Retired couple enjoying a European beach

European places to retire to

Better weather, lower property prices and a slower pace of life – just some of the reasons why thousands of Britons every year opt for retirement overseas.

When you consider the many benefits of retiring to the Continent, it really is no wonder that just over 1.3 million Britons are living in Europe*.

According to the United Nations, the top three destinations for British expats starting a new life in Europe are Spain (around 319,000), Ireland (249,000) and France (171,000).

Why retire to Europe?

If a retirement that is rich with culture, history, great food and a temperate climate sounds good to you then be assured, Europe has it all. Better still, retiring abroad comes at a far lower cost than you may think.

Smaller towns and villages, particularly rural ones, are usually much cheaper and it is easy to find sprawling properties with acres of land to play with. Ideal for establishing your own vineyard, or making the most of the clear skies with a private observatory in your back garden to indulge your love for all things astronomical.

In Europe you can enjoy wonderful beaches and rural retreats, together with bustling cities offering an abundance of historical, architectural and cultural treats.

Whatever your wish list is for your dream retirement abroad, you are guaranteed to find an ideal place for yourself in Europe. And with air fares and the Eurostar offering fantastic deals on travel, you could soon be hosting your loved ones as often as you wish in your very own Spanish villa or French chateau!

Make your dream retirement a reality

A retirement in Europe or perhaps a second home there for the winter months may seem like a dream, but you can make it a reality with a bit of planning and effort.

A dwindling income in retirement needn’t hold you back either – almost 1 in 10 of Bower Retirement customers use all or some of their equity release money to purchase a holiday home!

To help get you started, we explore four of the best options to consider for your perfect European retirement…

  1. Spain

    Spain is undoubtedly the top retirement hotspot for UK expats, with an estimated 319,000 British expats currently residing here.

    With beautiful historical cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, the picturesque countryside of Catalonia, and a host of lively islands including Tenerife, Ibiza and Menorca – you will be spoilt for choice!

    Beach property in Catalonia Spain

    The medieval city of Valencia is a particularly popular destination for those seeking a Spanish retirement. As Spain’s third-largest city, it has fantastic air and rail connections, and the city itself it steeped in history and culture, with science and art museums and concert halls aplenty. As the town sits on the east coast of Spain you can also enjoy its beautiful beaches, too.

    Grocery shopping in supermarkets is generally 10 to 15% cheaper than in the UK, according to a recent price comparison carried out by the Overseas Guides Company (OGC). Eating out and enjoying a drink in a bar is far cheaper, but petrol is more expensive**.

  2. France

    Many areas in France have strong expat communities. An ideal retirement destination for those wishing to remain close to home, there are many convenient transport routes between the UK and France, including the Channel Tunnel, ferries and a number of airports.

    Thanks to modern travel you can pop home to visit loved ones for the weekend before boarding the Eurostar in London and arriving in Avignon, Provence in just under 6 hours.
    The south of France enjoys far warmer weather than the north so tends to be more popular with retirees. The Provence and Languedoc regions are known for their mild winters and hot summers; whilst Nice and Perpignan are considered the hottest cities.

    Property in France with a vineyard

    Eating out and buying beer, wine and spirits is cheaper than in the UK, more so the further away you travel from the big cities. Purchasing property there can feel like an absolute steal too.
    Currently, for £225,604 – a little more than the average UK house price of £211,230 – you could buy an 18th-century castle near Saint-Lo in Normandy, with six bedrooms, five bathrooms, a pond and just 20 minutes from the beach***.

  3. Portugal

    Thanks to its lower prices and fabulous weather, Portugal has the next largest European expat community after Spain and France, with around 39,000 UK expats living here.

    Portugal is famed for its rich history, good health care and wonderful weather. Sharing time zones with the UK eases the adjustment of relocation and makes communicating with loved ones that bit more straightforward.

    Portugal, Cafe view of houses in Lisbon

    Retirees with find it remarkably cheap to live here. For example, according to the Telegraph it is around three times cheaper to buy property in Portugal than in France.

    The Algarve and the Silver Coast, north of Lisbon, are marketed to expats as an upmarket alternative to Spain, offering wonderful beaches which tend to be quieter than the Costa del Sol, and golf courses that most enthusiasts would only dream of residing near to.

    Grocery shopping and alcohol is far cheaper in Portugal than here at home. It is not unusual to be able to enjoy three courses, wine and coffee for £12, with a glass of wine or a small beer sometimes coming in as cheap as 78p**.

  4. Malta

    Ask any expat why they upped sticks to relocate to the tiny Mediterranean island nation of Malta (all 122 square miles of it) and chances are the response will involve the weather.

    In Malta, you will find abundant sunshine even at the very height of winter. Valletta, the country’s historic capital, is considered to be the warmest capital in Europe. Even in January, you will still find temperatures averaging 13 degrees, rising to averages of 27 degrees in the glorious summer months.

    Valletta harbour, Malta

    It may be a small island but there is always plenty going on to keep locals, tourists and expats alike entertained. Towns like Valletta and Sliema remain lively throughout the year and boast some of the best restaurants in the Mediterranean.

    Expats in Malta can enjoy world-class standard healthcare, with the country ranking as number five in the world by the World Health Organization (WHO), and is free to any permanent resident or holder of an EU passport.

  5. Check for expat pension increases

    Remember, if you retire within the European Economic Area or Switzerland, your UK state pension will increase each year as it would do here. However, it may be frozen if you settle further afield (such as Australia or Canada), unless there is an agreement between the two governments.

    Speak to a specialist

    If a cash lump sum is the only thing stopping you from making your retirement holiday home dreams come true, then why not speak to one of our retirement income specialists to find out how much you could release from your home’s value to use as a deposit?

    Call our friendly UK-based team today on 0800 411 8668.

    *Telegraph 06/16
    **Moneywise 09/13
    ***Daily Mail