Monday Open House: My Barcelona Flat

Idealista. /i.ðe.a.ˈli.sta/ Language: Spanish. Meaning: Idealistic, which we all are when searching for a Barcelona flat. Then we grow desperate after crashing in a 12-bed hostel for a week, and settle for a windowless room and half a working burner in the kitchen. Also, the name of my favorite flat-searching website in Spain,

I know, most Open Houses happen on Sunday, but since I’m in Spain I’m allowed to do things late—eat lunch at 3:00, show up very fashionably tardy for drinks, host Open Houses on a Monday.

So welcome to my Barcelona flat. Here are some pictures, if you’d like to see!

bathroom| barcelona flat

El baño

Living room | Barcelona flat

El salón

kitchen | Barcelona flat

La cocina

dining room | Barcelona flat

El comedor

Balcony |Barcelona flat

And my favorite part. . . . la terraza, also known as my living room, dining room, and office

I snagged a great Barcelona flat, and luckily I didn’t have to “settle,” as I implied in the opening definition. My place is a 4-bedroom ancient building in Barcelona’s El Raval district. Once current roommates head home and old roommates return from vacation, we will be 4 girls: 2 Russians, an Italian, and me. Spanish is the common language, although they all speak English as well.

I only spent one day searching, and looked at 6 places. This one was the first I saw, and easily the best. It was a combination of strategy and luck that got me this great place among the vast pile of mierda that is many Barcelona flats.

Helpful Tidbits for Finding a Barcelona Flat

(Note: Though this list has some general advice, it is more directed towards those looking for flats in Barcelona. For things to keep in mind when looking for flats in all of Spain, as well as other websites to use, check out my post 10 Tips for the Spanish Housing Hunt.)

First, some general advice. . . .

  • Scour the websites weeks in advance so you get an idea of what’s out there. Some may post a room in July for entry in September, so it may be available even when you arrive weeks after you first saw it.
  • Use the “favorites” button on and leave yourself notes using the feature they provide—room is big but smokers; appointment to see it at 9:30 on Thursday. This will help you easily comb through the next time you enter the site.
  • I can’t stress enough how helpful it is to have the smartphone app Whatsapp. Spaniards swear by it, and many respond to Whatsapp much faster than email. I saw a place I really liked and sent an email right away, and then hopped on Whatsapp ten minutes later—and oh ya, I’m living there now ;)
  • Research neighborhoods before you arrive, and then narrow down your search of where you think you’ll want to live so you can check out 2 or 3 neighborhoods on foot. Trying to see the entire city, plus flats, in a few short days will be too overwhelming.
  • This time around, I put much more importance on flatmates. I instantly clicked with the people living here. They were the only ones, from the 6 places I saw, who invited me to coffee and to chat—this showed me that it was important to them to get to know me before allowing me to move in. They weren’t just looking for someone to pay the bills, but someone to live with. If a good relationship with your roommates is important to you, I’d recommend chatting with them for more than 30 seconds before agreeing to move in.

Some Barcelona-specific advice. . . . 

  • Things go fast in Barcelona. I had agreed on Tuesday to see two places on Thursday, and by the time I arrived from Bilbao to Barcelona they were both already rented. Disappointing, but also means new ones will open up.
  • Most Barcelona flats require a month’s rent as a security deposit, so come prepared. 250 euros/month is about the cheapest you can find, but that will most likely be in the outskirts of the city, or in a tiny interior room. I looked at one for 290 euros in the center, only to discover that the room’s only “window” was a tiny square that opened into the living room. Not sure if that’s even legal. In my place now, I pay 350 euros with all utilities included, which is a very reasonable price for the city center. Rooms in El Barri Gòtic and El Born (the two “nicer” neighborhoods in the center) can get closer to 400 or 450 euros.
  • Don’t settle, but also don’t be unrealistic (or idealistic!). Flats in general in Europe are smaller, older (it’s kind of an old continent, remember?), and don’t have all the amenities you may be used to in the U.S. In Barcelona in particular, I was really surprised at how small the flats could be—I guess it’s natural that in larger cities, space is limited. I’ve never seen so many tiny kitchens. But mine has a dishwasher, so can’t complain!
  • Much like the city itself, the Barcelona flat hunt was much more fast paced than any other housing search I’d done in Spain. Some renters even held visiting hours, where they would tell all the respondents to show up between X and Y hours for a visit. I went to one tiny place and was among 10 people looking at the same time—and the apartment wasn’t even that great! So it’s much more competitive than other places in Spain, but also there are a huge number of flats available. You just have to find the good ones.
  • Barcelona is teaming with foreigners and exchange students, and landlords know this and may try to take advantage. If you see flats specifically advertised to “Erasmus” or exchange students, be a bit wary. It’s not a given that they’ll overcharge you, but it’s highly likely. Jessica of Barcelona Blonde has a great post on what housing to AVOID in Barcelona.

I’m really happy in my Barcelona flat, and have begun nesting. Meaning Ikea trips and too many visits to boutiques in my neighborhood selling posters that may have been printed specifically for me:

tea poster | barcelona flat

P.S. For the third year in a row, I didn’t follow my own advice. My flat has no central heating. Stay tuned for January’s rants.

Have you every moved abroad? What tips do you have for finding flats in your city? 

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  • Allison Bridgewater

    Hi! I’ve just applied and have my Skype interview next week, and I’m loving your blog! I had a rather random question. I have a cat, and have been doing a lot of research on bringing her to Spain. Many people have said it’s a bad idea, but I can’t leave her behind. Do you know of any language assistants who have brought a kitty? I’ve found some experiences with bringing dogs over, but no one talks about cats. I know about the process of actually getting into the country, but I’m wondering about the apartment part. Do many apartments allow cats, do you know? I know dogs are pretty much a deal breaker, but I’m hoping I can find a flat that would allow my kitty! Thanks for any info you have.

    • I’m not too familiar with this, and I don’t know of any language assistants who have brought cats, but I bet there are a fair number of apartments allow them. You’ll certainly have to do more digging to find them, but I doubt it’s a deal breaker!

  • Sabrina Jayy

    I’m so happy that I came across your blog. I’ll be coming to Barcelona in September to do a TEFL course and I find your posts to be extremely helpful! :)

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  • Alexzandria Siprian

    Love this. Love you. I’m with the NALCA program in Caravaca de la Cruz in Murcia, and I totally wish I would have taken the neighborhood and location of my flat into more consideration. I’m on the edge of town, where there is no action. However…the flat is amazing, and at an awesome price. AND my roommates are dope as well!

    Question: How do you find the line between randomly walking up to people and starting conversations, and totally interrupting someone’s cafelito? I’m having trouble making friends. Haha. It seems impossible!

    • Hahah thanks Alexzandria!
      Yes, there are always trade-offs. But hey, at least the flat is great, even if it’s far away.

      AND you took the words right out of my mouth, stay tuned for next week’s post, exactly about…making friends!!! I agree, it is impossible. I love having friends, and hate making them. It is the number one reason I’m not loving being abroad right now!! (hopefully that changes soon)

      • Alexzandria Siprian

        I was just wondering today on my bus ride home whether or not I got a response from you, and I checked my email and VOILA. Haha.

        I totally feel that! I thought to myself the other day, “I don’t ever remember having trouble making friends. I don’t remember ever having to??” Haha. Going to read the friend blog now!

  • Can’t wait to see it in a few weeks!

  • “Then we grow desperate after crashing in a 12-bed hostel for a week, and settle for a windowless room and half a working burner in the kitchen.”

    SO true. I settled for some terrible rooms in Spain. Nice apartment! This really takes me back to my apartment searches in Spain, right down to some familiar-looking furniture!

  • Guest

    Then we grow desperate after crashing in a 12-bed hostel for a week, and settle for a windowless room and half a working burner in the kitchen.

    SO true. I settled for some terrible rooms. Nice apartment! This really takes me back to my apartment searches in Spain – even the furniture is all so familiar from the places I lived and visited!

  • …YAY, Jenny!!…Here’s to hoping I get as awesome an apartment as you, :-)…

  • hayley prins

    Your flat is super cute! The best part of living in a new city/country is getting to see behind the exteriors of all the buildings in all the neighbourhoods. I enjoy reading your blog and have nominated it for the Liebster Award, should you wish to accept/share, there is a little more information here:

    • Thanks Hayley! I agree, and that’s also why I enjoy giving private lessons—you get to see all the locals’ houses too!

  • Looks great! I’m so glad you decided to give Barcelona a try, and I cannot wait to follow along!

  • ASH

    This is so great! First off, congrats, but thanks for turning me onto Idealista. We hope to live in Spain for at least a month next year. Do you know if they do shorter term rentals like that?

    • Thanks Amber! Glad you found it helpful. Just be warned, a month is not enough time in Barcelona :) Idealista does have a few short term rentals, but other sites such as might serve you better. Or even Airbnb. I’m no expert because I’ve always been looking for yearlong contracts, but check those two out!

  • Beth

    I hope your roommates won’t mind when I come crash on your couch … just… not in the winter time!

  • Glad you had a great experience finding an apartment and that it happened so easily for you :) Your new apartment is incredibly cute :)

  • Cassandra

    Sounds like a great set-up, congrats on finding a new place! I’m envious of your terrace!

    As far as heating goes: perhaps without central heating you will be able to contemplate the trials of a Bilbao winter vs. a Barcelona one more accurately ;)

  • You did so well! Good find.

    What are you doing in Barcelona by the way? I may have totally missed this, I presumed you were doing the auxiliar programme but I was under the impression it doesn’t run in Barcelona?

    Ellie xx

    • Hey Ellie, I’ll still be teaching English here but this time through the program Meddeas (posts on that to come once I actually start with them.) You’re right, the government’s auxiliar program doesn’t run in Cataluña, much to everyone’s disappointment :(

      • Greg Jor

        Hiya Jenny. Loving your writing. What about the other language schools in Barca that hire TEFL teachers. Does there seem to be an abundance of work, or do you think the market is oversaturated with teachers in Barca in 2016? Impressions? Thanks and safe travels. Greg

        • Thanks Greg! Unfortunately I think the Barcelona English scene is pretty saturated….everyone wants to work there. It’s really hard for Americans/Canadians to find work at language schools, but EU citizens have a better shot. As a sidenote, though, I’m not living there anymore – moved back to San Francisco in 2015 – so I can’t speak to the current market. (Doubt things have changed much though). Good luck!

          • Greg Jor

            Thanks Jenny. Hope Frisco’s treating u well. One more question, even though you’re not living in Spain. What about southern Spain ;like Malaga. Do u get the impression there’d be more teaching english opportunities there? I don’t HAVE to go to Barcalona. I’m thinking Turkey/Istanbul too. Many thanks in advance. Greg

          • I do think it’s a little less impacted in southern Spain, and the level of English is generally lower there so there’s more demand for classes. However, the hourly rates will also be lower in the south.

          • Greg Jor

            Thanks friend. Best wishes, Greg.