Europe is widely regarded as one of the most expensive parts of the world and there is plenty of truth to that. Cities like London, Paris, Dublin and just about any in Scandinavia are expensive places to live and while salaries are higher, they aren’t exactly great places to just rock up without a job already in place. Eastern Europe is considerably cheaper but you don’t exactly have to base yourself in a provincial town in Belarus to find good value and there are some fabulous cities across the continent that are both affordable and fun to live in. This post features five of the best cities to live in Europe that balance both.
5 of the best cities to live in Europe that are more affordable
People looking for the best places to live in Europe, often head to Spain and tend to flock to Barcelona or maybe Madrid or one of the more touristy coastal towns. However Valencia is an excellent alternative for those looking for a balance of big city living, great weather and affordability.
Spain’s third largest city is considerably cheaper to live in than Barcelona or Madrid with rental prices around 20-30% less. Like Barcelona, it boasts a coastal location with great beaches in the city and around and it also has the best climate of the three with average temperatures of 17°C even during the winter while the summer heat is more bearable than in the capital.
While there are visitors, Valencia is by no means the victim of the same kind of mass tourism which clogs Barcelona’s streets at the weekend and through the summer. It’s a great option for people looking for a slice of Spanish culture while also being somewhere large enough to host more international communities and events.
The city that gave the world the paella, is at its best in March when the Falles celebrations illuminate the whole town and Valencia is easily one of the best beach cities to live in Europe, also featuring in our rundown of the cheapest cities to live in Spain.
Europe Living Cost Index – 1200 Euros/Month
The Romanian capital Bucharest feels like it may be the next big hub for digital nomads in Europe and those looking for affordable remote working and living. Ranking as one of the cheapest major cities in the EU, Bucharest remains great value at a time when other popular remote work hubs such as Lisbon are battling with spiralling rents and living costs.
The city also has a thriving IT sector for those looking for more permanent employment but it’s perhaps most attractive to those able to work remotely or students looking for a more affordable place to study in Europe. Given the challenges that currently exist for young people across the continent, Bucharest may just be one of the best European cities to live in your 20s, although obviously much will depend on your individual circumstances and preferences.
Some of the best things about living in Bucharest, which is one of the ten largest cities in the EU, include its wide range of cultural attractions and choice of things to do from museums and galleries to vast parks and Romania’s best nightlife scene. You’re also only a couple of hours away from both mountain and beach resorts should you need to escape the big city.
More negative aspects to life in Bucharest include the traffic congestion and relatively high levels of pollution. However it is home to Romania’s only metro network which makes getting around easier with 5 lines and 64 stations as of 2023.
Europe Living Cost Index – 1000 Euros/Month
Poland is home to some of the cheapest places to live in Europe and it has started to attract more foreigners in recent years with plenty of English teaching opportunities to be found across the country. Almost all of Poland is pretty affordable by regional standards with cheap housing and affordable food and drink.
One of its most liveable cities is Wroclaw. Located in the Southwest of the country, it boasts a stunning old town with some wonderful Gothic architecture and one of the liveliest market squares in Europe. While its international reputation is starting to grow and it was named the 2016 European Capital of Culture, it is still to become a major tourist hotspot which has spared it the plight of nearby cities like Krakow and Prague which can become overrun with stag parties and boozed up weekend visitors from abroad.
Wroclaw is Poland’s fourth largest city and its large student population ensures that even during the week, you can find good places to go out and have a good time. Its location not far from the Czech and German borders also means you can do plenty of trips away with the money you’ll save by living in Wroclaw. Our backpackers guide to Poland offers some suggestions for trips within the country too.
Europe Living Cost Index – 1050 Euros/Month
Budapest certainly falls more into the mold of a Prague or Krakow, in that it is a very popular destination for an affordable weekend break. However if you’re looking for a bigger city and more of an international vibe than Wroclaw, then it may suit you more and it has developed into one of the best cities to live in Europe for nomads and remote workers.
With the River Danube, numerous thermal baths and the enormous Margaret Island, it has plenty of spots to unwind and relax whilst also offering all the dining, drinking and shopping options you might expect from a major European capital city. Rent prices are still relatively low (but are increasing) so you will most likely be able to afford to live in the very heart of the city in one of Budapest’s livelier neighbourhoods.
While Hungary doesn’t have a huge number of travel highlights outside of the city, Budapest is the hub of Wizz Air, one of the largest budget airlines in Europe and its central location in the continent ensures you will never be short on travel options with cities such as London, Istanbul and Barcelona all within a two and a half hour flight from Budapest and plenty of cheap air fares to be found.
Europe Living Cost Index – 1150 Euros/Month
Greece is an interesting one in that while some living costs can be really quite high and supermarket prices may surprise you, rent is very cheap in most locations. When it comes to accommodation, it is home to some of the best options in Europe for saving money and may be a good option for anyone hoping to rent a private flat or studio but put off by high rental costs in other places.
While Athens has so much history, it can be quite a chaotic city to live in and many travellers find Greece’s second city Thessaloniki more to their liking. With over a million inhabitants in its metropolitan region, it is still a busy place but there is a far more relaxed atmosphere in Thessaloniki. It is also more affordable than the capital and some of the more glamorous Greek islands and offers perhaps a more authentic Greek experience.
There’s no shortage of culture or history either with large numbers of Byzantine churches, and a whole district of the city which has been included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. With a large student population, it has the feel of a young city and it’s a decent base for enjoying the nightlife while also exploring the Balkans with Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey all bordering Northern Greece.
Europe Living Cost Index – 1250 Euros/Month
Europe Living Cost Index Explained
We used Numbeo.com which features real price data, submitted by residents of cities across the world, to help research and calculate the figures in our articles on living abroad such as this one. However, with costs rising at different rates across Europe, the figures should not be taken as an exact science and are in no way an indication of what you personally would spend if you lived in one of these cities.
The index figures are designed to be a useful means of comparison and cover rented accommodation and typical living expenses (groceries, evenings out, leisure activities etc) for a single person. The figures do not factor in the cost of any travel or health insurance packages which will vary considerably depending on your age and circumstances. Get a quote in less than a minute from SafetyWing for an idea of how much this may cost you if you require insurance.
It’s also worth remembering that even the more affordable European cities featured on this page, are relatively expensive when compared to some in other parts of the world. If you’re looking for a new base as a digital nomad or remote worker, you may find some of the best places to live in Asia offer more value for your money and a higher standard of living for less.
This post on some of the best European cities to live in was last updated in June 2023.