The number of US citizens who now call Spain home is on the rise, according to the latest official stats. The number of American visitors are also increasing – last year approximately 2.8 million visited Spain, which represents an annual increase of 250 percent! And many visitors are making plans to stay.
Every one has their own reasons. For some it is the pandemic that highlighted the need for a better quality of life, others see business and investment opportunities, but most are simply tired of the rising crime rates and political divisions in the US and want to escape. But it’s not just politics and crime that are causing many to abandon ship, it’s the overall quality of life.
The Iberian Peninsula is the hottest region in Europe this year for many Americans seeking a better lifestyle. Almost 40,000 monthly searches on Google prove this point (up 9% on the year before).
There are a multitude of reasons why Spain is proving to be Europe’s most popular destination. The cost of living in Spain (excluding rent) is almost 34% less than in the US. The public healthcare program is one of the best in the world. You feel safe on the streets at night. The availability of fresh fruit and vegetables and the quality of the food is unmatched – only Italy can hold a light to Spain’s gastronomic offering. But the real draw is the lifestyle. People take their time and enjoy life – a far cry from the stressed-out, fast-paced lifestyle in the US. In Spain, people work to live, not live to work. They value friendships and there is a real joie de vivre. There is a rich and ancient history in Spain, there are romantic castles, amazing cities, gorgeous beaches, mountains and nature and more fiestas than you could ever want… Spain really does have it all.
Spain also has the largest expat population in Europe. Today, it has approximately 6 million foreign residents, making the country a wonderful multicultural melting pot. The British make up the majority of those expats, but Spain also draws a considerable number of Americans. According to research conducted by the American insurance company Home Shield, Spain is the second most popular country for US citizens to relocate to.
Spain’s healthcare system is one of the world’s best. What’s more, visiting the doctor in Spain is free for almost everyone living and working in the country, and anyone on Spanish soil is entitled to immediate emergency care. In the last serious ranking of the world’s healthcare systems, carried out by the WHO, Spain was listed in overall seventh position. In the category of performance alone (quality of healthcare), Spain rises one place, while the US falls from 37th overall to 72nd on performance.
Spain is the perfect country for Americans who want to move to Europe as there are multiple visas to choose from that make long-term living here a viable option. Qualifying for a visa is cited as one of the biggest obstacles for US citizens who want to move to Europe, yet most are unaware that there are at least six visa options, three of which are actually quite easy to obtain – The Golden Visa, The Non-Lucrative Visa and the Digital Nomad Visa.
The Golden Visa (also known as the “Investor Visa”) is perfect for anyone who wants to invest in Spanish property, as essentially all it entails is investing 500,000 euros in a property (without a mortgage). The Non-lucrative Visa is designed for those who want to retire in Spain, or live in Spain for more than 90 days without employment. All you need for this visa is the financial means to support yourself. And the recently introduced Digital Nomad Visa allows remote workers to reside in Andalucía for a period of five years (renewable as long as conditions for the visa continue to be met).
Where in Spain?
In recent years the coastline of Spain’s largest region, Andalucía, has had the strongest pull for expat Americans. This might have something to do with the exponential growth of the city of Málaga which is now becoming a technology hub – Europe’s answer to Silicon Valley. Traditionally, it was always the larger cities of Barcelona and Madrid that attracted most American expats, but Málaga is fast becoming THE place to be.
Google has chosen the city for their new cybersecurity centre which will accommodate 100 staff and also have a space to host important events, conferences and training courses. The leading American company in technology and innovation for tourist destinations, Simpleview, chose Málaga to locate its first headquarters in Europe. And Citigroup is also opening a hub for junior investment bankers offering what it said was “a better equilibrium between work and private life to attract young talent”.
Andalucía’s tax-friendly status has also helped the region to attract new residents – it has become the region in Spain with the lowest taxes (along with Madrid). This has fostered huge foreign investments which have translated into capital growth of 40% over the last five years.
A handful of cities around the world are named each year by various business and lifestyle publications as the most ideal places to live in, and Málaga is one of them. Its most recent appearance on such a list is in a Forbes article titled “The 20 Best Places for Americans to Live, Invest, Work in Europe”, with Málaga listed among three other cities in Spain.
The city is ideally situated, in a way being slap bang in the middle of Europe, because these days, we use air travel as a measurement of how quickly and easily we can get to the other great cities of Europe. For example, it’s quicker and cheaper to get to and from London or Berlin from Málaga than it is from much of the south of France or most regions of Italy.
As they say in Forbes, this is also one of the cities in Europe “with the best quality of life, best internet connections for remote working so that you can keep your job in the US or launch your online project and set up business.” The concentration of museums in the city where Picasso was born, they add, is the highest per square kilometre in Europe.
Andalucía is also a region of stunning natural beauty with 50% of the territory being mountainous and 18% protected. There are 24 natural parks, 28 nature reserves, 32 natural sites, two protected landscapes, 60 natural monuments, 21 peri-urban parks, five concerted nature reserves, and three national parks.
Additionally, the region accommodates 63 Areas of Special Protection for Birds, 190 Places of Community Importance, and 176 Special Conservation Areas. The region proudly boasts nine Biosphere Reserves, 25 wetlands designated as Ramsar Sites, four specially protected areas of importance for the Mediterranean and three geoparks.
The total area of the region is 87,268 Km2 (33,694 square miles) and it has a stunning coastline that stretches over 945 km (587 miles) with some of the best beaches in Spain. The Sierra Nevada mountain range is found in Andalucía and it really is possible, as many tourist magazines will tell you, that you can ski in the morning and sunbathe on the beaches of the Costa del Sol in the afternoon. It is a magnificent region of hills and plains, with some of the richest cultural heritage in Spain.
Where to live in Andalucía?
Marbella is just a 40-minute easy drive away from Málaga on excellent roads along what is often referred to as the California of Europe. To put it in a US perspective, from Málaga city centre to Marbella, as the crow flies, is the same distance as from San Francisco out to Palo Alto.
Marbella also has magnificent museums, great restaurants, excellent internet connection, international schools, top quality hospitals and almost all that Málaga city can offer, with the added attraction of a more peaceful lifestyle, less crowds and easier-to-get-to beaches.
Many Americans already run successful businesses there, from bars and restaurants to real estate development companies, and of course, many Americans have already chosen Marbella as a retirement or holiday-home destination. There are a number of lively American clubs in the town, both social and political, catering to a growing number of US citizens. Knowing which bars are showing the next Super Bowl is no more than a phone call to any of these clubs, while Thanksgiving in Marbella has always been a shared experience.
Here we list the top 10 reasons for moving to Marbella:
1-SAFETY. Marbella is one of the safest places to live in Europe. Moonlit walks along the promenade, beach parties, and nighttime strolls in the old part of town are all part of daily life in Marbella. This is a society that values law and order and respect for the police is part and parcel of Spanish life.
2-HEALTHCARE. Three of the country’s best hospitals are located in the area. The primary public hospital of the Costa del Sol is located in the eastern part of Marbella and it is known for its state-of-the-art equipment and first-class specialists. There is also a myriad of private hospitals for those who can afford and prefer private care.
3-QUALITY OF LIFE. Marbella’s Quality of Life index is very high. Life is enjoyed at a leisurely pace. A warm and welcoming social environment, low pollution levels, a lifestyle that can be enjoyed outdoors all of the year, access to all kinds of sporting and leisure activities and a healthy attitude to work. Less stress, more siesta!
4- FOOD. Food enthusiasts will fall in love with Marbella’s dining scene, which offers a delightful mix of traditional Spanish cuisine and international dishes. From tapas bars to Michelin Star restaurants, the city caters to every palate, offering an extensive range of culinary delights to explore. The Mediterranean diet, named one of the healthiest diets in the world, is abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, olive oil, fish and poultry. But it’s as much a lifestyle as it is a diet. Instead of gobbling your meal in front of the TV, here people sit down at the table with family and friends to savor not just the food, but the experience.
5-CLIMATE. Marbella has a special microclimate being sheltered by the peaks of the Sierra Blanca mountain range. The sea also helps to moderate the temperature, making the summers less hot and the winters milder than in nearby inland areas. It doesn’t get too hot in summer, average temperatures are 28 degrees Celsius (82ºF), while during winter – the mildest in Europe – the average day time temperature is 16 degrees Celsius (61ºF).
6-SOCIETY. Marbella’s international community has proven itself over many decades to be one of the few outstanding successes of multiculturalism. With a population of 161,870 people, almost one third are foreigners of 135 different nationalities! This makes for interesting social circles with open-minded, well-educated, well-travelled people. The local people are also friendly and welcoming and will go out of their way to help you.
7-SPORT. From exploring the area on hiking trails, to river rafting, rappelling and canyoning, there are plenty of opportunities for your next adrenaline rush. Off-road mountain trails for buggies, bikes and 4WDs are very popular with plenty of professional companies providing tours. Water sports such as kite surfing, surfing, kayaking, paddle surfing, wakeboarding, cable ski, scuba diving, sailing and deep sea fishing are all enjoyed along the coast. Marbella has a long list of sport organisations from gymnastic clubs to equestrian centres, from birdwatching to basketball, if the sport exists then it’s practiced in Marbella. And then of course there is golf. This is the golfing centre of Europe, often referred to as the “Costa del Golf” and there are over 100 courses in the region of Andalucía and 21 prestigious courses in Marbella itself, so you are never far from an amazing golf course.
8-LEISURE. There are so many places that lie geographically close to Marbella that are worth visiting. Gibraltar is but a short 40-minute drive away where you can experience the British culture, with the added bonus of sunshine! And just a bit further west along the coastline from Gibraltar are the white sandy beaches of Tarifa – Europe’s mecca for surfing and windsurfing. From Tarifa you can visit Morocco, the ferry crossing to Tangier which only takes an hour, so the visit is totally doable as a day trip. If history and architecture are your thing, Andalucía will delight you. The Alhambra Palace in Granada is the most-visited monument in Spain and will show you a great rundown of Spanish history including Roman, Moorish and Colonial periods. Then there is the capital of Andalucía, Sevilla, famous for its magnificent architecture, historic monuments and vibrant atmosphere. Córdoba, known as the heart of Andalucía, is steeped in traditions with the city’s Jewish quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Then there are the horse and sherry traditions of Jerez, the wineries of Ronda and the brandy distilleries and museums in rural Andalucía. Or the oldest city in Europe – Cadíz – founded over 3000 years ago by the Phoenicians. And of course, Málaga city itself, which has more than 30 museums, art centres and galleries with its Roman Theatre one of the few remaining Roman structures in Andalucía.
9-NATURE. Even though “Marbella” means “beautiful sea”, it’s not just about the Mediterranean. Marbella offers verdant landscapes, breathtaking mountain ranges, and nature reserves teeming with diverse flora and fauna. The Sierra de las Nieves National Park is on Marbella’s doorstep with its mountain ranges visible from the beach. Escaping the hustle and bustle of the coast is just a 5-minute drive away. You will never live long enough to explore all the forests, valleys, river trails and rock formations that grace the outskirts of Marbella.
10-INVESTMENT. An address in Marbella has always been a symbol of international prestige, today more so than ever before. And the 5th richest man in the world, Warren Buffett, agrees. He has increased his bet on the Costa del Sol by adding nearly 300 new homes to his portfolio this year. His company already has around 2,300 houses, with the main location of the properties being on the Costa del Sol. Marbella continues to attract ultra high net worth individuals from every corner of the globe, who want to live and invest in the town. And it is the availability of world-class quality homes that is in itself attracting luxury-end buyers.
Where to buy property in the Marbella area?
People talk of the Costa del Sol but in real estate terms it’s the Golden Triangle that attracts the most millionaires in Spain. This privileged area has Marbella at its heart but extends into Benahavís and Estepona – in a roughly triangular area.
Benahavís is the crème de la crème when it comes to luxury properties. It’s an exclusive area that possesses some of the finest real estate in Europe. The illustrious addresses such as La Zagaleta, El Madroñal, Reserva de Alcuzcuz and recently, Real de la Quinta, attract the world’s privileged few. Benahavís has a country club environment and has become well-known as one of Europe’s prime luxury destinations for real estate.
The Real de la Quinta resort stands out particularly for its amazing hillside location between the exclusive La Zagaleta country club and Marbella’s iconic La Concha mountain, plus the incredible amenities they are developing there. This 200-hectare country club estate overlooks Marbella so you can get away from it all, but not too far away. It is a gated, sustainable community that is currently developing an exclusive resort with a 35,000 m2 lake that will offer non-motorised water sports such as kayaking and paddle boarding, a lake club, an executive golf course surrounding the lake, a spa and wellness centre, an exclusive restaurant and bar, tennis and padel tennis courts, plus a children’s play area and a small commercial area with shops. There will also be a 5-star Angsana Hotel developed by the Banyan Tree Group. As immediate amenities go, it doesn’t get much better than this!
The award-winning Vista Lago Residences has become one of the most talked about new developments in this area. Winning multiple awards at the prestigious International Property Awards in London for both its architecture and overall resort features, it’s not surprising that it is currently a “hot property” in Marbella.
Located on one of the highest villa plots in Real de la Quinta, Vista Lago has stunning views across the Mediterranean to the Straits of Gibraltar and the African coastline beyond. Each of the 18 villas are totally independent, different and separate from the next with no property being overlooked from any angle. Luxurious seclusion and magnificent views are guaranteed.
Both Real de la Quinta and Vista Lago Residences are gated estates using security personnel and each of the 18 villas in Vista Lago use state-of-the-art security technology. All Vista Lago villas are true smart homes, each with world-class domotics and illumination. Security systems, music, lighting, heating and air conditioning can all be controlled from a mobile phone, remotely, so you can get on with living.
If you like complete privacy, outstanding views of the sea, nature, world-class design, security, sustainability, technology, immediate amenities and quick and easy access to Marbella then Vista Lago Residences could be your dream home. The project holds multiple awards for its world-class design – design that makes its architecture exceptional, and exceptionally different.
Each Vista Lago villa will have been built to each client’s preference. Future residents can pick and choose as they wish, adapting some or all features and design solutions to suit their own particular lifestyle, inside and out.
Currently, with 60% of the villas reserved, or sold, Vista Lago Residences is already one of the biggest success stories of the property world in Southern Spain, setting new standards of sustainability and creativity that will make each of these 18 villas a highly desirable investment for many years to come.