The best places to retire in Spain in 2021

We have put together a list of the best places in Spain for retirement taking into account various important features, including cost and quality of life.

Spain could be the perfect retirement destination for British expats / Unsplash
Where to retire in Spain
31 May 2021, Emma Donaldson

Spain is one of the best countries in the world to retire to. Retirement, the so called 'golden age'; you leave the world of work behind and retire after years of paying contributions and your pension comes along that allows you to enjoy a relaxed and leisurely life. Nowadays, many countries are going through a severe pension crisis, not to mention the added complications which could come with Brexit which has finally arrived, and the coronavirus pandemic. In spite of this, Spain is still one of the best places to retire in 2021.

Moving abroad and enjoying a relaxed retirement as a British expat is an attractive option for many and there are countless options for those who have already retired or see retirement coming on the horizon. If you're considering moving abroad for this 'golden age' in your life, you may however find yourself bombarded with choices.

We have put together a list of the best places to retire in Spain in 2021, taking into account the cost of living, safety, pensions, healthcare and visas amongst other factors, and Spain turns out to be one of the best countries to retire to – let’s have a look at which regions are best for retirement in Spain, and other important questions about retiring in Spain.

The Costa del Sol: Retire by the sea

Marbella has miles and miles of the best beaches in the south of Spain / Gtres
Marbella has miles and miles of the best beaches in the south of Spain / Gtres

The Costa del Sol is one of the most important tourist areas in Spain, especially for people flying in from the U.K. and one of the best places to retire to if you’re seeking beaches and warm weather. The Costa del Sol has more than 1.3 million inhabitants, a large community of expats and English speakers that are spread throughout the area which is located in the Malaga region, from the luxurious Puerto Banús in Marbella, to the bustling beaches of Nerja, Benalmadena and Fuengirola. The Costa del Sol is perfect for pensioners who want a lively and active lifestyle - especially for those who enjoy a round of golf, given the province's fame as home to some of the top golf courses in Spain and Europe.

The Costa de Azahar: Enjoy retirement in Mediterranean

More golden beaches attract expats to the Costa de Azahar / Wikipedia, Espencat
More golden beaches attract expats to the Costa de Azahar / Wikipedia, Espencat

Moving up the coast, the lesser known Costa del Azahar, also known as the Orange Blossom Coast, is in the province of Castellón and is made up of 120 kilometres of stunning sandy beaches and coves. Located just over one hour’s drive from Valencia, this golden coast gets some of the best weather in Spain and is a welcoming area for English speaking expats, as well as being an affordable option for pensioners. The population in the Costa del Azahar is more scarce than in the Costa del Sol, meaning that even in the capital you’ll be in peace. The main cities of interest include Benicarló, Peñíscola, Torreblanca, La Llosa, Benicasim and Oropesa.

Bilbao: A thriving expat community

Bilbao is famous for its museums and has a growing expat community
Bilbao is famous for its museums and has a growing expat community

The Spanish city of Bilbao, located in the Basque Country, also makes our list of the best places to retire in Spain. This is perhaps a more surprising addition for some, as expats moving to Spain to retire tend to gravitate towards the southern coast, but due to the high quality of life and low crime rate, it’s an ideal destination to those who don’t want to just spend their retirement on the beach, as well as a spot for enjoying mild summers without the intensity of the heat of the South and Mediterranean coasts. Bilbao is also known to have one of the best healthcare systems in Spain and also has a thriving English speaking community, making it a worthy choice for your hard-earned retirement in Spain.

Madrid: the best quality of life for pensioners

Madrid has a high quality of life for pensioners / Pixabay

According to a recent study by a British real estate company, Audley Village, Madrid is one of the best places to retire in Spain because of its high quality of life. Once again, Madrid is for those who want to stay clear of the coast, but with excellent transport links, a buzzing cultural scene and lots of English speakers, you're sure to find plenty to do! Madrid also has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the country at almost 84, while in Spain's capital, retirement is also the second longest in Europe averaging at 22 years. 

How much does it cost to retire in Spain for British citizens?

According to a report by Forbes detailing the best places to retire, "Spain is cheaper than much of Europe". It’s possible to retire comfortably in Spain on about 18,000 pounds per year. That breaks down to roughly 1,500 pounds per month with average rental prices and property prices also considerably less than other countries. It is of course possible to live in Spain for less if you decide to live farther from the big cities and lead a more minimalist lifestyle, making Spain one of the most affordable places to spend your retirement. Forbes also added that “healthcare is excellent and crime is low”.

What about pensions if you’re thinking of retiring to Spain?

First and foremost, as a British citizen, you have the obligation to notify the UK government offices that deal with your pension and tax if you are retiring abroad.

Retiring in Spain as a Brit does however mean you have various options regarding pensions: You are entitled to one of the following options:

  • your UK State Pension 
  • your Spanish and UK State Pension from the “Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social” if you worked in Spain
  • pensions from working in other EU countries if applicable

What will happen after Brexit?

Now that the dreaded Brexit is here, one of the biggest questions comes from British citizens who have retired overseas. The UK government has stated that it will continue to pay a State Pension to those eligible in the European Union after Brexit.

In spite of Brexit, things shouldn’t change too dramatically, and the necessary agreements have been reached so that British pensioners in Spain won’t be left out of pocket. However, until we start to see the reality of the situation unfold, it’s hard to predict the exact outcome of Britain’s exit from the EU. Find out more about what Brexit means for expats living in Spain, including new residency documents.

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