Each year, International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index ranks and rates the best retirement destinations in the world, taking into consideration real estate prices, retiree benefits, costs of living, ease of integration, entertainment and amenities, healthcare, retirement infrastructure, and climate. Spain ranked number nine in 2018's index, scoring high across all categories. However, it fared especially well in the climate area, with a score of 88 out of 100. Spain likewise had high scores in entertainment and amenities (90), healthcare (87), and development (95).

Retirees contemplating an international move to Spain should consider the following five amazing destination cities.

Key Takeaways

  • For American retirees looking for a new scene, they should consider an international move to Spain, for its temperate climate, natural beauty, warm and engaging people, tasty cuisine, exciting festivals, and miles of gorgeous coastline.
  • Among Spain's top cities, retirees should contemplate the following five glorious destinations: Barcelona, Granada, Madrid, Málaga, and Valencia.


Barcelona is Spain’s second-largest city and Europe’s largest city on the Mediterranean. Several locations in Barcelona have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Palace of Catalan Music, and the Sagrada Familia, which is a mammoth Roman Catholic church designed by architect Antoni Gaudi. Host of the 1992 Olympic Games, Barcelona offers retirees an abundance of arts and culture, sports, food and wine, history, architecture, outdoor recreation, beaches, plus a robust and exciting nightlife.


Granada rests at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in southern Spain’s Andalusia region. Like Barcelona, Granada is likewise home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including:

  • The Alhambra (the Red Fortress), a Moorish fortress of palaces, towers, and gardens
  • Albayzín, an old residential barrio (neighborhood) with Moorish and Andalusian influences

During wintertime, expats can enjoy snow sports atop the Sierra Nevadas. But all year long, they may luxuriate on warm beaches or enjoy flamenco shows, museums, festivals, theater, and Arab baths.


Spain’s capital and largest city, Madrid is a cosmopolitan city that combines old-world history and heritage with modern infrastructure and status as an economic and financial center. Arts and culture are held in high regard, proven by the city's 60-plus museums, including the Prado Museum of Art, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, and the Reina Sofía National Art Centre, which is dedicated to late 19th century contemporary Spanish works. Be sure to check out Pablo Picasso's Guernica, which hangs on the wall there. In addition to the arts, retirees can spend time in Madrid’s extensive park and garden system and enjoy the city’s bustling nightlife.


Málaga, Spain’s sixth-largest city and one of the world's oldest, lies on the Costa Del Sol (Coast of the Sun), a popular destination on Spain’s southern coast on the Mediterranean. This vibrant city offers museums, extensive shopping, top-notch restaurants, and annual cultural events, including the Holy Week celebration and the Málaga Film Festival.


The medieval city of Valencia sits on Spain’s eastern coast along the Mediterranean Sea in what is known as the Orange Blossom Coast. The third-largest city in Spain, Valencia is known for its orange groves, beaches, mild climate, and the City of Arts and Sciences (la Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias), an architecturally futuristic complex that's home to Europe’s largest aquarium, an opera house, an IMAX theater, and an interactive science museum. The Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia (or simply Valencia Cathedral) is believed to hold the 2,000-year-old Holy Chalice that Jesus Christ used during the Last Supper.

The Bottom Line

Retirees looking for a change of scenery, new experiences, and access to affordable healthcare, can enjoy Spain's temperate climate, rich history, abundant arts and culture, exceptional food and wine, outdoor recreation, and hundreds of miles of coastline. The more frugal set can keep costs down by focusing on the smaller, less-popular cities, instead of the more expensive Barcelona and Madrid. As with any major overseas move, test the waters with a vacation or a longer-term rental before taking the plunge. Buena suerte!