Is Granada the Best Place to Live in Spain?

Posted on May 17, 2017 by

It’s been more than 7 years since we moved to Spain — first it was Madrid for a year, then just a couple of months in Seville and eventually Granada. We’ve also explored a lot of Spain, from the northwestern corner of Galicia to the eastern edge of Costa Brava, the southern shores of Cadiz to the outlying Balearic and Canary islands. But where do I think is the best place to live in Spain?

For some reason, we still live in Granada today even though we’ve been to many places that we like more than here. Perhaps it’s because of the nature surrounding Granada, maybe it’s the great quality of life, or the slow and laidback attitudes that people have here. Regardless, there must be something about Granada that has captured us for so long.

Could Granada be the best place to live in Spain?

I’ve asked myself that question many times. We have lived in many places around the world, from London to Singapore, Miami and Tanzania; but of all of them, Granada has been the best place for us so far. Granada is a place that’s comfortable and cheap to live, a place that is bursting with nature and history, and a place that we can truly call home. Of course it isn’t perfect, just as it is everywhere else.

READ MORE: GRANADA PROVINCE AT A GLANCE

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Here I share the things we like and dislike about living in Granada — for you to decide.

What We Love about Granada

Granada Has Both Mountains and Beaches

For one, the city of Granada may be small, but Granada province has it all in terms of mountains, valleys and the sea. For outdoor lovers like us, we love how diverse the surrounding landscapes are, so much so that it’s possible to ski in the mountains and go diving in the sea in one day. In just one hour, you can easily drive from the Sierra Nevada Ski Station to the Mediterranean Sea, where temperatures climb more than 10 degrees Celsius and lapping waves remind you that you’re still in Spain.

Skiing in Sierra Nevada is cheaper than in other parts of Europe — day passes are as low as €35 — and it also has uncharacteristically long season running from late November to early May. Best of all, it’s a 45-minute drive from Granada, that means we can easily go for a day of skiing and come back home without spending on expensive ski lodges.

As for the coast, the pebbled beaches near Granada are usually packed in summer but are great to visit all year round because of the subtropical climate on Costa Tropical (thus the name).

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Plenty of Nature Around Granada

I’ll be the first to admit there isn’t a lot to do in Granada city itself — it’s a small city with a beautiful, charming old town, but it’s also more of a place to wander, get lost and soak up its atmosphere. But because of its location at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it’s literally surrounded by nature.

There are so many outdoor activities to do just a hop away from the city: from easy hiking through waterfalls at Los Cahorros, to canyoning in the Rio Verde system, climbing the highest mountain in continental Spain and exploring sandstone caves in Guadix. For instance, my favorite hiking trail is an easy 8km walk near the Trevenque mountain peak, just a 20-minute drive from where we live.

best place to live in spain

Life is Lived Outside

Even though Granada experiences all four seasons, you can count on the sun to always be there, even when it’s zero degrees Celsius. It’s always sunny in Granada, making it possible to sit under the sun and enjoy a meal regardless of the season. In summer, it can get ridiculously hot (temperatures of above 40 degrees Celsius), that’s when most people take the whole month off work to spend all their time on the beach, just a 40-minute drive away from the city.

We try to spend as much of our time outside than at work. I set my own working hours and Alberto finishes work by 5pm everyday, so we usually have quite a lot of time to hang out with Kaleya, go to the park or meet friends in the evenings. In summer particularly, the sun doesn’t set till 10pm, so it feels as though we have extra hours in the day to have fun.

best place to live spain

Strong Sense of Family

One of the reasons that have kept us in Granada for so long is that Alberto’s family is all here. The Granadinos are very family-oriented people in general, and family is the most important thing to them.

I learned that on my first trip to Granada almost 13 years ago — Alberto and I were having a long-distance relationship then and we hadn’t seen each other in months, but our whole time in Granada was spent meeting his grandma, aunties, cousins and everyone else in the family. I felt overwhelmed and puzzled at first, but eventually I learned that family is an important part of his and everyone’s life. Now I absolutely love having family around, especially since we have a two-year-old daughter and it’s great for her to have a strong bond with her grandparents.

best place to live spain

Stress-Free, Relaxed Vibes

Granada has a small town feel and it has bohemian, hippie vibes that lots of travellers (including us) love. It’s very chilled and laid-back; Nobody is in a rush to go anywhere and everyone’s just enjoying life really. Siestas are common here, unlike in the bigger Spanish cities such as Barcelona or Madrid.

Most people have two-hour lunch breaks, although they also finish work later. A lot of people actually work from 8am to 3pm (with a late lunch), and that means they have the rest of the day free. The pace of life here is slow and comfortable, a big contrast to life back in Singapore where I grew up — and I really do like this stress-free life for our daughter.

best place to live spain

Cheap Prices and Affordable Housing

Granada is very cheap to live in comparison to other parts of Europe and even Spain. I honestly haven’t found any other city in Spain that’s cheaper than Granada. An Airbnb or hotel in Granada costs around 30 to 50 euros per room per night. Renting an apartment in Granada for long term usually costs anything between 300 to 600 euros per month in the city centre — even a nice, three-storey house in the suburbs like the one we’re living in costs no more than 700 euros per month to rent.

Food wise, it’s really affordable to eat out in Granada, a city famous for its “free tapas” tradition.  Almost every restaurant and tapas bar serves a free plate of food, such as patatas bravas or carne con salsa, with a drink (beer and wine costs only 2 to 3 euros). A menu del dia (lunch set) costs around 10 euros and raciones (mid-sized dishes) go for 5 to 8 euros in an average restaurant.

best place to live spain

Great Quality of Life

We prefer to spend more time with family than at work, and so do most people here. The low cost of living here allows us to enjoy a high quality of life without working too much. We’ve lived in big cities like London and Singapore,  where our income was a lot higher, but long working hours and crappy welfare made us miserable.

Here, there’s a strong emphasis on social life, family time and hobbies — rather than work. Most people in Granada (including Alberto) have 22 to 30 vacation days a year, that’s why we’re able to travel so much with Kaleya. You’ll find that many Granadinos have beach apartments/holiday home on the coast (even though it’s so near!) so there’s where they usually spend their summer.

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Safety and Comfort

Compared to big cities, Granada is a very safe place to live. I’ve never heard of any major crime in the city at all. Granadinos are intimidated by the gypsies but they seem pretty decent to me. Going out at night is not a problem at all — in fact Granada has a vibrant night life thanks to the big student population. In general, we feel very comfortable in Granada, with no worries for financial or safety.

What We Dislike About Granada

But just like everywhere else, Granada isn’t perfect. In reality, living in Granada is not quite the same as traveling here. Read more about what it’s really like to live in Spain.

Things Can Move Too Slowly Here

While I do love the slow pace of life in Granada, at times it can be frustrating. It’s true that the Spanish have the “mañana mañana” attitude, meaning that anything can wait till tomorrow. Let’s take the metro system for example: they’ve been building it for over 10 years now and it’s still not completed! We also live right across the road from a mall that took the same amount of time to complete. Prior to its opening last year, we had to face this big, ugly construction site that blew dust to our house every day.

The Notorious Red Tape

Spanish bureaucracy is notorious, so if you’re applying for Spanish residency or buying a house, be prepared for a crazy amount of paper work and ridiculous obstacles that make any official procedure a pain in the ass. Funcionarios (civil servants) seem to take advantage of it, working at the speed of sloths and acting like they own you.

Expect to wait in line for hours if you’re applying for your NIE (ID for foreigners) or anything related to the government. Face that the fact that however many documents and photocopies you take along there will always be one missing. Bring Be patient and flexible — that’s the only way you can get through it!

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Limited Public WiFi

Internet speeds in Granada are pretty good, the highest download speed being 100Mb/s. Fibre optic broadband has become widely available in Granada too, with speeds up to 300Mb/s. That said, WiFi is surprisingly not that easily available in public spaces, restaurants or cafes. A lot of these establishments don’t seem to understand the importance of having WiFi for clients. As compared to Southeast Asia or the rest of Europe, Granada is really backwards in terms of internet availability.

No Work-in-Cafe Culture

As a travel blogger and writer, I usually work from home — but that can get boring real fast. I like working outside, in cozy coffee shops that are quiet and comfy. Sadly, places like that are very rare in Granada. Most cafes here don’t have internet and they are usually crowded and noisy, with people chatting loudly or the TV blasting at maximum volume. When I take out my laptop and work, people stare at me like I’m an oddball. There’s just no work-in-cafe culture in Granada; the city has more of a tapas bar culture than anything else.

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Lack of Global Mindsets

Granada is a great place and I know why Granadinos are so damn proud of their city. But a lot of them are so rooted that they don’t ever leave their hometown. A few of our friends who grew up here don’t have passports and have only left Spain once or twice. It’s really shocking considering how easy and accessible travel is these days, especially so in Europe.

Most Granadinos don’t speak any other language besides Spanish, and they’re afraid to travel because of the language barrier. Because they don’t travel much, they tend to lack international perspectives, if you know what I mean. They may know a thing or two about the world, as most Europeans do, but they see things from very narrow perspectives that can really limit their potential.

READ MORE: WHAT IT’S LIKE LIVING IN SPAIN

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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

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