Top 5 European Countries for UK Pensioners Retiring Abroad

Top 5 European Countries for UK Pensioners Retiring Abroad

Many wealthy UK citizens set their sights on retiring abroad in sunny destinations. Conventionally, real estate in nearby European countries with warm and welcoming climates has been magnets for this demographic for some time. 

According to Nationwide, the average house in the UK sells for GBP 207,000. For that sum of money, it would be possible to buy, for example, a country home in Calabria or Portugal. A recent report from details the top five most appealing real estate markets for British retirees looking to buy property abroad.

1. Spain

Barcelona, Spain - Top 5 European Countries for UK Pensioners Retiring Abroad

According to Full Fact, Spain is the most popular EU country among British expats, with 310,000 residents. Spain gets about 320 days of sun per year, and the Mediterranean climate is favourable for people suffering from asthma and arthritis.

There are a lot of other advantages for retirees besides the climate. Healthy food, ample golf courses, more than 580 blue flag beaches, fascinating history and plenty of cultural sights (ranked third worldwide for a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites) are all notable draws. In addition, there are many private residential compounds in Spain, so-called urbanizaciónes, where you can find anything and everything for amusement regardless of age, including swimming pools, golf courses, gyms and clubs. 

Most pensioners who choose Spain prefer to settle down in coastal areas. There are plenty of sunny days and golf courses in Costa del Sol, warmer waters and better beaches in Costa Blanca, more cultural points of interest in Costa Brava, shallower waters, and home maintenance costs in Costa Dorada to attract buyers.

Property in Spain costs around EUR 1,512 per sq m on average. Average rents for one-bedroom apartments range from EUR 412 to EUR 550 per month. Pensioners can live quite comfortably in Spain with about EUR 1,500 a month, as the cost of living is lower than that of Great Britain.  

2. Italy

Florence, Italy - Top 5 European Countries for UK Pensioners Retiring Abroad

Many UK pensioners move to Italy to start a new life, and it shows in the numbers: This is the country with the second-biggest UK expat population. Active retirees enjoy a wide range of cultural attributes, including visiting museums, plenty of vineyards, lovely beaches, ski resorts, and its world-renowned cuisine. There are multitudes of tourist attractions, as Italy has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world.

Tuscany and Sardinia are among the most popular regions among pensioners moving to Italy. Tuscany is known for its “la vita bella” lifestyle and rich cultural heritage, while Sardinia is a major destination for health tourism with its temperate Mediterranean climate and an average of 300 days a year of glorious sunny weather.

You can still find modest homes selling in Tuscany for about EUR 110,000, while Tuscan apartments can cost anywhere from EUR 1,000 to 15,000 per sq m. Houses in Sardinia are more expensive, with starting costs from about EUR 245,000. Many people prefer purchasing a property in the Marches. House prices there start from about EUR 200,000. Other Italian regions, such as Abruzzo, Liguria, and Lombardy, are also high in demand. 

The cost of living in Italy is lower than in France, especially in the south and the countryside; however, it is higher than in Portugal and Montenegro. A budget of about EUR 1,500 would be enough for living in southern regions like Abruzzo, but more northern areas like Tuscany require bigger budgets.  

3. Portugal 

Lisbon, Portugal - Top 5 European Countries for UK Pensioners Retiring Abroad

Portugal has a welcoming climate and a breathtaking coastline. It also attracts pensioners and newcomers with its low accommodation prices, fantastic food and services, high quality of life, and friendly locals. 

“Portugal won me over with its climate. It’s a very comfortable country to live in: you can breathe clean air and enjoy first-rate cuisine. There are many good clinics here, and not because people have a lot of health issues. The reason that so many Europeans come here is that treatment is cheaper in Portugal than in the rest of Western Europe”, says one client. 

Most foreign pensioners choose Algarve, in the south of Portugal. Albufeira, Vale de Lobu, Vilamura and Praya de Roche are also popular resorts. In these regions, you can find high standards of living, perfect climate, picturesque nature, pristine beaches and around 30 golf courses. Apartments in Algarve cost from about EUR 900 to EUR 3,600 per sq m, and homes cost from about EUR 82,000 to over EUR 7 mln. 

Many European pensioners also like to settle down in Cascais, a town 25 km from Lisbon on the Atlantic Ocean coast. Here, a two-bedroom apartment costs around EUR 200,000 or so, and the closer the ocean is, the higher the prices. Rental rates for one-bedroom apartments in Portugal hover around EUR 450 to EUR 600 monthly. 

Prices to buy property in Portugal are a fraction of those in France. Elderly couples should have about EUR 1,300 per month to live comfortably, but living more abundantly will require at least EUR 1,800. 

4. France

Paris, France - Top 5 European Countries for UK Pensioners Retiring Abroad

“France is the heart of Europe. There are high standards of living and many opportunities to have a good time”, states one of’s clients. 

The French entertainment and hospitality industries are well-developed. There are countless museums, guided tours and annual festivals across the country. Moreover, according to The Commonwealth Fund (2014), France is a top-10 country with one of the best healthcare systems among advanced economies. 

According to BNP Paribas Bank, the British are the leading foreign customers in France. They make 32.6% of all real estate purchases by foreigners.  According to Full Fact, there are around 190,000 expats from Great Britain in the country. 

Normandy, Brittany, Dordogne and Loir are the most desirable regions in France. South Pyrenees and Languedoc-Roussillon are also popular. South Pyrenees is in the southwest of France. The region attracts pensioners with its calm, smooth lifestyle and comfortable climate. Languedoc-Roussillon, on the Mediterranean coastline, is in demand among not only the British but also the Dutch, Germans, and Americans. The best luxury resorts are on Côte d’Azur, where there are 15 casinos, 18,500 yacht spots, 17 golf courses and 38 Michelin-starred restaurants.   

Prices for houses in France start from around EUR 300,000 and easily reach EUR 12 million or more. Apartment prices range from EUR 2,200 to EUR 10,600 per sqm. Rental costs for a one-bedroom apartment range from EUR 530 to EUR 660 per month.

Prices in France are high in comparison with Mediterranean countries: for example, dinner for two in a restaurant costs over EUR 45. Living costs in most locales are about EUR 1,400 or so per month, but living in central Paris will cost at least EUR 2,900 per month. 

5. Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro - Top 5 European Countries for UK Pensioners Retiring Abroad

“Montenegro meets all our demands: it has a comfortable environment and climate without huge temperature swings, coupled with a reasonable cost of living,” says one client who bought her parents an apartment in Montenegro. 

The advantage of purchasing property in Montenegro is that the quality of local real estate is quite competitive with that of Italian and French property, while also being far more affordable. 

Montenegro’s wide assortment of resorts can accommodate any taste. The best beaches are located in Bar, Becici, Budva, Ulcinj and Herceg Novi. Ada Bojana, Petrovac, Rafailovici, Sutomore and Ulcinj all have a reasonable cost of living. Budva, Milocer, Przno and Sveti Stefan are pricier resorts. Perhaps the most popular city among foreign property buyers is Budva, which is replete with restaurants and cafes, gyms and tennis courts. 

Apartments in Montenegro can cost anywhere from EUR 1,400 to EUR 2,500 per sq m. Prices for two-room apartments start from EUR 70,000, and prices for apartments and smaller objects near the coast tend to command prices between EUR 90,000 and EUR 150,000 – sometimes more. Luxury properties on the coast are often priced at or beyond EUR 1 mln. Rental rates for one-bedroom apartments are about EUR 190-280 per month. Prices for accommodation, food and services are far lower than in any of the other listed countries. Just EUR 800 per month will do the trick. 

In conclusion, Montenegro is by far the most affordable option overall for retirees, while France is ideal for those who value a luxurious lifestyle without regard to cost. Buying property in Spain, Italy or Portugal also has plenty of advantages: these countries have well-developed infrastructure and social security and healthcare systems, and you can find local markets with great amenities for relatively low prices. Each one of these countries has its own unique advantages and attributes, so the best decision might be to plan a visit to several locations before making a final decision on your own personal paradise for retirement.


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