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The 7 best cities for freelancers in Spain

From coastal retreats to urban centers, there’s a place for every taste.

9 min read

Being a freelancer means having the freedom to create your own schedule and be your own boss. It’s not always easy, but with a little hard work and perseverance, the rewards can be incredible. Without the rules or restrictions of a company, you’re free to live and work wherever you please. So why not consider one of the 7 best Spanish cities for freelancers? We’ve rounded up some pros and cons about each one to help you decide where to take your career next.

The best Spanish cities for living and working as a freelancer

7. Madrid

There’s a reason so many people flock to the cosmopolitan Spanish capital. It’s a super welcoming city—and not because everyone’s so ‘tight’ on the metro—but because Madrid itself welcomes newcomers with open arms. It’s an ideal place to start your career from the ground up, meet new people from all corners of the globe, discover hidden gems daily, and get swept up in the bustling, metropolitan atmosphere.

Madrid sits at number 46 in the worldwide ranking of cities with the best quality of life. This statistic comes from Mercer’s annual report (2019), which collects data related to the economic, political, social, environmental, and cultural situation, as well as other factors, to analyze which cities around the globe enjoy the highest quality of life.

Pros of working in Madrid

Madrid could be a good option if you’re just starting your journey as a freelancer and you’ve yet to create a powerful contact network. With the multitude of conferences and events held in the city, plus the huge variety of co-working spaces, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to put yourself out there and attract your first freelance jobs in Madrid.

Cons of freelancing in Madrid

Madrid has the highest average rental prices of any region in Spain. The Housing and Land Observatory (2020) published by the Ministry of Development puts the average rent in the capital at around €819. This might be a bit steep if you don’t have regular clientele or substantial savings.

6. Barcelona

The second most populated city in the Iberian Peninsula is another attractive option for the self-employed. What’s not to love about the Comital City? It has a warm climate, a unique and compelling character, and it’s right next to the sea.

On top of that, according to the report The World’s Best Cities 2021, carried out by Resonance Consultancy, the city was rated as the 8th best city in the world in 2021 to visit, discover, work, and live.

Working in Barcelona comes with plenty of opportunities. The city hosts several major Spanish companies with high turnover rates, and numerous international businesses choose Barcelona to set up their offices. If you want to start a freelance career in Barcelona, here are some tips for how to set out a plan to become self-employed for the first time.

Pros of freelancing in Barcelona

Like Madrid, Barcelona is another major city where it will most likely be easier for you to establish a network of contacts. Big cities like Barcelona have more work opportunities in general, due to the wide variety of companies and professionals located there. Plus, you’ll be able to enjoy the great weather, coastal climate, and impeccable cuisine.

Cons of  freelancing in Barcelona

The main con—aside from the fierce competition with other Barcelona-based freelancers—is the high rental prices. Average rent is around €769 a month. It might seem like a lot, but if you’re a creative and driven worker, it can be manageable. Check out our blog post for some special tips for saving money on rent.

5. Palma

Who doesn’t dream of living and working on a beautiful, sunny island? If you like relaxing on the beach and average yearly temperatures between 17 and 20 degrees Celsius, Palma is the perfect place for you.

Pros of working in Mallorca as a freelancer

There’s a huge community of expats in Palma, which can be useful if you want to expand your network to include international contacts. That’s on top of the good weather, white sand beaches, and crystal clear waters that the island is known for.

Cons of living and working in Palma

Since the island attracts tourists, buying or renting a home doesn’t come cheap. The average monthly rent for an apartment is usually around €687 on the Balearic Islands.

In the summer season you’ll need to battle with the masses of tourists that flood the most popular beaches. Don’t stress too much about the overcrowding though—if you know get to know the city well, you’ll be able to find the least touristy spots to spend time and learn to navigate the city like a native. But when it comes to navigation, one of the main drawbacks of living on an island is that you can only leave via plane or boat. 

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4. Santa Cruz, Tenerife

The Canary Islands are another highly attractive destination if you enjoy a relaxed life, close proximity to nature, and avoiding crowded cities. The year-round mild climate combined with the volcanic landscapes offer a one-of-a-kind living environment.

Pros of living and working as a freelancer in the Canaries

The average rent in the Canary Islands is €484 per month—significantly lower than the rent in the Balearics. On top of that, the Canary Islands have a different tax regime to the rest of the Peninsula, known as IGIC (the Canary Island General Indirect Tax). This is a consumer tax that substitutes VAT, with just a 7% ordinary rate compared to 21%.

Cons of working and living in the Canaries

The main downside is the transport—if you want to leave the islands, your only option is by plane. In addition, you’ll have to get used to a huge influx of tourists during the summer months.

3. Gijón

The most populated city in the Principality of Asturias with 271,000 inhabitants, Gijón is one of the best-kept secrets in Asturias. If you love nature, outdoor activities, and top-quality food, Gijón is the place for you. Living in Gijón, you’ll have the privilege of going for a dip or doing some surfing first thing in the morning, before taking an afternoon walk in the mountains in the Picos de Europa National Park. 

Pros of living and working as a freelancer in Gijón

Gijón is a beautiful, multi-faceted city that offers all the conveniences of urban life while sitting right at the edge of the great outdoors. It’s an excellent place for families, pets, and adventurous people. If you’re a dog lover, you’ll fit right in. Gijón is the city with the fifth highest number of dogs per person in all of Spain.

Cons of living in Gijón

Unlike in the other cities mentioned, Gijón doesn’t attract a lot of people from other countries, or even from different regions of Spain. With the exception of some French tourists during the summer, most people there are Asturians or from neighboring regions. While it might not be particularly diverse, the local culture is a welcoming one.

If you can’t stand overcast weather, Gijón might not be the place for you. You pay a high price for the green meadows and the beautiful scenery: the rain showers. They’re heavy, and they’re frequent. Your umbrella will become your best friend in Gijón. 

2. Valencia

The city of Valencia could be a great option if you love the beach and warm weather. It’s an ideal spot if you love the hustle and bustle of cities, yet prefer to avoid big crowds at all costs. On top of that, it has excellent transport connections to other cities. On the AVE, you can get to Madrid in a just 1 hour and 47 minutes, and to Barcelona in 3 hours. You can even hop a ferry to the Balearic Islands.

In the study Expat City Ranking, expats living in Valencia rated it to be the best city to work and live in 2020. Survey participants rated the affordable, easy-to-access healthcare very highly, along with the vast assortment of leisure options and the generally great weather.

Pros of living in Valencia

Apart from what we’ve already mentioned—the weather, its leisure options, and outdoor activities—Valencia has a big plus that other large Spanish cities lack: its average cost of rent. With an average of €556, rent is much more affordable in Valencia than in Madrid or Barcelona.

Cons of living in Valencia

Public transport is unreliable at night and while the weather tends to be mild, extreme heat and humidity can make summers quite uncomfortable. It’s worth keeping this in mind if you’re used to cooler climates. 

1. Alicante

Like Valencia, the city of Alicante ranks high in the Expat City Ranking 2020. The city is second in the world ranking and, in addition to being in the same region as the winning city, it also boasts the same top-quality affordable healthcare and idyllic Mediterranean climate. When it comes to earning a living, 81% of expats that participated in the survey said they were satisfied with their financial situation while living in the city.

Pros of choosing to live in Alicante

Alicante is a great choice if you’re on a tight budget. In 2018, the Ministry of Development set the average rental price at just €525 per month.

Cons of living and working as a freelancer in Alicante

If you decide that freelancing isn’t for you and start to look for full time employment in Alicante, you might have some trouble. Forty-four percent of people surveyed by Expat City Ranking said they were unhappy with the work opportunities in the city.

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N26 and freelance professionals in Spain

What do you think is the best place to live in Spain? If you’re looking for a new place to settle down and get to work as a freelancer, the cities we’ve suggested could provide you with inspiration for this new phase of your life. At N26, we want to supply you with all the tools you need to manage your business and personal finances with ease. That’s why we are the first neobank becoming a collaborating entity with the Social Security system in Spain! This means you can collect your benefits in your N26 account and also pay your freelancer tax and make other payments to the administration through us.

Also we created a variety of accounts especially designed for the self-employed. Discover our range of options, from the free N26 Business Standard to N26 Business Smart, or the premium N26 Business You and N26 Business Metal accounts. Get cashback on your purchases, extensive insurance coverage, saving and budgeting features, and more.

Uncertain how to pay your taxes as a freelancer through N26? Check out this article to find out exactly what you need to know.

At N26, we’ve taken the red tape out of opening a bank account in Spain. Open an online account in minutes—all you’ll need is your smartphone, a valid address in Spain, and a valid photo ID. You’ll get an official Spanish IBAN, so you can pay and be paid like a local. Plus, there are no hidden fees and you’ll always have access to English-speaking customer service, so you can focus on settling in to your new home.

By N26

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