Best European Retirement countries index_Blog

Retirement is no longer slippers and a pipe. Our golden years are the time to get the reward for years of hard work. And increasingly, retirees are choosing to move abroad for adventure, cost-of-living, and to explore a different lifestyle. Europe has long been a favorite retirement destination, so we took a deep dive into the best country in Europe to retire in 2023.

So how do you choose between moving to Spain, France, Ireland, Greece, and other European favorites? To make your decision easy, we’ve looked at multiple factors, including the cost of living, visas, weather, and more, to help you choose your European retirement destination.

The Best European Countries for Retirement

We’ve looked at a variety of factors to crown one country as the best in Europe for retirement. We’ve looked at population, life expectancy, cost of living, house prices, visas, safety, beaches, and healthcare to reveal Europe’s top destinations.

Best Country In Europe To Retire: ranked 1 - Portugal, 2= - Spain, 2= - Italy. A couple is hugging with a profile of Europe in the background.

1 > Portugal – 7.83 retirement score (Best country in Europe to Retire)

Based on our index, the best retirement country in Europe is Portugal, with a retirement score of 7.83 out of 10. Portugal is a safe country, with a high percentage of its population aged 65 and above. It offers plenty of sunshine, good-quality beaches, as well as a reasonably low cost of living. One of the many things Portugal is famous for is its wine and port. Add spectacular golf courses and wonderful scenery, and it is the complete package. Of the European capitals, Lisbon is a firm favorite but retirees love the more diverse parts of Portugal too.

Are you interested in Moving to Portugal?

Head over to our sister site, Where Can I Live, to read about Living in Portugal, Portugal Visas and Citizenship and to get help moving to Portugal.

=2 > Spain – 7.31 retirement score

Two countries share second place with a retirement score of 7.31 out of 10. Let’s look at Spain first. Retiring in Spain has long been a favorite with British and American retirees. Spain is a consistent scorer across all of our categories. The life expectancy in Spain is the second highest in Europe, behind Switzerland, helped by excellent and affordable healthcare. And for keen beach-goers, Spain is the country with more Blue Flag sites than any other country in the world. The Spanish retirement visa is well-established and easy to qualify for. Spain is one of seven countries in Europe to offer this.

=2 > Italy – 7.31 retirement score

Sharing second place with Spain is Italy, with a score of 7.31 out of 10. Not only do Italians have one of the highest life expectancies in Europe, but it’s also proven to be a popular choice for retirees, with a higher percentage of people aged 65 and above than any other country in Europe. Retirees love Italy for the easy pace of life; La Dolce Vita is a reality for many. Food, culture, and natural beauty surround you. Iconic Florence, Rome, Venice, and Milan hold their own with orther European cities and the quiet rural parts of Italy impress many Expats.

Cost Of Retiring in Europe

We looked at the average cost of living and the cost of apartment rentals (in Euros, Pounds, and US Dollars) to compare this key factor. Moving to a low cost of living country can stretch your pension and investments, giving you a Golden Years upgrade.

Healthcare

Healthcare and private health insurance only get more important as the years go by. Having access to quality medical care at reasonable prices is a key factor for all retirees. The best country in Europe to retire will be able to take care of all your healthcare needs without breaking the bank.

Retirement Visas

Without a European Union passport, you’ll probably need a visa to live in Europe. While there are other options available, we looked at countries with a specific retirement visa without hurdles like language ability. Many reitement visas are also called passive income visas, a well know example being the Portuagl D7 passive income visa.

European Countries With The Highest Percentage Population Aged 65+

Countries with a high percentage of retirement-age population tend to provide great services to this community. Politicians and businesses listen when there is a significant voice to be heard. To find out which country had the most retirees, we looked at the percentage of the population aged 65 and above for each European country. On average, 19.28% of the population in European countries are aged 65 and above. Although Spain’s percentage of 19.9% is slightly higher than Europe’s average, it doesn’t make the top 10.

1 > Italy – 23.7% of its population aged 65 and above

With the highest percentage of its population aged 65 and above, Italy takes the top spot. Almost 24% of Italy’s population is aged 65 and above; however, the retirement age in Italy is 67. Italy also has one of the highest life expectancies in Europe, at 82.8 years of age.

2 > Finland – 22.9% of its population aged 65 and above

Second place goes to Finland, with almost 23% of its population aged 65 and above. Finland’s life expectancy also sits in the top half of the European countries, with a life expectancy of 81.93 years of age. The retirement age in Finland is currently 64. However, there are plans for this to rise by 2030, depending on the country’s life expectancy.

3 > Portugal – 22.6% of its population aged 65 and above

Spain’s neighbor, Portugal, completes our top three with 22.6% of its population aged 65 and above. Like Finland, the retirement age in Portugal will rise along with the life expectancy, which is currently 81.07. The retirement age in Portugal is 66 years and seven months, which is one of the highest in Europe.

The Countries with the Most Blue Flag Beaches in Europe

Blue Flag is an award given to beaches, marinas, and tourism boats based on several criteria, including cleanliness and safety. It shows that a country has lots of coastal areas that retirees love and that it takes care of them. We’ve revealed the countries with the most Blue Flag sites in Europe.

1 > Spain – 731 Blue Flag sites

Spain takes the top spot with a total of 731 Blue Flag sites. Spain’s total is made up of 629 beaches, 97 marinas, and five boats. The region of Spain with the most Blue Flag beaches is Valencia, with 153, followed by Andalucia and Galicia, with 148 and 125, respectively. Catalonia is fourth with 120.

2 > Greece – 641 Blue Flag sites

Second place goes to Greece, with a total of 641 Blue Flag sites. Greece has 617 beaches, 18 marinas, and 6 boats – one more than Spain. Halkidiki, Rhodes, and Crete are the areas of Greece with the most Blue Flag sites.

3 > Italy – 542 Blue Flag sites

Number three is Italy, with a total of 542 Blue Flag sites. Italy doesn’t have any tourism boats awarded with a Blue Flag. Regardless, Italy is home to 458 beaches and 84 marinas that have been awarded a Blue Flag. The Italian region of Liguria is home to the most Blue Flag beaches, with over 30.

The Sunniest Countries in Europe

Retiree interviews consistently cite sunshine and the outdoors as giving huge satisfaction. Spending retirement in the sun is the dream for many. That’s why we’ve looked at which European countries get the most sunshine each year. Spain had the fourth-highest number of sunshine hours per year, with 2,555 on average, but which three countries beat Spain’s total?

1 > Malta – 2,993 average sunshine hours per year

Malta takes the top spot with an average of almost 3,000 sunshine hours per year. Located in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Sicily, Malta is known as the jewel of the Mediterranean. Of course, it’s an incredibly hot country, with average summer temperatures reaching 30°C. However, it’s culture and rich history are also part of the attraction that seduces many tourists each year.

2 > Greece – 2,665 average sunshine hours per year

Second place goes to Greece, averaging an incredible 2,665 sunshine hours each year. Greece continues to prove what a great country it is for retirement. In Greece’s capital city, Athens, the average temperature during July and August is just under 30°C, meaning that temperatures could be more than 35°C at the hottest point in the day.

3 > Portugal – 2,628 average sunshine hours per year

Completing our top three is Portugal, with an average of 2,628 sunshine hours per year. Unfortunately for Spain’s next-door neighbors, Portugal’s average summer temperatures aren’t quite as high as first and second place in our list. Average summer temperatures in Lisbon and Porto are just over 23°C and 21°C, respectively.

Where Does Spain Rank As A European Retirement Destination?

A total of 37 European countries made our initial list, and in seven out of our nine factors, Spain ranked in the top half of countries. In five factors, Spain ranked in the top 10, showing why we ranked it the second-best country to spend your retirement. It is also clear from these factors why moving to Spain from the USA is so popular.

Not only can Spain offer you some of the best weather that Europe has to offer, but it also has some of the safest and cleanest beaches in the world. Spain also has the second-highest life expectancy in Europe. Spain’s cost of living is slightly below the average on our list. However, there are countries that have a cheaper cost of living.

That’s Our Best Country In Europe To Retire Index

Social media, video calls, and cheap air travel have all made retiring abroad easier for people worldwide. Europe remains many retirees’ first choice for many reasons. We’ve used these key factors to pick the best country in Europe to retire to – we hope you enjoy exploring them.

Methodology

  • We used Economics and Peace Global Peace Index for safety data.
  • We used Numbeo for the cost of living scores and the price per square meter to buy an apartment. For apartment prices, we took an average of the cost per square meter for the city center and outside the city center.
  • We used The World Bank for the life expectancy at birth and the percentage of the population aged 65 and above.
  • We used Prosperity to find the 2022 healthcare quality scores.
  • We used Blue Flag to find the number of Blue Flag sites in each European country.
  • We used World Data to find the average sunshine hours per year.
  • Finally, we used Where Can I Live to find the countries that offer retirement visas.
  • We put this data into a weighted table, normalizing each factor with a score out of 10. We then took an average of these scores to get an overall score out of 10.

39 Comments

  1. What about availability of good doctors, good hospitals, elderly care? What about the costs of healthcare? It’s not all beaches and sunshine.

    1. Hi CJ – the index does include healthcare as a critical factor as we understand the importance for retirees. The metric of the national healthcare system comes from the Legatum Prosperity Index, which measures the quality, accessibility, and cost of healthcare in each country. Please see the methodology at the end of the index for more information on the calculation. While beaches and sunshine are factors, they rank behind healthcare, cost of living, safety, and access to a retirement visa. Many thanks, Alastair.

    1. Hi Eric – Romania was ranked at number 20 – lower healthcare and safety index factors, plus no designated retirement visa offset some strong scores. We’ve heard some great things from Expats living in Romania – it definitely is a good option for some people. All the best, Alastair.

    2. Hello, Eric,
      Please tell me more about Germany and how it ranked. It’s 1/3 preserved forest, very welcoming to expats and has some of the best healthcare in the world. While it obviously lacks the coastlines of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia and Greece, its tradition is steeped in healthy living as a priority. Similar could be stated for Netherlands and Austria. Curious to learn more or access the full report, please.
      Thank you,
      Ken

  2. Interested in knowing in which of these countries mentioned is there better ADA mobile wheelchair access in?

    1. Hi Claudia – while we don’t have overall country figures, this study found some clear winners and losers in wheelchair access in European capital cities – https://ablemagazine.co.uk/new-study-reveals-the-most-and-least-accessible-cities-for-disability-travellers-in-europe/. While the study looked only at capital cities from a tourism perspective this does map pretty well to anecdotal evidence from friends. Northern and Western Europe generally has better access than Eastern Europe. We have a friend who uses a chair and lives in Barcelona, and he finds the city well-managed for chair access. However, in his experience, smaller cities and towns in Spain don’t have the same access, so a country-wide view may be hard to come by. All the best, Alastair

  3. Do you also measure/rank specific cities in each country? If so, which city in top-rated Portugal does your methodology consider as best? Lisbon? Porto? Coimbra? A different city in Algarve or elsewhere in Portugal?

  4. Great information, We are looking at moving to Spain in 2024.

    Thank you!

    JOHN AND SUSAN PAZERA
    @LatitudeAdjustment
    Travelers, expats, and bloggers currently residing in Colombia 

    1. Glad you found it useful and we hope the rest of the site makes your Spain move easy… Cheers, Alastair

  5. What about a rating for difficulty/potential for getting a retirement/long stay visa confirmed? My understanding that France is much easier than Italy. I’d love to aim for Italy rather than France, but don’t want unending hassle.

    1. Hi Melissa – the hassle is a tricky metric to measure, but anecdotally Italian immigration is more challenging to negotiate than the French system. Finding a good immigration lawyer or advisor can smooth out some of the bumps. All the best for your move, Alastair

  6. The question is if the European countries acknowledge our health care insurance and if our insurance pays in Europe.
    Paying out of pocket is for most of us out of question. . .

    1. Hi Skip. Healthcare costs are a crucial consideration for many retirees. If you move to Europe, in many cases, you’ll need to take out local private health insurance as part of your visa application. In most European countries, this cover costs a fraction of similar coverage in the USA. And, in countries like Spain, once you are a permanent resident, you can apply for public cover, which is free or heavily subsidised. All the best, Alastair

        1. Hi Tere. You can apply for PR after five years of living in Spain on a qualifying visa or residence permit. All the best, Alastair

    1. Following…. I am also wondering how Canada would rank on this list?
      Thanks so much! 🙂

  7. Interested in moving to Portugal though my husband is not. We’re taking our first trip there in 2024. My question is whether Portugal offers rentals of good standing in order to come and go? How might I explore an option such as this or are there other considerations? Thank you!

  8. Thanks for the work and the explanation of methodology (as well as the sources!). We’ve been scouting many of these same factors and they match up well with what we have been able to put together.

  9. Wonderful to hear all these things about Spain! Can you please let us know about property taxes in Spain? I hear they are pretty high.

    1. Hi Astrid. The local government sets annual property taxes, and so they vary across the country. Please see our Spanish Tax Guide for more information. There are addtional one-off taxes paytable on any property transfer – so on the sale of a house. See our Buying Property in Spain Guide for more on these taxes. All the best, Alastair

  10. Very interesting and helpful.
    I do wonder where is Poland on your list?
    I would like to move to 🇮🇹
    Rome. Our Culture plus sun and food. However I suppose that Spain and Portugal are slightly cheaper, aren’t they?
    Regards
    Anna Beauchamp

  11. I’m very surprised that Portugal is number 1. In my experience, forget about any kind of actual house in Portugal, they just don’t exist or at least they’re not for sale. I’ve been looking online , using idealista.pt and others, for affordable retirement housing in Portugal (Albufeira & Greater Lisbon) all summer but have literally found nothing promising at all. No actual “houses” by American standards for less than $350k. Americans could do much better in Greece, not to mention the Carolinas or Florida.

  12. I’ve been using Idealista.pt to search for houses in the Lisbon & Algarve regions but I’m not finding anything really. Especially nothing with a garage. (Searching for homes less than $300k)

    Am I using the wrong resource or are private detached homes just generally not available in these regions?

    1. Hi Michael – I’d suggest contacting a reputable estate agent or buyer’s agent in the areas of interest to see if they can narrow your search. Private detached houses should be available, but it may take some local knowledge. All the best, Alastair

  13. You show an average price per square feet for Portugal of $245 but you don’t specify the size of the apartment. What is the size of the apartment in your study?

    1. HI John – as described in the methodology at the bottom of the Index : “We used Numbeo for the cost of living scores and the price per square meter to buy an apartment. For apartment prices, we took an average of the cost per square meter for the city center and outside the city center.” All the best, Alastair

      1. Do you still rank Portugal #1 with the elimination of NHR? Taxes are very high now for expats as well as citizens.

        1. Hi Laurence. There’s no doubt that changes to the NHR and Portugal golden visa have changed the overall balance (as have Spain’s extension of Beckham law provisions to offer more people great tax relief). We’ll update the index in a few months for 2024 and see if Portugal can keep its crown. All the best, Alastair

    1. Hi Judy – Germany ranked 15th with a higher cost of living, no dedicated retirement visa, and lower sunshine hours key factors keeping it out of the top 10. Regards, Alastair

  14. There is no mention of culture or the arts in any of your measurements. The presence of art museums and cultural experiences is the top of my list.

    1. Hi Lollie. You are correct that we didn’t use these factors as they are very personal lifestyle quality indicators. We surveyed many Expat retirees and retiree forums and used the most common factors to make our choice. We accept that Blue Flag beaches could be classified similarly, but retiring to the sea was a very common international retirement requirement for many. Happily, many European countries have spectacular art museums and cultural experiences, with our top three of Portugal, Spain, and Italy high on those lists, too. All the best, Alastair

  15. If one gets a resident visa in Spain, are you taxed for your global income? I have passive income, which country allows residency without having to pay income taxes in Europe which are much higher than in the USA?

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