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The pros and cons of living in Spain's Galicia 

The Local Spain
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The pros and cons of living in Spain's Galicia 
Santiago de Compostela is Galicia's most famous city, but the region as a whole is a bit of a hidden gem that foreigners don't often move to. Photo: Joe Kassis/Pexels

Far removed from the stereotypical image of sun-drenched flamenco-loving Spain, the green north-western region of Galicia is truly special, although it might not be what all foreigners are looking for. 




It’s Spain, but different

Galicia is known as the seventh Celtic nation, and although there are plenty of elements to the culture that are clearly Spanish, it is different to stereotypical Spain. 

From the moss-covered stones of its centuries-old buildings, to the abundance of vegetation, the delicious seafood-heavy gastronomy, the drizzle, the Galician language, sometimes it can feel like you’re in Ireland or another northern European country.

And yet Galicia is still very much Spain - the streets are lively, Gallegos enjoy spending time eating out with friends and family and the general Spanish joie de vivre is present.

It’s Spain without the heat, the flamenco and the tourists. 

Breath-taking nature

The region’s 1,498 kilometres of coastline offer rugged cliffs, hidden coves, otherworldly rock formations, undulating dunes and beaches that are consistently ranked among the best in Spain. All of this without the drawbacks of mass tourism. 

Inland there are dense forests and several natural parks that make Galicia a hiker’s dream, as the Camino’s pilgrims can attest. 

Greenery is ever-present when living in Galicia, one of the main perks of life in this region of 2.7 million inhabitants. 

READ ALSO: Five reasons why Galicia is Spain's version of Ireland

The Syl Canyon of Galicia's Ribeira Sacra, one of the region's countless natural wonders. Photo: locuig/Pixabay


Its cities offer a great quality of life

A 2023 study by Spain's Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) named the Galician city of Vigo as the Spanish city with the best quality of life for its safety, cleanliness, education, environment, and air quality, an accolade they’ve earned several years on the trot.

The smaller city of Pontevedra has been referred to as Spain’s ‘most liveable city’, receiving praise from around the world for its urban planning which prioritises pedestrians over cars. 


Galicia’s biggest city A Coruña, the economic hub of the region, has the longest beach promenade in Europe (13km), it’s a foodie’s paradise and has plenty of cultural offerings and green spaces. 

Santiago de Compostela, where millions of pilgrims end their camino each year, is straight out of a fairytale. 

Lugo may not be Galicia’s most famous city, but the Roman walls that house the old city and its many bars are the best preserved in the world, so you can imagine what a special place it is. 

life in a coruña View of A Coruña's endless beach promenade during the much busier summer season. Photo: José A Ortega from Pixabay


It’s cheaper than in other coastal regions

According to a recent study by real estate website HelloSafe, the cost of living in Galicia (daily expenses plus rent or mortgage) is below the national average in the provinces of Lugo and Pontevedra, where people manage to save more than 50 percent of their salaries each month. 

In Galicia’s two other provinces A Coruña and Ourense, monthly living expenses represent 68 and 63 percent of workers’ wages. The study found that Galicia is the coastal region with the lowest cost of living, as it’s easier to save up than in more popular spots such as Málaga, Alicante, Valencia or Barcelona.

2023 data from Spanish property portal Idealista found that Lugo was the third cheapest city in Spain in which to live, rent or buy a property, a cost of living rate which is 17 percent below the national average. 

Galicia's famous "pulpo a feira" (fair-style octopus in Galician) boiled octopus dish, affordable and delicious. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL RIOPA (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)


The summers are not suffocating 

It rains plenty in Galicia as we will detail below, but on the flipside the region is a safe haven for Spaniards who want to escape the heat during the increasingly scorching summers. 

Most of the time, when the mercury hits the high thirties and low forties during a heatwave in much of Spain, Galicia will appear on the weather map with cool and pleasant temperatures in the mid twenties in July and August.

It doesn’t get too cold during winter either (especially the closer to the coast that you are), although drizzle can be a constant.

Galicia's average daytime annual temperature is 13.3C (8.6C in winter, 15C in spring, 29C in summer and 11C in autumn).



It’s very rainy

Lush vegetation everywhere originates from the abundance of rainfall of course, and Galicia is pretty much Spain’s rainiest corner with between 90 and 150 days of rain a year.

The region’s oceanic climate means you can expect plenty of rainfall throughout autumn and winter, and some but not a lot during summer. 

According to a climate guide by Spain’s national weather agency Aemet, five of Spain's six rainiest cities are in Galicia.

The weather isn’t quite as wet as in the UK or Ireland, but if sunny weather is one of the primary reasons for you to move to Spain, Galicia may not be your number one choice.

READ ALSO: Where are the rainiest places in Spain?

rain galicia Expect plenty of cloudy days and drizzle if you move to Galicia. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)

The people are not as friendly as in other parts of Spain

By no means can Gallegos be considered unfriendly overall, but it is true that they tend to be more reserved than the livelier southerners. Could the weather have something to do with it? Possibly. 

There’s also a smaller foreign community than in other parts of the country, so you may find it harder to make international friends. On the other hand, this can offer you the encouragement to immerse yourself in the culture and make local friends.

READ ALSO: The good, the bad and the ugly - What are Spain's regional stereotypes?


The need to speak Galician 

While it may be true that Gallegos usually have no problem with speaking in Spanish (unlike what might happen to you in Catalonia with Catalan), Galician is the official regional language, so you can expect to hear it and see it everywhere. 

Spanish and Galician are used in schools and high schools, and Gallego (which is similar to Spanish and Portuguese) may be required for some job positions, so juggling Spanish and Galician learning at the same time could be quite tricky when adapting to life in the region. 


Job opportunities are scarce 

The same chronic work problems that affect Spain as a whole are present in Galicia, although wages are below the national average with €23,306 gross a year in 2023 (€2,500 less a year than the average Spaniard.  

La Coruña and Vigo are where the most employment opportunities and best salaries are, but these are still a far cry from what’s on offer for English speakers in cities such as Madrid, Bilbao or Barcelona. 

However, it’s worth keeping in mind that subpar career prospects are a Spanish-wide drawback rather than a Galician one specifically.


Not many flight connections 

The region has three main commercial airports in Santiago, Vigo and A Coruña, and although they do offer plenty of flight connections to other parts of Spain, when it comes to international routes the selection is more limited. 

Santiago de Compostela's airport is the best bet for international travellers, with direct flights to London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Milan, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Zurich, Geneva, Bolonia, Frankfurt, Marseille, Bordeaux and the furthest destination Cairo.

From Vigo on the other hand there's only currently an overseas flight to London, and from A Coruña to London, Geneva and Milan. 


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