When it comes time to retire, many people are looking for someplace warm and sunny. Others want to head to the mountains. But perhaps you are longing for something totally different — such as a retirement spent in an exotic European locale.
Recently, the website Moving to Spain analyzed European countries based on 11 factors including housing prices, annual hours of sunshine, quality of health care, affordability and more. It then scored countries on a 10-point scale.
The following countries all made the Moving to Spain top 10, and for the budget-minded in the crowd, we’ve ordered them from least to most affordable.
Ireland holds a special place in the hearts of many Americans — whether that’s because of their own personal Irish heritage or their love of the U.S. celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
Regardless of why you might want to retire to Ireland, the country would be glad to have you — provided you are financially independent. To be considered a person of independent means, you need an annual income of €50,000 (more than $52,000) and a lump sum ready to cover major, sudden expenses.
Vive la France! Known for its beautiful countryside, decadent food and cosmopolitan capital, Paris, France is a popular place for expats.
It isn’t the cheapest place to retire in Europe, but the website International Living estimates you could live in France for a little more than $2,000 a month. The country doesn’t offer specialized retirement visas, but it does have a long-stay visa option.
As an island nation in the Mediterranean Sea, Malta is the sunniest country in Europe, according to Moving to Spain, which says it gets almost 3,000 hours of sunshine each year. (There are 8,760 hours in a year.) It also attracts expats who appreciate the country’s favorable tax environment and the fact that nearly everyone there speaks English.
There is a Malta Retirement Programme to attract non-EU nationals and others to relocate to the country, assuming they aren’t employed and have an eligible, regular source of retirement income.
Home to such iconic cities as Rome, Venice and Naples, it’s not surprising many people dream of a retirement in Italy. As older residents, they wouldn’t be alone either. Nearly a quarter of Italy’s population is age 65 or older, Moving to Spain notes.
Retirees who want to call Italy home can apply for an elective residency visa which is valid for one year. They can be renewed annually, and after five years, you’ll be eligible to apply to become a permanent resident.
Greece is another country that benefits from a Mediterranean climate. It has 616 Blue Flag beaches to enjoy, each meeting criteria for sustainability as outlined by the Blue Flag Programme. Of course, Greece is also home to such ancient wonders as the Parthenon and Acropolis in Athens.
If you are in a position to make a €250,000 (about $262,000) real estate investment in Greece, you could receive the country’s coveted Greece Golden Visa. If not, there are long-term residence visas for financially independent individuals with monthly incomes of at least €2,000 (about $2,100).
Located in central Europe, Slovenia can sometimes fly under the radar, but retirees might want to take a second look at this nation. It has picturesque lakes, charming cities and a rich culture. Its capital, Ljubljana, is also only a two-hour flight from London.
While Slovenia doesn’t have specific retirement visas, those wishing to stay more than 90 days can apply for a temporary residence permit. This permit can be renewed annually, and after five years, you can apply to become a permanent resident.
If you are looking for the country with the best beaches, Spain has the most Blue Flag sites in the world. The country’s tally includes 629 beaches, 97 marinas and five boats. Valencia is a prime pick for life by the seashore, or look to Madrid and Barcelona if life in the big city beckons.
To retire in Spain, you’ll need a non-working residence visa which requires proof of financial means. This can be accomplished by showing you have enough money to live for a year in Spain or a regular source of income such as a pension.
In recent years, Croatia has become a hot spot for vacationers, and it could be a good place for retirees to put down roots. Centrally located on the continent, the country is known for its beautiful coastline on the Adriatic Sea and affordable cost of living.
Croatia doesn’t offer a retirement visa, so a permanent move here may not be possible for some people. However, you can apply for a temporary stay which will allow you to remain in Croatia for a year.
Portugal is the country that takes top honors in the Moving to Spain rankings. The website deems it the best place to retire in Europe, explaining that it is safe, affordable and home to amenities such as quality beaches and golf courses. However, this nation that shares the Iberian Peninsula with Spain is not the cheapest place to live on the Moving to Spain list. We’ll get to that country next.
Retirees can apply for the Portugal D7 visa assuming they have enough funds to cover the cost of their time in the country. The visa is valid for two years and then can be renewed for three years. After that, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency.
Among all the countries on the Moving to Spain list, Bulgaria is the cheapest for retirees. This Balkan nation may not evoke the same romantic images as Italy or France, but it has a charm all its own. There are beaches along the Black Sea, mountains in the interior and a capital city, Sofia, that is full of history.
Assuming you have enough money to support yourself, you can apply for a renewable Type D visa which is good for six months at a time or, in certain circumstances, 12 months.