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What are the pros and cons of living in Spain’s La Rioja region?

The Local Spain
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What are the pros and cons of living in Spain’s La Rioja region?
Have you ever considered living in La Rioja. Photo: Mario la Pergola / Unsplash

La Rioja may be well known for its wine, but few foreigners consider Spain's smallest region as their base. Is it worth it?


La Rioja is Spain’s smallest region (just 323,500 inhabitants), tucked underneath the Basque Country and Navarra with Aragón to the east and Castilla y León wrapping around to the east and south.

Its capital Logroño is a small, yet vibrant city with a great tapas scene and lively centre, mostly thanks to the number of pilgrims walking the Camino passing through it on an almost daily basis. 


Excellent food and wine

Even if you haven’t visited La Rioja, chances are you will have heard of it before. This is down to the fact that it’s Spain’s most famous wine region, home to over 500 wineries. According to the Spanish Wine Market Observatory, around 40 percent of Spanish wines are made in the region.

But it’s not just wines that La Rioja is known for, it has some delicious food to accompany it too. Logroño, the capital of the region has one of the best tapas scenes in the country, where each bar specialises in a particular ingredient, from grilled mushrooms to scrambled eggs. Part of this has to do with the fact that it's a major vegetable-growing region too - particularly mushrooms, cauliflower and Riojan red peppers. 


Strategic location

Located in between so many other regions, if you have a car, it’s easy to travel to other larger cities. Bilbao lies just a one and half hour’s drive to the north, Zaragoza is just two hours southeast and Madrid lies four hours southwest. Whether you want natural parks, the coast or big cities, none of it is too far away.

READ ALSO: What are the pros and cons of life in Spain's Basque Country?

Low cost of living

La Rioja is a great region to choose if you’re looking for a lower cost of living, but still a great quality of life. Compared with Spain’s major cities of Madrid and Barcelona, Logroño is relatively cheap. According to the cost of living website Numbeo, Logroño is 12.6 percent less expensive than Madrid when it comes to daily costs and rent on average is 39.4 percent cheaper. Compared with Barcelona, Expatistan comparison site states that living in the Catalan capital is 31 percent more expensive than in Logroño.

The latest data from Idealista lists the average rental price for La Rioja as a whole as €7.7 /m2 and to buy at €1,288 /m2. When looking at just Logroño, on average it’s €8/m2 to rent and €1,680/m2 to buy.

If you’re looking to rent or buy in places other than Logroño, you could look at Calahorra, Haro, Arnedo, Alfaro or Santo Domingo de la Calzada, all of which are less expensive than the capital. 


Good tourism opportunities to start your own business

Because of its wine production, La Rioja is a big tourism destination, offering lots of employment opportunities in hospitality or the chance for you to create your own tourism business from wine and food tours to accommodation.

The famous pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago also runs through the region, giving you the opportunity to create a business for the 350,000 pilgrims that pass every year. This could include anything from bed and breakfasts and packed lunch services to bag transportation and even travel agency services.


Few foreigners

You could look at this as a positive or a negative, depending on what type of person you are. La Rioja definitely isn't top of the list for most foreigners looking to move to Spain, which means that you'll most likely be hanging out with locals.

While the lack of others in your similar situation can mean it might take slightly longer to make friends, in the end, you'll be able to integrate into local society better and your language skills will probably come faster too. For example, Spain's National Statistics Institute (INE) lists just 120 Brits living in La Rioja. 

La Rioja may be the smallest region, but it's huge when it comes to wine. Photo: Thomas Gabernig / Unsplash


Lack of jobs

While there may be plenty of jobs in hospitality sectors such as hotels and restaurants and in agriculture, if you’re looking for jobs in any other sector, it could prove difficult. Those in the automotive and logistics industries may be able to find jobs in the region, but if you’re looking for positions in technology, finance, the media or anything else, then it may be hard. If you’re not into working in the above industries or you don’t have any experience in them and you don’t want to start your own business, your best bet is to try and get a remote position.

Extreme climate

La Rioja, like much of central Spain, has an extreme climate – it’s very hot and dry in summer and very cold in winter. Summer temperatures can get up to the low 30Cs, while in the winter the average is around 6C. It’s not uncommon for it to get just below freezing in La Rioja too, so expect some frosty mornings.  


Limited entertainment opportunities   

La Rioja has a lot of culture in terms of wine tourism, churches, history and local festivals, but when it comes to entertainment such as concerts, exhibitions, nightlife and cinema, you’ll find there’s not much when compared with major cities. Living in Logroño will provide you with some of these, but if you choose the smaller towns or villages, these will be few and far between. The region suits someone who can be entertained by nature, good food and wine instead.

Limited transport links

Despite its great location, connections to and from La Rioja are not as good as in some other regions and is less frequent too. For example, there are only two fast trains per day to Zaragoza and only one direct train a day to Madrid. These are typically only from Logroño though, and if you live in another part of La Rioja you may find that it’s not serviced by high-speed trains at all. In rural La Rioja buses can be infrequent and not very reliable either. This means that unless you live in the capital, it’s likely that you’ll need your own car.

Although Logroño does have a small international airport, it only serves Madrid, Munich (Germany) and Brussels (Belgium). If you want to go to any other destination, you will have to change planes in one of the above cities or go to another nearby airport such as Bilbao for example.

Isolated villages with lack of medical services

Parts of La Rioja can be very isolated, even though the region is surrounded by major cities. The lack of transportation as mentioned above adds to this, as well as the lack of services offered in small villages. For example, in some areas of the region, access to specialist medical services may be limited. If you need medical care on a regular basis, this could be an issue.


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