Cost of living in the EU – The 28 Capital Cities Compared

Paris on a budget

In this post we will look at the EU cost of living by comparing a typical monthly expenditure for one person in all 28 capital cities of the European Union. This European cities ranking was compiled with a little help from Numbeo’s cost of living section, which provides more detailed info for each city and is based on figures submitted by people actually living in them. It takes into account everything from the cost of groceries and a monthly transport pass to evening entertainment, leisure activities and of course the cost of renting a flat or room. You can find out more info below the table on how we reached the monthly amount.

As with all posts of this nature, the positions can clearly be debated but it should at least provide anyone considering moving to Europe or moving to a new part of the continent, a rough idea of how much they may expect to spend each month. The figures were calculated in January 2018 and help demonstrate how even within the European Union, there are still huge differences in costs between countries.

Read more – 5 Cool European Cities that are cheap to Live In

EU Cost of Living – Capital Cities Comparison



UK London Very Expensive 1926
Luxembourg Luxembourg Very Expensive 1811
Ireland Dublin Very Expensive 1753
Denmark Copenhagen Expensive 1719
Netherlands Amsterdam Very Expensive 1702
France Paris Expensive 1660
Sweden Stockholm Expensive 1576
Finland Helsinki Expensive 1486
Italy Rome Average 1387
Austria Vienna Average 1341
Belgium Brussels Average 1387
Germany Berlin Average 1258
Malta Valletta Average 1244
Spain Madrid Average 1168
Portugal Lisbon Cheap 1004
Slovenia Ljubljana Cheap 992
Cyprus Nicosia Cheap 974
Greece Athens Very Cheap 925
Czech Rep Prague Cheap 919
Estonia Tallinn Cheap 911
Slovakia Bratislava Cheap 888
Croatia Zagreb Very Cheap 862
Lithuania Vilnius Very Cheap 847
Poland Warsaw Cheap 829
Latvia Riga Very Cheap 821
Hungary Budapest Very Cheap 809
Romania Bucharest Very Cheap 681
Bulgaria Sofia Very Cheap 655

How were the figures calculated?

The estimates above are based on renting a small flat or sharing an apartment with others in cities where accommodation is expensive, potentially in cheaper parts of town. It’s by no means a luxury budget but should be more than sufficient for most people in their 20’s or 30’s who are budget-minded but still want to have an active social life and truly get to know their new city.

The cost of renting accommodation is a huge variable that goes a long way to determining how cheap or expensive these cities are. If we take a one bedroom apartment as a simple case study, these can be found for less than 300 Euros/month in cities marked ‘Very Cheap’ but are likely to cost in excess of 1000 Euros/month in cities marked very expensive.

European Cities Ranked by Cost of Living

Lisbon, the cheapest capital city in Western Europe.

Things to Note

  • The cost of living in capital cities is in the majority of cases higher than that in other parts of the country. The UK is a good example of this with living in costs in London around 50% higher than they would be in other big cities such as Manchester, Birmingham or Leeds. If you really want to live in a specific country but are put off by the high cost of life in the capitals, consider broadening your search to other towns and regions.
  • This table only includes European Union countries, so cities like Oslo, which topped our World Budget/Student Living Table, a few years back doesn’t feature as Norway is outside the EU. Switzerland is another Non-EU country that is notoriously expensive but most European countries that aren’t part of the Union are quite cheap to live in and their capitals would mostly fall very much towards the bottom of this list. The Albanian capital Tirana for example, is cheaper than even Sofia, the bottom entry on this EU Cost of living index.
  • Fairly obviously, average salaries tend to be higher in the more expensive countries. Therefore even though Budapest is near the bottom of the list and London at the top, working an equivalent job, you may still find living in London more affordable than the Hungarian capital. However if you’re studying or are a freelancer, planning on moving to any of the top ten cities might not be the smartest move and you could most likely afford a much higher quality of life in the cities towards the bottom of the list.
  • For all countries, but particularly those that don’t utilise the Euro, such as UK, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary and Poland, it’s worth keeping an eye on the exchange rates. What may look like small shifts one way or another can lead to your life in your new home being considerably cheaper or more expensive than you’d initially planned. This is certainly true if you’re aren’t going to be working and will be reliant on your home bank account for money or for anyone working from home and earning a foreign currency.
  • Your biggest single expenditure each month will always be paying the rent of the accommodation you go for. In the more expensive cities, renting a room in a shared flat will probably be your only option on these kind of budgets but the cost of a room in Dublin for example can easily be the equivalent of the cost of a three bedroom apartment in cities marked ‘Very Cheap’.
  • Your first month anywhere new will be expensive so be prepared for this. There’s little way of avoiding it as you’ll most likely be in short-term accommodation which will be more expensive, might not have access to a kitchen which will mean lots of meals out and you’ll also be unfamiliar with your new town so could be in for a few nasty surprises as you work out what’s cheap and what’s not. In almost all these countries you will be expected to pay some form of a deposit (typically between 1-2 months rent) as well as your first month’s rent in full when you move into a room or flat so be sure to arrive with sufficient funds.
  • If you’re planning to live in Europe for a while as a base for travelling around the continent then consider going for a city with good budget air connections. Budapest and Barcelona are among the best options.

This article was published in February 2018. Comments welcome!

Featured Image from Sacré-Cœur in ParisCC BY-ND 2.0

Cost of living in the EU – The 28 Capital Cities Compared

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