#1. Algarve, Portugal
Portugal’s Algarve region is a land of superlatives. These 100 miles of coast offer 3,300 hours of sunshine each year and more sunny days than anywhere else in Europe, as well as some of the best beaches in Europe and best golf courses in the world. According to the 2022 Global Peace Index, Portugal is the 6th safest country in the world, and the Algarve region is perhaps the most crime-free in the country. English is widely spoken, thanks to a decades-long connection with Britain, and the cost of living in the Algarve is one of the most undervalued in Europe. In 2012, Portugal introduced its Golden Visa program, one of the best in the EU. Retirees can also establish residency in this country simply by showing a minimum monthly income of just 1,070 euros.
#2. Annecy, France
The big attraction of lakeside Annecy, the Pearl of the French Alps, is its ski slopes in winter, but this is an appealing place to be year-round. In summer, the lakeshore bustles but not only with tourists. Unlike other top ski destinations in France, fairy-tale Annecy is not a tourist town but a living community that is more cosmopolitan than a typical haunt of Euro snow bunnies. Annecy has been awarded the titles of City of Art and History and also City in Bloom and can seem like an open-air museum. Every July its streets are given over to Noctibules, an annual art festival, and, every August, the much-anticipated Fete du Lac features the biggest fireworks show in Europe.
#3. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Slovenia, nestled among Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia in the heart of Central Europe, is a mountainous country with 30 miles of Mediterranean coastline. Old World capital city Ljubljana is the heart of the country, literally and figuratively, with easy access to both beaches and ski resorts. Ljubljana is a modern city with all the amenities of 21st-century living that manages to retain a small-town charm. Local farmers bring their produce to market in wooden carts each day. You could embrace this Old World lifestyle supported by top-notch infrastructure on a budget of as little as 1,400 euros a month.
#4. Cascais, Portugal
A miles-long stretch of sheltered coves, sandy dunes, and rocky outcroppings, the coast of Cascais, Portugal, offers some of the best beaches in Europe, as well as a marina, 9 top-tier golf courses, more than 100 parks and gardens, world-class dining, year-round mild climate, proximity to capital city Lisbon, and an overall extraordinary quality of life. The seaside city boasts one of the lowest crime rates in Europe and is home to a large and welcoming community of expats. Cascais began life as a village of fishermen and farmers but has transformed itself into a mini-city of about 200,000 complete with a university campus, 13 international and bilingual schools, 2 hospitals, a shopping mall, and a casino.
#5. Citta Sant’Angelo, Italy
Perched on a hilltop, with views of Gran Sasso Mountain, the Adriatic, and vineyards and olive groves in between, sits ninth-century Città Sant’Angelo, in the heart of Italy’s Abruzzo region, one of the greenest in Europe, with more than a dozen ski resorts in one direction and 80 miles of coastline in the other. Città Sant’Angelo has earned the title “Borgo,” recognizing it as one of Italy’s most beautiful cities. Sant’Angelo has also been designated a “Città Slow”—a town committed to preserving traditional ways of life and resisting development. Not much has changed in Città Sant’Angelo over the centuries, and that’s the way residents like it.
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#6. Kotor, Montenegro
This tiny seaside country of a half-million people dispersed over an area smaller than the state of Connecticut is nestled between Croatia and Albania in Southern Europe. Bayside Kotor, surrounded by towering mountains on one side and the dazzling Adriatic on the other, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and perhaps the best-preserved medieval town in the Mediterranean. The Old Town square is anchored by the 11th-century Saint Tryphon’s Cathedral, but its cafes and shops are lively and bustling with a youthful energy. This is a little-known but friendly, safe, and welcoming corner of Europe comparable to historic stone villages in Italy but more affordable. Montenegro’s tax climate is favorable, with low capital gains, property, income, and real estate transfer rates. The country is expected to become an EU member in 2025.
#7. Carcassonne, France
Walt Disney is said to have been inspired by its towers, turrets, and ramparts, and you can understand why when the sun rises up over the medieval city of Carcassonne in southeast France. At the heart of Cathar country, this was, for centuries, an important fortification. Today, the city of Carcassonne, capital of the Aude department in the Occitanie region of France, has much to offer tourists and residents, including a medieval castle, St. Nazarius Basilica, boutiques, artists’ workshops, and Michelin-starred restaurants. Life in the Bastide is centered on the Place Carnot (where a produce market is held three times a week), with its pretty fountain, street-side cafés, and restaurants. Just 10 minutes’ drive away is an 18-hole golf course and a park. Within an hour are the sandy beaches of the Mediterranean, and 90 minutes away is skiing in the Pyrenees.
#8. Paris, France
My adopted home, for me, it doesn’t get any better than Paris, France. In one of Paris’ central, historic neighborhoods, from the 1st arrondissement to the 20th, the best of city living is only a short and pleasant walk away. Bookstores, antique shops, champagne cellars… parks, gardens, and forests… museums, theaters, galleries… amazing cuisine, and luxury shopping… Paris lacks for nothing. Central Paris is an open-air museum where little changes yet every day offers the chance for discovery. It’s also one of the world’s best storehouses of wealth. An apartment of charm in a good location in this city will always find a buyer and a renter, and, on account of Brexit, London wealth continues to find its way to the City of Light, causing a spike in Paris property values. Some neighborhoods have seen 20% appreciation and better over the past two years.
#9. Popoli, Italy
Nestled in the valley of three Apennine mountains, Popoli, Italy, with a population of about 5,000, is a complete escape from the troubles of the modern world and a sought-out healing center. This medieval town is known as the Citta Dell’Acqua (City of Water), thanks to a long-dormant volcano that rumbles beneath it, bubbling up thermal spring water famed for its healing properties since the days of the Romans. The first healing center was built on the site in 1885 but destroyed during World War II. The modern Terme di Popoli opened in 1998 and uses the area’s thermal waters as the basis for the treatment of dozens of ailments. In high season, the facility sees 1,000 or more patients each day.
#10. Valletta, Malta
From its weather and food to its history and culture, Malta is not only the best of Mediterranean Europe but also one of the most affordable options for embracing this lifestyle. This three-island, 122-square-mile nation has been working hard to raise its profile internationally, and Malta’s capital, Valletta, was named 2018’s European Capital of Culture. The language is English, crime rates are low, and the health care is excellent. Malta does not offer a retiree visa, but its Global Residence Program for non-EU citizens amounts to one of the best residency opportunities in Europe. You can qualify simply by renting a place to live for as little as 800 euros per month.
Editor, In Focus: Europe