By Sven Dahlin
Sven Dahlin is a real estate investment banker. He and his family moved to Barcelona from Stockholm in 2018.
My family and I have moved to Barcelona not once, but twice. The first time, personal and professional reasons took us back to our native Stockholm after four and a half years in the Spanish city. That was in 2017. It didn’t take long to realise we missed Barcelona and the following year we headed back.
What did we miss? First, light. The hardest thing about living in Stockholm is the winter darkness. Second, without wishing to resort to stereotypes, we found people in Barcelona to be more easy-going and positive.
More than this, our first stint in Spain had changed us as people, so that coming back to Sweden was surprisingly disconcerting. For example, when you enter a lift in Barcelona people will say “hello”, “goodbye” or “have a nice day”. In Stockholm, strangers will jump in surprise when addressed in such an unexpected manner.
Returning to Barcelona has confirmed my belief that the city offers an unrivalled quality of life. With some 1.6m inhabitants, it is the right size: big enough to offer everything you need, but without the inconveniences that come with megacities, such as bad traffic.
It is an easy city to live in — things just work. For example, you can have a fibre-optic internet connection installed quickly. Plus, the climate allows you to sip excellent espresso outdoors in the middle of winter.
The only drawback I have found is that, for expats, professional opportunities can be limited unless you are self-employed or have been relocated there by a multinational employer.
My family and I live in Pedralbes, a residential neighbourhood on the slopes of Tibidabo, a mountain to the west of the city centre. It is family-friendly, being spacious, lush and green, but is still inside the city’s ring road. Almost all of Barcelona’s international schools are in Pedralbes or nearby.
It is also within walking distance of the old neighbourhood of Sarrià, a prosperous area where the city’s middle classes built their summer homes in the early 20th century. Sarrià has a wide social spectrum: on one hand, you will see old ladies at a haberdasher’s crocheting together; on the other, there is an excellent oyster bar, Gouthier, and the famous patatas bravas [fried potatoes with tomato sauce] of El Tomás de Sarrià, a bar popular with students.
The city has an excellent and diverse restaurant scene. With a few exceptions, such as the Michelin-starred Tickets and Disfrutar, it is not too difficult to find a table at a popular restaurant at short notice. A great place for lunch is La Venta, which overlooks the city from Tibidabo and offers excellent Catalan food.
I can also indulge my passion for classical music. Besides the Liceu opera house and the l’Auditori and Palau de la Música concert halls, the city and the wider Catalonia region have a full programme of classical and contemporary music festivals throughout the year.
Beyond the city, there are plenty of places to go for a weekend break, such as Empordà, which is 90 minutes away by car. The area has some beautiful coastal villages, such as Cadaqués and Calella de Palafrugell, and well-preserved medieval villages inland, including Pals and Peratallada.
The proximity of ski resorts is a huge plus for us. We mostly ski in Baqueira Beret, three and a half hours’ drive from Barcelona and arguably the best resort in the Pyrenees. The Andorran resorts are also good and the drive, around two and a half hours, is shorter.
What do you wish you had known before you moved?
I had relatives in Barcelona, so I was well-informed before moving. But I wish I had discovered the opera sooner.
Photographs: Dreamstime; Getty Images/iStockphoto