Since the success of the Olympic games in 1992 Barcelona has consistently held its top position as Europe’s number one spot to live and work. Despite having a metropolitan area similar in size to Munich or Rome, and a population of around 5 million, the city enjoys a relaxed open-air and active lifestyle.
Economy & Government
The economy & property market
The position of Spain in the global financial crisis has been well documented. However, despite unemployment and other difficulties, the luxury property market in Barcelona, its surroundings and the Costa Brava remains strong.
Property prices have dropped significantly since 2006 to reflect the broader economic difficulties, but at the higher end of the luxury property market there is a lot of movement with international clients competing to buy quality real estate at heavily discounted prices. However, in 2013, for the first time in 3 years, property prices increased in 3 of Barcelona`s most desirable districts.
Buyers from other European nations and beyond are targeting Catalunya’s more exclusive properties, taking advantage of the superb opportunities available.
The region and its politics
Catalunya covers an area of 32,000 km² in the northeast of Spain bordering France and Andorra, Aragon, Valencia and the Mediterranean. The region offers every kind of living with nearly 600km of coastline, extensive mountain areas and everything in between.
Catalunya became an autonomous community of Spain in 1979 and has the official status of a nationality. More than 7 million people live in its 946 municipalities. In terms of administration, the area is divided into 4 provinces – Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. The two official languages are Castilian Spanish and Catalan.
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid and the centre of one of the largest metropolitan areas in Europe.
Catalunya is organised politically through the Generalitat de Catalunya, which consists of the Parliament, the Presidency of the Generalitat and the Executive Council. Mayor, Artur Mas has been in office since 2010.
The Generalitat holds exclusive jurisdiction in areas such as culture, commerce and transportation, but shares jurisdiction with the Spanish government in education, health and justice.
Catalunya has a prosperous economy and an international outlook. As well as a strong tourism and services sector, it competes throughout the world in cava, wine, livestock, meat products and sweet fruits, as well as industries as diverse as chemicals and household appliances.
Property & House Hunting
Catalunya offers a wealth of properties to buy and rent, ranging from plots and ruins in the hills to luxury penthouses on the coast, from country estates, castles and boutique hotels to exclusive apartments and houses in some of the most picturesque and cosmopolitan addresses in the world.
Buyers looking for a great climate, modern living and a rich culture should start their search in Barcelona. Regularly voted one of the best places to live in the world, Barcelona combines a perfect beachside location with the fresh air and rural appeal of nearby mountains and national parks.
Further north in the Costa Brava and inland Girona, buyers will find the ideal property to match their lifestyle choice. Opportunities include restored Catalan masías, five-star golf and residential developments, majestic townhouses and luxury villas with sweeping views of the Mediterranean.
The area has a long list of place names that bring to mind lush beauty and a very high quality of living: Aiguablava, Tamariu, Calella de Palafrugell, Begur, the Baix Empordà and Cadaqués, pretty seaside town and former home of Salvador Dalí.
Barcelona has excellent connections to the full range of air, road, rail and sea transport, making it a perfect location both to live in and commute to key business hubs across Europe and beyond.
There are 6 airports in Catalunya including Barcelona El Prat, Girona-Costa Brava and Reus. The region also has two main commercial and passenger sea ports, one in Barcelona and one in Tarragona.
There are two publicly owned railway companies operating in Catalunya: the Catalan FGC that operates commuter and regional services, and the Spanish national RENFE that operates long-distance and high-speed rail services.
The high-speed rail (AVE) network currently reaches from Madrid to Lleida, Tarragona and Barcelona (2.5 hours) and is growing to include more national destinations as well as direct connection to the French high speed network.
Flights and routes
Catalunya is extremely well connected to Europe and beyond.
- Barcelona airport services more than 200 destinations, including direct flights to the US, Singapore and Buenos Aires.
- Girona (Costa Brava) airport services more than 70 European destinations.
- Reus airport services more than 20 destinations, mainly in the UK, Ireland and Balearics.
- Lleida airport services the Balearics.
High quality education is available to all international residents and visitors in Catalunya. There are plenty of state and private options, following Spanish or international curriculums.
State education is co-educational, free between 6-16 and conducted in Catalan, although by law all students have the right to attain an adequate level of written and spoken Spanish by the time they finish obligatory education.
Also, education authorities must promote the integration of foreign pupils and develop specific programmes in mainstream schools for those that do not have a good grasp of the Spanish language.
Unlike in many European countries, children normally stay at one school for the duration of their education. To make sure they get into their first choice, most families secure a school place when their child is 3, or even younger.
At 16 students can go to higher secondary school and at this age they may also attend a vocational school that provides specialized career training.
International schools either teach their country’s curriculum in their own language, follow their country´s curriculum with or without Spanish as a second language or teach in their native language and follow the Spanish curriculum.
Students can study the _Bachillerato_ from 16-18 years, enabling them to enter University in Europe and the US. Many children in international schools are actually Spanish, so there is plenty of exposure to the Spanish language.
International schools in Barcelona and around Catalunya include:
- The British School of Barcelona
- The English School
- Kensington School
- Oak House
- The Olive Tree School
- St Paul’s School
- StPeter’s School
- Santa Claus Academy
- Hamelyn International&
- Sek Catalunya
- St George’s School
- Princess Margaret
- Europa International School (Sant Cugat)
- Col·Legi Aura (Tarragona)
- Escola Turó (Tarragona)
- Japanese School (Sant Cugat)
For more information about family life in Catalunya please visit www.mumabroad.com
Around 25% of people living in Spain have private health insurance. This generally means faster access to a greater choice of specialists. Spanish companies offering private health insurance include Mapfre, Asisia and Sanitas.
Those with existing healthcare in their native country should check to see if this is transferable, but with the wide variation of policy premiums it may still be worth obtaining a quote from a Spanish provider.
The choice of private healthcare may be defined by your choice of insurer (if paying directly, you can choose any clinic). Around 20 clinics are integrated under the umbrella organization Barcelona Centre Mèdic (BCM). Some clinics that are generally held to be very high quality include:
- Clinica Corachan in Barcelona
- Hospital de Barcelona
- Hospital Quirón Barcelona
- Centro Médico Teknon
- USP Institut Universitari Dexeus in Barcelona
In Girona, the Onyar Clinic has invested heavily in attracting healthcare tourists, and those visitors or expats who want to make the most of excellent facilities when spending time in the country.
Culture & Gastronomy
Catalan society has a deep-rooted regard for its institutions, language and traditions. Catalans are immensely proud of their linguistic and cultural identity, and there is a strong nationalist feeling that manifests itself in extensive demands for Catalan independence. A referendum is planned for 2014.
Catalan society and culture have developed on the basis of exchanges of ideas, customs and people, built up from geographical location and a long history of migration and trade with other cultures and nations.
As a result, Catalunya offers every kind of recreation and entertainment residents could demand, from relaxing on the beach, having a round of golf or spending a long afternoon lunching on the beach to joining in festivals and partying the night away at world renowned music venues and nightclubs.
Catalonia has its own representative and distinctive symbols such as its flag 'La Senyera', four red stripes on a golden background that has been the official symbol since the Statute of Catalunya of 1932.
There are many Catalan festivals and traditions, including human towers (castells), the Sardana (Catalan popular dance), the parades of gegants (giants) and correfocs of devils and firecrackers.
In 2010 Catalonia became the second Spanish territory, after the Canary Islands, to forbid bullfighting.
Catalan cuisine is based on the wealth of local produce, from cava to tomatoes, and from seafood to olive oil, ham and botifarra sausages.
Catalan cooks and chefs are widely renowned and critically acclaimed all over the world, one of the most famous being Ferran Adrià. Currently the Roca brothers lead the way - their restaurant El Celler de Can Roca in Girona has been ranked as the best restaurant in the world.
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