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What are the best European countries to retire in?

What are the best European countries to retire in?

  • Published: 6th September 2021

Many Brits dream of moving abroad for their golden years. 

Of course, everyone is looking for something a little different. Some want guaranteed sun and great beaches, some are looking to fill their days with cultural activities, and most want to form connections with friendly locals. 

MoneyTransfers.com has looked at a range of measures to come up with our own list of the best destinations to retire to. 

We looked at practical considerations like cost of living, property prices and affordability of healthcare for expats, as well as friendliness of locals, number of culture-rich cities, quality of environment and perceptions of quality of life (you can see more detail on the datasets we used for this below). 

We’ll leave debates over beach vs mountain and scorching sun vs milder climes up to you, but here are the countries that came up tops according to our measures. 

Calculating the best European countries to retire in

Our list might have you nodding in agreement or shaking your head. So let’s break down how we came up with it. 

We took 21 European countries for which all the data we were looking for was available and used various datasets to rank them, awarding them more points for a better position in each category. 

For cost of living, we used the Numbeo Cost of Living Index, which uses various sources such as supermarket and taxi company websites, surveys and government institutions to compare how expensive it is to live in every country in the world. 

Property prices can of course vary wildly between parts of a country, but we combined Statista data on the average price of renting in a city with the Global Property Guide to give a sense of how much your new home will cost you. 

How highly citizens of a country rank their life satisfaction can be one sign they’re living in a desirable place. To incorporate this measure, we used the OECD’s Better Life Index, which considers people’s evaluation of their life as a whole.

Culture is important to most expats, though it is a difficult thing to quantify, since it should not imply that low-scoring countries aren’t still culturally rich in many ways. We decided to compare the number of destinations in a country that feature in the European Commission Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor, which looks at factors like environment, festivals, promotion of creativity and a range of cultural offerings.  

We also felt it was important to see how easily foreigners find it to move to certain countries, and the kind of reception they receive. For this, we turned to InterNation’s Expat Insider survey, which asks expatriates a wide range of questions about life in countries around the world. This includes an ‘ease of settling in’ index, with a section on friendliness of locals, that we’ve included. 

Finally, we had to incorporate healthcare into the ranking. This was done through a country’s position in the Numbeo Healthcare Index, which looks at citizens’ perceptions of things like quality of care, equipment and affordability. 

A Word from our CEO, Jonathan Merry

Eager to provide our readers with the most accurate data available, the MoneyTransfers.com team has carefully curated this list of the best European countries to retire in. While Spain, Portugal and Greece have long been considered popular retirement spots, Belgium’s place at number 2 may surprise some readers. We chose to consider friendliness as a key factor in this guide because we believe it is an important indicator of how welcoming a country and its people are, and we intend to provide our readers with all the facts. Since Brexit, travel and immigration looks a lot different, and we strive to provide insightful and informative expat guides to help our readers with any overseas ventures they may choose to pursue. 

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Money transfers, foreign exchange, remittance and currency research and insights from our newsdesk team.