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Spanish cities with the best (and worst) quality of life
Friday, August 11, 2023 @ 8:17 AM

PROPERTY prices, housing quality, healthcare and education, living costs and the job market are among the factors that determine where the happiest locations in Spain are, according to research by a leading national consumer organisation.

This is Spain's top-ranking city for quality of life - by day or night. Read on to find out where it is (photo: Alberto Pérez/Wikimedia Commons)

Ease of getting around – parking, public transport, cyclist and pedestrian safety – clean air, and feeling safe out in the streets are also crucial, and the OCU ranked these in its 2022 report on where the nicest places to live in Spain can be found.

As yet, no updated study has been carried out for 2023, but little is likely to have changed in terms of living conditions in general in the areas researched since the report was published.

This said, as the investigation takes time, the data for the 2022 report were taken from surveys conducted towards the end of 2020. As a result, responses would still have been affected by the pandemic.

The OCU, one of Spain's leading independent consumer organisations, conducted the ‘quality of life’ study over two years (photo:

It is likely the Covid-19 situation at the time would have led to lower scores for job opportunities, entertainment and leisure, public safety, and healthcare facilities, but may have contributed to higher rankings for air quality, cleanliness and mobility – due to lighter traffic resulting from movement restrictions and not everyone's having returned to work, and more time spent indoors.

Whilst the OCU focused on Spain's 15 largest towns and cities – not delving into smaller villages or towns in their wider provinces – the great way of life in these urban hubs is a good indication of what you might find just a few kilometres outside them.

And although you might have expected the best quality of life to be found in more southerly, coastal parts, it turns out that living in Spain is easiest and most comfortable in some of its northern inland metropolitan areas.

A stratified sample of 3,000 residents were asked to score the 'liveability' index factors out of 100, giving a total percentage of quality of life. The average for Spain's main cities – which range in population from about three million down to fewer than 300,000 inhabitants – was 64%.


'Nowhere is perfect for everyone'

“Different cities, inhabited by very diverse people with very different priorities – and priorities that are often conditioned by age, family situation, and so on – means there's no such thing as 'the perfect place to live' for everyone,” cautions the OCU.

“Not even the cities given the best scores are, in fact, the best in all areas; nor did those which ranked the 'worst' score badly in all criteria.

“And we're not all influenced by the same criteria. We asked respondents to tell us which factors on the index most affected their quality of life, and it is these that contributed the most to the overall score.

“For the average person in Spain, the most determining aspects are living costs, public safety and crime, mobility, environment and pollution, and health services – more so than other variables like arts and entertainment, schools, or even cleanliness of their town.”


Property market 

Starting with the quality of homes available for sale and rent, and their prices – where you get the most for your money – Madrid and Barcelona ranked among the lowest, given that inner-city property is highly sought-after, meaning it tends to be much more expensive.

Zaragoza, Spain's fifth-largest city in the land-locked north-eastern region of Aragón, ranked top for its wide variety of homes, affordability and ease of finding a suitable house or flat to live in, either as a buyer or a tenant.

Zaragoza ranked top for its property market - price, quality and availability. But you can still find luxury in Spain's fifth-largest city: The picture (from Facebook) shows the Paseo de los Ruiseñores, one of the most expensive streets in the country

Second was Valladolid, in the centre-northern region of Castilla y León, just north of Madrid, whilst Valencia, the third-largest city in Spain and home to around 800,000 residents, also came third for quality and price of residential property.

Valladolid ranked second from top for its property market. Among the attractions of this classical, stately city is its huge Campo Grande park, where peacocks roam wild and mingle with pedestrians (photo: Info Valladolid)

Valencia is the highest-ranked coastal city for its housing market – others with at least one beach out of the 15 surveyed are Alicante, Vigo, Málaga, Gijón, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Barcelona, and Palma de MallorcaMurcia was on the list and, although this south-eastern city does not have a coast, the single-province region does, and the nearest beaches are 30 kilometres away in San Pedro del Pinatar and San Javier.



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