It’s official: nowhere does an expat live better than on the Spanish costas

An expat lives nowhere better than in Valencia, Alicante or Málaga. Not coincidentally, all of them are cities on the Spanish costas. We’ve been firmly convinced of that for longer than today, but now it’s also officially demonstrated by the Expat City Ranking 2020 from InterNations, a website that connects expats in cities around the world.

More than 15,000 expats from 66 cities made their voices heard. They gave their second home points in four categories – quality of life, finances and housing, integration and work life, all further broken down into subcategories. Two cities on the Costa Blanca occupied the first two spots: Valencia narrowly made it ahead of neighboring Alicante. Málaga, on the Costa del Sol, also scored excellently with a sixth place. For your information, the survey took place in the early 2020s, just before the corona crisis.

This is what the ranking looks like:

ranking of the best cities for expats 2020

Now we have often praised life on the costas on this page. We are genuinely excited about the more relaxed lifestyle, the ever-present sunshine and the culinary delights of Spain. And we want as many people as possible to taste it. To fall madly in love with it – hopefully – as we did. With this, it has been proven once again that we do not speak for our own store, but that living in the south of Spain is simply a dream. Follow along for a moment as to why.

Quality of Life

No city in the world scores better than Valencia.

Especially in terms of subcategories of Leisure and Climate and Health and Environment, the largest city on the Costa Blanca is doing well. Just think of the 300 days a year that the sun drops its rays on Valencia. The city is neither too hot nor too dry, and the sea breeze keeps summer temperatures from shooting toward those of the better roaster. As is the case in the interior of Spain. “I love the weather,” said one French expat. “There is no winter in Valencia. It’s a fantastic place to live.”

people in Valencia

92% of settled Valencians are satisfied with the opportunities to spend free time. The beaches, parks and hills surrounding the city, the restaurants and museums offer many options for relaxation or exercise. Overall, that satisfaction is only at 71%. Málaga ranks two in Free Time and Climate, Barcelona three and Alicante seven. For reference, Brussels scores a meager 63rd place, trailing only Muslim desert cities like Jedda, Riyadh (both Saudi Arabia) and Salmiya (Kuwait).

The majority of expats in Valencia are also very satisfied with the availability (91%), quality (88%) and affordability (87%) of local health care. 89% are very satisfied with the public transport system in Valencia, compared to only 66% worldwide. 97% of expats feel safe in Valencia.

Quality of life ranking
: (1) Valencia (2) Vienna (3) Nice (14) Málaga (19) Alicante (52) Brussels (66) Salmiya.

  • Leisure and Climate
    : (1) Valencia (2) Málaga (3) Barcelona (7) Alicante (63) Brussels (66) Salmiya.

  • Transportation:
    (1) Vienna (2) Prague (3) Shanghai (21) Valencia (37) Málaga (44) Brussels (46) Alicante (66) Naorobi.

  • Security and Politics
    : (1) Lausanne (2) Singapore (3) Muscat (34) Valencia (39) Alicante (44) Malaga (51) Brussels (66) Johannesburg.

  • Health and Environment
    : (1) Valencia (2) Nice (3) Madrid (6) Alicante (7) Málaga (31) Brussels (66) Salmiya.


The warm national character will certainly have something to do with it: the top four consists entirely of cities on the Siberian Peninsula, Spain and Portugal.

local woman in Malaga

Expats in Alicante are very satisfied with their social life. 68% of them find it easy to make friends, compared to an overall average of 47%. “The ease of life and the friendliness of the people around me,” cited one British expat as positive aspects of living in Alicante. The numbers back that up: 86% of expats think locals are friendly, even to foreigners. Language plays a role in this. Three-fifths learned Spanish with ease. Expats also believe that you can live on the Costa Blanca without a knowledge of the language.

Therefore, most expats feel welcome in Alicante. Only Málaga scores even better in that regard. 87 percent of incoming foreigners feel at home there. “I love the warmth of the people and the land,” argued a Swede. Expats make friends without a problem (62%), maintain a vibrant social life (77%) and find the local Spaniards more than agreeable (88%). Only in Muscat, the capital of Oman, are the people friendlier than in Málaga. Valencia scored third place in that subcategory: no respondents had comments about the friendliness of the locals.

Ranking of civic integration:
(1) Alicante (2) Málaga (3) Lisbon (4) Valencia (34) Brussels (66) Salmiya.

  • Local Friendliness
    : (1) Muscat (2) Málaga (3) Valencia (6) Alicante (42) Brussels (66) Salmiya.

  • Feeling Welcome
    : (1) Málaga (2) Alicante (3) Valencia (46) Brussels (66) Salmiya.

  • Friends and Social Life
    : (1) Málaga (2) Alicante (3) Barcelona (6) Valencia (37) Brussels (66) Stockholm.

  • Learn Local Language
    : (1) Kuala Lumpur (2) Singapore (3) Nairobi (6) Valencia (11) Alicante (28) Malaga (29) Brussels (66) Beijing.

Work Life

Figures from this category indicate that many expats consider the cities on the costas primarily as fallback options. Few expats move to the sun to make a career, rather to blow out of work. Temporarily, in the case of a second home on the sun-drenched costas. Or permanently, in the case of people who have spent their entire lives turning in their nickels and descending to southern Spain to enjoy their well-deserved retirement.

beach in Alicante

Somehow that makes sense. Who wants to crawl behind a desk when they can also sit on the beach with their lazy ass? Anyway, Spaniards work to live, not the other way around. That laid-back lifestyle just attracts many. Although that is not to say that there are no options at all. Alicante, Valencia and Málaga still score better than global cities like Hong Kong, Milan, Seoul or Rome.

Ranking work life:
(1) Luxembourg City (2) Amsterdam (3) Hamburg (25) Brussels (39) Alicante (46) Valencia (54) Malaga (66) Rome.

  • Job and Career
    : (1) Dublin (2) Stuttgart (3) New York (13) Brussels (54) Alicante (62) Valencia (65) Málaga (66) Rome.

  • Job security
    : (1) Luxembourg City (2) Düsseldorf (3) Frankfurt (30) Brussels (40) Alicante (42) Málaga (47) Valencia (66) Buenos Aires.

  • Work-life balance
    : (1) Stockholm (2) Copenhagen (3) Amsterdam (21) Valencia (29) Alicante (31) Malaga (37) Brussels (66) Seoul.

Finance and Housing

The cities on Spain’s south coast are top sellers for any expat expecting value for money. Thanks to the low cost of living – which is a lot lower than in just about any other European city – and the abundance of affordable and quality housing. There is something for every budget, from modest apartment to luxurious villa. We know all about that, of course. If you also want to know what is possible with your budget, contact us without obligation.

Expats in Alicante are satisfied with the affordability of homes (68%). They found it easy to find something (79%) and do not complain about their financial situation (81%). Expats there may earn a little less than the global average, but that is still more than enough to make ends meet smoothly (87%). About the low cost of living, 82% are satisfied. A British expat praised the “sunshine, cheap food and .

Expats in Málaga (81%) and Valencia (83%) also feel that household income is more than enough to live well. “You get value for money,” mused a Frenchman in Valencia. 81% found it a breeze to find a home there, one percent more are also content with its price. In Málaga, those percentages are similar.

People walking in Alicante

Ranking finance and housing:
(1) Kuala Lumpur (2) Alicante (3) Valencia (9) Malaga (10) Brussels (66) Dublin.

  • Finance:
    (1) Alicante (2) Málaga (10) Valencia (13) Brussels (66) Milan.

  • Housing
    : (1) Kuala Lumpur (2) Valencia (3) Alicante (11) Malaga (14) Brussels (66) Dublin.

  • Local Cost of Living

    (1) Valencia (2) Alicante (3) Málaga (31) Brussels (66) Hong Kong.

Conclusion: there is really nowhere better to live than on the Costa Blanca or Costa del Sol. What are you waiting for?



Iconic starts from

Requesting Information

Iconic price list request

Request Iconic folder