When you start seeing the end of the line to your professional working career, you’re probably thinking of where to retire. There is some comfort in retiring in the town you grew up in or in a bustling metropolis, but where is the fun in that? Did you know that some of the best places to retire in Europe are within your grasp and easier than you think.
Many people need just a few reasons to convince them to make the trek abroad to retire in a foreign country with breathtaking scenery, plenty of UNESCO World Heritage Sites or somewhere in a world-famous city.
If the idea of kicking it back on beautiful beaches with year-round sunshine and feasting on a healthy Mediterranean diet appeals to you, there are plenty of ideas for your golden years. In this article, we’ll explain the financial requirements, establishing residency and how you can make that a reality in a popular destination.
Why Retire Abroad
Retiring abroad can be a fulfilling and enriching experience for several reasons, especially for Americans moving to European countries. It offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, providing a fresh perspective on life and fostering personal growth. Engaging with different customs, languages, and traditions can lead to a deeper understanding of the world and a broader sense of empathy.
Financial considerations also play a significant role. Some European countries offer a lower living cost compared to more developed nations, allowing retirees to stretch their savings further and potentially enjoy a higher quality of life. Additionally, favorable tax policies and incentives for expatriates can lead to substantial savings in the long run.
Healthcare can be another compelling factor. Many countries with thriving expatriate communities boast excellent healthcare systems, often at a fraction of the health insurance cost in some Western countries. Access to quality medical care can be a critical factor in ensuring a comfortable retirement.
Retiring abroad can provide a change of scenery and climate, potentially leading to a healthier and more active lifestyle. Many expat destinations offer beautiful natural surroundings conducive to outdoor activities and a generally more relaxed pace of life.
Lastly, retiring abroad can open doors to new friendships and social connections. Expatriate communities often offer a supportive network of like-minded individuals, making it easier to integrate into the local community and create lasting relationships. For that reason, many citizens retire in vibrant hubs with many other like-minded people.
However, there are a few things you must consider, as some of the best countries for retirement might not be suited to your situation. It’s great to wake up every morning at one of the many ski resorts, but if you’re not interested in sports, the natural beauty will only go so far.
Top Countries to Retire as an Expat
Member states of the European Union generally provide a similar, stellar list of advantages to all EU residents and citizens, which include excellent health care coverage, a reliable transportation system, affordable housing, political stability, and more. All of which make planning for retirement in Europe a great prospect, and there is no need to live in a dedicated retirement home.
Certain countries, however, provide their own unique added benefits – including a few more tax exemptions, an even lower price of living, and sometimes a better climate. Some of these countries are Portugal, Malta and Greece. These additional advantages that their governments offer, or that their climates provide, can make your retirement a lot more rewardable, and thus, should be considered in your quest for the best places for expats to retire.
The Best Places to Retire in Europe
Whether you are looking for a country with excellent health care, a place where many speak English or want to delve into World War II history, many European countries would make an ideal place for retirement, which is one of the reasons why foreign investors apply for their Golden Visas.
Famed for its captivating sandy beaches, unique culture, and liberal approach to life, Portugal is one of the best countries and a perfect place for your retirement years. It has fantastic weather all year-round, excellent living standards, affordable real estate prices, and a comparatively lower living expenses than other European countries. The nation’s large expat community and multiculturalism make it easy for anyone to relocate there.
How to Retire in Portugal
There are two ways non-EU citizens can retire in Portugal, either through the retirement visa, or the Golden Visa. Both options provide individuals with residency rights in Portugal and can eventually lead to Portuguese citizenship. The main difference between the two is that Portugal’s Golden Visa has the added benefit of giving you a return on your investment, since it requires you to place one.
Apply for a D7 visa
The Portuguese retirement visa, D7, grants residency rights in Portugal to non-EU, non-EEA, and non-Swiss nationals who have reasonable passive income to sustain their stay. It launched in 2007 as an affordable Portugal immigration visa, and is geared toward pensioners, retirees, self-employed individuals, digital entrepreneurs, and other expats who have a recognized stable income.
Qualifying for the D7 visa is plain and simple – you just have to prove you earn the minimum wage set by the Portuguese government, and meet other eligibility criteria. The application process is also easy.
First, you apply at the Portuguese Embassy or Consulate in your home country for a temporary D7 visa which lasts for four months, then you attend an appointment with the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service in Portugal, and they should approve your residence permit.
Portugal Golden Visa
Portugal’s Golden Visa is a residency-by-investment program that grants residency rights in Portugal to qualifying individuals and their immediate family members, in exchange for a substantial financial investment – usually made in real estate.
It is perfectly suited for anyone considering buying property in Portugal and planning for their retirement, as they can do it through the Portugal Golden Visa €280,000 real estate option, get a return on their investment, and fully reap the rewards of their lifelong labor.
Of course, as an investor immigration program, the scheme has more qualification requirements than the D7 visa. However, the application process is quite straightforward, and the program provides you with the same renewable permit that can eventually lead you to citizenship.
Healthcare in Portugal
Portugal has universal healthcare coverage that provides the same services to foreigners and residents alike. It is free for Portuguese citizens, and mostly free for residents as they have to pay a small fee every time they get a consultation or a test. However, emergency care is free, as is health care provided in vital situations.
While having access to the state’s free healthcare system can reduce the cost of living in Portugal, the public sector may not always provide you with an immediate appointment, and the quality of care provided may not always meet your standards, especially if you are used to getting treatment through the private sector.
You can easily overcome this hurdle by getting private healthcare for foreigners in Portugal.
The Best Cities to Retire in Portugal
Different cities across Portugal cater to different lifestyles, which means the best city for you depends on your personal preferences. You could live in a city center full of excellent restaurants and vibrant nightlife, like Porto and Lisbon.
Or, enjoy a calmer pace of life with amazing views of the Portuguese Riviera. If you prefer a cooler climate, a good location would be further north of Porto, giving you easy access to Spain and some snow in the winter.
There are other suitable places to retire in Portugal as well, such as Tavira, Cascais, and Estoril. However, the best place to retire in Portugal by far is the Algarve, as it has some of the best beaches in Portugal, pleasant weather all year-round, and a large English-speaking community.
Captivating scenery, elaborate architecture, passionate people, delicious cuisine, a lower expense of living, an incredible healthcare system, and more than one UNESCO World Heritage Site, Spain has it all.
Its warm climate, political stability, and high standard of living have made it one of the top 10 countries to retire abroad. Being the biggest country in Southern Europe, it has a thriving and expansive property market that will certainly meet your needs.
How to Retire in Spain
There are two primary ways non-EU citizens can retire in Spain, either by acquiring the Spain Retirement Visa, or the Spanish Golden Visa. Both options provide you with the same rights for residency in Spain, and can lead you toward permanent residency after five years, and even citizenship after ten years of living in the nation.
The main difference between the two is that the Spain Golden Visa requires a financial investment in the country in exchange for your residency permit, while the retirement visa only requires you to show proof of sufficient funds to maintain you stay in Spain, specifically at least €30,000 in your bank account.
Spain Golden Visa
Golden Visa Spain is an incredible route for retirement, especially for those who are considering buying property in Spain. It grants the primary visa applicants residency permits in the nation, and extends those rights to their entire immediate family members, thereby permitting them all the right to live, work and study there as well.
To qualify for the program through an investment in real estate, you must purchase a property worth at least €500,000.
Healthcare in Spain
Spain has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, where both the private and public sectors are equally equipped to provide top-tier services. While public healthcare is entirely free and accessible for all Spanish residents, private healthcare may be a better option for many retirees, as it provides faster access to certain treatments and a lot more coverage in events of illness or serious health conditions.
The Best Cities to Retire in Spain
Madrid and Barcelona are some of the larger cities that offer a dynamic and diverse lifestyle, cultural activities all year long, and high quality restaurants and cafes. They are also the easiest to navigate around, as they have excellent infrastructure and reliable transportation systems.
Valencia, Malaga, and Seville are some of the smaller cities that are more packed with nature, and therefore, offer a more relaxed atmosphere. They are very pedestrian-friendly and have a wide range of restaurants to choose from at a more affordable price.
Menorca, Costa Brava, Mallorca, and Tenerife, on the other hand, offer an even more relaxed lifestyle, as they are small villages and beach towns with breathtaking coastal views and a slower pace of living.
Arguably the best country in Europe to retire, and one of the best countries for Americans to retire, Malta boasts an incredible healthcare system, attractive property prices, fantastic tax exemptions and incentives, political stability, a wide range of entertainment options, ideal year-round weather, and a large English speaking population, among other things.
How to Retire in Malta
Any non-EU, non-EEA or non-Swiss national planning on retiring in Malta can do so under the government’s residency and citizenship programs to gain the most out of their retirement. In fact, Malta’s residency and citizenship schemes act as a path for you into the EU where there is the lowest enforced tax, and provide you with the chance at family reunification, as they both enable you to extend those residency rights to your entire immediate family.
Malta Citizenship by Investment Program
Malta has a citizenship by naturalization scheme that is a promising prospect for anyone with enough financial means who is planning for retirement in Europe. Commonly inaccurately referred to as the Malta citizenship by investment program, the Maltese Citizenship Act Granting of Citizenship for Exceptional Services Regulations (CES) provides qualifying individuals with permanent residency rights, as well as a Malta passport in as little as 12 to 36 months, depending on their investment. With the nation being a member state of the European Union, this scheme is advantageous over its counterparts.
Malta Golden Visa
Residency by investment in Malta is another great path to take if you’re considering buying property in Malta. It is actually an affordable retirement option, as a minimum investment of €110,000 can qualify you for permanent residence rights in as little as 12 months, and provide you with freedom of movement across the EU, among a magnitude of tax benefits.
Healthcare in Malta
One of the greater advantages of retiring in Malta, aside from its incredible list of tax exemptions, is that it offers one of the best healthcare services in the world. In fact, both Malta’s private and public healthcare systems are well equipped to treat you, and for a relatively low cost, which contributes to the overall low cost of living in Malta. The difference between both sectors is that the private sector provides faster treatment access.
The Best Cities to Retire in Malta
Malta comprises three islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino. Each of which caters to a different lifestyle and can be suitable for retirement. Valletta, the capital city, and St. Paul’s Bay are where you’ll find the largest expat communities, and the most outdoor activities to engage in.
Birgu is where you’ll get a more rural and traditional sense of the nation, whereas Sliema and Gzira are where you’ll have a taste at a combination of modern city life and tranquility, much like in Victoria in Gozo.
Known for the Acropolis, democracy, philosophy, mezzes and feta cheese, Greece is a land full of culture and life. It is perfectly situated by the Mediterranean sea, and is part of the European Union and Schengen Area, which means it provides its residents with incredible access to the rest of the world. The high English-speaking community, fair weather, and low cost of living in Greece are some of the primary reasons why many retirees choose it.
How to Retire in Greece
There are two possible paths for individuals to plan for their retirement in Greece, and that’s either by applying to the Greek Golden Visa, or the Greek retirement visa – otherwise referred to as the Financially Independent Person (FIP) visa.
The Greek Golden Visa provides individuals with renewable residency permits in exchange for an investment in the nation’s economy, whereas the retirement visa asks that applicants show proof of their sufficient financial means to cover their intended stay in Greece. Each route caters to different financial objectives. However, both grant you the same right to living in Greece.
Greece Residency by Investment Program
Golden Visa Greece is suitable for any non-EU, non-EEA, or non-Swiss citizen interested in buying Greek property and retiring abroad. It’s a residency by investment program that grants qualifying individuals renewable residence permits in exchange for an investment in the Greek economy – usually in real estate.
The current minimum threshold for a real estate property investment is €250,000, which grants you a five year renewable permit that can lead to citizenship in seven years.
Healthcare in Greece
Greek healthcare is one of the best in the world, and one of the more affordable for treatment. Usually, you are only required to pay a small amount when you get a consultation or a test, however, it is completely free in cases of medical emergency. Doctors in Greece are also very proficient in English, even in public hospitals, which means your needs will be understood.
The Best Cities to Retire in Greece
Some of the best cities to retire in Greece are where you will find most Americans living in Greece. Cities including Chania, Athens, Thessaloniki, and Corfu. The high expat communities, excellent healthcare facilities, rich histories, and overall lower cost of living of these cities make them excellent for retirement. Not to mention, they are also packed full of restaurants and activities, and have more than one World Heritage Site.
One of the most frequented tourist destinations, Turkey is strategically situated between the Asian and European continents, and mixes both Eastern and Western cultures seamlessly together. It is a major transactional country with a thriving economy and an expansive real estate market, and is known for its rich history, vibrant culture, natural beauty, Mediterranean coastline, affordable prices, and overall great food.
How to Retire in Turkey
There are two ways to retire in Turkey; either by applying for a residence visa and obtaining a short-term residence permit which can be renewed every two years, or by investing in the nation’s citizenship by investment program and directly obtaining Turkish citizenship. The latter choice is undoubtedly the most rewarding out of the two, albeit, it requires a higher financial investment.
Turkey Citizenship by Investment Program
Turkey’s investment citizenship program grants qualifying individuals and their immediate family members lifelong Turkish citizenship in as little as four months, in exchange for a financial contribution in the nation’s economy. It is perfectly suited for anyone considering buying property in Turkey worth at least $400,000, as that is the minimum qualifying investment threshold under the route of real estate.
Healthcare in Turkey
Healthcare in Turkey is covered by state healthcare services, private clinics and healthcare facilities, and is generally very affordable in comparison to healthcare provided in Europe and the USA. Hospitals have well-trained medical staff, and well-maintained, up-to-date equipment. Services are highly accessible to foreigners with private health insurance, and the low cost of treatment is another contributor to Turkey’s overall low cost of living.
The Best Places to Retire in Turkey
There’s so much history and natural diversity in Turkey that any city would make a great place for a happy retirement. While your mind might immediately go to the capital city, Ankara, or to Istanbul and Antalya, there are other great cities to retire in Turkey. Bodrum, Fethiye, Alanya, and Kusadasi all boast dynamic lifestyles, rich histories, and mesmerizing architecture and would be equally suitable options for retirement.
Key Takeaways on Europe’s Best Retirement Places
The world has become increasingly more open, which has made international travel and retirement a lot more easy to plan for. Whether you’re interested in living by the sea, or in the depths of the woods, there are so many options available to you, especially once you consider the doors that a Golden Visa can open for you.
Regardless of whether you seek to invest in a nation to acquire a residency permit and qualify for citizenship, or are simply interested in applying for a retirement visa, the best country in Europe to retire would be the one that offers you the most benefits as a resident, and the best level of comfort, where English is also widely spoken.
It’s always good to keep in mind that some of the best European countries for retirement aren’t the ones with sprawling golf courses and townhouses facing the Atlantic Ocean. You don’t want to live there for just three years, so any European destination that offers affordable healthcare and lower costs for food and services should be considered.
It’s great if you can settle on a second place country that offers plenty of what your original choice does. But however you look at it, the perfect country should also increase your life expectancy – otherwise, is it even worth relocating there?
More on Living & Retiring Abroad
Comprehensive Guide to Health Insurance in Portugal
Whether you’re a globetrotting adventurer, an expatriate seeking a new home, or a local resident embracing your heritage, this guide …
Taxes in Canada – Demystifying the Canadian Tax Landscape
Understanding the taxes in Canada is crucial if you’re a resident of Canada or planning to move there, or even starting a business …
Frequently Asked Questions about the Best Places to Retire in Europe
Which is the best European country to retire to?
The best retirement destination in Europe would be the one that offers you the most benefits as a resident, and retiree. Countries including Portugal, Spain, Malta, Turkey, Italy, and Greece.
Where is the cheapest place to retire in Europe?
Some of the cheapest places to retire in Europe include Malta, Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Greece.
What is the cheapest and safest country to retire?
Portugal is one of the cheapest and safest countries to retire. It is actually ranked as the 6th safest country in the world according to World Population Review and the Global Peace Index. Other countries include Malta, and Spain.
How to retire in Europe as an American?
Americans planning on retiring in Europe can either do so by applying for a retirement visa, or by applying to the respective country’s Golden Visa program. The latter is more suitable if you’re considering placing a real estate investment in Europe.
Which European country is easiest to retire in?
Greece and Malta are some of the easiest and best places to retire in Europe, as they have large English-speaking communities. Other European destinations that are also suitable for retirement are Portugal, Spain, and Turkey.