Thinking about moving abroad and want to know what are the best places to live in Europe? There are 9 million US citizens living abroad and 800,000 residing in the European Union. 800,000 American expats are enough to assume that Europe may have a few gems to offer.
If you’re thinking to move it can be quite overwhelming knowing where to start. Firstly, this really depends on personal preference and the criteria you make. Do you want to live close to nature, somewhere where the climate is temperate or in a bustling city? What is most important to you? An active social life, integrating into the culture, and learning the local language. To make it a bit easier I’ve provided a list of four of the best places to live in Europe. this is arranged by the following metrics: quality of life, cost of living, employment rate, and access to transportation.
After living in four countries the Netherlands comes out as the best place to live in Europe. The pros outway the cons and it’s the most ideal place I’ve migrated to. Perhaps that’s why The UN World Happiness Report ranked the Netherlands as #6! What isn’t there to like? The healthcare system is great and has many options and benefits. The work-life balance is one of the best, if not in the world. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Netherlands scored a 9.5 out of 10. English is widely spoken in the Netherlands, and in my opinion, the Dutch speak better English than any non-native English-speaking country.
When it comes to transportation the Netherlands is easy to traverse and has great public transportation. Located in Western Europe and bordered by Belgium and Germany, the Netherlands is very well connected to many European cities and countries. Public transport is easily accessible (and very clean) and the infamous Schiphol airport can have you at any major European city within an hour or two. Also, let’s not forget about cycling which is a major part of Dutch culture. Everyone and I mean literally everyone cycles to work, school, the store…you name it. Not only is it good for the environment, but your health and you’ll be able to save you money on your commute! Keep in mind that owning a car is expensive but there really is no reason to with such great transit options.
Which European city has the best quality of life?
Overall, the quality and standard of living in the Netherlands are high and I am glad to call it my home. My top Dutch cities of choice to move to would be Utrecht, Rotterdam, or Eindhoven because of affordability, employment, things to and a buzzing food and drinking scene. If you want more information on Dutch cities, check out the top 5 places to live in the Netherlands.
The Better Life Index ranks the UK as above average for education, health status, income, social life, etc. Having lived here myself I cannot agree more. As an American, the UK may be the easiest to adapt to when considering cultural and language aspects. moving to an English-speaking country gives you a greater advantage especially in terms of job prospects. Getting around in the UK varies according to where you live. London has an excellent public transport system. There is the tube and bus system. There are also regional trains that come from outer zones and Greater London all throughout the day.
In terms of cost of living, evidently the bigger the city the more expensive it will be. I lived in London twice and the major setback is how expensive everything is. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is about £2,000 pounds. Going out to eat and meeting up with friends is costly. Keep in mind that London is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. If you’re thinking of emigrating to the UK, check out more affordable places such as Birmingham, Leeds, or Manchester.
For any list regarding the best countries to live in, Germany typically makes an appearance (especially for the best places to live in Europe). According to Worldwide Population Review, Germany scores an 8 in the 2020 Quality of life ranking. There are wonderful historical sights, green spaces, bumping music, and a cultural scene – truly something for everyone. It’s also one of the best places to live in Europe for expats. Over 120,000 expats came from America alone in 2018. Many make the move over to Germany for the job opportunities and high salaries. And even with the impact of COVID taken into account, Germany still remains the strongest economy in the European Union. English is also widely spoken here especially in cities like Berlin. Learning the local language never hurts to have under your belt.
In Germany, public transport is totally dependable. Metropolitan cities are accessible by underground train lines. You can take the commuter rail if you are going between suburbs and close by towns. There are many bus systems, trams, etc. making traveling, sightseeing, or commuting in Germany very easy.
Lovely beaches, warm weather, a laid-back vibe, and a low cost of living. This makes Portugal a great choice for one of the best places to live in Europe. It’s a popular choice amongst expats because it has so much to offer. On the Happy Planet Index score Portugal achieves a 24.8 and scores 79 out of all countries in the world (that is not bad at all). It can be quite expensive living in Western Europe but luckily Portugal is very affordable and reasonably priced for expats. You and your partner can live quite comfortably in a smaller Portuguese city for about $1,700 each month. Having such a temperate climate means that utilities won’t be that expensive year round especially for the colder months. There are many options for public transport like metro, bus or train that are quite reliable and modern.
Portugal exudes warmth and embraces a slower pace of life. That being said the work-life balance is rated positively amongst expats. However, keep in mind that career prospects and salaries are low in Portugal. If you’re a highly skilled migrant and a company pays for sponsorship; it would be best to come as an entrepreneur or digital nomad.
Final Thoughts on the best places to live in Europe
Does Europe sound like the place for you? If so, you need to be realistic and figure out how your relocation is going to take place. I always recommend taking a few trips to your potential place of residence. This way you can get a feel of the place, what daily life is like, and whether you envision yourself living there. In this case, here are some helpful tips to better equip you if this will be your first-time visit to Europe.
As a US citizen, the longest time you are legally permitted to stay in the Schengen area is 90 days. However, don’t be discouraged. Check out this list of legitimate visas you can apply to as an American. Options such as: pursuing higher education, asking your company to relocate, proving to international companies that you are a highly skilled migrant, research opportunities, and entrepreneurship visas.
If you’ve already decided where to live in Europe I recommend checking out my moving abroad checklist to help streamline the process of your move. Overall, this is my take on the best places to live in Europe for an American. If you have any to add to the list please feel free to share.