Castro Urdiales, Spain

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Castro Urdiales, Spain: Everything You Need To Know

Reviewed by Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen is the Live and Invest Overseas Founding Publisher. She has more than 30 years of hands-on experience traveling, living, and buying property around the world.


Castro Waterfront, Spain

Castro Urdiales is a destination for Americans interested in an Old-World, European lifestyle in a medieval setting—at a fraction of what you’d expect to spend.

The city is in northern Spain, in the autonomous community of Cantabria, situated on the Bay of Biscay. The nearest airport is in Bilbao, 26 kilometers away (16 miles).

It has centuries-old streets filled with small restaurants and bars. This medieval Spanish coastal city, often simply called Castro, is an ancient port city on Spain’s rugged north coast.

You’ve read about Spain’s overbuilt southern and eastern coasts. North Americans largely ignore the north in comparison.

Castro is a town with an old harbor protected by a stone wall. There is a long promenade for pedestrians along the shore. A massive stone church overlooks the harbor and the town.

The Romans founded Castro Urdiales in the year 74. The church is new by comparison, built in 1208. Being a part of this kind of history is second nature to most Europeans, but it’s mind-boggling to a lot of Americans.

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Expats In Castro Urdiales

“Castro has everything I like in a prime expat destination, from its climate to its cost of living,” says Live and Invest Overseas contributor Lee Harrison, who recently visited to see the unique lifestyle that the city offers.

It’s a small city, but the population of 32,000 doubles in the summer months with tourists.

A friendly expat community thrives in Castro Urdiales. There are lots of places to eat or have a drink, so you can meet people and make friends easily.

The city offers a unique lifestyle and would be a great place to live in or retire to.

And, if you want to make local friends—or get any business done outside of the main tourist areas—you’re going to have to learn to speak at least some Spanish.

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Life In Castro Urdiales

Cost Of Living In Castro Urdiales, Spain

Castro Urdiales is walkable, so you wouldn’t need a car to explore the waterfront, visit the central farmer’s market, or grocery shop at the modern supermarket in town. Also, dozens of options are available for eating out—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—from sunrise until the wee hours of the next morning.

What’s more, the wide, sandy beach is just a 10-minute walk along the seawall from the harbor in the historic center.

The cost of most things in this part of the country is much less expensive than in the big cities like Madrid, Sevilla, and Granada.

A “menú del día” (menu of the day) is a fixed-price meal consisting of a large first course, a large second course, a dessert, and your choice of wine or water. The price is 12 euros ($12.70).

A small, appetizer-sized portion of croquettes, olives, ham, etc., costs about 1.50 euros. A glass of wine starts at 1.50 euros… while a glass of good, vintage wine starts at 2.50 euros and goes as high as 5 euros in the tourist areas.

It’s not customary to leave a tip in most situations… so Americans can take 20% off virtually everything they buy while dining out, from steaks to a cup of coffee.

In terms of real estate market in Spain is constantly fluctuating.

Prices for homes in Spain in the bigger cities have exploded in recent years due to the increase in tourism.

Spain is the most popular second-home destination in Europe and home to some 7.2 million expats. Despite its popularity, the cost of housing remains cheaper than many of its neighbors.

Property prices have been on the rise in Castro in recent years, but you can still find good deals.

In the heart of the town, minutes from the beach, a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with a terrace was recently for sale for 175,000 euros.

If you’d rather rent, a three-bedroom apartment in a central location with a terrace and sea views costs 850 euros a month. You can find smaller units for as little as 600 euros a month.

Let’s take a closer look at the cost of living in Castro Urdiales, Spain.

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Apartment Or House Rental Budget (For A Couple) In Castro Urdiales, Spain

ExpenseMonthly CostsNotes
TotalUS$1,948 
RentUS$850Three-bedroom apartment in the city center.
TransportationUS$60Bus and taxis.
UtilitiesUS$150Electricity, including heating and cooling, and water. Internet and Cable TV.
Cell PhoneUS$40Monthly plan with calls and 10GB+ data.
EntertainmentUS$292Eating out twice a week at a local restaurant. Beers twice a week at a local pub. Movie theatre trip twice a month.
GroceriesUS$400Monthly grocery haul.
Household HelpUS$156Three hours, once per week.

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Things To Do In Castro Urdiales

Santa Maria de la Asuncion Church and ruins of San Pedro hermitage in Castro Urdiales Spain

The sites of Castro Urdiales’ center include houses with wooden rows of balconies showcasing its medieval origin. In fact, the town earned recognition as an Historic Site in 1978. So, sight-seeing is among the best things to do in Castro Urdiales.

The city’s main monuments, of different styles and periods, contrast with the coastal old village, formed by narrow streets which are perfect for strolling through.

Santa María de la Asunción

Be sure to check out the buildings of the church of Santa María de la Asunción. Dating from the 13th to the 15th centuries, the church is the most significant example of Cantabria’s Gothic architecture.

The castle-lighthouse, which you’ll spot from anywhere in town, is another important landmark in Castro Urdiales.

The town also has highly valuable examples of cave painting…

Peña del Cuco cave

Drawings from the Stone Age period are the reason why the Peña del Cuco cave is a very popular site to visit while in Castro Urdiales.

The cave has reproductions of deer, horses, and goats,

Flavióbriga

Equally worth a mention is the Roman archaeological site of Flavióbriga, which occupies the entire subsoil of the current city, at a depth of around two metres.

You should also visit the Chapel of San Roque, the Royal building, and Ocharan Palace.

So, moving to Castro Urdiales, Spain, means being immersed in history. But, it’s not just history that makes this an attractive city in which to live.

For those who love the great outdoors, Castro Urdiales has beaches nearby for sunbathing and water sports. Make sure to visit the beaches of El Fraile and Brazomar.

And, of course, with mountains to explore you’ll never get bored of hiking in this part of Spain.

Above all, remember that Spaniards eat their main meal at 2 p.m., and you’ll find restaurants offering their three-coursemenú del día for lunch…

Safety In Castro Urdiales

Castro Urdiales is small, with a population of about 32,000. It’s safe to walk around day or night in the city. And, the population doubles during the summer months with tourists.

In short, avoid showing off expensive things or leave your bag open. And, as in any other place, always be aware of what’s happening around you.

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Health Care In Castro Urdiales

The Spanish health care system is one of the best in the world. It placed seventh in the most recent World Health Organization rankings. In comparison, the U.S. ranks #37 and Canada ranks #30.

As a North American retiree, you likely won’t have free access to the Spanish public health system. But there is a pay-in scheme of around US$65 a month for under-65s and US$170 a month for older residents.

Meantime, private health insurance plans start from around US$300 a month.

There are no hospitals in Castro Urdiales. However, there are a number of pharmacies and clinics. Bilbao, with a variety of hospitals, is only 28 kilometers away.

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Visa And Residency For Castro Urdiales, Spain

A huge advantage of living in Spain is the chance to explore Portugal, France, and beyond. Whether by road, rail, or air, Spain’s infrastructure allows you to plan your European adventures easily, frequently, and affordably.

U.S. citizens can enter Spain for visits of up to 90 days visa-free for tourism, business, and short-term study purposes.

The U.S. has an agreement with the EU that allows Americans to visit countries within the Schengen Zone and Europe (which includes Spain), for travel without a visa.

Firstly, you need a valid passport, proof of a return ticket, proof of the reason you’re traveling to Spain, travel insurance and proof of financial means and a place to stay while you’re living in Spain.

However, for a longer period (over 90 days), you need a “long-stay visa” in your passport before you leave the United States.

The Non-Lucrative Long Stay Visa

Spain’s Non- Lucrative Long Stay Visa is for non-European Union residents who wish to live in Spain without working or making a large investment.

It is available to anyone who can prove they have a minimum monthly income of 2,400 euros per month or 28,800 euros in annual income or savings. If you have a spouse or children under 18 joining you, an additional 600 euros in income per month per person is required.

This visa doesn’t allow you to work in Spain. On the other hand, it can lead to get a permanent residency in five years if you keep renewing it.

Renewal of the Non-Lucrative Long Stay Visa, means you must spend at least 183 days per year in the country, which makes you a tax resident in Spain.

To obtain the Non-Lucrative Visa, you must:

· Have a valid passport or travel document, recognized as valid in Spain.

· Have no criminal record.

· Proof of income to show sufficient economic means are available.

· Documentation that proves you have private or public health insurance taken out with an insurance company authorized to work in Spain.

· A medical certificate that proves that you do not suffer from any of the diseases that may have serious public health repercussions per the International Health Regulations of 2005.

It can take up to three months to process the application for the non-lucrative residency visa.

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The Self Employment Visa

The Self Employment Visa is the option for individuals who want to open a business in Spain. The visa is valid for one year initially, but you can apply to renew it for an additional four years.

You must register for local social security and local taxes, including VAT and income tax. This visa includes your spouse and dependents.

Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa

Spain’s digital nomad visa lets remote workers and freelancers live and work in the country for a year (renewable for up to five years).

After five years of legally living in Spain, you can apply for permanent residency in the country.

Most importantly, Spain’s digital nomad visa has a minimum income requirement: US$2,332 per month for an individual.

Spain’s Golden Visa

In November 2013, the Spanish goverment introduced a residency by investment visa. Then made changes (July 2015) to make it more attractive.

Known as the Golden Visa, there are several options for how to qualify:

· A minimum of 1 million euros in shares of a Spanish company (or companies);

OR

· Invest 1 million euros on a bank deposit or investment fund, or 2 million in Spanish treasury bonds.

OR

· Property purchase with a minimum value of 500,000 euros. It can be one property or the sum of two or more less expensive properties.

The initial 500,000 euros investment has to be mortgage-free (although any portion over 500,000 euros may be funded via a mortgage).

Also, it covers the legal spouse of the visa holder, civil and common law partners, dependent parents, and dependent children, including those over 18.

In Spain, start the process by applying for a six-month visa once a contract to buy a property is signed, and deposit funds are in a Spanish bank account.

Then, a five-year renewal is given, and this can be done from outside Spain.

The visa includes the right to work and the right to access social security and health care once employed.

You will not need a minimum stay in Spain during this period. In short, it is possible to hold a residency visa and remain fiscally non-resident.

However, authorities can ask you to supply evidence of where you are actually resident.

The Golden Visa—Investment in Spanish Property

The Golden Visa is a residence visa for non-EU members.

Most importantly, a Golden Visa is granted to anyone who invests 500,000 euros or more in Spanish property. It’s a fast track for permanent residency in Spain.

With this visa you can live and work in Spain.

To qualify, as well as buying a property for 500,000 euros (or more), you must meet the following requirements:

· You must be a resident of a country outside the European Union.

· Be over 18 years of age.

· Have no criminal record.

· Have private medical insurance in Spain.

· Demonstrate that you have sufficient financial means to live in Spain and support your family.

For the Golden Visa through the investment of real estate, you’ll need to provide purchase of property proof.

The main benefit of obtaining a Golden Visa is that your residence permit is fast-tracked to three years. After that you may qualify for permanent residence and Spanish citizenship.

Also, the visa allows free movement through the rest of the 26 European countries in the Schengen zone.

There are tax liabilities to owning property in Spain and the amount you pay depends on how long you spend in the country. If you spend less than six months in Spain annually, you only pay taxes on the first purchase of your property and on the value of your assets in Spain.

Spending more than six months of every year in Spain means you’re counted as a Spanish resident. As a result, your worldwide assets and income will be taxed in Spain.

Weather In Castro Urdiales, Spain

Brazo Mar Beach In Castro Urdiales Weather

This part of Spain’s coast is mountainous, lush, and green, with moderate rainfall throughout the year. Water is plentiful, with dense forests and flowing rivers. So, it never gets as hot (or as cold) as it does in the south.

The Bay of Biscay moderates the temperature all year.

Overnight frost is rare at sea level in the winter, and the hottest month of the year (August) only averages a high of 79°F (26°C).

Most certainly, the best time to visit Spain would be spring (April-June) and early autumn (September-October).

You’ll get pleasant temperatures and not to much rain. But, be aware that in July and August can be very warm and crowded in Spain because of the high season.

Winter in Spain: December to February

Spanish Summer: May to September

Most importantly, Spain has an average 3,000 annual sunshine hours. So, you can expect to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle most of the year…

Castro Urdiales, Spain - FAQs

What Is The Tax Situation In Spain For Americans?

Once you become a tax resident of Spain—by residing, there more than 183 days per year—you’ll likely find yourself paying higher taxes than you would in most U.S. states.

You can minimize the burden by properly structuring your holdings in Spain and abroad, with the help of a good Spanish tax professional.

Do I Need To Learn Spanish If Moving To Castro Urdiales?

If you’re interested in an Old-World, European lifestyle in a medieval setting—with a low cost of living and a temperate climate—then Castro Urdiales is worth putting on your radar.

However, you’ll need to learn some basic, conversational Spanish to get by. The younger generation will know English, but the older generation may not. Enroll in Spanish classes to get you up to speed and your life in Castro will be more manageable and fulfilling.

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