Where is the largest expat community in Spain?

alicante travel guide

Cabo Roig, Alicante. Image - Alex Tihonovs/shutterstock

According to statistics from Spain’s Ministry of Inclusion, Social Services and Migration, the country currently has more foreign residents than ever before, with the population rising by 19 per cent in the last six years.

A country steeped in history and culture, fantastic amenities and connections, wonderful beaches and magnificent mountains, it’s no surprise that Spain is currently one of the world’s most popular immigration destinations, ranking fourth in Europe in terms of immigration statistics.

But where is the largest expat community in Spain and what draws foreign people to those areas?

Alicante – The largest expat community in Spain

The highest ratio of foreign residents in Spain is Alicante, with many families of different nationalities choosing to call this region home. A popular tourist destination, Alicante’s 120 miles of Spanish coastline has a number of well-known holiday hotspots, such as Benidorm and Torrevieja.

The region of Alicante really does have the best of everything – mild weather, great cuisine, a relaxed lifestyle, natural parks, wonderful beaches, and lots of leisure activities – and you can have all of this at a much cheaper price than other popular locations like Barcelona or Madrid. Around 20 per cent of the population in Alicante is made up of foreign residents, mainly British, Dutch, German and Russian.

For families, Alicante has plenty of state schools as well as international schools in Alicante, Javea, La Nucia, and Torrevieja. It also has great healthcare centres and hospitals, including the prestigious General University Hospital of Alcantet.

Alicante is also a very popular destination for retirees because of its mild weather, relaxed lifestyle and access to outdoor spaces to enjoy, as well as young couples looking for the bustling nightlife Benidorm and Mojaca have to offer.

Connections from Alicante airport to the city and surrounding areas are also quick and easy, with the Alicante Aerobus route C6 running every 20 minutes, 24 hours per day, 365 days a year between the airport and strategic locations in Alicante city. There are also many companies to rent a car and plenty of taxis, making travelling to and from the airport is simple.

biggest expat community in spain
Alicante. Image – Zagrean Viorel/Shutterstock.com

Spain has more foreigners living in its territory than ever before.

As of December 31st 2021, a total of 6,007,553 foreigners called Spain home, according to data gathered by the country’s Ministry of Inclusion, Social Services and Migration.

With 207,000 more foreign residents in 2021 than in 2020 and many people travelling over in 2022, Spain is certainly returning to the growth in migration seen before the Covid pandemic. The number of non-EU foreigners who were granted residency in Spain also increased by 3.6 per cent in 2021.

But which other regions and communities have a large concentration of expats?

The Costa Blanca

According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), in 2021, 373,423 foreign residents were registered in the Costa Blanca, and it’s no surprise that so many people want to live in this stunning area of Spain.

The continuous popularity of the region of Valencia, and particularly the Alicante province, is due to the Costa Blanca being a perfect place for both families and people looking to retire in Spain, not to mention those looking to buy a holiday home in Spain.

The Costa Blanca offers something for everyone, whether they are looking for a rural home in the hills, a villa just a stone’s throw away from the beach, a city apartment or a home in the countryside. This diverse region has lots of towns, cities and villages to explore, with the most popular places for expats to settle being Orihuela, Levante, Torrevieja, Benidorm, Rojales, Elche, and Marina Alta.

biggest expat community spain
Orihuela Costa. Image – Alex Tihonovs/shutterstock

The Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol is home to the largest English expat community in Spain. According to Statista’s analysis of statistics from 2022 and the beginning of this year, the coastal regions of Andalucia along the Costa del Sol had the highest number of British expats with 92,180 Brits settling here in 2022.

The Costa del Sol promises 320 days of sunshine, making it a firm favourite with those living in colder areas. This makes it an ideal location to enjoy a more outdoor lifestyle, with plenty of beach bars, parks, beaches, bars and marinas to enjoy the use of. For families, the Costa del Sol has brilliant education services and schools as well as wonderful healthcare facilities including Malaga Hospital.

For singles and couples, the Costa del Sol is home to some of the most popular bars, restaurants and cafes in Spain. Many of the villages and towns offer a slower pace of life, while cities like Malaga offer plenty of opportunities for work, activities, sightseeing and travel. The Costa del Sol is also very popular with retirees looking for sunshine, beautiful places to walk and explore, plenty of historical sights and community groups to join.

biggest expat community spain
Benalmadena. Image – Valery Bareta/shutterstock


Madrid is a particular favourite for working professionals and students wishing to study abroad. The Spanish capital is a hub for technology, trade, tourism, and banking, with many job opportunities drawing in expats from across the world. The work-life balance here is also very laid-back, with importance placed on taking holidays, enjoying time away from work tasks, and appreciating long lunches.

More than 1 million of Madrid’s 3.4 million residents are expats, meaning it is the perfect city to make international life-long friendships. The nightlife in Madrid is also a huge positive for those wanting to live in a cosmopolitan city with plenty to do after the working day has finished. It’s the gay pride capital of Spain, with tons of amazing pride and LGBTQ+ parties and a feeling of inclusion.

Being such a popular international city, it’s no surprise that Madrid has lots to offer in terms of cultural activities. The history of the city dates back to prehistoric times and there are plenty of historical sights to explore including Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace, and The Egyptian Temple of Debod. Madrid also has lots of museums, fiestas, theatres, restaurants and activities to keep residents busy!

biggest expat community spain
Madrid. Image – Eszter Szadeczky-Kardoss/Shutterstock.com


Barcelona has a thriving expat community, offering unparalleled quality of life, plenty of job opportunities, stunning beaches, the buzz of the city and high-quality restaurants. Of the 1,660,314 people in Barcelona, 371,527 are foreigners, representing a huge 179 nationalities!

The expats who choose Barcelona as their home are typically younger, with an average age of 34, coming to the city to work or study. The city’s multicultural community means thriving expat-owned businesses and international bars and restaurants have established themselves over the years, with a variety of cultures, accents and languages found around the city – including the local language of Catalan.

For things to do, you’re only ever a stone’s throw away from Barcelona’s busy beach, giving the city the perfect balance between cosmopolitan life and beach life. People living in Barcelona also like to stay fit and healthy, so there are plenty of activities, clubs and gyms to use, which is also a great way to meet other expats and residents. Aside from the outdoor, adventurous activities, Barcelona also has a rich cultural and nightlife scene, in addition to wonderful shopping districts.

Barcelona is also a very safe city, ranked as 11th safest in the world, meaning there are plenty of secure neighbourhoods to choose from.

biggest expat community spain
Barcelona. Image – Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock.com.

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Written by

Laura Kemp

Originally from UK, Laura is based in Axarquia and is a writer for the Euro Weekly News covering news and features. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.


    • Amine

      13 March 2023 • 20:39

      The picture for Barcelona is NOT Paseo de Gracia, this is the Avenida Diagonal.

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