Best Places For…
Best for Euro-commuting
Since the city was transformed and regenerated for the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona has not looked back. It has since become so popular that scores of savvy Brits have chosen to make the city their home and commute weekly to and from the UK. The combination of low rental prices, travel and lack of council tax means that, in some cases, it can be cheaper to spend a long weekend in Barcelona and pay for a good value hotel in the UK during the working week. If you book well in advance low-cost airlines offer competitive rates to and from the UK, with several flights a day.
And of course, you get to spend your weekends in one of the world’s most exciting (not to mention warmest) cities. Alternatively if you work in design or technology, Barcelona is the place to be. Many British design geniuses choose to work remotely from Barcelona for their UK clients, taking advantage and inspiration from the city’s innovation and creativity (with fibre optic broadband available practically everywhere), for which it has won many awards.
— Carrie Frais, Lucas Fox Barcelona
Best for a Holiday Home
Begur, Costa Brava
Begur is one of the most sought-after towns of the Costa Brava. Set on a hilltop with views across the Mediterranean and to the snow-capped Pyrenees, the town is located half way up the Costa Brava in hands down one of the most beautiful places in the world. The beaches around Begur are famed to be some of the Mediterranean’s cleanest and most picturesque, including Aiguablava, Sa Tuna, Llafranc and Calella de Palafrugell.
Begur and the surrounding area boast superb local gastronomy including fine regional wines and Michelin star restaurants. Begur is one of the Spanish coast’s most beautiful villages, its architecture offering a distinctive colonial style – influenced by wealthy Catalans who constructed in the area after making their fortune in the Americas in the 18th Century. The area is ideal for families and is very child friendly. It’s not unusual to see young children dining with their parents in restaurants beyond midnight. The climate is ideal with mild winters and temperate summers – peak summer temperatures rarely exceed 30ºC and there is often a cool breeze blowing off the sea.
Begur forms part of the Empordà – one of Girona Province’s most beautiful “comarcas” (counties). The inland landscape is often compared to Tuscany – beautiful green rolling countryside peppered with sleepy, honey-coloured stone villages. There are numerous areas of protected countryside (Natural Parks) ensuring that the region will always retain its beauty and charm. There is also a huge range of activities in the area, including water sports (scuba diving, sea kayaking, sailing and windsurfing) and inland activities (sky diving, cycling, tennis and golf).
Begur and the surrounding area boast a rich cultural heritage and numerous historic and cultural attractions, including the Dalí museum and the famous Greek and Roman ruins of Empúries. The town annually hosts one of the highlights of the cultural calendar – the Fira d’Indians – a cuban themed festival celebrating the town’s links with Cuba, whilst world famous musicians – including Sir Elton John, Keane, Simple Minds and Robert Plant in recent years – perform annually at the nearby open air Cap Roig music festival in Calella de Palafrugell. There are three international airports within a 1 hour 30 minute drive of Begur (Girona, Barcelona, Perpignan) and the flight time from London is just 1 hour 30 minutes, making it wonderfully accessible and, conceivably, commutable.
— Tom Maidment, Partner Lucas Fox Costa Brava
Best Quality of Life
The Baix Empordà, Girona
Located between the beautiful, historic city of Girona and some of the most beautiful bays and beaches of the Costa Brava, the Baix Empordà is often described as the Spanish Tuscany. The region offers beautiful green rolling countryside dotted with sleepy medieval villages, beautiful stone country properties (masias), fruit tree orchards and corn and rice fields. The region enjoys temperate summers and mild winters. It is ideal for an active outdoor lifestyle and is a known paradise for cyclists, golfers and water sports enthusiasts. The PGA de Catalunya Golf Resort is now regarded as Spain’s best golf course and is just a 20 minute drive away.
The region is also famed for its cuisine and boasts a number of fine restaurants – four of Girona province’s 15 Michelin star restaurants are located in the Baix Empordà and El Celler de Can Roca (currently the world’s No.2 restaurant, previously No.1) is just a half hour drive away. A quality three course “menu del día” lunch – including a bottle of wine – can cost as little as €10 in many of the excellent local eateries.
The nearest ski slopes of the Spanish Pyrenees are within a 1 hour 30 minute drive of the area and Barcelona city is only 100km away. The French border is only a 45 minute drive away. Girona is served by a highly rated international school and with the high speed rail link, it is feasible to live in the Empordà and commute daily into Barcelona city. There is a superb road network throughout the region and traffic jams are virtually unheard of – even in mid summer. For many UK buyers this is reason enough to move to the area. The region is very family-friendly and the locals love children – so no strange looks when you take your children to bars and restaurants.
— Tom Maidment, Partner Lucas Fox Costa Brava
The Maresme Coast, Catalunya
The Maresme Coast is the relatively unknown stretch of coastline immediately north of Barcelona city, linking Barcelona and the Costa Brava. The coastline includes 38km of sandy beaches, 5 marinas and the Serralada Litoral – a 15,000 hectare Natural Park – providing a dramatic backdrop to the region. The southern area of the Maresme provides easy access to Barcelona and many of its villages are located a comfortable commuting distance from the city.
Alella, one of the emblematic villages of the Maresme, is just 15km from Barcelona city centre and only 1.5km from the nearest beaches and marina. Alella remains a very active wine-growing town. Alta Alella, one of its small family-run wineries, has vineyards overlooking the town and its wines and Cavas are served in some of the word’s best restaurants, including The Fat Duck in Bray, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona and Le Manoir in Oxfordshire. The quality of Maresme’s wines and gastronomy is excellent – and includes the 3 Michelin star restaurant, Sant Pau, in Sant Pol de Mar.
You are never more than 5 minutes from the nearest beach in the Maresme so outdoor living is the way of life and activities and watersports – including surfing, sailing, padel boarding, kite surfing and wind surfing – play a big part. During the summer the beaches are dotted with beach bars and frequented by a local crowd. Beaches never get too busy and tourists rarely venture into the area. There are three 18-hole golf courses and various pitch and putt courses in the region and numerous equestrian centres – many offering treks through the Natural Park. Tennis and padel clubs are also prevalent. The key attraction of the Maresme is being within a 15 – 20 minute drive of Barcelona city centre yet living in traditional village surroundings with the beach on the doorstep.
Most villages of the Maresme enjoy Mediterranean Sea views and views over the Barcelona skyline. The hills of the Natural Park that run the length of the coastline create a wonderful microclimate with more settled, warmer weather than inland areas. Barcelona airport is just a 30 minute drive away and Girona airport is just 40 minutes away. The ski slopes of the Spanish Pyrenees are 1 hour 40 minutes by car and it’s not uncommon for the locals to disappear for a morning ski and make it back home for a late lunch by the beach. Around Easter time every year, you can be skiing one day, lying on the beach the next day. There are few places in the world where you can enjoy this kind of luxury.
— Tom Maidment, Partner Lucas Fox Maresme
Sitges has absolutely everything – fantastic microclimate with over 300 sunny days a year, international dynamic population, lively town with many cultural festivities, diverse choice of restaurants, bars and shops, excellent transport system making Barcelona an easy commute of just 30 minutes and the international airport only 10 minutes, as well as a huge expanse of clean, safe beaches, natural parks and a choice of four well respected international schools.
— Rachel Haslam, Director Lucas Fox Sitges
Best for Gastronomy
It was Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli that first put Girona on the world map of avant-guard, cutting edge gastronomy. Voted Best Restaurant in the World four times, El Bulli has inspired a generation of creative chefs. Girona is now a haven for foodies the world over, boasting 15 Michelin star restaurants, including El Cellar de Can Roca, twice voted the world’s best restaurant and currently ranked No.2. Cuisine in the area is inspired by its local produce, including seafood, meat and locally grown fruit and vegetables. The region is even famed for its rice, grown in the paddies of Pals. Quality wines are also produced locally – DO Empordà being the local “Denominación de Origen”.
— Tom Maidment, Partner Lucas Fox Costa Brava
Llafranc, Costa Brava
Llafranc is one of the most sought-after bays of the Costa Brava coastline. With a beautiful south facing sandy beach and a stunning, tree-lined beach promenade boasting numerous cafés, eateries and a weekly market, Llafranc is one of the most picturesque bays of the Costa Brava and has changed very little over the course of the past 50 years.
On the south end of the beach is Llafranc Sailing Club Marina and to the north is the Michelin star, Casamar restaurant. From here you can access the breathtakingly beautiful coastal path that winds its way around the rocky headland to the neighbouring bay, Calella de Palafrugell, another of the Costa Brava’s emblematic coastal villages. Llafranc has for many years been a top destination for wealthy Catalan second-home owners and a favourite amongst northern European holiday-makers. Author Tom Sharp lived for many years in the area and Salvador Dalí was a frequent visitor to the Hotel Llafranc where wild parties were frequented by Hollywood stars of the 1960s and still continue to this day, providing one of the highlights of the summer holiday season for Llafranc regulars.
If you are lucky enough to live or stay within walking distance of the bay, you have everything on your doorstep and, frankly, might as well lock the car in the garage and forget about it – you will never need to go anywhere else. The surrounding bays and beaches are famed to be some of the Mediterranean’s cleanest and most picturesque, including Aiguablava, Sa Tuna, Llafranc, Tamariu and Calella de Palafrugell. The coastline boasts crystal clear waters ideal for diving and snorkelling and warm enough to swim for 8 months of the year (although you often see octogenarians enjoying the water on Christmas Day).
The area also boasts a superb local gastronomy including fine regional wines and Michelin star restaurants. The area is ideal for families and is very child-friendly. Children are welcome everywhere, anytime. Whilst Llafranc is a peaceful, tranquil coastal village, there is enough nightlife in the summer to keep teenagers and night owls occupied, including Carpes Costa Este, a large open air nightclub a short walk from the village centre.
The climate is ideal with mild winters and temperate summers – peak summer temperatures rarely exceed 30ºC and there is often a cool breeze blowing off the sea. The inland landscape is often compared to Tuscany – beautiful green rolling countryside peppered with lovely medieval stone villages. There is a huge range of activities in the area, including both water sports (scuba diving, sea kayaking, sailing and windsurfing) and inland activities (sky diving, cycling, tennis and golf). Llafranc Tennis club is one of the most prestigious clubs in the area and in the recent past has played host to Fed Cup matches.
The surrounding area boasts a rich cultural heritage and numerous historic and cultural attractions, including the Dalí museum in Figueres and the famous Greek and Roman ruins of Empúries. Nearby Begur annually hosts one of the highlights of the cultural calendar – the Fira d’Indians – a Cuban-themed festival celebrating the town’s links with Cuba, whilst world famous musicians perform annually at the open air Cap Roig music festival in Calella de Palafrugell. There are three international airports within a 1 hour 30 minute drive of Llafranc (Girona, Barcelona, Perpignan) and the flight time from London is just 1 hour 30 minutes, making it perfectly accessible for summer holidays – or regular weekend breaks.
— Tom Maidment, Partner Lucas Fox Costa Brava
Best for Expats
It goes without saying that Ibiza is the best place in the world for nightlife, which is probably the main reason that most people make their first foray to the island. However, once there, they soon get to realise that there is far more to the island than meets the eye, such as living a healthy life surrounded by beautiful countryside and indulging in endless extracurricular sporting activities. Then, after a few more trips it starts to dawn on people “hold on our family could actually live here, and still carry on working”. Ibiza is two hours away from London City Airport in the winter (3 flights a week), and offers numerous daily flights during the summer from all over the UK.
Although it is Spanish, the multinational nature of Ibiza’s resident community is second to none. It has an excellent UK international school (Morna College) which takes children from 3 years old through to A Levels, plus a French school and a myriad of good state Spanish schools.
The island has already had the benefit of 4G internet for a year, and this year the councils are slowly rolling out ADSL broadband to all the main towns on the island, so working from home, after dropping the kids off (via a quick coffee in the sunshine) is very popular. It’s worth mentioning that the strong expat community on a relatively small island ensures there is far more support for those classic living abroad “rabbit in headligh” moments than you would find in big cities or mainland towns elsewhere.
In short, if you want to carry on your internet business from the beach whilst watching incredible sunsets from your stunning villa in the hills, or simply fancy giving it all up and becoming a hippy, Ibiza is the place to be.
— Jason Ham, Lucas Fox Ibiza
Best for Investment
Madrid is back! There has never been a better time to invest in this vibrant and exciting capital city, the third largest in Europe, currently offering the highest growth potential for several years. After 6 years of recession and a significant price correction (up to 40% in some areas), 2014 saw the return of interest in property. So much so, that in the last quarter the first price increase (2.7%) was recorded since 2007. 2015 will see many new opportunities and some of the most important building developments in Europe are currently underway. International demand is at an all-time high with investors coming from Northern Europe, Asia, Middle East and Latin America. Don’t miss the boat.
— Rod Jamieson, Director Lucas Fox Madrid
Best City Escape
There is no better spot for a weekend getaway than Madrid. This majestic cultural capital offers everything you need for an entertaining break away. Whether it is one of the many world-class art museums, such as El Prado, Thyssen or Reina Sofía, or simply strolling around the endless streets with their stunning architecture, there is something here for all tastes and interests. If shopping is your thing, the Salamanca district offers the widest variety of luxury brand fashion boutiques in Europe – not to mention the extensive choice of fabulous restaurants.
Madrid’s sunny and dry climate ensures blue skies all year round, the perfect option for escaping the doom and gloom of the north. You can enjoy some of Spain’s best tapas in the many picturesque Plazas or a cheeky aperativo on one of the numerous rooftop terraces. Madrid will not disappoint.
— Rod Jamieson, Director Lucas Fox Madrid
Valencia is a city of fun and diversion thanks to the superb climate it offers, welcoming and hospitable locals and its renowned gastronomy. Valencia is a city where you find a good ambience both day and night. People enjoy going out, which is reflected in the numerous fiestas the region offers, including the internationally-renowned “Fallas” in the autumn and “Los Moros y Cristianos” in July.
— Juan Luis Herrero, Partner Lucas Fox Valencia
Best for Billionaires
Often referred to as the “California of Europe”, Marbella is the ideal destination for billionaires and millionaires who want to escape from it all yet stay well connected and yet require security, privacy and exclusivity. With probably the best year-round climate of mainland Europe, a plethora of designer shops, upmarket restaurants, sporting facilities and social clubs as well as the kind of services and facilities that you would expect to find in US cities such as Los Angeles or Miami, Marbella is the ideal place to live for a billionaire.
Indeed, addresses such as La Zagaleta, Sierra Blanca and Marbella’s famous Golden Mile are some of the most exclusive in Spain and are already home to some of the world’s richest and most famous, and where property prices can range from €5 million up to €40 million.
La Zagaleta is one of Europe’s most prestigious gated urbanisations, where the owners are cosseted in an area of natural beauty surrounded by wild boar and deer and have outstanding views over the Mediterranean to the coast of Africa. Just some of the facilities available include a private heliport, private riding stables and two golf courses. All of this is just 10 minutes away from Marbella and bustling Puerto Banús with its designer shops and exclusive clubs and restaurants. Privacy is key, with La Zagaleta’s strict security system that ensures only invitees can enter this billionaires’ paradise.
— Stephen Lahiri, Partner Lucas Fox Marbella