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15 Best Places to Live in Europe as an Expat (2024)

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Europe is a continent full of big cities, charming old towns, and some of the best nature in the world. When it comes to great places to live, there's no shortage of diversity in your options. Now that I've lived throughout Europe for the past 2 years I can safely say there's no wonder why so many people dream of making this continent their home abroad.

Regardless of the lifestyle you're searching for and the visa you're able to get, there's a European city or town with your name on it. A majority of cities in Europe offer a high quality of life, English-speaking locals, and access to ancient history and culture.

The hard part isn't finding places you'd like to live in Europe, it's narrowing down your long list of dreamy destinations to the single best place to live based on what you deem most important in your lifestyle. Want to stretch your web even farther, see the best places to live in Asia before committing to life in Europe.

Thanks to some help from fellow expats already living all around Europe, we've narrowed down all of the wonderful destinations in the region to give you a well-rounded list of the cities and towns to live in Europe.

Without further ado, these are the 15 best places to live in Europe for 2024.

1. Madrid, Spain

The metropolitan city center of Madrid

Submission by Gabrielle Pletaite from The Lithuanian Abroad.

De Madrid al Cielo” (From Madrid to heaven) is a Spanish saying which suggests that once you have seen Madrid the only next best thing could be heaven. It is up to you to decide whether that is correct or not but to me, it certainly is.

Many people decide to go to Barcelona. It has a beach, I know! But if you are looking for a less touristy city where you can really immerse yourself in Spanish culture, then Madrid should be on top of your list. Not only is Madrid one of the best places to live in Europe, it's also one of the best places to live in the world.

Madrid is famous for it’s bar culture, authentic Spanish cuisine and amazing nightlife. Madrid’s central location in Spain makes it perfect for national travel by renting a car since all destinations in Spain, the beaches included, are really easy to reach by car. Plus, with its international airport, other countries are a weekend trip away.

You would not have thought about it before, but Madrid has a big international community. It might not be as big as in Barcelona but many people from all over the world live in Madrid so you will never feel like the “weird foreigner” in between all the locals. During the last couple of years I have been seeing more and more international companies setting up subsidiaries in Spain and hiring young professionals to work abroad in Spain.

Madrid must be one of the most pedestrian friendly capitals in the world! Every time I have someone visiting me they are surprised how easy it is to get around. If you primarily stay in the city center, you can reach almost all major attractions by foot! And you do not even need to take the metro. Although the public transportation is great here.

Visa Options to Live in Spain

Although not the only way to be able to move abroad to Spain, many expats come here as English teachers with either the BEDA program or the Auxiliares program. Another popular option is if you're hired to work in Spain, you'd be on a standard work visa.

Spain's Non-Lucrative Visa has long been a popular option for those that make passive income and want to live in Spain. In reality, this is often used as a retirement visa because your pension can count as passive income.

Spain recently launched a digital nomad visa for remote workers. You'll need to be able to prove university education and a stable income (at the time of publication this was approximately £2,140 per month or £25,700 per year).

2. Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia by drone by Spencer Davis.

Submission by Kathleen from My Lonesome Roads.

Living in an ancient Roman emperor’s palace, a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site, just a 10-minute walk from sparkling Adriatic Sea beaches in an incredibly safe and welcoming country might sound like it’s too good to be true - but that’s really what living in Split, Croatia is like! 

Split is the second-largest city in Croatia, which sounds big - but it’s home to just over 175,000 people in comparison to the capital Zagreb’s 2 million. That size makes it easy to explore without your own car, and its central location on the Croatian coastline makes it a great base for exploring the rest of the country, either by day trips or weekend getaways.

Split is also a very popular tourist destination in Croatia, so almost everyone in the city speaks at least some English, and many speak other languages like German, Spanish, and/or French, as well. It’s an easy city to navigate without learning Croatian, which is great because it’s a very challenging language to learn. 

‍An interesting thing about living in Split is that the cost of living fluctuates based on the season, instead of staying stable year-round. Since it's a popular tourist destination in the summer, the prices skyrocket during this time. That means your rent and food costs will most likely increase with the surge of tourists.

It can be tough to find an apartment to rent year-round, given the fact that many homeowners hope to make a lot more income during those summer months, instead of keeping winter prices set for you. For me, this has meant that I spend half my year in Croatia and the other half in Athens, Greece. Splitting my life between these two incredible European cities has given me a great quality of life and I would think would be enticing to other expats who would also like to split their time between two cities like I have.

Do note though that in January 2023, Croatia joined the Schengen Zone so splitting your time evenly between 2 here and another country in the EU is only possible if you're a European citizen. Otherwise, a good option would be to spend winter in a nearby city like Sarajevo.

Visa Options to Live in Croatia

Like Portugal and Germany, Croatia also offers a freelance visa for remote workers. This visa gives you the legal rights to live in Croatia and work remotely. While there are other long-term visas available, this is certainly the one bringing most foreigners to settle in this affordable place to live.

3. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Dreamy night strolls like this one await in Amsterdam

Photo & submission by Steff from JustTravelous.

Amsterdam is one of Europe's best places to live as an expat for a lot of reasons. Everyone speaks English, especially in the larger cities in the Netherlands, making it easy to assimilate. Amsterdam expat life is fantastic; the city has many expats, making it easier to find friends and set up a community quickly. The famous bicycle culture makes it feel like a utopia where you never sit in traffic and commute everywhere by bike.

It is a medium-sized city with all the amenities of a much larger city, with museums, theaters, concerts, and festivals galore. The festivals are legendary and continue year-round with many free events across the city, like Kings Day and PRIDE.

The government is also run very effectively, so it is easy to set up everything you need within the first 45 days. The 30% tax ruling allows experienced workers to have the first 30% of their income tax-free, lowering the overall tax rate for those living there.

As an American, it was almost shocking how well the entire country functions compared to the US. The country is incredibly well connected by public transport with trains that run on time and out to the countryside. The country is famous for work-life balance and taking time to recover at home when you are sick instead of going to work. The Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is one of the best in Europe, offering direct flights globally.

In the Netherlands, you need the local social security number (BSN) before everything else, like getting a bank account, phone, or healthcare, so set up that appointment first. Banking is also completed only by appointment. Once you get everything set up, everything is run online for the government through an app called Digid, and many local banks have their apps in English.

I have many expat friends who have lived in many locations, all agreeing that Amsterdam is an awesome place to live.

According to Leona from Wear What When Why, who loved living in Amsterdam for the past 3 years, the only downside to living in Amsterdam, and the Netherlands as a whole is the cost of living. Things as basic as food can come with a high price tag. However, everything else about the city really makes up for this. 

Visa Options to Live in the Netherlands

Many foreigners under the age of 30 move to the Netherlands as an au pair, granting them a work visa. The Netherlands has some of the best rights for au pairs throughout Europe, making it an attractive place to live if you're young and are interested in childcare.

The other most upfront way to get a visa to live in the Netherlands is through a work permit or as a student.

4. Annecy, France

Annecy's Old Town is pure medieval charm

Submission by Karly Christ from Vibrant Ikigai Coaching.

Imagine a place where snow-capped, mountain slopes run down to a turquoise, sparkling lake. Where the cheese is melted and creamy and scooped up with potatoes or bread, and a crisp, clean Alpine white wine washes it all down. 

Weekends are filled with festivals nearly all year long, sports of every kind are at your fingertips, and mellow Sundays are spent winding through the cobbled streets of a quaint old town splashed with colorful buildings and a lazy canal running through. 

To most French people this town is far from a secret. Troves of French have been moving here over the past decade seeking a taste of the “good life.” This sweet, little mountain town of 130,000 is growing fast, and for good reason.

Just one and a half hours from the iconic town of Chamonix and Europe’s highest mountain, the Mont Blanc, one hour to the Italian border, five hours to Nice and the Provence region, and 40 minutes to Geneva, Switzerland, Annecy is well placed for exploring some of Europe’s most beautiful destinations. 

It's important to note that while I absolutely love living in Annecy, the cost of living isn't for the faint hearted. A trick that many living here use though, including my husband, is to work across the border in Switzerland yet live here in Annecy. Even though the cost of living is high here, it's still cheaper than Geneva.

Visa Options to Live in France

France is another country that's well-known as a great place to work as an au pair. If you're under the age of 30 and interested in working as an au pair, it's one of the easiest ways to get your foot in the door and start living in France.

Other options would be to get a work visa at an international organization, a student visa, or to teach English. Just be sure to tripe check the visa requirements before you start planning your move! If you are applying for a ‘Carte de Sejour’ to stay in France expect the process to be laborious and long (upwards of nine months if it is your first time applying). You will be able to work and travel on the temporary one (récépissé) while you wait for the official card.

You will do all of your appointments at the Prefecture here in Annecy, where I am happy to report, most of the current staff are kind, helpful, and knowledgeable. 

5. Lagos, Portugal

a coastline with big beaches, white cliffs, and clear blue water
The incredible coastline and vast beaches of Lagos, Portugal

Photo & submission by Alya from The Algarve Family.

Lagos, a town in the Algarve, Southern Portugal is a perfect place to live as a female expat. Despite the small size, the town has a lot to offer, making it one of my favorite cities in the world and of course, one of the best places to live in Portugal.

Lagos is famous for its spectacular sandy beaches surrounded by dramatic limestone cliffs. There are 10 beautiful beaches in the town. The beaches are within walking distance from the center of Lagos and are easy to reach.

There are many things to do in Lagos:

  • Surfing at Porto de Mos Beach
  • Kayaking or paddle boarding at Batata Beach
  • Tanning and swimming at Dona Ana Beach or Meia Praia
  • Hiking along the breathtaking walking routes along the coast

Lagos is a safe place to live, as a solo female, I can walk at any time of the day or night around the town. The low crime rate makes it very easy to go out and do outdoor things even if you can’t find anybody to go with.

There is an active expat and digital nomad community in Lagos with weekly meetings at different locations throughout the town. It’s easy to connect with people and make friends even if you’re new here.

English is widely spoken in Lagos so even if you don’t speak any Portuguese, it’s easy to get by using English.

The size of Lagos is also perfect: it's not too small and not too big. It’s easy to get around on foot or by bicycle. The town has many supermarkets, shops, a couple of gyms, and many restaurants and bars.

Lagos is well-connected with Lisbon by public transportation. The nearest international airport is in Faro, 90 km away. There is a direct shuttle bus from the town to the airport making it even easier to travel to and from Lagos and visit some of the best Western Europe cities that are now your neighbors.

Visa Options to Live in Portugal

One of the easiest ways to move to Portugal is to get either the D7 visa, D8 visa, or the Golden Visa. The D7 visa is more of a retirement visa or for those that make regular passive income. The D8 visa is Portugal's freelance visa. This is meant specifically for remote workers who earn their income online.

While the exact income needed to prove changes annually, the D7 requires a much lower income than the D8.

It's also possible to move to Portugal on a retirement visa, otherwise known as the Golden Visa.

Another two options would be a Student Visa or Work Visa.

6. Cádiz, Spain

The unique architecture and the stunning sea are the perfect combo

Submission by Meredith from Bag Lady Meredith San Diego.

The year I was blessed to be living in Cádiz, Spain was hands down the most fun year of my 8 years abroad, so much so that after living in other major cities in Spain (Gran Canaria and Córdoba), I moved back!

The Cádiz province is part of Andalusia, the southern region of the country, therefore the warmest of other points in the region. And unlike other Spanish cities, the name Cádiz doesn't exist in other colonized countries/territories in South America. This fact makes it all the more delicious to have called it home.

The architectural wonders, the lengthy paseo, scattered parks, and the sea all bid for the top spot of what to see and experience when living here.

With so many things to see and do in Cádiz, you won't quickly grow bored here. When you first arrive, I'd advise checking out the tourist hotspots and giving yourself some time to ease in. After a few weeks, you'll soon be discovering the quaint spots that make this place feel like home.

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7. Trieste, Italy

Trieste does magic at sunset

Trieste is my current home abroad. My husband got a job offer with an international company here and intrigued by the idea of living in Italy, he took it.

Although an Italian city, Trieste is uniquely its own. Located in Northern Italy in the lesser-known Friuli Venezia Giulia (FVG) region, this city sits right on the Adriatic Sea and the border with Slovenia, so much so that when zooming in a map you'll be surprised that it's actually part of Italy and not Slovenia itself.

Trieste has a history unlike anywhere else in Italy which makes it feel super different than other Italian cities you might visit while living here. This blend of cultural diversity has made it a lot of fun. We of course get to enjoy aperitivos, the perfect cappuccinos, and fantastic food but all with a twist.

I'll be honest, I can't say that I prefer here compared to living in Florence, Rome, or Milan but that's simply because I've never lived in those other cities, only this one. But there are some things that Trieste offers that I know with certainty those other cities don't.

And that really comes down to the location for me. Trieste sits right on the border with Slovenia in Northern Italy. That means, you can be in the heart of Dolomites or Venice or Austria or the beaches of Croatia in just 2 hours. In around an hour you can visit Ljubljana or get to the international airport. For someone that loves traveling as much as I do, Trieste has been an absolutely perfect destination for exploring Italy and other European cities and towns.

While many people do speak Italian here (and some Slovenian and Croatian), there are people that speak English, especially the younger generations. Like most border towns, it's really culturally rich with people from all over the world living here. Knowing some Italian (I've enjoyed learning with Mondly) will help you to have small talk with your neighbors, order at restaurants, and enjoy all the city has to offer.

Another perk to living in Trieste compared to other major cities in Italy is the cost of living. It's much more affordable than other cities so you can enjoy all the perks to life in Italy without blowing your budget like you could in other places in the country.

Visa Options to Live in Italy

Like most countries in the European Union, most nationalities are given 90 days every 180 days to be here visa-free. This is good to dip your toes into the waters of living in Italy but not enough to settle in. To stay longer, you'll need residency or a Permesso di Soggiorno.

While getting a visa to live in Italy is more than possible, do know that to secure one you really need to want it because this can be a long process. For reference, it took a year for my husband's work visa to come through after being hired. We were told that the process was this long because he's Colombian and other nationalities can be quicker but I still think it's important to be aware that immigration can be slow.

For a work visa, unless you're an EU citizen, you'll need to line up the job before arriving to Italy. Otherwise, you'll need to apply for a Student Visa or a Working Holiday Visa. Trieste does have a well-known university so for those looking to study abroad, this could be a great fit.

8. Strasbourg, France

a canal street in strasbourg showcasing the traditional white and brown architecture
The quaint charm and traditional architecture you can expect in Strasbourg, France

Photo & submission by Natali from She's Abroad Again.

If you are looking for the best place to live in France as an expat, Strasbourg should be on top of your list! Strasbourg is the capital of the eastern French region of Alsace, a historic melting pot, as it was interchangeably part of Germany and France since the 17th century. 

Although when moving to Europe most don't think of Strasbourg first, I think it's a vastly underrated European city.

Today, Strasbourg is known as one of the capitals of Europe and home to many international institutions with multinational staff, including the Council of Europe and the European Union.

Strasbourg does not feel like a big city, even though almost 300,000 people live there. Many of them are internationals, so that makes finding your community easier than in most cases! 

One of my favorite things about Strasbourg is that it is simply a stunning city. La Petite France is one of the most charming quarters in France, and the entire historic center of Grande Ile is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is exceptionally gorgeous in the winter when the city gets decorated for Christmas. 

As the days get warmer and sunnier, everybody gathers in parks, or along the canal, for a picnic. Picnic culture in France is like no other! Strasbourgians love to socialize, and most bars are packed for happy hour.

Throughout the year, you can bike everywhere! Cycling is a big part of Strasbourg's culture, as it is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. Although not a cosmopolitan city like Paris, to me, this has easily been the best place to live in Europe.

The cost of living in France is high. However, Strasbourg is one of the most affordable big cities in the country. To make it even better, it is just a quick tram ride (or a bike ride) away from Germany and more affordable groceries!

Finally, the Alsace region is stunning, and you can explore it on many diverse day trips from Strasbourg. Discover fairytale villages like Riquewihr and Eguisheim, try Alsatian wine along the Alsace Wine Route, or hike to some of the numerous castles on the hills.

9. Athens, Greece

Wine, history, and great views await in Athens

Submission by Suzie Young from Greek Island Bucket List.

Athens is a vibrant and historic city that can offer a unique living experience for foreigners. Athenian life is a fascinating mix of old and new. Athens has a lot going for it but I've found people either love it or hate it. Personally, I think it's a fantastic city to live in.

You can enjoy modern Athens' bustling markets, sophisticated shopping areas, trendy cafes, and thriving nightlife while immersing yourself in the city's rich history. Ancient architecture abounds at the city's legendary archaeological sites like the Parthenon and Ancient Agora.

And once you've had your fill of all that, let yourself get caught up in the feast and celebration days that make up such a big part of Greek culture; alternatively, make your way through the mountains of tasty Greek food and drink.

Although the cost of living can be much lower in Athens than in other cities in the USA, the UK and around Europe, the Greek economy isn't in the weak position it once was.

The cost of living isn't desperately low and it's risen quite a bit in recent years. If you intend to earn in Greece, you should also know that despite rising living costs, wages are lower than in the past. You can compare the cost of living in Greece to the rest of the EU here.

If you can earn a decent income in US dollars, for example, then it will certainly go a lot further than if you're earning from working in Greece. Having said that, obviously, the lifestyle you choose influences your monthly outgoings. And you can certainly live the high life in this capital city.

Living in Athens means easy access to several islands by ferry or plane and a gateway to the mainland. If you want to explore the country on weekend getaways or longer stays, Athens is a great base from which to do so.

Visa Options to Live in Greece

Although you'll need to check for your own personal circumstances, most people from places like the US and the UK can stay in Greece for up to 90 out of 180 days without any type of visa. Note this works on a rolling basis, so it's always the last 180 consecutive days. You should also bear in mind that this applies to the whole of the Schengen area. So if you've spent time in any of those countries, you must add those days to your time in Greece.

To stay longer than 90 days, there are a few options available.

  • Greece's digital nomad visa is relatively new and one that's gaining popularity. It's a one-year visa giving you the right to live in Greece and work remotely. After a year, you can apply for a Digital Nomad Residence Permit, which gives you legal residence for two years and is renewable for a further two years after that.
  • The Golden Visa is a way of getting residency through property investment. For most places, you can gain a five-year residency permit by spending 250,000 euros or more across one or more properties.
  • The Financially Independent Visa is popular for third-country nationals who want to retire in Greece. You need to show you have sufficient income from a fixed source (not a salary) to cover the duration of your stay.

10. Vilinus, Lithuania

a small brick castle perched upon a steep grassy hill
A glimpse of the Gediminas Castle Tower

Photo & submission by Elizabeth from Two Week Traveller.

Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania, popular for its Old Town, historical sites, baroque-style architecture, and being one of the three Baltic States. Living in Vilnius is ideal for female expats who want to be in a European capital city that is not too expensive yet easy enough to reach any part of Europe.

From Vilnius, you can take a flight to Paris, Copenhagen, London, and other major cities on a direct flight and the ticket cost is often very affordable. The airport is less than a €2 bus ride from downtown. Equally easy for a weekend away, you can take a bus to Latvia or a train to Poland.

I personally love its culture. The locals are frank and straightforward, but at the same time warm and friendly. I also enjoy the fact that it's not strange if you go to a movie, bar, cafe, or restaurant alone since many locals also love having their own space. Living in Vilnius is suitable for female expats who enjoy being in their own company yet open to meeting locals and other expats.

Another thing I love about Vilnius is Vingis Park, which is a massive park where people go for a run, bike ride, outdoor exercise, concerts, children's playground, and picnic. This incredible green space is only 2.5 km from downtown.

It's also not impossible to find reasonably priced accommodation downtown as well. I rented a furnished 1 bedroom around 2 km from Vilnius city center and paid €400. I have my own bicycle to move around, but the public transport is pretty great as well.

If you have 2 weeks in Europe and want to check if Vilnius is suitable for you, spend this time traveling around the city, going to local bars, and checking out grocery stores to see if this city will be a great home for a while or for the long-term.

Visa Options to Live in Lithuania

As a member of the Schengen Zone, non-EU citizens are only permitted to stay in Lithuania for up to 90 days. If you'd like to live in Lithuania, you'll need to apply for the Lithuanian National Visa, Type D Visa. This visa is applicable to those who want to work, study, or reunite with family members in Lithuania.

11. Berlin, Germany

Photo & submission by Renee Hannes of Dream Plan Experience.

Berlin is a fantastic place to live abroad, plain and simple. It's one of the coolest cities in Europe, offering a rich history, diverse culture, affordability, and a welcoming atmosphere—ideal for expats seeking a unique experience.

The city's cultural scene is unparalleled. With iconic museums like those on Museum Island and avant-garde spaces like Dark Matter, Berlin caters to history buffs exploring remnants of the Berlin Wall and art lovers wandering through contemporary galleries.

Berlin is always buzzing with events, boasting a year-round festival calendar. From the renowned Berlin Music Week and Berlin Art Week to the world-class Berlinale film festival, the city offers a diverse range of cultural experiences. The changing seasons bring festivities like Berlin Fashion Week, the Festival of Lights, and the enchanting Berlin Christmas markets.

Berlin's reputation as the nightlife capital of Europe is well-deserved, with its legendary clubs, bars, and live music venues pulsating with energy until the early hours. Inclusivity is a priority, evident in events like Christopher Street Day and the multicultural Karneval der Kulturen.

The city's neighborhoods showcase a constant ebb and flow of creativity and community spirit. From the trendy boutiques in Kreuzberg to the historic charm of Prenzlauer Berg, each district has its own personality, adding to the dynamic mosaic that is Berlin. 

Berlin embraces spontaneity, with street art, pop-up markets, and impromptu performances on public squares adding excitement to daily life. The food scene is a melting pot of international flavors, from traditional German dishes to diverse cuisines from around the world everything from street food to food markets to Michelin-star restaurants.

Strategically located in the heart of Europe, Berlin serves as a central hub for travel. Whether it's a weekend getaway to Paris, Prague, or Hamburg, Berlin's well-connected transportation network makes it convenient to satisfy your wanderlust.

The abundance of expats living in Berlin creates a welcoming community, with English widely spoken. However, taking German classes is still beneficial for a smoother transition. Reflecting on my experience, I wish I had known more about navigating bureaucratic processes, from finding an apartment to opening a bank account.

For those planning a long-term stay, Berlin offers various visa options like the Blue Card for skilled professionals and the Job Seeker Visa for exploration before committing to a job. Understanding the eligibility criteria and application processes is crucial for a seamless transition to life in Berlin.

Berlin, Germany's vibrant and eclectic capital, has captured my heart as an ideal place to live abroad.

Visa Options to Live in Germany

Germany offers a wide range of visa options for expats but is notoriously strict when it comes to acceptance or not. If you're able to meet the requirements, either to study, to work, or for family reunification, there's a visa that'll give you the chance to live in this Central European country.

The most popular way for expats to move to Germany is on a work visa, typically getting hired by international companies that have job opportunities throughout the city (not just Berlin). For more information on this visa and others, Germany's government page does a good job of outlining the options and the visa requirements to apply.

12. Lisbon, Portugal

The red roof views of Lisbon never get old

Photo & submission by Ana Veiga from We Travel Portugal.

I’ve now lived in Lisbon for two years and I think it’s a great city to live in, especially as a foreign resident. As a Brazilian I already speak the local language, but English is widely spoken and it’s a very accessible place. Each neighborhood has its own vibe, and its own reasons to explore. It’s a very walkable city, but if not, then public transport is usually an excellent and low-cost option.

It’s hard not to mention the climate in any description about living in Portugal. Although Lisbon is not quite as warm or as sunny as the Algarve, it still has a mild Mediterranean climate. Winters are mild and usually short, and summers are hot and dry. The proximity of Lisbon to the Atlantic coast means you can easily find somewhere to cool off when it does get hot though. It’s a climate that’s great for exploring and being outside, whether it’s open spaces or parks in Lisbon, or wandering around Lisbon’s historic neighborhoods and urban artworks.

While prices have obviously risen, Lisbon remains one of the most affordable capital cities in Western Europe. Although, like with most other popular European cities, demand has risen, prices have risen, and it can be difficult to find somewhere to rent. Something I always recommend when I'm asked is being here first, to get a feel for Lisbon and the different areas before committing to a place.

As for why I enjoy and love living in Lisbon so much, for me it blends sunshine, affordability, safety, and easy access to a wide range of destinations. Cheap flights across. Europe, and reasonable transatlantic connections. Eating, drinking, and visiting its many attractions is affordable. On my street I can find several coffee shops where a café (Portugal’s variant of an espresso) is 75 cents, and a dish of the day with a drink for lunch can be found for around €6-8. For residents, most of Portugal’s national monuments and publicly funded attractions are free to visit on Sundays, so as a resident there’s always somewhere to explore in Lisbon.

Going further in Portugal, then there’s a lot of diversity to be found, from the stunning coastline, mountains and forests, vineyards, to fairy-tale like medieval towns. It’s a gateway to lots of really incredible places in Portugal. Being central, and a transportation hub, there’s trains and buses in most directions and connections to almost every part of Portugal you may want to explore!

13. Stratford-Upon-Avon, United Kingdom

You'll love the small town and welcoming locals in Stratford-upon-Avon

Submission by Amelia from Stay Wild Travels.

Stratford-upon-Avon is a bustling medieval market town that’s steeped in history. Its connection with William Shakespeare – the famous playwright, poet, and actor – draws hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

For expats moving to the UK who want a slice of the countryside whilst still having relatively quick access to the city, Stratford-upon-Avon is one of the best places to live. It’s also much more friendly on the budget than the likes of London, where you can expect to pay approximately 20% more for things than you would do here. For a high quality of life with a low cost of living, expats will love Stratford-Upon-Avon.

For young professionals and families, there are a wealth of things to do in the area. Whether you love brunching in quirky cafes, hopping from one trendy bar to the next or rowing down the River Avon, weekends in this charming town are never boring. It’s also home to the UK’s largest butterfly farm, hundreds of nature trails, miniature golf, and interesting museums.

On the edge of Stratford-upon-Avon is the Cotswolds – one of the best areas for nature lovers. It’s filled with rolling hills, dozens of quaint cobbled villages and thousands of fantastic walking trails. On the flip side, Leamington Spa town and Birmingham City are within close proximity and offer a wealth of excellent shops and restaurants with a vibrant atmosphere.

For those looking to make expat friends, there is already a great community living in the area that will welcome you with open arms. Typically, these are young college students who are spending some time at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Visa Options to Live in the UK

Since Brexit, the UK has become much more difficult to get a long-term visa, especially for European citizens who once had free range. U.S. citizens are allowed to stay 6-months in the UK, visa-free, so if that's enough time for you abroad, I wouldn't hassle with a visa and would only stay half the year.

For work visas, it's best to look for international companies hiring or moving to the UK on a student visa.

14. Cork, Ireland

An overhead view of part of the city of Cork, Ireland

Photo & submission by Amber from Amber Everywhere.

Cork is a wonderful, safe city, perfectly suited for expats who want to live in Europe. I fell in love with Cork’s vibrant restaurant scene (it is the Food Capital of Ireland, after all) and lively, social energy. The city is full of people from all over the world who moved here for partners, jobs, or a fresh start; it’s easy to meet people and it feels like there’s always an event or gathering to attend. 

One of my favorite things to do in Cork is to meet up at a pub for a relaxed pint and/or a pizza from the Franciscan Well. Nearby, you’ll find beaches, greenways, and plenty of places to camp and hike, provided you have a car.  

If Cork starts to feel too small, we have an international airport about 20 minutes from the city center. There are cheap flights directly to places like Amsterdam and London for less than €100 round trip, and even more options if you’re willing to take the bus to the capital city Dublin

Visa Options to Live in Ireland

Ireland in general has relatively lenient immigration laws, so you’ll commonly meet people who moved because of their Irish partners or Irish ancestry. In Cork, we also have a large public university, so many people will come for a Master’s degree and stay on to find work for local companies. 

Cork is also home to Apple's European headquarters, which needs a lot of staff to run smoothly. There are several other tech companies and start-ups based in Cork, as well.

15. Krakow, Poland

This cathedral sits right in the town square of Krakow

Photo & submission by Joseph Rich Francis from KrakowBuzz.

Krakow, easily one of the best cities in Poland, is quickly rising to become one of the most popular expat hubs in Central Europe. It's got a proper second-city vibe; not as sprawling as the Polish capital in Warsaw yet rich in history with a center that's small enough to stroll around. Mostly, it's stunning to look at, with a Gothic-medieval core that spans out in a web of cobbled alleys and lanes filled with jazz bars and beer halls, moody castle spires rising overhead on one side and the snaking Vistula River bending through the parks on the other.

While Poland was pretty decimated during WWII, Krakow was left practically unscathed. This means you get both a historic city and yet one that is bending to modern times.

I moved over in 2013. Back then, much of the Wi-Fi was sluggish, there were hardly any cafes primed for remote workers, and there wasn't much in the way of international food (trying to get a good curry was a nightmare). Fast forward to 2023 and the picture has changed. A lot…

Krakow has ridden Poland's march towards globalization in grand fashion. The duo of main expat neighborhoods – the Old Town and Kazimierz – are now laden with all sorts, from Middle Eastern falafel kitchens to artisan pizza joints to ramen noodle stalls. There are mixology cocktail bars on virtually every corner, plus coffee places and co-working in abundance. That all brings an undeniable buzz that's only been bolstered by a large influx of young, Ukrainian professionals in the last few years. On top of that, there have been some more left-of-field additions to the city center, like the new al-fresco wild swimming area over in the flooded quarry of Zakrzówek (a must in the warmer months!).

The downside to the new Krakow is that things are a whole load more expensive than they used to be. A beer was once $1, never more. Now, you'll pay $3 in most bars. Rent is almost double what it was a decade back, and the cost of taxis has gone up at least a third in the last three years. Still, I'd say Krakow remains one of the bargain destinations of Europe, and I usually set aside the same budget here as I do for living in Thailand or Bangkok for the same period, so it's not all bad!

Visa Options to Live in Poland

As part of the Schengen Area, unless you're an EU citizen or resident, you'll need a long-stay visa to spend more than 90 days in Poland. This visa is called the Type D and is the same for anyone looking to study, work, or reunification with family in Poland. Just like in most countries, once you arrive into the country with your Type D visa, you'll need to jump over some hurdles to turn it into a residence permit.

The most common way to secure this visa is by getting a job. Unless you speak Polish, the most likely way to apply for job opportunities and any of the many international companies in the country. It's also possible to get a job teaching English or at international schools in Poland.

Currently Poland does not offer a visa for digital nomads, although it's a great place to spend a week or longer if you work online.

How to Decide Where to Move Abroad

Mountains, beaches, and historic cities and towns await no matter where in Europe you move

Moving to Europe can feel like an intimidating step, especially if this will be your first time moving abroad. One of the biggest steps to moving abroad, and also the most necessary to actually go, is choosing where in the world you'll call your home.

It can feel like a huge decision and one that if you mess up, you can't take back. Here's the thing though: nothing you do when it comes to moving from one country to another has to be permanent. You're allowed to go back home or start over in a new country if it doesn't work out or just because you want to.

Once you feel more confident and ready to make your decision about where you want to live in Europe, think about these things to help narrow down your options:

  • How long do you want to stay in country X?
  • Where can you get a long-term visa or residency permit?
  • How important is it that locals speak English?
  • What type of weather do you really want to avoid? And likewise, what type of weather would you really love?
  • What lifestyle are you most eager to have? Laid back, cosmopolitan, access to nature, interesting culture, etc.
  • How far away from your home city/town do you want to be?
  • What cost of living can you comfortably afford?

By answering these questions, you'll be better able to choose which of these best European cities and towns suits your needs and wants the most.

Which of These Best Places to Live in Europe Will You Choose?

a sunny day with a couple walking through an old town holding hands
The walkable city centers in most capitals and towns is a huge perk for most places in Europe

With so many great countries to live in, all with cities offering a distinct lifestyle, cost of living, and visa rights, which of these European cities will you call home next?

If you're looking for a place that could become your permanent home base in Europe, I'd let visas or residency permits guide you. This means you likely won't face heartbreak once you've settled into one of Europe's best cities to live in and realize only later that you legally can't stay.

If instead, you're a serial expat like I am, meaning you stay put for only a year or so before moving to the next country or city on your list, pick and choose which ones most appeal to you and take the easy route in, a visa that will give you just enough time to stay until you're ready for a new life elsewhere.

Whichever way you choose, don't forget how interconnected all of these European cities really are, so visiting all of these best places to live in Europe will be easy to accomplish once you're settled in this incredible continent.

All photos by depositphotos.com unless otherwise stated.

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