The 6 Best Places To Live In Europe

Regardless of the uncertainties that Brexit is bringing, continental Europe remains an attractive prospect for Brits wanting to move abroad.

Britain can be an expensive place to live, and European countries potentially offer a better quality of life (and in many cases a little more sunshine too).

But where are the best places to live in Europe for British expats?


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The Best Places in Europe for Expats

France

where to live in europe

‘La belle France’ really is just that.

It’s a large and diverse country, with vibrant cities, rambling little medieval towns, swathes of stunning rural landscapes, plenty of culture, and of course – great food and wine.

No matter where you are in France, you will always find a weekly market with fresh local produce and a boulangerie with freshly baked bread. Wine famous the world over is produced here, and it is a fundamental part of the French way of life, so expect to drink wine with both lunch and dinner.

Prices for wines are much lower than in the UK, but food is often a little more expensive.

Clothes and fuel can be expensive too, and if you’re wanting to travel around on the motorways expect to pay some fairly hefty tolls.

If choosing a French country lifestyle, it is still possible to get some real property bargains here, and to have an excellent standard of living.

However, properties often need time and money investments to get them renovated to a comfortable standard. In the countryside the pace of life is slow.

Everything shuts down for two hours at midday, there’s nothing open on a Sunday, and shops and bars generally close early in the evening.

Rural living is fantastic if you love the quiet life, having plenty of natural space for the kids to run around in, a focus on family, and being part of a small and close knit community, but Brits can sometimes feel a little isolated.

City living offers a more buzzing and vibrant atmosphere in terms of culture, employment options and a wider variety of things to do right on your doorstep.

Just like in the UK, property is more expensive in the cities, so depending on your budget renting may be the best option.

Public transport is excellent in the city, so getting around to sample all the arts, music, great food and nightlife on offer is easy.

Glamorous Paris is infamous, but it’s also a hugely expensive place to live. There are plenty of other more affordable cities to choose from that offer an excellent quality of life in attractive surroundings.

The city of Rennes in Brittany is a lively university and student city with a youthful and welcoming ambiance, superb nightlife, stunning architecture and plenty of green spaces.

Or in the heart of the wine country and close to the west coast, Bordeaux offers a warm and sunny climate, an international airport, low rental prices, Michelin starred restaurants and ample cultural sites and activities.

Alternatively super chic Nice on the glorious south east coast of France is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities with a large tourist industry offering expats many job opportunities in this thrilling and sophisticated city.

Portugal

move to portugal

Portugal extends a warm embrace to expats in more ways than one. The weather can get really hot here, with temperatures in the summer months reaching up to 40°C.

And the locals too are notoriously warm and welcoming, accepting expats into the fold as if they were old friends. Also, most are keen to speak English.

Portugal’s beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world, with expanses of white, soft sand stretching along the west and south coasts.

Rural property is much less expensive here than in the UK – and less expensive than the European average – but city properties and lifestyle are fast becoming on a par with other European cities.

Renting is an affordable option. Daily living costs are generally lower than in the UK, with food and wine being very reasonably priced. For expats with children who require schooling, regular schools are free, but those seeking private education for their kids at international schools must be prepared to pay high fees.

In general though, if you don’t expect to live an extravagant lifestyle you can live most comfortably here.

Jobs can be difficult to find in Portugal as the country is still battling its way out of a recession and the level of unemployment is high. Chances of finding employment are higher in the cities, but the safest option is to secure a position before you relocate.

Visas must be obtained for expats wishing to stay to live and work here after the first six months.

If you’re seeking a life under the Portuguese sun, the Algarve is perhaps the most popular location for expats.

The scenery is stunning and the weather balmy, and the pace of life is slow and relaxed. It is very complicated however to find work in this area, so expats with less resources may wish to explore some of the country’s cities.

The exciting capital city Lisbon is culturally diverse and boasts a pleasant climate with even winter temperatures of up to 15°C, world class restaurants (as well as plenty of places for cheap eats) and fantastic architecture. It’s a bustling city with a wealth of bars and other entertainments, and employment opportunities are better here than elsewhere.

Alternatively, Lisbon’s rival city Porto is a hub of culture and entertainment – and let’s not forget the delicious fortified wine for which it is named. It’s also an historic city recognised as a world heritage centre by UNESCO.

Tourist businesses do well here, so if you’re an expat looking to set up shop Porto is a good choice.

Spain

expats in barcelona

Spain is a longtime popular destination for expats, and with good reason. It’s an historic country with many different cultural influences, and the landscape varies from magnificent snow capped mountains to superb beaches. Due to this the weather varies from place to place, but expats can mostly expect to experience Mediterranean heat tempered by cool sea breezes.

Spain is currently just fighting free from the grip of an economic slump which has had a significant impact on unemployment. As such it can be problematic finding work here.

Spaniards are proud of their culture and tradition, which to this day is an important part of daily life, and few Spanish citizens speak English, so it is recommended for expats considering relocating here to get to grips with the local tongue in advance.

However if you can support yourself, Spain offers an exceptional quality of life. Due to the recession, property is cheap – although it is worth bearing in mind that the closer the property is to the coast, the more it will cost. If you’re looking to rent a property, a long term lease will be more cost effective than something short term.

Day to day costs for things like food, drink and clothing can be relatively expensive, and don’t differ vastly from prices in the UK. This is largely due to the fact that a big part of Spanish culture is eating out (think long, lingering lunches in the sun with plenty of wine), which if you eat like the locals often works out cheaper than cooking at home.

Madrid is Spain’s capital city, and this sprawling metropolis pulses with vitality. The population here is increasingly multicultural, which contributes to the abundance of arts and culture here, as well as world-class restaurants and bars, plus amazing architecture. The mix of cultures also means that expats are sure to find other English speakers here too.

Another popular city for expats is Barcelona, whose culture and tradition (a mix of Spanish and Catalan) distinguishes it from other Spanish cities. Barcelona has everything you could wish for in one place.

Wonderful beaches, picturesque mountains, shopping, arts and architecture in profusion, first-rate restaurants and a buzzing nightlife.

Italy

moving to italy

The birthplace of much that has shaped the modern world in the west, Italians are understandably proud of their heritage and their country – and there is plenty to be proud of.

Italy is an undeniably beautiful nation featuring dramatic scenery from luxuriously cool lakes to majestic mountains, and a glittering coastline lapped by azure waters.

The lifestyle here is all about society and Italians love to stay outdoors late into the night eating, talking, drinking, dancing and romancing. There are plenty of different entertainments on offer to while away every evening in style. The cuisine is delectable, of superb quality, and is surprisingly affordable.

Other aspects of expat Italian life don’t come so cheaply.

Property prices are similar to the UK, and running costs (water, electricity, gas etc.) are steep. Employment options for expats are very limited too, and you’d be well advised to learn the lingo if you want to work here.

On the other hand children can benefit from a good standard of free education, although certain schools place a higher emphasis on certain subjects for older children, so the right choice of school needs to be made to suit each child’s talents. Healthcare here is exceptional, and at next to no cost.

Driving here is a risky business, and the wisest choice is to take public transport whenever possible. Thankfully Italy’s cities boast excellent and affordable public transport systems.

There are large expat communities in both historical Rome and chic Milan. Rome is quite simply amazing. Steeped in history and with eye-popping architecture and art pretty much everywhere it is certainly a fascinating city, and there’s a fantastic food and wine culture here too.

That said, expats may find that it can sometimes be a difficult place to live. In contrast, the style capital of Milan is a energetic, modern city where fashion (and shopping) is king.

Property here is some of the most expensive in Italy, but this is more than mde up for by the range of diverse restaurants, shops and cultures that make up the substance of this captivating city.

Netherlands

where to live in europe

If sunshine is one of your major motivations for relocating to foreign climes, the Netherlands may not be the right choice for you. The climate here is pretty similar to the UK, with average temperatures of around 19°C in summer and 2°C in winter, and due to the country’s mostly flat and featureless terrain, it can be pretty windy too.

But weather aside, there are many positives to the Netherlands that make it one of the best places to live in Europe.

Accommodation is priced similarly to the UK, but it is of a good standard and there is a wide range of choice. Crime rates here are low, and walking around – even late at night – feels comfortable and secure.

The school system is second to none, and the healthcare system is also excellent. The level of unemployment is low, and there are better employment options for UK expats coming to work here than in many other European countries.

Most of all though it’s the culture and the people that make the Netherlands such a terrific choice for relocation. It’s a nation of liberal minded, un-materialistic people, who welcome foreigners and accept other cultures as part of their own.

Almost everyone here speaks English, which makes integrating into a community stress free compared to other countries. This is a thoughtful nation that considers the health of its citizens and its impact on the environment – making it no surprise that cycling is one of the most popular ways to get around.

The cities here are charming. There remains a focus on independent businesses here, and supermarkets are small and fewer in number than in the UK.

Grocery shopping at little boutiques is a delight, and it guarantees a higher quality of produce. The infamous Amsterdam may have a reputation for coffee shops and prostitution, but in reality it is a culturally diverse city bursting with arts, history, museums and culture, an incredible nightlife, and top class dining.

It’s also an exceptionally beautiful place, with its winding backdrop of canals and interesting architecture. 50 miles away on the country’s west coast, The Hague is one of the largest cities in the Netherlands, and it is also the seat of political and royal power.

Employment opportunities for expats here are plentiful, and it has a lot to offer internationally minded people who want to be a part of the community here. It also offers a good mix of entertainments, bars and restaurants, and even a beach.

Sweden

moving to stockholm

ABBA, IKEA and meatballs are just some of the clichés surrounding enchanting Sweden. Us Brits like to tease the Swedes, but many people don’t realise the delights that this country has to offer expats.

In a recent poll Sweden was voted the best country for expat families to raise children in, and it’s easy to see why. The lifestyle here is all about nature, health and good, clean air.

The natural panorama is divine, with lush green forests affording fantastic opportunities for hiking and biking, or you could take a boat trip across Sweden’s archipelago to explore remote little islands, go skiing on a mountain, or have a picnic by one of Sweden’s many beautiful lakes.

The cuisine is fresh and healthy, featuring plenty of whole grains, fresh vegetables and fish.

Away from the wonders of the wilderness, Sweden possesses some striking modern cities. The capital city of Stockholm is perhaps the loveliest city in the whole of Scandinavia, but the cost of city living is high.

Accommodation is expensive, as are the costs for utilities and transport, and the taxes are high too. Costs for food and drink and eating out are also steep, and alcohol is particularly pricey. That said, wages are generally higher than the UK, which offsets the expense of living here.

It’s an impeccably kept city, clean, and with a focus on order, practicality and clever design. There’s an air of sophistication here, as charming medieval streets blend into hyper modern areas with sleek lines.

It’s known as the ‘Venice of the North’ due to its pretty network of canals and its location extending out across fourteen islands stretching out towards the sea.

Water covers one third of the city’s total area, with another third being taken up by green space. This is a exciting cosmopolitan city, with something for everyone from scrumptious Swedish cuisine to arts, history and nightlife.

Whilst Sweden is a very tempting choice for relocation, it’s worth bearing in mind that winter temperatures in certain areas often drop below zero, and there is lots of snow and very few daylight hours. In summertime however, temperatures can reach around 25 on average – perfect for making the most of all those outdoor activities.


What do you think — where is the best country in Europe for British expats?


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