Where do Spain’s Irish residents live?

There are more than 15,000 Irish nationals living in Spain. Where are the majority based and what Irish associations can they join in Spain?

Where do Spain's Irish residents live?
Most Irish nationals registered in Spain choose coastal locations as their new homes. Photo: Vicente Viana/Pixabay

Spain’s Irish community number 15,178 according to the latest 2020 ‘padrón’ figures (official administrative register), which makes them the third largest English-speaking group in Spain behind Brits (more than 300,000) and Americans (37,000).


Compared to last year, the number of people from the Republic of Ireland registered in Spain has grown by 983 people.

There’s an even distribution of Irish men and women in Spain, with the majority aged between 40 and 60. 

Where do most of them live?

Spain’s Irish community favours coastal locations generally but also the country’s two biggest cities Madrid and Barcelona.

Many of them live along Spain’s eastern Valencia region, 2,244 in Alicante province and 6,112 in Valencia province.

They’re also avid fans of the Canary Islands, with 5,998 settling in the four islands that fall under the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro) and a further 1,393 in Las Palmas province (Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote).



In Málaga in Spain’s southern Andalusia region there are 2,656 Irish nationals registered, by far the most popular province among the Irish population in the region, although there are medium-sized Irish communities in Granada, Almería, Cádiz and Seville.

And in Spain’s capital of Madrid Irish nationals number 1,684, whereas in Barcelona there are 1,890 people hailing from EIRE.

In all other provinces of Spain, Irish nationals number fewer than 500. Although as the map above reflects, there a considerable number of them who have made northern Spain their home, a part of the country which shares a lot with Emerald Isle in terms of scenery, weather and to some parts heritage (mainly Galicia). 

What associations can Irish people in Spain join?

According to the Irish embassy in Spain website, there are a number of groups and organisations Irish people can join if they want to meet their fellow countrymen and women.

These include the  Irish Club in MarbellaCARA, the official Irish/Basque Association, Irish in BarcelonaValencia Irish Cultural AssociationAsociación Española de Estudios Irlandeses and Irish Community in the Balearics

There are also a number of Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) clubs dotted around mainland Spain: Madrid HarpsCosta Gaels GAAEire Og Sevilla GAAGalician Gaelic Games AssociationSant Vincent GAA ValenciaBarcelona Gaels GAA ClubCelta Malaga GAAGaélicos do Gran Sol GAA and Zaragoza GAAGaelic Games Andalucia GAA

What about Irish tourists in Spain?

According to Spain’s Tourism Ministry, the number of visits from Irish tourists in 2017 was equivalent to 43 percent of Ireland's 4.9 million-strong population (including repeat visits during the same year), making the Iberian nation the most popular destination for Irish tourists ahead of France and the UK.

Ninety-one percent visited either the Mediterranean coast or Spain’s archipelagos, with the Canary Islands being the most popular destination overall.

In 2018, Irish holidaymakers represented Spain’s ninth biggest tourist market, 91 percent of whom had already visited the country and 59 percent of whom had been to Spain ten times previously, which may explain why an increasing number of Irish people are choosing to make Spain their home.  

For the latest information on travel to Spain from Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, click here.


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Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.


Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 


Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.


Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.


The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.