Those of us who have been on holiday to Spain have mostly enjoyed ourselves during the summer when everything is in full swing, nightlife is bursting with options and we can soak up the sunshine on the beach or by a pool. The bars and restaurants are open every day and evening, water and theme parks welcome visitors from around the world and there is a wonderful feeling of enjoyment in the air.
This is indeed one side of life in Spain, but if you are thinking of coming to live here you need to be aware that in most places it isn’t quite as described above 12 months a year. For this reason, choosing the right location for you is extremely important and this will depend on many things, including climate, accessibility to local amenities and transport links as well as a rural, city or seaside situation.
Certainly the coast is likely to be relatively busy all year, but the smaller towns that are full of holidaymakers in July and August may almost completely close down during the winter months; many of the more northern and western coastal resorts have real winter weather and virtually no visitors at this time of the year. The locals make their money between Easter and the end of October and either side of these dates you could find yourself in a ghost town, having to drive some distance to buy even daily essentials.
Inland Spain varies dramatically in climate and can get very cold in winter, and extremely hot in summer. Nevertheless, there are wonderful towns and villages nestled under huge outcrops or surrounded by olive groves and vineyards where people happily spend January to December. If you choose an idyllic small hamlet, consider its proximity to “civilisation” - the chemist, medical services, bakery and supermarket and, of course, the all-important local bar.
Life in the main cities continues at much the same pace throughout the year, despite any change in weather. Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Granada, Málaga to name a few offer culture, shopping and a vast variety of places in which to enjoy a drink, tapas or a good meal. On the other hand they can be noisy and parking becomes a nightmare in the city centres, especially in the summer months.
The mountain ranges are beautiful and offer skiing in the winter and hiking and walking in the summer. If you are thinking of buying here, look at the smaller resorts which will provide you with a possible income and year round activity. However beautiful a mountain retreat may be, you need to make sure that not only can you access it in the depths of January but that it won’t be covered by mist and fog all the time.
Most British people head for the coast. Here you will find a variety of property types, from apartments to gated communities with lovely villas. Apartment blocks can be noisy if not well sound insulated, and may not have parking spaces. Perhaps the all-important sea view may not be the answer for you, but presumably you will be looking for a well-constructed and finished apartment a road or two back from the beach with perhaps a mountain view and plenty of parking? Urbanisations are popular and some do have on site shops and other amenities, but the majority don’t. Will you be happy to drive to the nearest supermarket on a daily basis? How far is the doctor’s surgery, your bank, the bar?
Before you buy your property, consider how many years you expect to live in it, whether you will be happy to move later on into a town to be within walking distance of everything, or whether you need that now. Many people seek peace and quiet, but that comes with certain inconveniences which may prove more difficult in future years. If you enjoy water sports, try to find a location close to a diving or water skiing school - all the better if you can go there by foot. In larger towns and cities, public transport services are good, but often the smaller villages may not have any, or they may have just one bus that goes once a day in the morning and returns once a day in the evening. It’s important to assess this before you buy.
It really boils down to doing research - in your chosen area, in the streets around the property you like, in the nearest village or town and in summer and winter. Spain offers so much variety that there is somewhere for everyone, but the trick is finding the right location for you and your circumstances. Happy hunting!