Consider the wafting aroma of freshly baked croissants or the pleasant gulp of wine brewed from grapes cultivated just down the road. Perhaps you fantasize about living on a sun-drenched Mediterranean beach or down a cobblestone alley, relishing the cosmopolitan joys of a historic city…
Many people fantasize about retiring in Europe. And it is quite possible that it will become a reality. If culture, history, and variety are what you’re looking for, Europe has it all, and at a far cheaper price than you may imagine… Here, we’ll look at the five finest low-cost possibilities for a dream European retirement.
You’ll find properties to rent for less than $600 per month or to purchase for less than $110,000 in this section. For $10, you can enjoy a substantial three-course meal at a local restaurant, while a bag of fresh food farmed locally costs less than $6.
All of these countries have magnificent beaches, charming rural retreats, and cities that are densely loaded with history through stunning architecture and huge museums. Our experts have recommended a place they believe is particularly deserving of your attention, but ultimately, the type of lifestyle you seek is up to you.
Europe, unsurprisingly, excels at healthcare; each of our recommendations features world-class healthcare experts and facilities. Perhaps more surprisingly, the care available in these countries is not penny-pinching. Many of these countries have universal coverage and robust public healthcare systems, and even their private healthcare is a fraction of the price in Switzerland. Doctor appointments, for example, can cost far under $100, and other services are similarly affordable.
You are certain to find an ideal home in Europe. Though it is a small continent, it is densely packed with diversity, which means that the ideal retirement location for you is almost certain to exist someplace. Continue reading to discover how to obtain it…
Whether it’s golden sunshine diffusing across undulating hills, crystal-clear alpine lakes, or a dramatic seacoast with cities perched precariously on steep slopes above the water, Italy’s scenery evokes a desire to stay and fully enjoy the dolce vita. Italy offers a slow pace with an emphasis on fine food and human interaction, as well as superb wines, cultural resources, and a poetic language.
The enticing lifestyle and breathtaking surroundings attract a large number of expats to the peninsula, and each has their own tailor-made ideal, as Italy has it all, from art cities to historic hill villages to modern suburbs, in any geographic preference. The numerous seacoasts appeal to beach lovers, while the numerous mountains appeal to outdoorsy types and those who enjoy experiencing all four seasons. The Mediterranean climate is quite moderate, but don’t expect unending summers here; there is a milder winter, however how cool it is is entirely up to your preferences. Desire snow? Alps. Would you like it to be softer? Sicily. And Italy has it all.
Many individuals hold the misconception that living here is prohibitively expensive. It’s natural; a cultural and historical mecca that attracts millions of tourists each year must have a high cost of living. However, tourist prices are one thing; daily living expenses are quite another. You may easily discover an accommodation that fits your budget; the trick is to seek beyond the major tourist attractions.
Italy’s enticing lifestyle and breathtaking surroundings attract a large number of expats and provide everybody with their own tailor-made ideal.
“Italy truly offers so much and has something for everyone,” says IL Italy Correspondent Valerie Fortney Schneider. It appeals to every geographic desire—from hills to mountains to seaside—and to every urban preference, from hospitable little towns to vibrant middle cities to large city action.
“Best of all, Italy is affordable for travelers of all budgets. Numerous locations offer suitable homes for less than the typical cost of a new car. The beauty and laid-back lifestyle do not have to be costly; in fact, our living expenses in Italy are cheaper than in the United States.”
Theresa Conti, an expat, relocated to Trieste, Italy, alone at the age of 64.
“My objective was to live close to both the sea and mountains, in a walkable city that was safe, clean, and quiet, with outdoor activities and an active lifestyle, and Trieste delivers on all of those criteria. It is a city with lovely parks and beaches, excellent public transit, and an incredible coastal promenade. I’m not claiming this is the best option for everyone, but it meets my needs and matches my lifestyle. It’s tranquil and calm, just the way I like it, but offers a lot.
“My monthly rent is $831, all-inclusive. “Try finding a spacious two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn!” she exclaimed.
Apart from property rates, Italy’s living costs are pretty uniform throughout the country. A couple can live comfortably for as low as $1,830 per month in the proper location.
Cobblestones, castles, and cathedrals. White stucco buildings with bougainvillea accents and terracotta tiled roofs. Grilled fish with a sheen of olive oil. Wines with a ruby red hue that have won numerous awards. Calm blue seas lap against golden dunes in a tranquil bay, while a shoreline coaxes an 80-foot wave from an undersea cave.
Portugal is where you are.
Each year, an increasing number of travelers come to sample the delicacies offered by this small Iberian country. For many years, it was a popular vacation location for British, French, Dutch, and others—even Spaniards—who fell in love with it and became expatriates.
Terry Coles, an IL Portugal correspondent, and her husband moved abroad ten years ago, initially staying in Panama. They lived there for five years and fell in love with Europe on their first visit.
“Europe is a continent steeped in history and culture, and we desired to be a part of it. We sold everything except what fit into two small suitcases and spent the following two years traveling full-time in search of our next home. Portugal captivated our hearts and brains, and we knew we’d made the right choice. And, given Portugal’s reputation as one of the simplest countries in Europe to get residency for North Americans, it made perfect sense.”
Terry and her husband, Clyde, are just two of the many Americans who visit Portugal and fall in love with the Portuguese people, their way of life, and the breathtaking views of golden sandy beaches.
“I grin every time I look out the window,” Diedre Miller explained. “I’ve always desired a home with a sea view, but it was never financially feasible in California.”
“We purchased our home in Portugal blind,” Diedre explained. “My husband, Bart, initially traveled to Portugal alone with an unsuccessful employment offer.” Diedre was online searching at property on his flight back to California. She identified the ideal home and submitted an offer that was accepted.
Diedre and Bart were both able to retire from the workforce at the age of 51 and begin new lives in Portugal. They discovered the ideal location for a guest home in Albufeira’s Old Town, in the central Algarve region. They paid $333,000 for a furnished six-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse. The expansive residence features two kitchens and two decks and is located just a few blocks from the beach. “We never imagined we could have this much housing at such a low price,” Diedre explained. The house is within walking distance of stores, restaurants, and, most importantly, the beach.
“Here is a reason for me to smile,” she explains. “When we were in California, all we did was work to make ends meet. There is no resemblance between our life here and there; it’s as though they are two different worlds.”
A couple can live well in Portugal’s interior, or in small cities, for roughly $1,700 per month, including rent. A couple’s monthly budget in Lisbon begins at around $2,100 or $2,200. Singles should budget roughly two-thirds of what a couple does.
You didn’t anticipate France being included on this list, did you? Many people cannot believe the land that brought the world Versailles, Chanel, and the term haute cuisine is not outrageously pricey.
“While living in Cannes on the French Riviera is not the most economical option in France, it’s incredibly surprising how much money you can save if you avoid the flashy resort areas and head to “authentic France”—also known as France profonde or “deep France,” according to Tuula Rampont, IL France Correspondent.
“These are dispersed regions of the country with firmly ingrained French customs and culture, and where real estate costs average 34% less than in the United States.”
“Areas such as Brittany, Normandy, and the Dordogne’s sunflower-filled region offer exceptional value for money.” With homes, available for purchase for less than $200,000, move-in-ready residences. Monthly rent for a two-bedroom furnished village house is roughly $700.”
“Other affordable regions of the country include Alsace, the Loire Valley, and Montpellier – the country’s fastest expanding urban area.”
“While some of France’s everyday prices are equal to those in North America (although power rates are among the lowest in Western Europe), retirees can anticipate significant savings on particular commodities such as cheese, wine, and bread. By cutting out the intermediary and avoiding import duties, you may pay roughly $3-$4 on a great slab of goat cheese or camembert, and $7.00 on a very delightful bottle of wine – table wines start at $4.00. Consider drinking French espressos ($1.50) and eating flaky croissants ($1.20) in a time-warp village in southern France or an unusual seaside community in Basque area. France has retirement choices to suit every budget.”
For $2,200 per month, including rent, a couple can enjoy all that France has to offer.
Warm, sunny days by the glistening Mediterranean, cool nights at an outdoor café, lingering over dinner until the wee hours, mouthwatering paella, mounds of fresh seafood, succulent roast lamb (and flavorful wines to pair with them), rich, ancient culture, hilltop castles, and vast stretches of countryside ideal for hiking and cycling. Spain wants you to wax poetic about its numerous charms and laid-back way of life. Here, having a good time is expected, and socializing is an art form.
And this alluring way of life is relatively affordable these days. Spain has historically been one of the most affordable countries in Europe. Naturally, cost of living varies according on geography and lifestyle. The most costly cities are Barcelona and Madrid. San Sebastian, on Catalonia’s north coast, and the Balearic Islands also have high prices. Malaga, Alicante, and the Canary Islands are all rather inexpensive. Valencia, Granada, and Seville are all considered to be in the middle.
Prices for food are affordable. Spain’s temperate climate ensures an abundance of locally cultivated fruits and vegetables. Olive oil and wine are abundant and reasonably priced. Seafood is fresh and reasonably priced along the seaside. $100 a week would offer a enough supply of groceries for a Mediterranean diet.
However, Spain’s attraction is ultimately not due to its low cost. Its most alluring feature is its nice, helpful, and life-loving people. While speaking Spanish simplifies life, the majority of Spaniards speak some English and are eager to practice. You can get by with only English, and because the majority of expats in Spain are from the United Kingdom or Germany, North Americans have the advantage of being somewhat exotic.
Marsha Scarbrough, an IL Spain Correspondent, relocated to Spain in 2017 at the age of 70. She’d visited the country for the first time a year prior and spent six weeks traveling independently for six weeks. She had been looking for some time for the ideal, economical retirement spot.
“My life in Spain has been more enjoyable than I ever expected,” Marsha adds. My social life has taken a turn for the worst. As a single lady, the locals’ friendliness, welcoming warmth, and helpfulness made all the difference. “The friends I’ve made here have been an incredible blessing.
While Madrid is more expensive than other parts of Spain, it nevertheless delivers a lot for the money. The price of wine and beer is approximately $2.50 per glass. A large gin and tonic will cost between $8 and $10.50. Lunches with a three-course menu del dia range from $12 to $17 per person, including wine or beer. A full menu at Chamberi costs between $12 and $15. Additionally, most eateries provide a single plate for roughly $8. Prescriptions and drugs are a fraction of the cost in the United States.
“The greatest savings for me come from not owning a car. As a senior resident, I pay $7.50 per month for unrestricted access to the efficient metro and bus system. If I choose to spend on a taxi, the cost is usually approximately $13.”
The greatest retirement location in Spain is determined by your preferences and desired lifestyle. You may wish to live in an expat beach community on the Costa del Sol, or to blend into Spanish culture in a large city, or to seek bucolic tranquility in the countryside.
For $2,650 per month, a couple may live in a mid-sized city like Alicante. Therefore, if you’ve ever desired to live economically in Europe—whether for a few months or for the rest of your life—consider Spain now.
Greece is a vast, diverse, and visually gorgeous country comprised of sun-drenched islands, towering mountains, bustling cities, and time-honored customs. It is colorful, friendly, and full of surprises, wrapped in the warm embrace of the Aegean Sea.
“Greece is an excellent alternative for expats because to its great weather, friendly people, low cost of living, and central location, which allows travelers easy access to a broad variety of other countries,” explains IL writer Lynn Roulo.
“I moved to Athens without a local employment or a meaningful relationship in place, so it was a significant leap into the unknown,” she explains. “However, it did not feel frightening or anxiety-inducing. The prospect of relocating and beginning a new life thrilled me. That was in 2012, and I’m still overjoyed to be able to live here.
“Housing in Athens is substantially less expensive than in the United States. For less than $650 a month, you can rent a comfortable one-bedroom apartment in the city center. A decent taverna supper for two with wine costs under $30, and you can stock up on fruits and veggies for approximately $30 per week at the open-air markets. Taxis have a normal fee of $1.30 per mile, which means that you can usually go around town for less than $10.”
A frugal expat can live well in Greece for as little as $1,830 per month.
Malta as bonus
Ask any expat why they chose to relocate to Malta (all 122 square miles of it—not much bigger than Nantucket), and the same three reasons consistently come up: sea, sunlight, and a pleasant and welcoming community of English-speaking people.
Malta has an abundance of sunshine, even in the dead of winter. Valletta, the country’s picturesque capital surrounded by historic structures, is recognized as the hottest capital in Europe—and a manageable one at that, with fewer than 7,000 inhabitants. Even in January, temperatures in the 60s F are common, increasing to the 80s F during the summer months.
And even on such small islands as this, there are several opportunities to enjoy this lovely atmosphere. Valletta and Sliema, for example, stay vibrant throughout the year and have some of the Mediterranean’s best eateries. And you don’t have to be a millionaire to take advantage of all that Malta has to offer.
Rent for a one-bedroom apartment — even those located within a short walk of the beach — is often between $750 and $800 per month. Groceries are reasonably priced, with staples such as bread costing about 35 cents. Dinner for two in a quality mid-range restaurant can cost around $50, including a glass of wine.
The country is made up of a number of islands, just three of which are inhabited. Gozo, the second-largest of Malta’s three inhabited islands, is recognized for its tranquil, picturesque country lifestyle, which has already made it a popular retirement option for expats.
“There are numerous reasons why so many retired couples chose Gozo: everyone speaks English, food and lodging are reasonably priced, medical facilities are great, and the weather is pleasant all year,” writes IL contributor Kevin Flanagan.
“There is also easy access to Malta, which is only a half-hour ferry ride away, if you want to experience the bustle of a major European city. However, whenever I visit the main island, I always look forward to returning to Gozo and its laid-back island attitude.”
Milk, bread, and other goods are available for $1 each, but a bottle of high-quality wine is $6. Victoria, the main town of Gozo, is the place to go shopping. It’s also where you can immerse yourself in high culture at one of the town’s two opera houses or appreciate organic produce at one of the town’s outstanding eateries.
Malta has something for everyone—from old fortified cities and gorgeous seaside paths to rural farmhouses and delectable restaurants.
The cost of living varies according to location and lifestyle, but a couple might live in a one-bedroom apartment in Marsaxlokk for $2,331 per month.
Croatia as bonus
Croatia, a Mediterranean country, teaches the skill of European life. Sip coffee next to the ruins of an ancient Roman temple in the morning, swim in the Adriatic Sea’s royal blue waves in the afternoon, and spend the evening exploring the hilltop town’s once-gas-lit cobblestone alleyways.
Each day in Croatia is an experience to be treasured. From munching on jade-colored olives to sipping ruby-red zinfandel and laughing around an open fire, life on the Balkan Peninsula’s western coast is energizing. Additionally, it is a part-time activity.
Croatia has traditionally been a popular vacation destination for Europeans. They flocked to its beaches and walled villages for decades while it was a part of the old Yugoslavia. Croatia has grown in popularity in recent years as a result of several of its settings being included in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Split is Croatia’s second largest city and is home to Diocletian’s 1,700-year-old palace. Unlike other European ruins, Diocletian’s Palace is still inhabited by a large number of locals—a relic of the security the palace walls provided following the fall of the Roman Empire.
Split also has a sizable university, a thriving expat community, and a significant hospital. These attributes have increased the city’s popularity with foreigners, resulting in an increase in rental fees in recent years. As a result, you may wish to base yourself outside of Split, as part-time expat Beth Hoke has done three times.
“I spent one night in Podstrana (just south of Split) and two nights in Okrug Gornji (near north of Split). Split was easily accessible through public transit from both sites, although housing expenses were slightly lower [outside of Split],” Beth explains. “I was directly on the beach in Podstrana, and within a 10- to 15-minute walk of the beach in Okrug Gornji. I spent late spring/early summer in Okrug Gornji and late autumn/early winter in Podstrana. I paid the same amount each month for both two-bedroom apartments—between $475 and $500.”
A couple can comfortably live in this neighborhood for between $2,050 and $2,840 per month.