By International Living
Imagine the smell of freshly-baked croissants wafting through the air, or the satisfying swallow of wine made from grapes grown just down the road. Perhaps you muse about living on a sun-drenched Mediterranean beach or tucked down a cobbled lane savoring the cosmopolitan delights of a history-rich city…
A retirement in Europe is a dream for many folks. And it can easily be a reality. If it’s culture, history, and variety you’re after, Europe has it all, and at a cost much lower than you may think… Here we explore the five best low-cost options for enjoying your perfect European retirement.
Here you’ll find properties to rent for less than $600 a month or to buy for under $110,000. A filling three-course meal in a local restaurant can be had for $10, while a bag of fresh produce grown locally can be got for under $6.
In all these countries you’ll find fabulous beaches, idyllic rural retreats, and cities where history is thickly layered with stunning architecture and grand museums. Our experts have nominated an area they think is particularly worthy of your interest, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide what type of lifestyle you’re after.
Not surprisingly, Europe delivers strongly on healthcare; in each of our picks, you’ll find healthcare professionals and facilities of a world-class standard. But perhaps more surprisingly, the care on offer in these countries won’t leave you counting pennies. Many of these nations benefit from universal coverage and strong public healthcare systems, and even their private healthcare can be accessed for a sliver of the cost in the U.S. Doctors’ visits, for instance, can run well under $100, and other services are similarly reasonable.
You’re guaranteed to find an ideal place for yourself in Europe. Though a small continent, it packs in so much diversity that the perfect retirement for you is bound to be hiding somewhere. Read on to find it…
Whether it is golden light diffused on the undulating hills, crystal alpine lakes, or dramatic seacoast with towns improbably perched on the steep hills above the water, Italy ’s scenery inspires a desire to stay and enjoy the dolce vita full-time. A relaxed pace with an emphasis on good food and human interaction, with excellent wines, cultural riches, and a lyrical language—there’s a lot to love about Italy.
The appealing lifestyle and gorgeous scenery draw many expats to the peninsula, and offers each their own tailor-made dream because Italy has it all, from art cities to ancient hill towns to modern suburbs, in any geographic preference you desire. The plentiful seacoasts appeal to beach lovers while the many mountains satisfy outdoorsy types and those who love to live all four seasons in their turn. The Mediterranean climate is fairly mild, but don’t expect endless summer here; there is a cooler winter, though just how cool depends on your desire. Want snow? The Alps. Want it milder? Sicily. And Italy offers everything in between.
Many people have the impression that it is expensive to live here. It’s understandable why; a cultural and historical powerhouse that draws millions of tourists each year seems like it would have a hefty cost of living. But tourist prices are one thing; living costs are another. You can easily find a place that will fit your budget; the key is to look outside the primary tourist destinations.
The appealing lifestyle and gorgeous scenery of Italy draw many expats to the peninsula and offers each their own tailor-made dream.
IL Italy Correspondent Valerie Fortney Schneider says, “Italy really offers so much and has something for everyone. It satisfies every geographic preference—from hills to mountains to seaside; and any urban preference, from welcoming small towns to medium cities with lots of life, to bigger city action.
“Best of all, Italy can fit any budget, too. There are habitable homes for sale in many places for less than the average cost of a new car. The beauty and laid-back lifestyle doesn’t have to be expensive here; in fact, our living expenses are lower in Italy than they were in the U.S.”
Expat Theresa Conti moved to Trieste, Italy, at age 64, solo.
“My vision 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 life, and Trieste has it all. It’s a city with beautiful parks and beaches, good bus transportation, and a fantastic seafront promenade. I’m not saying it’s right for everyone, but it fits my needs and lifestyle. It’s peaceful and quiet, the way I like it, but has a lot to offer.
“My rent is $831 a month, all-inclusive. Try finding a roomy two-bedroom in Brooklyn for that!” she said.
Aside from housing costs, the living expenses in Italy are fairly consistent around the country. In the right spot, a couple can live well for as little as $1,830 per month.
Castles, cathedrals, and cobblestones. White stucco houses laced with bougainvillea, crowned with terracotta tiles. Grilled fish glistening with olive oil. Ruby red, award-winning wines. Calm, turquoise waters lapping golden sands in a secluded bay, and a coastline coaxing an 80-foot wave from an underwater cave.
This is Portugal.
Each year more visitors are coming to take a bite of the feast offered by this small Iberian country. For many years it has been a vacation destination for the British, French, Dutch, and others—even the Spanish—who came to love it so much, many became expats.
IL Portugal Correspondent Terry Coles and her husband moved abroad ten years ago, first settling in Panama. There they enjoyed life for five years before taking their first-ever trip to Europe and fell in love with it.
“Europe has so much history and culture and we wanted to be part of it. We sold all except what would fit into two small suitcases and traveled full-time for the next two years looking for our next home. Portugal captured our hearts and minds and we knew that we had found the perfect fit. And since Portugal is one of the easiest countries in Europe for North Americans to obtain residency it made perfect sense.”
Terry and her husband, Clyde, are one example of the many U.S. expats that visit Portugal and fall in love with the Portuguese people, the lifestyle, and the stunning vistas of golden sandy beaches.
“Every time I look out the window I smile,” said Diedre Miller. “I always dreamed of having a house with a sea view, but it was never affordable back in California.”
“We bought our house in Portugal sight unseen,” Diedre explained. “My husband, Bart, came to Portugal alone at first with a job offer that didn’t work out.” On his flight back to California, Diedre was online looking at property. She spotted the perfect house and made an offer that was accepted.
Both Diedre and Bart were able to walk away from the working world at age 51 and begin their new lives in Portugal. They found the perfect spot for a guest house in Old Town Albufeira, in the central Algarve region. They bought a six-bedroom, three-bathroom, furnished townhouse for $333,000. The spacious house has two kitchens, two terraces and sits just a few blocks from the beach. “We never thought we could have this much house for this little money,” Diedre said. The house is close to shops, restaurants and more importantly, the beach.
“Here I have a reason to smile,” she says. “Back in California all we did was work to pay the bills. There is no comparison to our lives here and there, it’s like night and day.”
Including rent, a couple can live comfortably in Portugal’s interior, or in small cities, from about $1,700 a month. A couple’s budget in Lisbon starts at about $2,100 or $2,200 a month. Singles should plan on a budget of about two-thirds that of a couple.
You didn’t expect France to be on this list, did you? Many people can never believe the land that gave the world the likes of Versailles, Chanel, and the term haute cuisine could be anything other than prohibitively expensive.
“Certainly, living in Cannes along the French Riviera won’t be the best budget option in France, but it’s incredibly surprising how much you can save if you stay away from the splashy resort areas and head to “authentic France”—sometimes referred to as France profonde , or “deep France,” says Tuula Rampont, IL France Correspondent.
“These are decentralized areas of the country with deeply rich French traditions and culture, and where real estate prices come in at, on average, 34% less than in the United States.”
“Areas like Brittany, Normandy, and the sunflower-filled region of the Dordogne provide excellent value-for-money. With homes, move-in-ready homes, available for purchase for $200,000 or less. Rents for a two-bedroom, furnished village house come in at around $700 a month.”
“Other pockets of the country with attractive prices include Alsace, the Loire Valley, and Montpellier —the fastest growing metropolitan area in France.”