Lying at the heart of sunny Andalucia, Seville is one of southern Spain’s most beautiful cities. Waves of conquerors, from the Romans to the Moors, have left their stamp on its spectacular architecture. Thousands of tapas bars line the streets, and the warm Spanish sun nurtures parks full of palm trees. With such beauty all around, it’s easy to see what drew expats Karen and Rich McCann to Seville, where they now enjoy fine dining, a great social scene and terrific, inexpensive healthcare.
Selfishly, I thought that nobody knew about the beautiful, cultured, artsy Spanish city of Girona and that I could keep it as my secret place. But it's impossible to keep a place like this under wraps. I fell in love with Girona and moved here in 2012. This charming, fun, easy-going city checked all my boxes. I can walk or cycle everywhere through beautiful streets that are full of history. It's full of delicious gastronomy, cheap local markets and regular cultural events to keep me interested. Surrounded by mountains I'm close to nature and if I crave the sea, it's just a 40-minute trip away. Or in three hours, I can be up in the snowy mountains, whizzing down ski slopes. Girona is also well connected by train and air to the rest of the country and Europe.
First, this is Europe. That means walkable cities (leave the car behind), with culture and history all around you. Want to stay in a restored castle or live in a centuries-old (but renovated) apartment? You can. Like museums? Science, art and history museums are all over, and many have hours when they’re free of charge. (Madrid’s Prado Museum, with its free evening hours, is a personal favourite. And you can admire Bilbao’s new Guggenheim Museum from the outside; the building itself, and its surrounding park, are the big draw in my book.) Like concerts? You’ll find everything from rock and jazz to opera and zarzuela (Spanish operetta). I’ve gotten concert tickets in Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city and a great centre for music, for €15 ($23).