When we think about moving to Spain, most of probably think of the sunny south: the Costa del Sol or Costa de la Luz. Nonetheless, cast your eyes a little further afield and you can find places much less touristed and more authentically ‘Spanish’. Spain’s green north is a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and those looking to immerse themselves in the local culture. So, what’s life like here in northern Spain for expats?

An area rich in history

Northern Spain includes the communities of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, the Basque Country and Navarre. It’s an area with a long and storied history. Asturias was one of the centres of the Spanish Enlightenment, and even today, the heir to the Spanish throne is known as the Prince or Princess of Asturias. The Basque Country has a unique culture, with a language that is utterly unintelligible to any of its neighbours – and a proud industrial past. The heritage of Catholicism is heavy in the region, with the popular Way of St James attracting hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year.

Stunning landscapes

Northern Spain is a Mecca for the lover of the outdoors. The area known as ‘Green Spain’ – the northernmost coastline stretching from Galicia to Navarre – is richly verdant, in stark contrast to the south of the country. Expect high hills and dramatic cliffs. Vixía Herbeira Cliffs are the highest in Western Europe. There are a number of mountain ranges, from the Pyrenees in the far east to the Cantabrian Mountains.

Fresh, delicious cuisine

This area, abutting onto the Atlantic, produces some of the best seafood in Europe. In villages like Cudillero, you enjoy freshly, locally caught fish for low prices. Octopus is the iconic choice in Galicia, with other fish-based soups and prawn dishes also popular. The seafood festival in O Grove, held every October, is regularly claimed as ‘the best in Spain’.

Bustling cities and quiet villages

Whatever you’re looking for location-wise, you’ll find it here. Large cities like A Coruña, Oviedo and Santander offer all the hustle and bustle of urban life, with endless activities, restaurants, bars and pubs. If you’re looking for a real ‘metropolis’, don’t miss Bilbao. The capital of the Basque Country has undergone extensive regeneration over the years and is now one of Spain’s most vibrant and liveable cities.


Northern Spain boasts some of the country's most stunning nature.

Northern Spain boasts some of the country’s most stunning nature.


Small villages dot the countryside. Fuenterrabía in the Basque Country, for instance, is a classic example of a medieval Basque village. The small locality of Comillas has an extra claim to fame alongside its pretty seafront: it’s home to a Gaudí-designed villa, El Capricho.

Uncrowded beaches

The weather may be milder than southern Spain, but the mercury still hits 26ºC in the summer. There are some vast sandy beaches, with much fewer tourists than down south. Don’t miss the Playa de America in Nigrán. Further east, the city beach of Playa de la Concha, San Sebastián, even has the small island of Santa Clara lying off its shore.

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