The 5 Best Places to Retire in Europe

Retire in Europe

As Europe is such a vast and diverse continent, it’s not surprising that it offers so many fantastic options for would-be retirees searching for their perfect place in retirement.

However, for those who herald from further afield such as North America originally for example, getting to know which nations in Europe will offer you the most ideal way of life/cost of living/lifestyle blend can be difficult.

We could suggest you do a European tour for a few months to explore all your options – or we could be a little more helpful than that and reveal to you our choice of the 5 best places to consider for retirement in Europe.

Any list is bound to be wholly subjective of course!  However, we have handpicked 5 fantastic countries each offering you something a little bit different – so whether you’re after the Mediterranean beach life in Cyprus, the history and lifestyle of Spain, the untouched majesty of Croatia, the fantastically friendly social environment in Ireland or the budget way of life offered in Bulgaria, read on to discover just what Europe could offer you as you research where in the world you would like to live when you come to retire.

Despite the fact that in geographical landmass terms Europe is the second smallest continent, it is home to about fifty nations, states, Principalities, territories and over 700 million people!  It has some of the most ancient and fascinating history, it boasts stunning natural landscapes and architectural monuments, the climate ranges from frigidly cold in the extreme north to stunningly warm on the Mediterranean and Black Seas – and there is truly a nation to suit every taste when it comes to selecting your perfect place to retire.

Our top 5 country picks in Europe, each offering you a very different choice of lifestyle for example, are Cyprus, Spain, Ireland, Croatia and Bulgaria…read on to discover why.

Cyprus – a Retirement Haven

Cyprus is a Mediterranean island with a fabulous sun kissed climate.  The tourism marketing material boasts that it’s an island for all seasons, but it is worth noting that the sun ‘only’ really shines for 10 months of the year!  Cyprus is a destination already exceptionally popular with British retirees – in part this is because Cyprus only taxes them 5% on their pension income, and in part it is because of the amazing lifestyle on offer on the island.

Cyprus manages to bridge the gap between being an affordable tourism destination and a sophisticated, world-class place to live a very realistic life where you can enjoy a very high standard of living.

For example, Cyprus has international schools and hospitals, it has first world health standards and excellent shopping malls, it has great infrastructure including two international airports, decent roads, decent telecommunications links and even a range of employment prospects.  All of this means that it is not just one great big retirement home – it is a hip and happening place, ideal for those who want to enjoy their retirement and get out and about and socialise.

The climate is perfect for barbeques and parties, swimming pools and days on the many beaches the island is famous for.  The international retirement community is so well established that there are no end of social clubs and events that you can get involved with to enable you to make friends and keep busy.  And you can have all of this against a backdrop of amazing mountains, fabulous coastline, and in a location where the world famous Mediterranean diet is served up every day of the year.

You can therefore enjoy a high standard of living in Cyprus, you can be sure your health care needs will be well looked after, you can have a full and varied social life and live in well-built accommodation with options ranging from serviced apartments to golf course or beachfront villas.

Spain – for an Inimitable Lifestyle

If you would love all the benefits Cyprus offers but you prefer a much larger nation to explore, you don’t want to be restricted when it comes to travel by living on an island and you want more in the way of history, culture, art and integration, how about living in Spain?

As Spain also boasts a long Mediterranean coastline and a fabulous climate for up to seven months of the year you can still be assured a great place to live…however, Spain does come with a whole host of additional and alternative benefits that you may not find in Cyprus for example.

Spain is vast compared to the compact island of Cyprus – and it borders equally fabulous and fascinating nations such as France, Portugal, Andorra and Gibraltar, thus enabling you to have good travel and adventure options from your new doorstep.

Spain also has a myriad of islands that you can explore to find your perfect home such as the Canary Islands including Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria and the Balearic Islands such as Ibiza and Majorca.  It also boasts international airports aplenty as well as excellent trans-Europe train links enabling accessibility and travel opportunities.

It’s a nation famed for its art and music, and it is so culturally rich that if you want to enjoy old pastimes or take up new hobbies when you retire, you will be spoilt for choice if you move to Spain.  You can learn how to do mosaics, you can paint or sculpt like Dali or Picasso, you can learn flamenco or explore hidden Spain’s architectural treats such as its castles, monasteries and abbeys.

For sports enthusiasts you can ski in Spain, you can hike and bike, you can swim and play golf.  For landscape lovers not only is the Spanish coastline diverse and beautiful with rugged cliffs and dramatic scenery on Northern Spain’s coastline, and with pristine beaches in the south, but Spain is home to multiple mountain ranges, plains and valleys meaning that you can explore and enjoy to your heart’s content.

The Spanish cuisine is as varied and colourful as the nation’s history and art, and the Spanish language is lyrically beautiful and a fascinating challenge to embrace in retirement.  All in all Spain boasts so much in its favour that it’s worth exploring by anyone looking for more than just a retirement home in the sun!

Croatia – Untouched Splendour

Like Cyprus and Spain, Croatia has a fantastic climate and a wonderful coastline, but unlike both Spain and Cyprus the nation is pristine and untouched, unspoiled and lesser explored.  As a result you can forge your own way and establish your very own unique way of life in Croatia.

As Lonely Planet puts it, “Croatia’s pleasures are more timeless than trendy” which suits many a retiree looking for a high quality of sustainable living abroad.

From its ancient walled cities to its coastal coves and inlets Croatia sparkles with beauty.  And from within Roman ruins in major cities every day life bustles apace.  The Croatian people blend their modern lives with the ancient history that is evident all around them, and for a foreign retiree this is fascinating.

Unlike in a country such as Spain where you can of course visit and appreciate the nation’s major historical artefacts and architecture, in Croatia history lives and breathes all around you.  Film stars’ yachts grace the coast with their discreet presence and the elite buy islands along the nation’s coastline, but the secrets and delights of Croatia are far less well known than in many nations in Europe, which has kept this perfect country from being oversold and over inundated with foreign influence.

If you want to live in a beautiful and historic nation where on the one hand time has stood still for generations to allow people to enjoy an exceptionally laid back, family centric lifestyle, and where on the other hand the standard of living is high, Croatia could tick many of your boxes as a retirement destination.

Real estate costs in the nation have risen as its popularity has increased, but they remain more competitive compared to the likes of Spain or Cyprus for example.

Ireland – Home from Home

Many North American citizens can trace familial roots right back to Ireland and have visited the island as a result – but if you have yet to experience Ireland and you don’t necessarily have any family ties drawing you ‘home,’ living in Ireland can be a fabulous choice if you want to forge the very strongest social bonds.

Ireland is famed as being a fun place to live, where citizens work hard but play harder, and where central to the way of life is a pub in which good food is served, good music is played, good conversation is enjoyed and good friends are made.

If you want to put down strong roots in retirement, you’re not interested in learning a new language or going in search of perpetual sunshine, Ireland could be well worth your consideration.

It offers history and culture, it has high healthcare standards and affordable medical services to boot.  It has multiple international air and sea ports, the landscape is diverse and varied from stunning windswept beaches to breathtaking mountain peaks.  The people are open, welcoming and genuinely friendly and funny, and the leisure and lifestyle options are exceptional.

Once you find a community where you would like to settle and set up home you will find yourself invited to every event and social occasion, and you’ll soon feel less like the local stranger and more a part of the real Ireland.

The economy in Ireland has taken a real battering thanks to the global financial issues many nations have been impacted by – but on a positive front for retirees, this does mean the cost of living and also the cost of buying real estate in Ireland have dropped significantly.

If you’re looking for community living in a nation famed for its friendly people and where you can make a fabulous new home for yourself, in a land where you will never be bored or lonely, consider Ireland.

Bulgaria – Bargain Beauty

If you’re concerned about the cost of living in retirement – and let’s face it, the thought of living on a fixed income makes ‘value for money’ a high priority in many a retiree’s mind, Bulgaria, one of the newest entrants to the European Union, could be the perfect nation for you to explore.

Bulgaria is in Europe, it’s in the EU, it’s part of NATO, it has a strong emerging and developing economy – but of critical of importance is the fact that it does not (yet) use the euro as its currency.  This has had the long-term effect of keeping costs and prices so much lower in Bulgaria than in equally interesting nations in Europe, such as most of those listed above for example!

Before Bulgaria joined the ranks of the EU back in 2007 there was much speculation that its real estate and tourism economies would boom.  Inward investment by Europe was massive, and speculative investment from private sources soared.  However, Bulgaria never really boomed as expected, and instead it has managed to maintain its ethnic integrity and its national identity, and not sell out to become just another tourism centre in Europe.

Bulgaria does have a tourism industry however – it has three in fact – one is centred along its fantastic Black Sea coastline in the summer, one is centred in the Bulgarian mountains’ ski resorts throughout the winter, and one is located in the historic heart of the nation in cities such as stunning Sofia.  So, if you want to live in a country with diverse cultural and geographic attractions, Bulgaria will tick that box for you.

However, because the nation is not overrun with foreign visitors and it has not had its economic heart over taken by western style consumerism the country has managed to be far less affected by the global economic downturn.  For retirees the fact that Bulgaria’s economy is small but stable means that prices for good and services are affordable for everyday people.

Real estate is very well priced – if not cheap – especially when you move away from main cities or resorts, and as long as you are prepared to work to learn the local language you will find yourself welcomed in like any local resident.

The way of life in Bulgaria is not fast paced and ‘first world’ – it is traditional and allows the individual to enjoy a very decent standard of sustainable living.  It can be exceptionally ideal for retirees looking to slow down and get back to the basics that make real life enjoyable.

If you want to leave the trappings of modern day America behind and live in a beautiful, historic and affordable European location…consider Bulgaria.

In Conclusion

As you can no doubt see, European nations are even more distinctly diverse than the States across America – and this can mean that there is definitely a nation in Europe to suit your tastes in retirement.  If you’re not convinced that we have picked the 5 best countries to suit you as an individual however, we will have to refer you right back to the start of this report and suggest that instead, you pack your bags and head out for a grand tour of the entire continent to enable you to find the right place to call your new home. Or you can visit the vast range of free articles and resources to help you start a new life in Europe on Escape Artist

About the author: Susan Beverley is a writer and editor for Escape From America Magazine and also writes for and maintains Expat Daily News – the expat news blog for  She traveled extensively before becoming an expat herself having found a place to call home in South America where she has lived since 2005.  She understands the concerns, needs and difficulties that expats face from first-hand experience and is dedicated to supporting and encouraging anyone who is looking for a new nation to call home.

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  1. Michael October 28, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Thanks for the comparison of various countries.
    I am currently living in Greece and choosing between Czech Republic and Ireland–or back to the USA.


  2. Karen October 29, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    This is all well and good, but what are the residence requirements for each country? I know you can’t just “move to Europe” to retire as easily as you can move to Mexico, and even there, red tape is involved. Which countries are EASIEST for Americans to get retirement visas to?

  3. Noel Murphy October 30, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Do NOT come to Ireland.The Fianna Fail government are VERY CORRUPT.They steal money from workers to give to bankers. We had levies(new word for TAXES) INTRODUCED last year.

  4. Helaine Rampley March 15, 2013 at 1:24 am

    What is the average price of a 3 bedroom home w/ indoor bathroom in Bulgaria, not necessarily in the tourist area.?

    • Lorraine Thomson March 17, 2013 at 9:25 am

      Hi Helaine
      It’s very cheap! Go on to some real estate websites, we have built a house in the old part of Veliko Tarnovo (many westerners live in the area, most have some land) is a good one to look at. We love it there, it is really a beautiful place – come and see for yourself!

    • Otacilio December 29, 2013 at 10:19 am

      Also in Brasil the same procedure.

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