Updated October 1st, 2022
Why we chose Nerja as our new home in Spain
It’s funny looking back at our post of prospective bases in Spain. It was written in early January 2020. We didn’t have a base in Spain at the time and were on a scouting trip that, if everything had gone to plan, would have seen us travelling around Spain for 3 months.
Then Covid hit. We were about halfway through our trip. We ended up being stuck in lockdown in León for 4 months.
We had always been urban people and when we started our scouting trip we ideally wanted to be in a cultural, mid-sized city. It’s why, after we visited all those cities on our list, that we were sure Valencia would be the place for us.
That was before lockdown. With each month that went by we came to the realization that even a mid-sized city like Valencia was “too city”. Lockdown changed our priorities. And then our minds switched to Granada, another city we had really liked but which was smaller and closer to nature.
Honestly though, we had never really fallen in love with Granada as a place to live. And again, being in a city didn’t really appeal to us. Granada was the best option of what we had seen but we weren’t really convinced.
When our long-term Spanish visa was accepted in September of 2020, we knew that when we got back to Spain we’d have to make up our minds fast. With Covid, it wasn’t the time to travel around exploring different places.
We decided that Granada would probably be the place…but that first we would go see Nerja.
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Nerja is a seaside town about 45 minutes east of Malaga on the Costa del Sol. I had originally crossed Nerja off our list because I thought it might be too small for us. And after having previously lived in a seasonal city like Split in Croatia (too dead in the winter, too crowded in the summer) that aspect of Nerja turned us off.
But with our new priorities after lockdown, we decided to go have a look at Nerja.
Nerja is surrounded by nature. The coast is lined by beaches, behind town rise mountains (the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama). In a way, Nerja reminded us of a mini-Split. It’s maybe not as dramatic as Split. But the nature is beautiful.
We were a bit nervous that the town might just be a beach town. It’s not. It’s a “little city” that has all the amenities of a bigger city and most of it caters to a local population who actually live in town. You’ll find hardware stores, furniture stores, and all other kinds of establishments that people who live in a town need. That’s important. When we were in Split we searched everywhere for a hardware store where we could buy nails. We asked locals, we went to the tourist office. The nearest hardware store that sold nails was one of those huge Home Depot-type stores in the suburbs. We had to rent a car or take a taxi to get there. In Nerja we found anything we needed within a few blocks. I found a sports store nearby where I bought running shoes. I didn’t have to go to a shopping center. We bought a bed for our new apartment. It was a relief to see that Nerja had everything that we’ve needed, in fact more so than Split.
Nerja is also a pretty town. You won’t be blown away beautiful churches or plazas. Culturally it won’t blow your socks off. But it is a pretty town and it’s very pedestrian friendly.
Finally, I had mentioned that location was important. We didn’t want to be far from a major airport and being 45 minutes from Malaga we aren’t. For that, Nerja is the perfect base.
The above are the positives. Negatives? Initially we wanted to be in a more Spanish, more cultural city. We also didn’t want to be in a place with a lot of tourists and expats. Although there are many locals living in Nerja, I read that 25% of the population are expats. So Nerja isn’t the immersive cultural experience that we were initially looking for. On the other hand, we have a few great Indian restaurants (we love Indian food).
Below: Our two storey Townhouse
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Nerja is a very nice place.
So why I am updating this post?
We’ve realized over the last two years that Nerja is probably not our forever home. As I state in the title, Nerja was “perfect for the times”. It’s a nice place that’s been good to us. We’re thankful to have found this town. But it’s not a place we see ourselves long term. I’ll be writing more about that pretty soon.
With our feet now on the ground in Spain – and with lots of time to explore – we’ll be revisiting the list of prospective bases that I mentioned at the top of this post. We’ll also be exploring many new places. 2023 might be the year we find a new home in Spain.
Related: What is the town of Nerja like?
Related: Where to live as a retiree in Spain? Places…and comparing Theory vs Reality
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I love your blog! Thank you so much for the valuable information. I live in Madrid now, but in a couple of years I will retire and I’m already researching different options. I fully agree with your comments about Malaga, Valencia, Alicante and Seville. I’m also looking for a medium-size pretty city/town near the water, and close to the city center. I don’t want to have to drive for my daily errands. I have not being to Nerja but will go during Semana Santa. Have you been to Bilbao? I hear wonderful things, except for the rain….
Hi Beatriz! No, haven’t been to Bilboa. Yes, lots of rain. Another thing you have to consider is that Bilboa is much more expensive than Andalucia…
I wonder if you´ve thought of Malaga itself? It´s more compact than Valencia, bigger than Granada, and a real city of culture. I live on the Granada coast in a tiny village and like doing city breaks for an injection of city life (I lived in London for 30 years, and here in the campo for 20 years so as you see I like a bit of both!). I just spent 2 nights in Malaga, went to three art galleries – The Pompidou Centre, Carmen Thyssen Museum and the CAC contemporary art – bought some clothes, found a great hairdresser, joined in a street performance, found a bar with live music, ate Greek and Indian food, spoke to a lot of friendly locals. What more do you want?
Thank you Stephie. We don’t like Malaga as a place to live – as you say, fine to visit for a bit of culture, but the city just doesn’t really appeal to us.
Martin Adrian Wain
I just stumbled across your blog by accident. I’ve been to Nerja a few years ago & will be returning for a short break in 2023. I’ve also been to Granada, which was on your shortlist. I started reading the blog enthusiastically & thought it was leading to a “happy ever after” ending! It was sort of disappointing that there was a final twist & it started to make me think. Don’t take this the wrong way, but do you think that you’re aiming the bar too high? By that I mean that wherever you stay in Spain (or anywhere else in the world for that matter) you will never find THE perfect place & that all places will require compromises when compared to others. Too big,too small,too remote,not practical etc etc. Perhaps you are people who will forever be seduced by the charms of a particular town or village, only to feel 2 years down the line – I wonder if…?
Thanks Martin. I fully agree that there’s no perfect place. But does that mean “settling”? Being in a place for a while (in our case 2 years) makes you realize some of the things that don’t work long term for us. I always said from the beginning that Nerja was perfect for the times (the times meaning Covid. We couldn’t even explore outside Malaga province when we got back to Spain with our visit). But we were never under the illusion that it was our forever place.
Some places suit different people better. Otherwise, we could all in theory live in the exact same place and all be content, right?
I love the place, looked at the best spot on the cost line on internet, carfully evaluating every aspect,, wen’t down to Nerja without and prior knowledge of the city to look at a place to buy. I found the city perfect and managed to buy my self an apartment durig that 4 day trip (1 year ago). Love how you can walk trough the city and it’s clean, friendly, still Spannish, good infrastructure and very safe. Been working for “home” there, vaccationed, used it for motorbike trips in the mountains. Best place to go!
Thanks for the inspiration. Next year we will be applying for the non lucrative visa and joining you in Nerja. Not literally 🤣. I have a concern about finding a permanent non seasonal place to rent plus what neighborhood.
Hi Tess. We’re in the area east of the center, near the Parador. That was recommended by someone we know and we like it much more than the western part of town. But we didn’t want to be any further east than that (ie. Burriana beach and further east).
I would recommend you get an agent when you come and that you line up a whole bunch of places to see. If you need a specific recommendation I can get you one. We’re paying 800 Euro/mo but we went with our eyes (big place, 2 large yards). Average is about 700 around town. We’re very happy with our apartment. An agent’s commission will set you back a month’s rent.
I’ve just found your blog! Wonderful information and to see you settled in lovely Nerja😀 We have been a few times…should have been there right now for a month but of course we are not! But thinking of our plans for next year and spending a couple months as we decide to try going for a year to live. My husband and I are retiring soon and we look forward to getting away from the cold Calgary winters! Gracias 🙂
Thank you Stephanie! Always really nice hearing from Canadians 🙂 Congratulations on the decision to live here for a year – it’s a pretty town!
Great to know you finally found a nice place to settle down.
Quite a huge place.
I am quite impressed with your new website.