Best destinations to live and invest in Europe
for American Expats
Recent events have made you want to leave the USA? Making a change is often a positive move in life. Look at the bright side of life! There will be opportunities to create new projects, spend more time with your family, challenge yourself and bring about change in your life.
If you have been thinking of leaving the U.S. for a few months, or even a few years, take a look at some of the most welcoming and attractive destinations for new projects and investments. Discover the most American-friendly destinations in Europe, those with the best quality of life or best internet connections for remote working so that you can keep your job in the US or launch your online project and set up your business.
This ranking is based on various criteria including the presence of an international school, quality of life, health care system, quality of internet connection, proximity of airports with international flights, cost of living, investment assistance, an active expat community and last but not least, low crime rate.
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The Portuguese people are explorers and we owe many discoveries to them. Facing the ocean, Portugal is open to the world. Openness and entrepreneurship are two important qualities that you will find in Braga. Forget the clichés about Latin people basking in the sun, the Portuguese people are qualified and hard-working and they speak English much better than any of their European neighbours.
Portugal is a country of great wealth with a wide variety of cities to settle in depending on your profile. Braga, Portugal’s third city, is considered the happiest city in Portugal. It is also on the podium of European cities with the best quality of life.
For many years Braga has hosted start-ups, companies and international events. Renowned for its history and gastronomy, this Portuguese Rome attracts not only entrepreneurs and families (for its quality of life, green spaces and International Schools), but also those who wish to invest in tourism (the city enjoys one of the biggest tourist growths in Europe).
Recently, Braga was rewarded in its active fight against Covid-19 for its speed of action and innovations. This is not anecdotal: it shows Braga’s capacity for innovation and dynamism. Braga is the capital of Minho. Philips, Bosch, Continental (all internationally renowned), as well as start-ups, high-tech companies offering qualified jobs in the happiest city in Portugal.
Braga has also implemented a reduced tax rate for start-ups, so it is a prime city to launch your project. Portuguese schools teach English and you will be surprised to see that an estimated 25% to 35% speak perfect English, much more than in Spain, France or Italy.
A city in Europe with one of the best qualities of life, a reasonable cost of living and a low crime rate, Madrid is a good choice for US expats.
Spain is a country which is constantly evolving and does not fall asleep. Dynamic, culturally incomparable, Madrid is a destination that will appeal to even the most demanding. Sunnier than France, Spain also has good health care reimbursements, a good school system and an overall lower cost of living than its French neighbor.
Whether you come with your own job, telework or look for a job in a small, medium or large company, or to live an active retirement, Madrid suits all expats’ profiles.
Spaniards, especially the younger generations, speak English very well, but learning Spanish will be a great help to fully integrate yourself into the local fabric of the country.
If you long for the US, there are obviously many US chains in Spain and you can get your favourite coffee at Starbucks and your fries at Mac Donald’s. You will also enjoy the famous tapas accompanied by a delicious wine and discover the delights of Spanish cuisine.
Madrid is the capital of a large country and is therefore more expensive than some other places in Spain but the cost of living is lower there than in many other European capitals like Vienna, London or Paris.
With many international schools as well as quality public and private Spanish schools, Madrid will suit expats with children but also young students, digital nomads and those looking for new challenges. Finally, Madrid Airport offers regular flights to major US airports.
Do you want to settle in Europe, for a few months, a year or the rest of your life but you don't have the energy or the time to learn a new language? The UK is for you. While some cities like London, Manchester or Birmingham, are perfect for finding a job in a large company, others like Brighton are made for free thinkers, start-ups, digital nomads and artists.
Known for its openness and tolerance, Brighton is certainly one of the UK cities with the best quality of life. A cosmopolitan city where life is good, Brighton is perfect for a short stay on a budget or for a long term move for more comfortable budgets (Brigthon is the 7th most expensive city in the UK). Its strengths are the cultural life, openness, great seaside, quirky shops in alleyways, international schools and the fact that nearly 100% of the population speaks perfect English.
Gastronomic capital of Europe, San Sebastian has one of the greatest concentrations of starred restaurants in Europe. Known for its magnificent beaches, quality of life, cultural life and gastronomy, San Sebastian is a perfect destination to make a new start.
Located close to the French border, San Sebastian is a perfect choice to have a foothold in two of the most important countries in Europe.
The Basque Country (Spanish and French) is a destination with a very marked DNA, a strong personality. Choosing the Basque Country means choosing quality of life, nature, gastronomy, outdoor sports, conviviality and family.
With its feet in the water, San Sebastian is a paradise for surfers or those who want to soak up the sun, lying on one of San Sebastian's beautiful beaches. A word of warning: the vibrant green vegetation indicates that it can rain a little more in San Sebastian than in Barcelona, Madrid or Seville. This is the Basque Country: a beautiful storm refreshes everything and here comes the sun again.
If you come to San Sebastian as a digital nomad, avoid the summer when rentals are at their highest. If you want to settle for a year or a long and indefinite period, think carefully about the most important criteria for you, such as the proximity of international schools if you have children. As in many cities, if you move away from the city center you will have more m2 available at a lower price.
There are several international schools in San Sebastian and airports connected with the USA (San Sebastian and Bilbao).
Nearly 14% of Americans have German origins. Albert Einstein, Marlene Dietrich, Levi Strauss, Hannah Arendt, Henry Miller, Diane Kruger; you yourself are sure to know people who have German roots, even if you don’t know it.
Germany is a welcoming land for US expats who return to their roots or want to discover a country known for its quality of life, its important industries, a low crime rate, a high rate of employment, stability and good economic health.
Germany has something to offer all types of expats, retirees, young workers, digital nomads, young parents, solo travellers, whether high skilled or low skilled.
Germany is a large country (on a European scale) and you will, therefore, be spoiled for choice on where to settle down. Whereas Berlin is well suited to young active and digital nomads, Hamburg may be better suited to families, thirty-something and forty-something, as well as active retirees who wish to benefit from an intense cultural life and the proximity of the sea (only 1 hour by public transport).
If learning German seems impossible to you, chose Berlin. If you are ready to learn this lovely language, then Hamburg will welcome you with open arms.
Book your flights to Hamburg as well as your accommodation and tours and activities. Travel with different types of clothing as it is not uncommon to experience all 4 seasons in just one day in Hamburg.
It is tempting to settle on a Greek island for US expatriates, but several realities, especially if you are active and not yet retired, must be taken into consideration, such as the quality of the internet network, the proximity of international schools and airports and jobs’ prospects. For all these reasons US expats often settle in Athens, a city that offers co-working spaces for digital nomads, roommates at attractive prices and moderate rents for a European capital; it also provides a high quality of life for those who love culture, gastronomy and nightlife. With several international schools and a fairly low crime rate, Athens is perfect for young expats with or without children. Those lucky enough to no longer have to work will prefer to settle in Kefalonia, Rhodes or Corfu, for lazy days, sun and relaxation.
It is estimated that almost half of the population of Athens speaks a very good level of English, which is better than in France or Italy for example. Learning some basic Greek, however, will allow you to cope with administrative procedures that can be more complicated than in the USA (but surmountable).
Considered one of the best regions of France to live but also to invest, Brittany is also a perfect region to settle as an expat.
Many qualified people from the 4 corners of France and from all over the world have settled in Brittany in recent years. Proximity to the sea, affordable rents, quality of life, safety, nature, gastronomy, culture, exceptional events throughout the year such as the Brest maritime festivals , international exhibitions and concerts, Brittany has it all.
Home to many English expats, Brittany also attracts American expatriates, especially families and digital nomads.
France offers many advantages to young entrepreneurs and allows them to set up a business quite easily, with less administrative paperwork than in some European countries. Brest and its region, a territory which also bears the name of "Brest - Terres Océanes", is particularly open-minded and attractive with destinations such as Brest, Crozon, Plouguerneau, Brignogan, Le Conquet, Plougonvelin, Plouguerneau, Lanildut or Plouarzel.
For a rent two to three times cheaper than in Paris, you can work from your apartment in Brest and set up an online business; this could be an e-commerce exporting Breton products around the world, for example, or a company offering guided tours of the most beautiful lighthouses of Brittany, the most beautiful hikes or great maritime walks and nautical activities. The city of Brest has also implemented a reduced tax for young companies and numerous aids to develop your activity. Brest also welcomes Innovative companies such as Cyane, an ecological producer of spirulina and green algae.
Touristically speaking, Brest -Terres Océanes has been in constant tourist growth for several years. It is a perfect destination to set up your tourist activities, business or restaurant, café, guesthouse or B&B. Set up your real estate company and introduce your US & UK clients to the most beautiful homes on the Breton coast. Renovate a lighthouse and welcome travellers all year round or develop a 5-star hotel with SPA and Wellness and offer your customers a stay in an exceptional, authentic, serene and healthy place.
If you are an executive looking for a job, contact large groups such as Rocher, Bolloré, Ubisoft or Lactalis.
For digital nomads, families (there are many international schools), start-ups or business leaders, Brest Terres Océanes will appeal to different types of profiles looking for a high quality of life. Connected to nature and culture, Brest-Terres Océanes is a destination with values, a destination with a soul.
Want to spend the next part of your life in the sun? Worried about leaving the sunny mountains of California? No problem, the Algarve is waiting for you. With just under 500,000 inhabitants, the Algarve is blessed by the Gods: it has one of the lowest population densities in Europe (forget about stress or traffic jams). The Algarve with its most beautiful beaches in Europe and more than 330 sunny days has a great quality of life: the region has attracted not only English, French, German and Italian retirees for a few years, but also young workers, nomadic workers who surf online by day before surfing the ocean waves.
If you are nostalgic for California, Sao Bras de Alportel is the perfect place with its hills planted with orange trees, its sun that warms body and soul. If you like surfing or walk in nature, choose Aljezur and enjoy a better price per m2. There are several international schools too. For a short-term stay of 1 to 3 months, Lagos, with its feet in the sea, is a perfect choice: the city is active and trendy.
The Algarve is a perfect region for digital nomads, for families, to develop your tourism project (bed and breakfast, Quinta, or to work in real estate). Before settling in, if you work online, check the quality of the Internet network before signing the lease or the promise to purchase. Large cities have Fibre broadband. For more remote places or close to the sea, you can opt for satellite Internet.
Cosmopolitan, open to the world, home to many international institutions and companies, Brussels also has a vibrant artistic heart, a prestigious and underground cultural scene unique in the world. If you really open your eyes you will appreciate the nuances of this city and fall in love with it almost immediately.
A predominantly French-speaking city, Brussels is, however, the capital of Flanders, but also of Europe. It is a surreal and deeply welcoming city. At less speed than Paris or London, Brussels is a capital on a human scale. Perfect for expats with children thanks to many international schools but also a place of socialization for young and old, Brussels is also a good choice for digital nomads. Brussels is a good choice for a few months or a permanent stay since the Belgian capital offers relatively affordable rents compared to other cities such as Paris or London.
English is widely spoken in Brussels, sometimes more than French or Dutch. For digital nomads looking for diversity, culture and nightlife, the municipality of Saint Gilles is the perfect choice. For expats who work in international institutions and come to Belgium with their families, the municipalities of Watermael Boitsfort, Uccle and Woluwé-Saint-Pierre offer a wider choice of family homes and are considered safe and rather upscale.
The inhabitants of Brussels call themselves "zinneke” meaning ‘bastards’ because of the mix of people from all walks of life. You will therefore find your place in this charming city with a great diversity. Brussels-Zaventem airport is very well connected to US airports.
If you love Europe for its culture, openness, solidarity, architecture, events, tradition or gastronomy, you will love Malaga. Malaga is sometimes only associated with sun and beaches but it is much more than that. City with the highest concentration of museums per km2 in Europe, Malaga offers a high quality of life, security, a rich cultural life, health care equipment and sun almost throughout the year.
Malaga is family friendly and also very suitable for single digital nomads or couples, as well as retirees who wish to live an active and culturally rich and lively retirement. Open-minded and tolerant, Malaga also attracts gay expats who are welcome and blend in well with the locals. The City of Malaga itself is very open-minded and quite innovative in terms of town planning, culture and living together.
The British School of Malaga will welcome your children unless you prefer to enrol them in one of the many public or private schools in Malaga. Malaga offers job opportunities in many sectors, you could telecommute or start your own business there. Malaga is very active in tourism and is one of the Spanish destinations with the greatest tourist growth.
Recognized as one of the cities with the best quality of life in Europe and one of the lowest crime rates, Vienna is a top destination for Americans wishing to settle in Europe. Vienna is a perfect choice for those looking for quality of life, security, stability, affordability, culture, access to healthcare and the presence of international schools for children.
Usually, expats tend to live on average 5 years in the destination of their expatriation, but those who settle in Austria tend to stay there throughout their lives, seduced by the quality of life that this country offers.
Culturally speaking, Austria has influenced Europe and the whole world in the past and its artistic and cultural influence continues today. Austria is also a country at the forefront of environmental, ethical and societal issues.
The city of Sigmund Freud knows that we are all different and you will be accepted as you are in Vienna. Just like Switzerland, Austria offers work in various high-level sectors such as international companies, banks and universities. Obviously, it will also be perfect for digital nomads or those who want to set up their business, their micro-breweries, their massage parlor, their flower shop or bookstores to name but a few.
Vienna Airport is very well connected with US airports and part of Vienna's population speaks better English than German. You will therefore have no difficulty in making yourself understood; learning German will help you with administrative procedures and enable you to integrate into Austrian society faster.
While the Netherlands is known for its openness and for being an innovative country when it comes to ethical and societal issues, we too often think of Amsterdam and forget other great cities for expats such as Rotterdam. Rotterdam has many international schools and will suit families with children but also young students and digital nomads. Headquarters of many institutions and large companies, Rotterdam offers well paid high-flying jobs for qualified expatriates.
The big advantage of the Netherlands is that most Dutch speak excellent English. Another advantage is that the crime level is really low which is perfect for settling down, alone or with your family.
In the Netherlands, as in the USA, there are obvious rules of etiquette and others less well known but essential. For example, you should always make an appointment before going to a friend’s house (like you would for the hairdresser’s). It may seem strange, but the Dutch organize themselves that way; however, they are extremely nice, unpretentious and very friendly.
Make the effort to learn Dutch, and you will easily find work in large companies (such as Philips). If learning the language is overwhelming, then you can build your online business in your own language or import and export products. The Dutch have one of the most successful post offices in the world and Rotterdam has one of the most important ports in Europe. Lots of possibilities will be open to you.
A good compromise for those who hesitate between settling in France or Germany, Alsace is one of the best destinations in Europe to start a new life. Alsace is a bit of a dream destination for American expats. Quality of life, gastronomy, nature, vineyards, security, romance, this region has it all.
Alsace will suit many profiles since it offers positions in large international companies but also sees the development of many high added value start-ups.
Did you know that the Statue of Liberty was Alsatian? She is from Colmar and was sculpted by Bartholdi. You never get bored in Alsace, a region rich in quality events throughout the year and with internationally renowned cultural institutions. Living in Alsace will allow you to work in France or even in Germany since the border is only a few kilometers away. Very attractive for tourists throughout the year, Alsace is a good place to invest for those who want to set up a tourism project (guest rooms, hotels, restaurants, shops).
Strasbourg and Colmar are must-sees in Alsace, but you will be spoiled for choice whether to settle in the city or in one of the countryside charming places. Several international schools will welcome your children in Alsace. For senior executives, for digital nomads, to set up your start-up or your tourism project, Alsace is one of the best destinations for US expats.
For the homesick, Strasbourg Airport offers regular flights to the USA.
It is not just the Kardashians who fell in love with Florence and Tuscany and many US expats have settled there for its quality of life, culture, gastronomy and the breathtaking landscapes.
Tuscany is the preferred region of Italy for US expats. You will have no problem making yourself understood in your language in most of the big cities of Tuscany and in the most touristic areas.
If you can afford it, you can settle in the hills halfway between Siena and Florence and live with movie stars, great business leaders and famous singers. For three to five times cheaper, you can also find your little piece of paradise in small authentic Tuscan villages.
Perfect region for retired expats who will enjoy many museums, cultural events and restaurants, Tuscany will also appeal to young professionals, digital nomads and those who want to set up their tourism projects (guest houses, tours, guided tours etc) or work in real estate for example.
Rich and touristic, Tuscany offers many possibilities for those who wish to start their business. If you are looking for low prices, avoid big cities and choose smaller towns like Lucca, Pitigliano or Pistoia.
Switzerland is a perfect destination for qualified expats looking for peace, security and a well-payed job. Many technology, banking, chemical and pharmaceutical companies such as Roche, Novartis, Bayer and Colgate, offer very well-paid jobs for highly qualified expats.
With its almost car-free historic center, its world-renowned cultural events and institutions, its sublime Christmas markets, its green spaces, Basel is a top destination for expats and is renowned for its quality of life.
It's true that life can be expensive in Basel, but then again, the salaries are very high. It is a perfect destination for expats who want to find a job in a large company or institution. If you are digital nomads, you can also get contracts with companies on site or why not get started and create your own business, restaurant, bed and breakfast in Basel or the surrounding area. In short, Basel is perfect for highly qualified expats looking for a job in a large company.
Bill and Hilary Clinton love this vacation destination. Discover it for a stay or drop your luggage there for a few months or for good. Dubrovnik is the talk of the Adriatic, an incredible city that has inspired many artists, designers, screenwriters and filmmakers.
It is a perfect destination for young expats (with its international university) but also for people of all ages who wish to develop a tourist project or work remotely in an extraordinary and historical setting, bathed in the sun almost all year round.
The inhabitants of Dubrovnik have strong and simple values, centered on hospitality, respect, honesty and authenticity. This medieval city, considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, offers many opportunities to those ready to invest and create their own projects.
Why not start your wedding planner business in Dubrovnik? The destination is recognized as one of the best destinations for a wedding proposal and some of its hotels are ranked among the best places for a wedding ceremonies in Europe.
Even better if you are retired. Enjoy lazy days, cultural and gastronomic discoveries in Dubrovnik and its surroundings. Do not miss to visit Cavtat, awarded for its commitment to sustainable tourism.
A cosmopolitan city with a great openness, Berlin is one of the cheapest European capitals thanks to controlled rents, lower than apartment rents in major American cities.
Very strongly influenced by artists from all over the world who benefit from space for creation and exhibition and great freedom of action, Berlin is a city that combines culture, quality of life, security and tolerance. The perfect destination for digital nomads or for executives wishing to work in large companies, Berlin is also suitable for those who want to set up their own business, be it traditional or alternative. It’s worth learning some German basics especially if you want to start your own business.
Berlin is a perfect destination for nomadic workers but also for couples with young children. Berlin has many international schools and job opportunities in many sectors. Berlin Airport offers daily flights to major US airports. Another advantage: one in five Berliners speaks better English than German.
The colorful Cobhn houses (in the Cork neighborhood) will remind you of the San Francisco’s famous houses. Here too, music is all important. Cork city and county offer a strong cultural, musical and artistic vibe. It is a place of dramatic natural landscapes, riverscapes, harbors, bays and seascapes, a place of mountains, river valleys and coastlines.
Cork is Ireland's second largest city but the locals consider it the "real capital of Ireland". The city of Cork and more broadly the county of Cork will appeal to lovers of wild nature, water sports, landscapes but also food lovers and culture enthusiasts as well as music lovers. With its lovely city center shops and shopping centers, Cork is a human-sized destination perfect for starting a new life project.
There you can develop your online business project, your business exporting the best Irish whiskeys or your company of guided tours of the most beautiful castles in Ireland or unusual accommodation in the woods of County Cork. Cork is perfect for a family settling in and a new life project in Europe.
Particularly American-friendly, Poland is a country of great cultural, gastronomic and architectural wealth. Poznan is one of the largest cities in Poland, one of the cities with the best quality of life, notably due to its many green spaces, its very low crime rate, and its many quality social and cultural events.
Poznan is both a historic city with an incredibly well-preserved architecture and also very young with its university students. Depending on whether you settle in with or without children, you will choose an apartment in the city center or in the suburb near the British School or the International School.
Compared to other American or European cities, Poznan is affordable with moderate rents and often cheaper food than in Germany, Switzerland, England or France. Without falling into clichés, the Poles are rather hardworking people, which perhaps explains the country's very good economic growth, one of the best in Europe so far.
Poznan is a good choice for digital nomads, qualified people who will work in a US company based in Poland but also to launch your tourism project given the great tourism growth in Poland in recent years. Check with your embassy about the conditions necessary to settle there.
Almost 40% of Poles speak English, an even higher percentage in big cities like Poznan.
Historically speaking, a large part of the Portuguese who settled in the USA come from the Azores, especially those who settled in Massachussets for the whale trade (now prohibited). The Azores were discovered by the Portuguese centuries ago and now it's your turn to discover this archipelago of 9 incredible islands. Were you planning to leave the USA to settle in New Zealand or even Iceland, but not so hot about the temperatures or the cost of living? The Azores is what you need.
This is not a second choice, but a first-choice offer waiting for you there. Many incentives are put in place by the regional government to allow businesses and start-ups to set up. With reduced VAT (5%, 10%, 18%) the Azores are one of the destinations in Europe with the best quality of life and the best value for money for the purchase of your home. The average price per m2 in the Azores is almost 3 times lower than the average price per m2 in the USA.
Instead of buying an apartment, buy a Quinta with outbuildings that you can convert into guest rooms, tourist accommodation, etc. Unlike Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, the regional government of the Azores favors the installation of this type of accommodation and offers low tax rates.
The 9 islands of the Azores are very well connected to each other by plane (very affordable ticket prices) as well as by boat. The Azores have direct daily flights to the mainland as well as to the USA.
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