along the Bay of Biscay is the bustling in-town Playa de la Concha and Ondarreta. If you’re looking for serenity, you’ll find quieter spots like Antilla and Hondartza. Plus, there are fantastic surf spots, truly some of the finest in all of Spain!

San Sebastian is a lively hub of culture. It’s renowned as a paradise for foodies due to its tradition of pintxos, a local version of tapas featuring treats like shrimp skewers in pepper sauce and savory sardines with peppers. The city is also buzzing with student life, resulting in an array of bars and beer halls that come alive at night.

As a small town with stylish architecture, San Sebastian stands as the Basque Country’s capital. The area offers splendid panoramic views and plenty of beautiful scenery. It’s a wonderful place to stroll around with the kids. The town and nature coexist seamlessly—take a short walk, climb a mountain, and suddenly, you’re far from the urban bustle.

7. Granada

Granada, a gem in the south and one of Andalusia’s most captivating cities, nestles against the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. In the winter, you can catch glimpses of these hills adorned with patches of white snow on the horizon. Actually, there’s enough snow there to support a couple of ski resorts, making it a prime choice for families who enjoy hitting the slopes in their salopettes and skis.

Let’s talk about the town itself, which is undeniably stunning. Perched on a steep ridge about 700 meters above sea level, it flows gracefully in shades of white and terracotta between wooded hills. The center is alive with energy, thanks to a vibrant student population, and it boasts a delectable food scene, including some of the best tapas dishes in the south.

However, the crowning glory here is the magnificent Alhambra palace. It stands as a testament to remarkable Moorish and Christian architectural achievements across Europe. For those who call this city home, it provides a stunning backdrop of spiky towers and honey-hued walls against a backdrop of distant mountains. 

For families with school-age children, Granada offers a range of educational opportunities. The city has excellent national and international schools that provide quality education. This can ease the transition for children and ensure their academic needs are met.

Granada’s surrounding landscapes are perfect for families seeking outdoor adventures. The Sierra Nevada mountains, visible with snowy peaks in winter, provide opportunities for skiing and other winter sports. During warmer months, families can enjoy hiking, biking, and exploring the scenic countryside.

Gain insight into the eating habits and food culture of Spain with our informative guide.

8. Lanzarote

Lanzarote

Among all the Canary Islands vying to be one of Spain’s best family-friendly spots, Lanzarote deserves a spot on this list. Lovely old Lanza boasts a rugged interior with brown-paper peaks and active volcanoes. You’ll also find black sand beaches with amazingly clear waters.

Lanzarote has proven itself as a family destination over the years. It features resorts like Playa Blanca and Puerto del Carmen, perfectly tailored for families. You’ll find promenades lined with restaurants and well-kept urban beaches. And when you’re ready for a change from the sand, you can venture inland to explore ancient volcanoes or cactus gardens.

For the teenagers, there’s a growing adventure scene on Lanzarote that’s sure to be a hit. Famara, a sandy surf town on the north coast, offers a five-kilometer beachfront with waves for all skill levels. Nearby, the Risco cliffs are a haven for trail runners, and there are plenty of hiking opportunities to enjoy as well.

9. Almunecar

Among the top tourist towns on the Costa Tropical, choosing Almunecar as your base offers the best of both worlds. In winter, you can hit the slopes in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and come summer, you can bask in the waters of Playa de San Cristobal.

Here, you’ll find options for education, including international and local schools. The town showcases a charming waterfront that’s free for anyone to visit. With three weekly markets, a football stadium, and excellent transportation connections, Almunecar is the ideal hub for settle down in.

With a history spanning 2,000 years, there’s much to discover, including impressive Roman aqueducts. For those who love activity, there are opportunities for diving in secluded coves and exploring headlands. 

The Mara Cerro cliffs attract hikers, while the Rio Verde river is perfect for canoeing. Gardening enthusiasts will appreciate the fertile soil and subtropical climate that makes growing fruits like mangoes, kiwis, and avocados a breeze. Neighboring La Herradura, a coastal resort on the Costa Tropical, is part of the Almunecar area and is also favored by expats, making it another worthy consideration.

10. Javea

Javea

Javea presents you with a trio of locations all in one package. There’s the enchanting 14th-century old town with its cobblestone streets and artisanal shops. Then, the picturesque port where fishing boats share the waters with pleasure cruisers. This scene is overlooked by 17th-century windmills and most importantly Arenal, Javea’s beloved and bustling beach resort.

Finding a good school here isn’t a challenge at all. There’s an array of public and international schools in and around the town, offering both the UK and local Spanish curriculum. It’s great for children just about to join school and even kids on  the older side.

Javea boasts a weekly market, a cinema, and two healthcare clinics right in town. Roughly 100 km from Alicante to the south and Valencia to the north, the town enjoys regular bus and train services. If you prefer a faster route, the expressways run alongside the Mediterranean coast, allowing you to zip to your destination along with your family.

Conclusion

In Spain, there are numerous towns and cities that could easily claim a spot on the list of best places to live with a family. We’ve tried to narrow it down to just 10 options, showcasing a variety of experiences that cover different aspects of life in Spain. 

Whether you’re an outdoor-loving family seeking surfing adventures or a history enthusiast craving centuries-old culture, there’s something here for everyone. Spain’s diverse offerings ensure that families can find their ideal home, whether it’s on the picturesque beaches, in charming old towns, or within the heart of bustling cities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the best place to live in Spain for US citizens? 

Choosing the best place to live in Spain as a US citizen with a Spanish visa can depend on individual preferences and requirements. However, several popular destinations among US expatriates in Spain include Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, and Malaga in Costa del Sol.

Which is the safest city to live in Spain with your family? 

Spain is generally known for its safety and has lower crime rates compared to many other countries. One such city is Valencia, which consistently ranks high in safety indexes due to its strong police presence and low crime rate. 

Are there good healthcare facilities available in Spain? 

Yes, Spain has a well-developed healthcare system with both public and private options. Public healthcare is accessible and of high quality, with universal coverage for residents. Expatriates with legal residence in Spain can easily access public healthcare. Private healthcare is also widely available and often preferred for its shorter waiting times and additional services. 

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