Living in Valencia or Barcelona: Which is Better in 2024 (By a Local)

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If you’re considering moving to Spain soon, you’ve probably asked yourself this question before: Valencia or Barcelona?

These two cities may look similar on paper, but they offer different experiences that can make all the difference in the world when it comes to your lifestyle. As someone who’s been in your shoes, I can understand how tough of a decision this is to make.

However, if you’re looking for an insider’s perspective, you’ve come to the right place. As a resident of Barcelona with lots of connections in Valencia, I’ve got a breakdown of the key factors that will help you decide which city is the right one for you.

The good news for you before we start – you really can’t go wrong. These are both beautiful cities with incredible people.

So let’s dive in and settle this once and for all: Living in Valencia or Barcelona which one is best for you?

Living in Valencia vs Barcelona: Which is better?

It’s nearly impossible to say that one is better than the other – the answer truly depends on your preferences! Let’s take a quick look at the differences between Valencia and Barcelona before getting into the nitty-gritty details. 

Barcelona, by size and definition, is larger and has plenty of barrios (neighborhoods) with a bustling nightlife.

Valencia also has trendy restaurants and a great music scene, but generally has an overall slower pace of life and is popular among retirees or those craving life outside a major metropolitan area. 

Two fascinating cities, both with beautiful beaches, incredible food, and a century’s worth of history at your fingertips. 

Two cities with unique cultures, political structures, and landscapes that vary from other regions. Two cities with busy city centers, excellent public transportation, and nightlife, it’s easy to see why Valencia and Barcelona are both full of “pros” on a pros vs cons list. 

Let’s take a further look into key decision criteria like the cost of living and climate for these two charming Spanish cities.

Valencia vs Barcelona: Cost of living

In terms of cost of living Valencia vs Barcelona plus overall affordability, Valencia is the better option. Barcelona is one of the most expensive cities in Spain, comparable to Madrid

Local purchasing power is 35% higher in Valencia than Barcelona. This isn’t to say there aren’t ways to combat this and personal decisions and priorities will certainly have a large influence. 

Rent prices in Valencia are on average 25% cheaper than in Barcelona with utilities being 27% cheaper.  A one-bedroom apartment in the center of Barcelona will cost you 1,095€ per month, while the same comparable flat in Valencia will cost 814€ . 

One bedrooms outside the city center average 838€ (Barcelona) and 611€ (Valencia). 

For those interested in buying, expect 5,073€  per square meter in center Barcelona vs 2,259 € in Valencia. Outside the city center, plan on 3,181€  and 1,262€  per square meter. 

Housing isn’t the only thing more expensive in Barcelona. Staples at the grocery store, restaurant prices, and transportation tickets are all more expensive in Barcelona. 

Expect to pay 15% more on restaurant bills and 5% more on groceries in Barcelona

Tipping can also be a bit confusing in Europe. Budgeting 20% of the bill for a tip is not necessary but rounding up or offering a few extra Euros for good service goes a long way in both cities. 

A one-way ticket on local transportation (bus or metro) will cost 2.4€  in Barcelona and 1.4€  in Valencia. 

Is Valencia cheaper than Barcelona is a common question – from locals and visitors alike. 

While Valencia is overall more affordable than Barcelona, these numbers are average. It’s important to note that Barcelona is still an affordable city to relocate to and being flexible with rent in certain barrios will go a long way. 

FAQ: Is Valencia cheaper than Barcelona

Overall yesValencia is about 25% cheaper in Valencia than Barcelona. The cost of living, groceries, and transportation all cost more in Barcelona than in Valencia. Barcelona is one of the most expensive cities in Spain, so Valencia will be better for travelers or locals on a budget. 

Valencia vs Barcelona: What languages do they speak?

One of the most important factors to consider whether traveling or moving abroad is the language. 

Valencia has two official languages, Spanish and Valencian. Valencian is also a romance language with plenty of the population regularly using it, though Spanish is considered more regularly used. 

In Barcelona, Spanish and Catalan are the official languages, while most locals can speak both. 

Valencian and Catalan are similar in dialects, and aside from pronunciation differences, are easily understood by one another.

Both cities see a large number of tourists each year. This means lots of tapas tours, architecture tours, and more. If you’re looking at visiting but don’t speak either dialect, it’s incredibly easy to get around both cities with just English

However, it’s always a good idea to have a few local phrases handy. It’s not uncommon to run into language barriers while traveling to less touristy areas outside the city. 

Whether a seasoned pro or total beginner on Romance languages, both cities have hospitable and friendly locals who are keen to practice for anyone willing to put a bit of effort into learning!

Which city is safer?

Both Valencia and Barcelona are considered safe and have some of the highest safety indexes and security forces for cities across the globe. People and children of all ages make homes in all corners of both Barcelona and Valencia, and since both cities are incredibly family-friendly, safety is always a necessary prerequisite. 

As with any European city hosting a large number of visitors, Barcelona does have its fair share of pickpocketing. People are far likelier to find themselves the victim of petty theft than violent crime. 

Free Guide: 8 Tips for Staying Safe in Barcelona

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    While having a bag and phone stolen is extremely frustrating, thieves tend to target specific areas around tourist destinations or in the midst of packed public transportation. 

    In addition to being mindful in these areas, avoid traveling solo after midnight. Aim to have a general understanding of directions before beginning the walk instead of openly using google maps to navigate. 

    Never leave bags on the back of chairs or phones on tables while dining, especially on terraces. I’ve found that having a cross-body bag helps keep my belongings safe. I never go anywhere without it in Barcelona or on my other travels. 

    Make yourself familiar with local emergency codes. In Spain 112 is comparable to 911 in the United States. 

    Which city is bigger?

    Zoomed in map of the coast of spain with a pin in Valencia

    Barcelona is slightly larger than Valenica. 

    Barcelona and Valencia are the 2nd and 3rd largest cities in Spain respectively. 1.6 Million people call Barcelona home and 5.6 million in the greater metropolitan area. 

    Valencia is not little by any means and is home to 800,000 and 1.6 million people in the greater metro area. For comparison, the largest city in Spain, Madrid, is home to 3.4 million. 

    Both cities are easily accessible by foot while simultaneously having some of the best transportation networks in Spain

    Valencia has 60 bus lines, 5 metro, and 4 tram lines. Plus, over 180 metropolitan bus routes and 6 regional train lines for those keen on exploring past the Valencian city walls. 

    Barcelona has even more with plenty of locals preferring bicycle routes and renting through the city via app and ID card. 

    In addition to the transportation grid, it’s perfectly safe and easy to hail a cab in both metropolitans. One of my favorite things about both cities is the ease of walkability. Getting plenty of steps in ensures plenty of room for all the mouthwatering paella! 

    What can be better than having this convenience so easily accessible? Having all of this on the gorgeous Mediterranean coastline!

    Valencia vs Barcelona Weather and Climate 

    Living in Valencia or Barcelona photo of a yacht at the harbor in Barceloneta from a dinner table
    Dinner table in Barceloneta

    Turquoise blue waters, pristine white beaches, and long sunny days are typically what comes to mind describing Mediterranean living. 

    Since both cities are on the same coast, you’ll find a similar dreamy climate for both. Barcelona’s average monthly temperatures are slightly cooler than those in Valencia, and 

    Barcelona tends to see more rain per year, but there is no significant difference in climate between the two cities. 

    Known for hot, dry summers and cool winters, it’s easy to see why those living in this region may sheepishly brag about the number of sunny days per year. 

    Catalonia, the region of Spain home to Barcelona, see’s over 300 annual days of sunshine per year. It’s hard to have seasonal blues in Spain!

    Now moving south, travel from Barcelona to Valencia Spain will only take you 180 miles. Valencia also sees sunny days and cooler winters. 

    Torn about where to spend those hot Summer months? Barcelona has an average temperature of 28°C degrees C / 83°F  in July and August while Valencia averages 30°C/ 28 °F. These temperatures are slightly cooler in June and September.

    Both cities have high humidity, often averaging over 50% on daily humidity levels, with Barcelona ultimately winning the title of higher humidity. 

    The humidity can be brutal. For perspective, I made the move from Charlotte, North Carolina, and I feel like summers in Barcelona are comparable to the humid ones in the southeast United States.

    Job opportunities in each city

    Both Valencia and Barcelona see tourists year-round, there is certainly an uptick in the summer months that ultimately brings seasonal jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors. 

    In addition to traditional seasonal work in restaurants and hotels, plenty of local startups and universities post internship opportunities for students and recent graduates. 

    While Spain has struggled with high unemployment rates in the past, and still has higher rates in comparison to other European cities, there are still plenty of opportunities to work in this magnificent country. 

    Moving past seasonal employment, Barcelona is home to many multinational companies that offer wide assortments of positions and has become an important hub for tech and innovation. In addition to startups and tech, the proximity to the ocean and key ports lead to necessary logistics and shipbuilding jobs

    Valencia, on the other hand, relies heavily on tourism and service, but also has a strong industrial base in areas like metal, wood and furniture. 

    Operating in a post-covid world, we now see a strong digital nomad presence in both cities where expats aim to make Spain home regardless of their employment location. 

    Note that professional licenses and certifications don’t always translate evenly from home countries. 

    Is Valencia or Barcelona better for expats?

    Expat strolling down a narrow alley street in Barcelona

    In my experience, Valencia tends to be more popular amongst folks looking to retire, as it offers a more tranquil environment and is significantly more affordable than Barcelona. 

    Barcelona tends to have more expats on international assignments leading to further networking opportunities. It also tends to be the preferred city for students, or those recently graduated from university, looking to party it up on the coast. 

    Both cities have enough overlap -  tranquil areas can be found in Barcelona just as loud nightclubs can be found in Valencia. 

    Outside of preferences, both Valencia and Barcelona have large expat communities. Plenty of people in the same boat are willing to share tips, guidance, and general feedback from their experiences. 

    Not only are there large communities, there are virtually no barriers to entry on joining them and it’s incredibly easy to meet expats at the grocery store or during bureaucratic appointments that come with living abroad. 

    If you have a question, chances are your expat neighbor has also run into that before. 

    It’s impossible to say that one city is better than the other as it truly depends on personal stages of life and priorities on what’s most important. 

    With nearly identical weather, and pristine beach life, what’s not to love about being an expat in either Barcelona or Valencia?!

    Beaches

    Sand castle on the beach in Valencia
    Sand castle on the beach in Valencia

    Both Valencia and Barcelona share the same East Coast border of Spain resulting in high quality beaches for both cities. Valencia generally has nicer beaches with longer stretches of soft sand, though the beaches in Barcelona are incredibly popular. 

    I think it’s important to note that though both of these cities lie on the coast, neither of them are beach towns. If you’re looking for the very best beaches, you’ll want to make your way to the nearby Costa Brava.

    Overlook of Costa Brava cove with boats anchered, sandy beach with beach goers in the distance
    Costa Brava

    Barceloneta is Barcelona’s most famous, and nearest to city limits, a hot spot for visitors as it shares borders with some of the trendiest barrios in the city. 

    Barceloneta is great for windsurfing and paddle boarding with plenty of organizers offering events like sunrise yoga on boards. You'll find sunset cruises and restaurants around the port offering fun views of the massive yachts docked.

    It’s an exciting hub of restaurants and beach bars but be careful of your belongings, especially during the crowded summer months.

    Continuing down the coast, Bogatell is a 700-meter-long stretch of sandy goodness. Bogatell is popular amongst locals and is always the scene of pickup volleyball games 

    Valencia also has its own beaches within city limits. Playa del Cabanyal (Las Arenas Beach), is the first stretch of beach from the city harbor and sees peak crowds in Summer months. 

    Known for its party atmosphere, you’ll find plenty of fantastic beach bars. Playa de la Malvarrosa is a 2km beach and arguably the easiest to access from the city. Plan for more relaxing and less party, as this is a pristine family destination. 

    The beaches above don’t require a car and are great options for any length of trip. 

    Barcelona vs Valencia: Sports

    Since both Valencia and Barcelona share a similar coastline and have some of the best beaches in Spain, both destinations offer the perfect environment for sports and can keep any and all sports enthusiasts entertained. 

    Let’s start with watersports. Paddleboarding is one of the best ways to spend a day on the Mediterranean. While the water can be choppy, overall this deep blue water offers a workout on the water!

    The same goes for kayaking, except for a decent rowing challenge with the perfect Spanish coastline in your peripherals. 

    Kitesurfing and surfing are seasonally popular. While not the top weather conditions in Spain, plenty of shops offer rentals for all appropriate equipment. 

    Bicycling is incredibly popular in both regions, with multiple tours often connecting the two cities for a serene coastal ride.

    It’s not uncommon to share trails and paths in the woods with bicycle enthusiasts with thousands of visitors flocking to the region each year for the top-tier cycling. 

    Beach volleyball is more than a sport here, it’s a way of life! Pickup games are popular and a great way to meet friends. Expect games to vary by intensity with local apps coordinating logistics and teams to join. There are tons, and I mean TONs, of active games at any given point on the beach. 

    How is Valencia different than Barcelona?

    One of the most notable differences between Valencia and Barcelona may be the change in local language and region

    Valencia is not located in the Catalonia region and the local language changes from Catalan to Valencian. Both languages are quite similar and Spanish is still spoken and understood throughout. 

    Change of regions also means change of local laws, traditions and holidays. The difference between local and country holidays in Spain is real and takes some getting used to. 

    View of Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona

    Valencia is smaller in size and sees fewer tourists per year than Barcelona does. Fewer tourists mean less risk of pickpocketing and fewer lines in restaurants and notable attractions. 

    Money goes further in Valencia than it does in Barcelona and the tranquility is evident with the sheer volume in people. While both cities have beaches, Valencia’s are considered as some of the very best in the country. 

    Another important difference between the two cities are the amenities and convenience. For those looking for easy access to high-end shopping and brands, don’t expect to find them in Valencia the same way in Barcelona. 

    This isn’t to say Valencia doesn’t have shops, but if Passeig de Gracia shopping is a priority, aim to coordinate that while in Barcelona. 

    Perhaps the most important fact of them all, Valencia is the birthplace of Paella, which we can all be thankful for! For vegans, I'd say Barcelona has more options for you.

    Plate of Paella in Valencia comparing the food when living in Valencia or Barcleona

    But really, they’re not all that different. How far from Valencia to Barcelona by car? Travel from Valencia to Barcelona is less than 200 miles apart. Plus, they share many similarities in their climate and geography. 

    Valencia vs Barcelona Traveling and Tourism: Which city has more attractions/things to do?

    By definition and size, Barcelona will inherently have more to do. For those looking for some serious shopping, Barcelona’s Passeig de Gracia Street has shops of some of the most popular and exclusive brands in the world. 

    Valencia is fantastic for local and unique shops, but does host the same level of international shopping found in Barcelona. 

    Barcelona takes the win for history and architecture enthusiasts as it boasts Gaudi works like Parc Guell, Casa Mila, Casa Batllo and the Sagrada Familia. Plus, old cities like Gothic Quarter.

    View of the inside of Sagrada Familia

    It’s also key for sports enthusiasts and those visiting the city for an FC Barcelona game.

    In the museum section, Barcelona has just about every genre to offer -The National Museum of Art of Catalonia, Picasso Museum, Maritime Museum, Music Museum, and even FC Barcelona Museum. In addition to these museums, there are often temporary pop-up exhibits throughout the city.

    Valencia Cathedral, the UNESCO Valencian gothic building “Londa de la Seda,” and the City of Arts and Sciences are amongst the top attractions in Valencia. 

    Both cities have popular zoos and aquariums. Barcelona also has the family amusement park Tibidabo, overlooking the city.

    Things to do in Valenica

    Let’s take a look at some of the key tourist attractions in Valencia.

    Palau de Les Art white opera house on top of bright a bright blue water pond

    1. Valencia Cathedral

    Valencia Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church that was consecrated in 1238. This cathedral is more than a beautiful building with multicolored glass - it has deep history, evident through the relics.

    Many people believe that the Holy Chalice is the true Holy Grail, used as the official chalice for many popes through the ages.

    Plan a tour to Valencia Catheral

    2. Lonja de la Seda de Valencia

    Lonja de la Seda de Valencia was declared a World Heritage site in 1996, and a Valencian civil Gothic masterpiece that began development in 1470.

    This is a great place to learn about the history of Valencia and the varying trades that brought us the city that we have today. 

    View tours to the UNESCO site

    3. The City of Arts and Sciences

    The City of Arts and Sciences is considered the most important modern tourist destination of the city and is listed on one of the 12 treasures of Spain.

    Multiple modern architectural works of art are open to the public offering exhibits like IMAX and oceanographic aquariums. Each building has a truly cutting-edge, innovative design.

    Plan your trip to this Treasure of Spain

    4. Central Market of Valencia

    One of the best parts of Spain is their love for good markets. Check out the Central Market, a key building started in 1914. This is popular among visitors and locals alike. 

    Visit the Central Market of Valencia

    5. Visit the Beaches

    Outside these key tourist attractions, plenty of people visit Valencia just to lounge and relax on their world class beaches. Whether sunbathing or engaging in a competitive game of beach volleyball, beach activities are their own supreme category!

    Things to do in Barcelona

    6. Gaudi Architecture

    For architecture lovers, booking a tour to visit Antoni Gaudi exhibits, to see first hand the innate level of details at the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo and Parc Guell is a must.

    Gaudi house in Barcelona old building with bright flowers lining the windows
    One of the many Gaudi houses in Barcelona

    You can easily spend an entire day relishing at modern day marvels. In addition to Parc Guell showcasing Gaudi, it’s also a serene and peaceful park, well spent with a book or enjoying the incredible views.

    Relish at Gaudi's creations in Barcelona

    7. Visit the Famous Las Ramblas Street

    Las Ramblas has plenty of shops, restaurants and vendors. It can be a bit chaotic here and is also popular for pickpockets, so be careful with belongings.

    Las Ramblas is a 1.2 km street that begins near Plaza Catalunya. Note that this was the site of a 2017 terrorist attack. As of 2019 a memorial was incorporated near the Joan Miro mosaic that shouldn’t be missed. 

    8. Visit all the Barrios (Neighborhoods)

    Barcelona has an abundance of noteworthy barrios, each with their own vibe, where days are well spent browsing in local shops and tasting local tapas.

    Gracia, in the northern edge of the city, has an entirely different feel than the medieval aesthetic of Gotico. El Born will quickly turn into Eixample and some of the best spots in the city hide in these street corners. 

    Barcelona City Bike Tour: Highlights and Hidden Gems

    9. Spend Time Outdoors

    For nature lovers, the beach scene in Barcelona is the perfect blend between relaxing outdoor activities and bougie nightlife. One day paddleboard, while spend the next playing beach volleyball or at a daily pool party. Spend time strolling through Parc Guell or Parc de la Ciutadella.

    The commuter trains are easy to use and connect visitors to some top-notch Catalunya hiking, though I’d recommend going early in summer months.

    10. Enjoy Barcelona's Nightlife

    Bottle of Belvedere in a bucket on a table at a nightclub
    Table at CDLC Barcelona | Carpe Diem Lounge Club

    For the night owls, Barcelona has an unlimited amount of events and entertainment to choose from. Find comedy shows at the local clubs every night, unique shows at bars and finish at one of the many clubs in the city. Or enjoy a chilled glass of wine at an organic wine bar. The world is truly your oyster!

    FAQ: Living in Valencia vs Barcelona Which is Better?

    It's not easy deciding whether you should be living in Barcelona or Valencia next. Here are frequently asked questions to make your decision easier.

    Which is nicer, Valencia or Barcelona?

    Depending on what you're looking for, Barcelona is nicer if you're looking for the best nightlife, unique architecture and history, fun tapas restaurants, and a more vibrant atmosphere.

    Valencia is nicer for the beaches and an overall relaxing experience - though it still offers a great nightlife and music scene. Both cities are incredibly nice and amongst the top destinations for visitors and expats. 

    Is Valencia more expensive than Barcelona?

    Is Valencia more expensive than Barcelona? No, Valencia is not more expensive than Barcelona. From the cost of living, to real estate, groceries, public transportation, Valencia gets far more bang for your buck.

    It is important to note that Barcelona is one of the most expensive cities in Spain but is still considerably more affordable than other European travel destinations like Paris.

    Is Valencia worth visiting?

    Valencia is absolutely worth visiting! Valencia is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Declarations, the Goyas film awards, the Michelin food gala, City of Arts and Sciences Center and sees 2.2 million visitors each year.

    Only 3.5 hours by car from Barcelona, and even less by train, Valencia is the perfect weekend destination to escape the crowded streets in Barcelona. 

    Why is Valencia so popular?

    Valencia is most popular for being known as the birthplace of paella. It has an impeccable culinary scene.

    It’s also home to Las Fallas festival, filling the streets with art and bonfires, that brings in thousands of visitors for 19 days each March. In addition to the plenty of culture events, Valencia has miles of gorgeous beaches, rich history and welcoming locals.

    How many days do you need in Valencia?

    Plan on spending a minimum of 2-3 days in Valencia. This gives enough time to check out main destinations like the Central Market, the Silk Exchange, Plaza de la Virgen, Church of San Nicolas and the Valencia Cathedral.

    For weekend visits, be mindful that Sunday’s are extremely quiet in Spain, and many popular attractions are closed for a day of rest. 

    Is Valencia Spain a party city?

    Yes - Valencia Spain is a party city! Valencia has plenty of nightlife and a large music scene for commercial house and reggaeton lovers.

    El Carmen, part of the Old Town section, has plenty of bars and clubs near the Cathedral. Head to the Rufazaarea for more hipster and artistic spots.  Ciutat Vella and Ciutat Jordi are great nightlife areas for students.

    Does Valencia have dress code?

    The bars and clubs found in Valencia do not have strictly enforced dress codes. Some exclusive, high end clubs may be stricter on certain types of shoes. In general, normal evening attire is acceptable all through Valencia.

    Since Valencia is a beach city, do not plan on going straight from beach to club as beach attire is generally not acceptable. 

    Is Valencia a walking city?

    Valenica is a very walkable city. It's incredibly easy and safe to walk around, though I wouldn't suggest doing it late at night.

    If you are going somewhere you can't walk to, Valencia also has an extensive public transportation system to get around.

    What is the dress code for nightclubs in Valencia?

    For casual areas like Rufaza, Barrio del Carmen, Plaza del Cedro, Blasco Ibanez, dress for comfort to dance.

    For places near the beach, or in Canovas, plan polo shirts, skirts or dresses and aim to avoid graphic t-shirts. While swim attire is fine at chiringuitos in the day, don’t go from beach to bar, as this is generally not appropriate.

    Final Thoughts: Living in Valencia or Barcelona: Which city should you move to?

    So, living in Valencia or Barcelona, which city will it be? Hopefully I've helped make your decision easier. Both Valencia and Barcelona are truly fantastic cities with large expat cities. For those planning moves, really assess where you’re at in your phase of life and what is important to you. 

    Valencia may be a better fit for those in retirement, as it is generally quieter and less stressful than living in other Spanish cities like Barcelona. 

    While both cities have great nightlife scenes, Barcelona’s hot spots like the Gothic Quarter may be a better fit for those prioritizing parties. Barcelona also has plenty of top day trip destinations and is a quick drive to Costa Brava. 

    Thinking about moving to Spain and considering Barcelona and Valencia? The bad news is that there is no clear easy choice or right answer on which to move to

    The good news is both cities contain a long list of positives and the decision is between two INCREDIBLE cities. 

    Sure, Barcelona will have more nightlife but Valencia also has a great music scene and edgy bars and restaurants. No doubt Valencia is a calmer city with an easier pace of life. But Barcelona also has lovely neighborhoods away from the crows and chaos. So which do you choose? 

    I’ve given you everything I can about the important stuff - climate, budget, and safety. In order to make the best decision for yourself, really lean into what your priorities are. 

    Are you a total beach bum with the highest expectations on beach quality but less concerned with going to clubs every night? If so, Valencia is probably for you. 

    If your schedule regularly includes exhibits, museums, and checking out the latest restaurant, then Barcelona may be a better fit. 

    I can’t make the decision for you but I can promise you’re evaluating two great options. Now get to packing as the adventure awaits!

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