Valencia has been named best city to live in by InterNations in both 2020 and 2022. If you are considering moving to and living in Valencia as an expat, you must read this first. Here I give you the lowdown on the benefits and drawbacks of living in Valencia, including the best areas to live as an expat and the monthly costs to expect.
Valencia is a wonderful city located on the Mediterranean coast and the capital of the autonomous community with the same name. As the third-largest city in Spain, it strikes the perfect balance between a cosmopolitan lifestyle and a laid-back charm.
With a population of 800,000 people out of which approximately 100,000 are foreigners, it’s easy to see why Valencia appeals to expats and digital nomads looking to improve their living standards.
Is Valencia a good place to live as an expat or digital nomad?
Valencia is a fantastic city to live in as an expat or digital nomad due to its wonderful weather, delicious food, friendly locals, and endless entertainment options. It’s also well connected to the rest of Spain and Europe, while it continues to be quite affordable — the cost of living in Valencia is relatively low when compared to other European and even Spanish cities.
What is it like to live and work in Valencia as an expat?
For the most part, living in Valencia means enjoying a high quality of life. Of course, there are some quirks that might need some getting used to, such as adjusting to Spanish mealtimes which in Valencia are no different from other parts of Spain. That means having lunch at 2 p.m. and super later dinners, sometimes around 9:30 – 10 p.m.
You should also keep in mind that most small shops close during lunchtime (but not supermarkets and large retail stores). If you want to go shopping in Valencia in the early afternoon, your safest bet is Calle Colon.
If you’re working for a company in Valencia that requires your physical presence in the workspace, you’ll also typically get a 2-hour lunch break right in the middle of your work day. This is called ‘jornada partida‘ (split shift). It also means you’ll finish work quite late, usually around 8 p.m.
While finishing work so late might seem that you’re left with little time for anything else, Valencianos love socializing any day of the week. Terraces and cafés are busy until midnight, especially during the warm months when temperatures are agreeable even in the wee small hours of the morning.
So you can definitely have a social life and even do your shopping after you finish work. The majority of shops and supermarkets close at 9 or 9:30 p.m. But they almost never open on Sundays.
Pros of living in Valencia
Valencia is becoming increasingly popular as more people discover this cool Mediterranean city. As you might expect, expat life in Valencia has many advantages.
Good national and international connectivity
The Manises airport is only 10km from the heart of the city and has recently been modernized and expanded. This means plenty of travel connections and opportunities to explore other parts of Europe while living in Valencia.
In the first eleven months of 2022, Valencia – Manises airport handled over 22,000 passengers daily, which means it recovered almost 95% of its pre-pandemic traffic.
The longest day of the year has nearly 15 hours of sunlight and the shortest day of the year has more than 9 hours of sunlight. There’s usually around a difference of 10ºC between night and day regardless of the time of the year.
Winter temperatures rarely get under 6ºC (43ºF) and if they do, they usually do so during the night and never get below freezing. A huge advantage is that skies remain blue even when it’s cold.
Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures around 32ºC (91ºF), but can reach up to 40ºC (104ºF) during heat waves. Summer nights are balmy with temperatures remaining pretty constant, around 22ºC (71ºF).
While all this sounds pretty awesome, I also have to say that spring 2022 was the rainiest in 150 years. This is due to climate change and it’s to be expected this trend will continue.
One of the most interesting facts about Valencia is that the annual rainfall is comparable to that of London. The only difference is that in London when it rains it drizzles while in Valencia when it rains it pours.
When it comes to cultural and leisure activities, Valencia has plenty to offer as well and I’d argue that it’s almost impossible to get bored while living in Valencia.
For starters, there a tons of fun things to do in Valencia, from museum hopping to soaking up the history. Valencia is home to the mesmerizing City of Arts and Sciences, a masterpiece of modern architecture, and the largest fresh produce market in Europe.
And talking about food, Valencia is the birthplace of the paella. The city has more than 4,200 restaurants, bars, and cafés listed on Tripadvisor, covering many of the world’s cuisines and resulting in plenty of choices. You will find traditional paella restaurants, chic restaurants, and even 7 restaurants that have been awarded at least one Michelin star.
Valencia’s nightlife is famous throughout Spain due to its large number of clubs, many of which are situated on the beach. However, if clubbing is not your thing, Valencia also has several concert venues, music halls, theaters, and cinemas.
An efficient public transport system
Valencia has an extensive and efficient public transport system, including a large fleet of urban buses and 10 metro lines, one of which was recently inaugurated. An 11th metro line is in the works.
Two of the metro lines connect the airport to the city center, with one of them actually going all the way to the beach. The other metro lines link Valencia to the nearby villages in all directions. The furthest village is a whopping 60km away from the center of the city.
As of 2022, the public transport fare in Valencia has been reduced and the metro zones simplified. So now there are basically only 3 zones and the 3rd one has only one stop — the airport.
That means that even if the airport is much closer than many of the villages on the metro line, people living in Valencia and nearby, are paying a lower fare for their daily commuting.
That being said, Valencia is a very walkable city. It also has 156 km of bike lanes. This makes living in Valencia much easier. And depending on where you live, you might rarely need to take public transport to go anywhere else but the airport.
Cons of living in Valencia
Valencia is almost the perfect city to live in for expats, but of course, there are some downsides to living in Valencia as well. However, it’s unlikely, these will stop you from moving to Valencia.
Bureaucracy is almost a given in Spain and it represents a big challenge for expats. The red tape tradition goes back a long time and while you won’t hear the locals complain about it much, depending on where you’re coming from, the amount of bureaucracy in Valencia can be shocking.
For starters, all forms are in Spanish and the officials speak Spanish (the official language of Spain) and Valenciano (the co-official local language). So if you don’t speak either, you’ll hit a language barrier from the start.
Government websites in Spain usually give you the option to select English, but local websites in Valencia such as the City Hall’s website have not been translated into English yet.
Another thing many expats complain a lot about is the long waiting times and long lines. Everything seems to take longer than expected and many times online procedures are not an option. So you have to physically go and wait in line in order to get things done.
Fortunately, once you’ve got your NIE (foreigner identification number), opened a bank account (BBVA allows you to open an online bank account), and set up utilities, you won’t have to deal with bureaucracy all that often.
Poor quality of housing
When it comes to the quality of housing, in Valencia they simply do not build the same way they do in other parts of Europe.
Most apartments have walls so thin you can hear everything — your neighbor sneezing, your neighbor talking, your neighbor snoring. This is almost a fact of life in Valencia.
Going hand in hand with the above, most apartments have no thermal insulation either. And believe it or not, it can get pretty cold in Valencia, especially in January and February. Add to that that most apartments don’t have central heating, and you’re in for a culture shock.
Recently constructed buildings should be different though. A few short years ago, a new law was introduced requiring a minimum of insulation for all new buildings.
This means that some super new buildings in Valencia are probably insulated. Everything else though, it’s probably not, unless the landlord or a previous owner did it themselves.
For most Valencianos, this is not a big problem, since they spend most of their time outside, be it working or socializing. But if you are a digital nomad living in Valencia and would like to work from home, this could present a challenge. The good news is that Valencia has plenty of cool cafés and coworking places you can work from.
Few jobs available and low wages
Honestly, the job market in Valencia just isn’t great at the moment. Unemployment in Valencia is quite high and most companies will require you have a good level of Spanish (B2 at least). Most likely English alone will not be enough. On top of that, salaries are not high.
If you don’t speak Spanish, an option would be to work remotely for an international company (some of them, not many, have offices in Valencia). Or to become self-employed (autónomo).
The options available to you will vary greatly depending on where you come from. As a general rule, EU citizens will have it much easier than people coming from outside the EU.
The cost of living in Valencia
Valencia tends to be more affordable than Madrid, Barcelona, and other major European cities. However, prices in Valencia have been going up lately, just like everywhere else.
That doesn’t mean life in Valencia has become expensive all of a sudden. It just means that your money won’t stretch as much as it used to. You will still be able to afford a better lifestyle in Valencia compared to other parts of Europe.
Renting a small one-bedroom apartment in the city center (Ciutat Vella) or by the beach (Patacona & Cabanyal) will set you back somewhere between €800 and €2,000, depending on location and amenities. The more modern the apartment is, the higher the rent.
In other neighborhoods, rent can be slightly cheaper but not by much. As a general rule of thumb I’d say that if you want to rent a nice modern apartment in Valencia in a good area, you’ll have to be prepared to pay around €1,000 per month.
Apartments in Valencia are usually rented for a minimum of 12 months. If you want to rent something for less than a year, you could rent a room instead of an apartment.
Many expats in Valencia share an apartment, which not only keeps costs low, it also has the added advantage that it helps you settle in and make new friends much quicker.
Basic utilities are somewhere around €100 per month for water and electricity. This doesn’t include heating and air conditioning, which your apartment might or might not have or you might or might not need to turn on for more than a few days per month during the summer and winter months. Many apartments in Valencia don’t use gas.
The Internet bill tends to be between €20 and €50 per month, depending on the speed and the number of mobiles you contract. At the time of writing this article, the highest internet speeds in Valencia are 10Gbps.
Groceries can be in the range of €150 to €200 per person per month. But the going out expenses will greatly depend on your habits. A beer on a terrace costs around €3, a coffee around €2, and the lunch menu in many restaurants tends to be around €17, although cheaper options can still be found.
Purchasing property in Valencia
If you’re looking to purchase property in Valencia, the prices per square meter can vary greatly depending on the state of the apartment and location. The city center tends to be the most expensive.
Apartments that need a complete renovation will start at around €1,500 per square meter, with newly renovated apartments being close to €3,000 per square meter.
In the neighborhoods, property prices are usually under €2,000 per square meter with great differences between neighborhoods. New apartments, built in the last 10 years or so tend to be much more expensive than apartments in old buildings.
Valencia barely has any houses, with most properties in the city being apartments. The neighborhood that concentrates the most townhouses is El Cabanyal by the beach, but many of these properties are over a hundred years old and in bad shape.
Best neighborhoods to live in Valencia as an expat
When deciding where to live in Valencia, your budget and preferences will play a big role. Most expats and digital nomads prefer to live centrally or close to the beach. However, other neighborhoods can also be appealing, due to lower rent prices and family-friendly vibes.
The Old Town
The Old Town and El Carmen neighborhood, in particular, is super popular with expats who want to live in the city center and be in the middle of the action. Living in El Carmen means being within walking distance of pretty much anything, from bars and restaurants to supermarkets, parks, and many of Valencia’s tourist attractions. But it also means being quite far from the beach — 40 minutes away by public transport or 25 minutes biking.
Ruzafa is a gentrified neighborhood on the fringe of the Old Town. A few years ago it had a reputation for being unsafe and a bit rough, but these days most buildings have been rehabilitated, and to be honest they look pretty awesome. Ruzafa is replete with hipster cafés, trendy bars, cozy restaurants, and quirky boutiques. It is a young and vibrant neighborhood with great nightlife. So if this is how you envision your life in Valencia, you should definitely take a look at Ruzafa.
El Cabanyal and Patacona
El Cabanyal and Patacona are both by the sea, so if you like sunbathing, doing sports on the beach and seeing spectacular sunrises every morning, this might be the best area for you. While Cabanyal has many old buildings, it is being gentrified at a fast pace. Patacona on the other hand is a relatively new residential area, with modern apartment complexes with community pools and private landscaped gardens. Patacona is also the furthest you can live from the center of Valencia, so this is something to take into account.
Is living in Valencia safe?
Spain, in general, scores quite high on the safety index, and Valencia tends to be even safer than the national average. This means Valencia is a very safe city to live in and you can walk pretty much anywhere at any hour of the day or night. That being said, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to your belongings.
As Valencia is becoming more and more touristic, petty theft is also becoming more common, especially in crowded places such as during Las Fallas. I also heard of quite a few occurrences when women got their bags stolen while walking back home in the early hours of the morning or while sitting leisurely in the Turia Park.
So of course, it is advisable to use common sense, just as you should in any other city in the world, and keep an eye on your belonging. For example, you could use a cross-body bag, don’t carry around more cash than you need, don’t keep valuables in your back pockets, put a lock on your bike, and avoid drinking too much and then walking alone at night.
Two of the areas you might want to avoid while living in Valencia are strangely enough located in some of the neighborhoods most popular with digital nomads and expats.
One of them is Velluters, also called El Pilar, a central neighborhood within the Old Town. The other one is El Cabanyal which is often regarded as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Spain.
Locals tend to think of these areas as unsafe, although in both cases problems are localized to a few streets. The best you can do is to try to avoid them so you’re not put in an uncomfortable situation you might not know how to react to.
Meeting people and making friends as an expat in Valencia
Valencianos are a friendly bunch and you’ll find that practicing your Spanish in everyday life situations is super easy. Befriending them is easy as well if you speak Spanish.
That being said, if your Spanish level is not at least intermediate level (B1), you might have it a bit more complicated to make friends with the locals. That’s because many Valencianos don’t speak much English or don’t feel confident enough to carry on a conversation in English.
So there’s all of a sudden a language barrier and it’s quite difficult to make new friends when you can’t properly communicate.
However, if you’re joining language exchange events such as the ones organized at Café ArtySana or Ubik Café (but there are many others), you will have the opportunity to meet locals looking to improve their English and that is right there can be your ticket to making Spanish friends.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Valencianos are quite family orientated and they like to spend their weekends with their family. So don’t take it personally if your Spanish friends don’t have time for you during the weekend and prefer to hang out during the week instead. It’s just part of their culture and upbringing.
Valencia also has a sizable expat community. Expats in Valencia are super nice and open-minded and there are many meetups you can join. Simply look for expat groups on Facebook, such as ‘expats in Valencia‘ or ‘Valencia girl gone international‘. You can also find meetups directly on the Meetup or Internations websites.
Expats in Valencia are super active and love going out and making new friends. Basically, you can join an expat meetup or event pretty much any day of the week. There’s always something going on, from entrepreneur-orientated or themed meetups to casual after-work drinks.
Most expats living in Valencia that participate in offline meetups are from Europe or the US, with some being from Latin America and Asia. But the actual Facebook groups are even more international.
Final thoughts on living in Valencia
Living in Valencia as an expat has many advantages. While no city is perfect, I have to say that Valencia ticks many boxes. From the amazing typical Valencian food that’s almost reason enough for moving to Valencia in itself, to the great weather and the affordable cost of living, it’s easy to see why Valencia is one of the best places to live in Spain.