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Where in Spain do all the Americans live in 2023?

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Where in Spain do all the Americans live in 2023?
Americans wave flags as they wait for Pope Benedict XVI on August 18, 2011 in Madrid. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP.

The number of US citizens who call Spain home is on the rise, according to the latest official stats. So which Spanish provinces and cities do Americans tend to favour and why?


According to Spain’s national statistics agency (INE), in late 2022 there were 41,953 US nationals officially residing in Spain. 

That’s up from 39,812 in 2021, a rise of 2,141 Americans

While these figures are based on the padrón (town hall registry), and therefore may exclude those US citizens who have moved within Spain and not updated their registration in their new town or city, they do enable us to get a pretty good idea of where in Spain most Americans live.


The latest INE statistics show that once again the Community of Madrid is home to more Americans than any other autonomous region, making up more than a quarter of the total.

There are 11,570 Americans who officially live in the region right in the centre of Spain.

That’s roughly the same amount as the number of Britons in the capital (11,831), even though there are ten times as many UK nationals across Spain. Americans in Madrid considerably outnumber other nationalities such as German, Belgian, Irish or Canadian residents.

Barcelona also continues to be the second Spanish city with the highest number of American residents. By the end of 2022, Barcelona province was home to 8,156 US nationals.

In third and fourth place in terms of American resident numbers are Málaga province in southern Spain with 2,692 US nationals, and Valencia province on the east coast with 2,549.

Completing the top five is Alicante province also on the Costa Blanca with 1,714 Americans.

Spain’s American residents are more evenly distributed across Spain than other sizable foreign population groups who generally tend to almost always prefer warmer coastal areas. 


You’re almost as likely to find US nationals in the sweltering southern region of Andalusia (1,685 in Cádiz, 1,248 in Seville and 1,038 in Granada) as in the windswept rainier north (672 in Galicia’s A Coruña, 542 in Bizkaia in the Basque Country or 535 in Asturias).

There are plenty of them in Spain’s two archipelagos (1,464 in the Balearics and 1,119 in the Canaries) as in Spain’s less touristy interior (407 in Zaragoza, 370 in Navarre, 170 in Salamanca and 175 in La Rioja). 

There isn’t a particular gender or age group which stands out either, with the exception of American women in their early twenties, who make up the biggest population group of US nationals, quite possibly due to the high number of American au pairs and English-language assistants that come to Spain.

Callao square and Gran Vía in Madrid. More than a quarter of Spain's American population lives in the capital. Photo: Giuseppe Buccola/Unsplash

Why do so many Americans live in Madrid? 

We put the question to members of the group American Expats in Spain, and got a number of interesting answers.  

Given that Americans, unlike citizens of EU member states, need a visa to stay in Spain longer than three months, a lot of them wind up in Madrid because of the activity that allows them to have a visa. That was the case for Susan Strongbow, who attributes the American presence in Madrid to “jobs – if an American is offered a job it is most likely in Madrid, at least I was.”


Similarly, many of the young Americans who are able to come to Spain are students, English teachers, or participants in the government’s Auxiliares de conversación English-language teaching assistant program, points out Andrea Summers. “I would say there are tons living in Madrid as auxiliares. And many, like me, who got a TEFL on a student visa.”  

Laura Reilly added that: “As for auxiliares, Madrid is the biggest city in Spain – meaning the highest amount of auxiliares, who are mostly Americans as it’s one of the few ways to get residency in Spain as a non-EU citizen.”

Annalisa Fernandez believes that the Spanish capital has everything “Madrid has the order of Germany, the weather of California, the café culture of France and the cost of Mexico,” she said. 


 “Madrid is so undiscovered from a lifestyle point of view. You get all the culture of any European capital, at a much lower price point, better weather, and extremely safe. There is just no comparison to Manhattan with its dirty streets, recent crime wave, and high prices. In Madrid, you can have it all, and that used to be ‘have it all except a well paying job’, but now with Netflix and smaller tech cos growing here, you really can have it all,” she added. 

Christina S. agreed saying: “Madrid to me is ‘España pura‘ – as authentic as it gets. I liked that when I first arrived, it was ‘foreign enough’ that I knew I was in another country, however without a massive bolt of culture shock. I arrived nearly 15 years ago and I was most definitely one of only a handful of Americans who wasn’t working as a teacher. I moved here to live here – permanently,  and indefinitely. I’m still here discovering new things and places”. 

“I had zero expectations nor personal prior knowledge of Spain before I moved here. I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area originally. By pure ignorance, I thought Barcelona may be a bit too similar to that vibe. Madrid seemed like a better place to improve my Spanish speaking skills and pretty much the opposite of San Francisco. All these years later, I’m glad I chose Madrid, I just miss being near the coastline,” she added. 


Several respondents proposed a more surprising theory, based on the fact that the air base in Torrejón de Ardoz used to be American. Nathan Walter explains that “there were a lot of Americans stationed in this area say, 40 years ago. Those Americans either stayed locally, or returned home with Spanish spouses and Spanish ties. Now their children are coming back, or they themselves are coming back for retirement, and choosing a place they know where they have ties.”

There are also practical advantages, like the proximity to Barajas Airport, making trips to and from the U.S. easier, and the fact that Madrid currently is the only autonomous region in Spain where the wealth tax (impuesto sobre el patrimonio) is discounted at 100 percent. “ You don’t pay the wealth tax in Madrid,” reasons Imelda Fagin. “Maybe not important to everyone but it is to me.” 

 Besides all of the more circumstantial explanations, many of the Americans living in Madrid simply seem to really enjoy living there, like Daniel Catalan. “A huge factor is that it is a laid-back environment that is still stimulating and urban. I absolutely love it,” he says. “One can find whatever they are looking for here, bump into their friends on the street all the time because of the size, and walk home after a night out. It’s inspiring for creative types, and still relatively affordable, although that´s changing.”

Barcelona welcomes millions of Americans tourists every year and is home to more than 8,000 US nationals. Photo: Logan Amstrong/Unsplash

Why is Barcelona popular among Americans?  

Catalonia is the region with the second-highest number of U.S. nationals. Of the 9,000+ Americans that live there, the great majority live in the province of Barcelona.

For many, this area’s combination of natural wonders and cities makes it an ideal place to live. Eron Bloomgarden, who lives in Sitges, lists “good weather”, “a major international airport”, “a major cosmopolitan city”, and “easy access to sea and mountains” as advantages that led him and many other foreigners to choose Barcelona province.

However, several people said that they had experienced linguistic and cultural difficulties in Catalonia, like Susan Strongbow who commented, “the magic wears off when you live there and you realise you aren’t speaking Spanish, but Catalan. Your children must learn Catalan as the primary language, and Spanish is only a second language.” 

Those who were more positive about Barcelona often cited its cosmopolitan or international environment, while those who were less positive focused on their impression that the area was very different from the rest of Spain.

Americans still prefer the coast over the interior

After the provinces that are home to Spain’s twin economic capitals, the next most popular amongst Americans were those on the southern and eastern coasts, with Andalusia coming in third (7,304 Americans) and the Valencia region in fourth (4,549). Here, Americans are often drawn by the same natural advantages that attract their English-speaking cousins from across the pond. 

Deborah Johnson, who lives in Granada province in Andalusia, said, “I have been living on the Costa Tropical – La Herradura for the past 14 years – a beautiful part of Spain with its subtropical weather, fantastic beaches and a ski resort only an hour’s drive away. What’s not to like?”

Lee Ann said, “I chose Almería because of the beach, sun and better and cheaper cost of living than Madrid”.


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