Our Top 7 Reasons for Living in Denia, Spain as an Expat
We truly don’t mean to brag, but we can’t say enough great things about living in Denia as expats. It’s been four years since we moved to Spain and three years since we first discovered this hidden gem just south of the vibrant city of Valencia.
Why did we decide to call it home? It practically checked off all the desires we had on our list for where we wanted to settle in Spain.
We have a feeling that your own criteria for your expat home base may be similar to ours, or might give you ideas of what to look for. So here are our top seven reasons for living in Denia as an expat.
#1 – Living in Denia is Authentically Spanish
Above Image – Eric cooking on the ‘barbecoa’ at the first home we had in Denia.
A lot of Mediterranean beach towns in Spain have been overrun by expats in such a way that it’s not even like being in Spain anymore. Urbanizaciones (or what us Americans like to call suburbs) have popped up like weeds in many areas. In these foreign mini-me’s you won’t hear a lick of Spanish spoken, can eat fish and chips, and may hardly interact with the locals. Or some places have had the entire town transformed into a free-for-all for drunk tourists, such as the renowned Benidorm.
Denia, on the other hand, is what we love to call authentically Spanish. For that matter, you could say it’s also authentically Valencian because let us not forget, the region of Valencia that it is in has its own strongly distinct culture and even its own language.
Above Image – Falleras and Falleros wait at the foot of the castle during the annual Fallas Festival.
There are traditional Spanish styles of architecture, local cuisine, and traditional festivals and ways of life that are still being preserved and enjoyed today. Local businesses, many of them here for generations, are supported and encouraged. There are also no large hotel chains or tall skyscrapers that fence in views of the sea.
Over time, we’re seeing that the town is doing a lot to maintain this authenticity, fostering conscious and sustainable tourism, and not allowing for over-development.
#2 – Denia is a Year-Round Town
Above Image – Every year on January 5th is the parade for Three Kings Day.
This is one of the biggest questions we get from people considering moving to Denia. A lot of the beach towns in this area are dead in the winter. And we know – we lived in the nearby tiny village of Xeraco for six months during our first winter living in Spain. While we had a great house right on the beach, it was seriously like the film set of an apocalyptic movie (you know, where no one is left on Earth, not even zombies). Okay, maybe that’s a bit exaggerated, but you get what we mean.
In Denia, however, the town is thriving all year round. Some businesses will of course still close in the winter for their holiday, but it’s usually only 2 – 4 weeks at the most and in February. Either way, there’s still plenty going on for locals in the winter. There’s still dinner shows at the local Condado Theater, live music at restaurants, and activities hosted by international groups and great language classes.
Above Image – Even in the refreshingly cooler weather of winter, people still get out in Denia, especially to walk along the beautiful Las Rotas beach and hang out at Helios.
What’s really great is that living in Denia during the winter gives you the opportunity to really feel like a local. If you’re like us and most other expats here, you’ll come to love it and have this feeling like the town and its locals are all your’s again after the influx of summer tourists have left. We also feel like Denia is not too big and not too small, which is a lot coming from us city-lovers who moved from downtown Denver and later downtown Valencia.
#3 – A Castle by the Sea
Okay! This was actually one of the biggest wishes on our list. We really wanted to live in a Spanish Mediterranean town that had a castle right on the sea. After all, we’re living in Spain, the land of more castles than westernized shopping malls (thank god). Why not enjoy having a local castle in your everyday life?
Denia’s 11th-century castle is in the heart of its historic old town, and at the edge of where the town meets the sea. Sitting romantically on top of a small hill, it’s surrounded by the old, colorful row homes and fisherman quarters of ages past. You can tour the castle, walking its ancient terraces, stone walls, and climbing up into Moorish towers.
At the top is the archeologically museum, which we definitely recommend visiting. It’s located in what was the governor’s palace and included in the entry fee of €3 (for adults). Denia’s castle is also handicap accessible and is a fantastic spot for enjoying a picnic or a drink and snacks at the little cafe located on the top.
Insider Expat Tip: Once you get your residency and have your NIE card showing your Denia address, you can get into the castle for free.
No matter where you wander on the castle grounds, there are gorgeous views in every direction. You can gaze at the turquoise waters of the sea, the beaches along the coastline, the town, and the impressive mountains inland. But make sure to especially admire Denia’s beloved and closest mountain, El Montgo.
#4 – Denia has Two Marinas
Above Image – Enjoying a ‘rosado’ at the Marina el Portet.
The lure of the Mediterranean Sea was key in our expat home search. Of course, we also wanted to be walking distance to a great beach (and we got three in Denia). But that’s usually a given when you have a marina, so we didn’t list that reason here.
Both of us love this part of the world and want to sail more. This means that a good marina was top of our list. Not only does Denia come with a marina; it comes with two marinas. Double the sailboats and double the sailing lifestyle.
There’s the Marina el Portet, which is the worldwide headquarters of the Balearia Ferry company. From here you can get ferry rides to that bohemian island icon of Ibiza and the other enticing Balearic Islands.
Above Image – The Marina de Denia.
At the other end of town (which is easy walking distance) is the Marina de Denia, which is the main marina and considered to be the more upscale, yet more expensive for slipping your boat. On your way there, make sure to also stroll through the Real Club Nautico of Denia, which has a restaurant, an indoor pool and gym, and a great year-round chiringuito (beach bar) next to some of the boat slips.
Not into sailing or boats? No biggie. You can still enjoy both marinas for great dining at several delicious restaurants featuring local cuisine. Or enjoy a stunning sunset from one of the bars on the seawall while sipping on a tinto de verano (what Spaniards actually drink in summer instead of Sangria). Between the restaurants, bars, and boutique shops, Denia’s two marinas provide a great time in a stunning setting with views of the castle and the mountain El Montgo.
# 5 – Denia’s Epic Culture of Gastronomy
Probably one of the best-kept secrets in all of Spain is that Denia is designated by UNESCO as a Creative City of Gastronomy. Getting to be a part of this network of cities worldwide isn’t available to just any town. Denia has a rich culinary heritage and continues to pair it creatively with the innovation of gastronomy today.
This means that the traditional recipes from generations past are not only being preserved and savored, but also shared with the world. What does this mean for you? There are so many restaurants in Denia that eating at a different one each day would take you over a year. Another great reason for living in Denia. You need time to go restaurant-hopping. And if you’re a foodie, you’ll be right at home with 3-starred Michelin restaurant Quique Dacosta and up-and-coming, innovative restaurant Aticcook.
Above Image – The annual cooking competition of the Gamba Roja de Denia takes place in the winter.
Here, the traditional Spanish and Valencian cuisines are enjoyed in very traditional ways, new creative ways, and alongside influences and dishes from other parts of the world. You’ll quickly experience that food here is a big part of everything that goes on.
Everyday life will involve shopping fresh, local produce at the weekly Friday market held outside by the Mercado Central, and taking home freshly baked bread and mouth-watering pastries from any of the artisan bakeries still owned by local families.
Like all places in Spain, Denia also loves its fiestas and has several centered on gastronomy, like the annual Gamba Roja Competition and the newer DNA Gastronomy Festival that takes place each September.
#6 – Quality of Life & Affordability
Above Image – The view from our current home in Denia (and views of the sea are just to the left).
Here in Denia, the two go hand in hand – the quality of life is superb, also because it is so affordable (shockingly so for many of us expats from the US).
Compared to similar towns further south along the popular Costa del Sol, or north in the Costa Brava, Denia is less expensive when it comes to practically all costs of living. Actually, this is the case regarding most of Spain, especially the larger cities like Madrid and Barcelona.
Above Image – Dinner on our terrace made with all local ingredients (except the hot sauce).
We’re talking primarily about housing costs, groceries, and dining out. Yet even utilities and transportation are still about half the cost or less than their equivalent in the US, for example where we were from in Denver, Colorado. Even organic foods and natural products are more affordable here, services and renowned healthcare.
Overall, you can be living in Denia very comfortably, as a couple, for around €3000 a month. Depending of course on what your lifestyle is and how much you like to shop (Denia has some great shopping).
#7 – The Community When Living in Denia
Above Image – A birthday bash with local and foreign friends.
At the heart of living in Denia is truly its wonderful community. The locals are welcoming and friendly. They love sharing their culture and traditions, stories and creativity. We love going out to have tapas and having conversations with the establishment owners who recognize us and welcome us in. They’re patient with our Spanish-speaking and say hello when we pass them elsewhere in town as well.
The international community is fantastic in Denia, with a great diversity of people from all over the world. It’s easy to see that the majority of them are living in Denia for similar reasons and value assimilating into the local community. There are also intercambio groups for learning Spanish with local Spanish-speakers learning English, taking excursions around the area, even taking dance classes, painting classes and more.
Above Image – Meeting with Denia’s Department of International Relations.
Thanks to this beautiful community of locals and foreigners, Denia also has some great resources for expats living in Denia. The ayuntamiento (town hall) even has a Department of International Relations and Citizen Participation, which teams up with foreigner-based groups such as the U3A and supports the intercambio language exchange programs.
Living in Denia as Expats
Above Image – Having a homemade paella dinner with some of our closest, local friends. Great Spanish practice!
We could really go on and on about Denia. There are many more great reasons for living here as expats. Now that we’ve been here longer, we find ourselves falling even more in love with this Mediterranean beach town. And we’re not the only ones.
Many people, locals and expats alike, say that they don’t want more people to find out about Denia and that they want to keep it to themselves. Yet we all know, especially as expats, that change is inevitable and growth is important.
Living in Denia, we see changes and growth being carried out in conscious and sustainable ways. It’s why it is the town that it is today. And we believe that it can continue that way and is attracting people who support that and want to be a part of Denia. We’re so proud to call it our Spain home base. You could be too.
What are your top criteria for finding your expat home base? Do you have any in common with us? What do you think of Denia? We would love to hear your thoughts and answer any questions you have. Just comment in the discussion area below. And let us know when you’re in Denia!
Written by Amalia & Eric
Founders & Producers of Move to Traveling
We’re Amalia and Eric – a traveling couple who are living a traveling lifestyle. Do you love to travel? Perfect! Come along…