Just a Pack Contributor: Brittany Muldoon | April 7th, 2022 | No comments

What are the best cities to live in Europe for expats? As expats living in Europe we asked ourselves that same question a few years ago. 

Are you considering moving abroad? We get it. The idea of moving abroad can be scary, especially when you’re not sure where you want to go. But never fear: there are tons of expat-friendly places to explore. Europe, especially, is chock full of them. All you have to do is choose one and take the leap! So what are the best cities to live in Europe for expats?

Let’s dive into it. 

Best Cities to Live in Europe for Expats

Lisbon

thing to do in Lisbon, a Lisbon travel guide

  • Avg. price of a meal out: $13 at a cheap restaurant
  • Avg. price of beer (0.5l): $2.20
  • Avg. price of 1-bedroom flat in the center: $1100 per month

Lisbon gets an average of 300 days of sunshine per year. With those odds, who wouldn’t want to move there? Located on the southern coast of Portugal, the weather is pretty mild all year round. It’s also much cheaper than many other European capital cities.

One thing Portugal ranks higher than most on is the “getting settled” aspect of expat living. Expats generally find it easy to get accustomed to the local culture and start to feel at home more quickly. This is probably because Lisbon is super liberal and very diverse, making it an open and friendly culture. This is also why it’s generally considered safer than many other European capitals. 

Lisbon is also a haven for digital nomads thanks to the tax benefits and visa options provided. As a bonus, most people under 30 speak English, and many older people do, as well. You won’t have any problem getting around while you’re still trying to learn Portuguese.

However, many expats have a hard time finding housing in Lisbon. Even if it’s not super expensive, decent flats or houses are few and far between. The job security and options within the city are also rated relatively low. It’s perfect for digital nomads, but more difficult for those actually looking for work in the city.

Copenhagen

copenhagen best cities europe

  • Avg. price of a meal out: $22 at a cheap restaurant
  • Avg. price of beer (0.5l): $7.70
  • Avg. price of 1-bedroom flat in the center: $1375 per month

The Danish capital is one of the most unique and beautiful cities in Europe. Perched on the coastline across the sound from Sweden, it’s one of the happiest cities in the world. You may have heard the Danish word “hygge”, which translates to something like “a cozy and contented feeling” in English. The hygge atmosphere abounds in Copenhagen. This also correlates with the flexible work culture, which expats are overwhelmingly satisfied with. 

While the official language is Danish, over 80% of the population speaks English. The healthcare affordability, bike-friendly environment, and social welfare programs are also among the many perks of life here. As a bonus, you’ll have easy access to the beautiful nature that both Denmark and Sweden offer. 

Denmark is one of the most feminist and progressive countries on the continent, making it one of the safest in Europe. As a result, anyone looking to move to Copenhagen solo need not worry.

Of course, every city has its downfalls, and Copenhagen’s is its cost of living. Unfortunately, everything is notoriously expensive here, especially compared to central and eastern Europe. 

Prague

view of mala strana prague castle old town bridge tower prague photography

  • Avg. price of a meal out: $12 at a cheap restaurant
  • Avg. price of beer (0.5l): $2.50 
  • Avg. price of 1-bedroom flat in the center: $700 per month

Although prices in Prague have risen sharply within the last few years, it’s still one of the cheapest capitals in Europe. The prices of food (in restaurants and at the supermarket), beer, public transport, and entertainment are surprisingly low. Most expats are also happy with the Czech healthcare system – both the availability and the affordability.

Prague has an outstanding nightlife scene, packed full of nightclubs, Czech pubs, and quirky cocktail bars, making it easy to meet other English-speakers. Most people speak English within the city, even if some of the older locals won’t always be happy about it. Prague also has a low violent crime rate, so it’s generally safe to walk alone, even at night.

One of the downsides is the price of housing. Most expats find it difficult to get a suitable apartment within their budget. Housing prices have skyrocketed and available flats are snapped up within seconds, driving many to the outskirts of Prague. 

Basel

  • Avg. price of a meal out: $25 at a cheap restaurant
  • Avg. price of beer (0.5l): $8
  • Avg. price of 1-bedroom flat in the center: $1270 per month

Located in the northeast corner of Switzerland, Basel is tucked between France and Germany and is surrounded by beautiful nature. For a city so close to nature, it also has an impeccable urban structure. While it might be expensive, some say the pros outweigh the cons. 

Living in Basel, you’ll have access to both culture and nature like never before. According to Internations, 100% of expats were satisfied with Basel’s public transportation system in 2021. Expats also enjoy flexible working hours and a good work-life balance. 

Basel is a city of polyglots, with most residents able to switch between German, French, Italian, and English seamlessly. It’s also considered very safe, so no need to worry about moving there alone.

The downside is the cost of living. Things are generally more expensive here than they are in many other European cities. That said, most people living in Basel say their salaries are enough to cover their expenses.

Madrid

things to do in madrid, spain - calle gran via

  • Avg. price of a meal out: $10 at a cheap restaurant or tapas
  • Avg. price of beer (0.5l): $3.30 
  • Avg. price of 1-bedroom flat in the center: $1100 per month

Madrid is one of the most diverse cultural hubs of Spain and of all of Europe. There are tons of museums and art galleries to explore, and plenty of football games to attend. The opportunities for entertainment are endless. The Spanish capital is also centrally-located, giving you easy access to the rest of Spain and all of Europe.

Madrid is also safe when it comes to violent crime, but watch out for pickpockets or scammers on the streets. The city also has a surprisingly low rate of English proficiency for such a major destination. You’ll do better learning a little Spanish, especially outside the city center.

Many expats, however, find it hard to get used to local customs. Madrid runs on a siesta-centric schedule, meaning many shops and offices are closed after lunch. As a result, many bars and restaurants may not reopen until late evening when people are finished with work. This schedule adjustment is difficult especially for expats coming from more fast-paced cultures.

Vienna

best-hotels-vienna

  • Avg. price of a meal out: $13 at a cheap restaurant
  • Avg. price of beer (0.5l): $4.50
  • Avg. price of 1-bedroom flat in the center: $960 per month

Vienna is another cultural hub. Its central location gives you easy access to the rest of Europe, being under 4 hours from both Bratislava and Prague. Vienna is a sophisticated city with its own unique food (hello Wiener schnitzel), beautiful architecture, and plenty of entertainment opportunities. 

Generally, expats are happy with their career opportunities and work-life balance. Vienna is clean and is considered safe by both locals and foreigners. Overall, the quality of life is high: the healthcare, schooling systems, and public transport are all excellent. In addition, over 70% of the population speaks English.

Unfortunately, Vienna ranks lowest on the category of friendliness of locals. As a result, expats find it difficult to get settled and can even feel unwelcome at times. This means you’ll have to put in some extra effort to meet people and build a social life.

The Hague

  • Avg. price of a meal out: $16.50 at a cheap restaurant
  • Avg. price of beer (0.5l): $5
  • Avg. price of 1-bedroom flat in the center: $1000 per month

A smaller city on the coast of the North Sea, The Hague offers expats some of the best work opportunities in Europe. The Hague is also more affordable than other Dutch cities, and residents are generally happy with the local economy. The Hague also offers plenty of access to nature when you travel further inland.

The Netherlands is one of the most English-proficient countries in the world, with over 90% of residents speaking English. In the cities, this percentage can be even higher, so there’ll be no problem getting around without speaking Dutch. The rate of violent crime is also very low, making it safe even for solo expats.

The downside to the Hague is the climate. Many people find the weather depressing, as it tends to be gray and cold for much of the year. Expats in the Hague are also likely to report being generally dissatisfied with their financial situation. 

Aachen

  • Avg. price of a meal out: $10 at a cheap restaurant
  • Avg. price of beer (0.5l): $4
  • Avg. price of 1-bedroom flat in the center: $570 per month

Aachen is considered the best German city for expats, and it’s easy to see why. Located in the western corner on the border with the Netherlands and Belgium, there’s plenty to see and do. However, the financial situation is the leading factor. Most expats find the cost of living to be easily affordable, and are satisfied with their working life. 

Aachen is also generally considered safe. The violent crime rate is low all year round. Petty crime around the time of Christmas markets increases, but overall there’s nothing to worry about. Many people in the city also speak English, so you’ll have no problem getting around.

As a downside, many expats report not feeling at home in the city. They can find it hard to make friends outside of the workplace and are generally dissatisfied with their social lives. 

Eindhoven

  • Avg. price of a meal out: $16 in a cheap restaurant
  • Avg. price of beer (0.5l): $5.50
  • Avg. price of 1-bedroom flat in the center: $990 per month

Located in the southern part of the Netherlands, Eindhoven boasts a great quality of life. Popular with expats working in the tech and design industries, this diverse city has a high number of English-speakers. This also makes it easy to make friends.

The city offers lots of greenery and access to nature, as biking is very common. The healthcare system, job opportunities, and public transport are all rated very highly. It’s also considered safe, as the diversity and high level of English-speaking make it very welcoming and open.

Expats with children may have a hard time finding suitable schooling for their kids. There are limited non-Dutch speaking education options and only one international school in the whole city. 

Berlin

top hostels in berlin

  • Avg. price of a meal out: $11 at a cheap place
  • Avg. price of beer (0.5l): $4.40
  • Avg. price of 1-bedroom flat in the center: $1185 per month

Berlin is the creative hub of Germany. The rich history, diversity of the population, and buzzing arts scene make it very expat-friendly. This eclectic city has something for everyone. Berlin also ranks high on job satisfaction. The work week in Berlin is shorter on average than most other places. Despite this, most expats report that their salary is enough to cover their expenses. 

Most people under 40 in the city speak English, so getting around with limited German shouldn’t be an issue. As for safety, Berlin has a higher violent crime rate than some other cities. But, if you avoid secluded areas at night, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Many expats have a hard time finding affordable housing, and are forced to commute to the center from the outskirts. They also complain that the older locals are generally unfriendly towards foreigners, which can make it hard to feel at home.

Barcelona

Parc Guell Barcelona Spain

  • Avg. price of a meal out: $13.20 at a cheap restaurant
  • Avg. price of beer (0.5l): $3.30
  • Avg. price of 1-bedroom flat in the center: $1000 per month 

With sunny weather, easy access to the rest of Spain, and friendly local culture, who wouldn’t want to move here? Barcelona does exceptionally well in the getting settled and socializing aspect of expat life. With such an open and vibrant culture, perhaps this is no surprise. It also helps that most residents speak at least a little English.

The climate is also a major bonus. It’s hard to be unhappy when the sun is shining all year round. It also opens many possibilities for leisure and entertainment activities, as outdoor options are always on the table. 

Barcelona’s one major downside is safety. On average, a higher percentage of expats here do not feel as safe as in many other cities. Pickpocketing and other petty crime here is a big problem, so it’s a good idea to always safeguard your belongings. It’s also good to avoid certain areas after dark.

Amsterdam

Best hostels in amsterdam

  • Avg. price of a meal out: $17 at a cheap restaurant
  • Avg. price of beer (0.5l): $6
  • Avg. price of 1-bedroom flat in the center: $1733 per month

The bustling capital of the Netherlands is a liberal and diverse city, making it very welcoming for expats. It’s also the capital of the most English-proficient country on the planet, so it’s no problem getting around without Dutch. Amsterdam is also very safe, with most expats reporting that they feel safe walking alone at night. 

Expats are also generally happy with the urban environment and their career prospects. There are a large number of different job opportunities spanning a range of industries. The work-life balance, the hours, and the flexibility are also highly rated.

The main downfall is the money. Housing isn’t as affordable as many would like, so it can be difficult to find something within the city center. This can often mean long commute times or constantly being in a financial crunch.

Brussels

brussels best cities in europe 1a

  • Avg. price of a meal out: $17 at a cheap restaurant
  • Avg. price of beer (0.5l): $4.50
  • Avg. price of 1-bedroom flat in the center: $1000 per month

As the seat of the EU, it’s no surprise that Brussels is one of the best cities for expats. This is especially true for those interested in the political sector. In correlation to this, most expats are satisfied with their job prospects and their work-life balance.

As a bonus, Brussels is known for its residents being friendlier and more welcoming to foreigners than most. This means expats can easily feel at home, get settled, and build a strong social life. More than 30% of residents speak English fluently, and the rest are willing to try, so it shouldn’t be a problem getting around.

The downside to Brussels is the safety. For a city of a smaller size, the crime rate seems to be higher than in many other European capitals. This calls for caution when walking alone at night, especially in secluded areas.

There you have it, some of the best cities in Europe for expats. Of course, there are many other places that rank high on the list, such as honorable mentions like Warsaw and Gothenburg. But you get the picture: Europe is chock full of cities ripe for the moving. 

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