Spanish cities dominated the top ten destinations for expats in 2023.
If you’re considering moving to another country or city in Europe, now is a great time to take the plunge.
There are plenty of remote working employment opportunities and dozens of countries have introduced targeted digital nomad visas.
But deciding where to relocate to isn’t an easy decision and it’s important to find a place that aligns with your career ambitions and lifestyle.
Every year, InterNations, a global community for people who live and work abroad, carries out an Expat Insider survey - and it’s a great resource for people looking to move to a different country.
The organisation has quizzed over 12,000 expats about the ease of settling in, working abroad and leisure activities in 49 cities across the world.
The ranking also includes an Expat Essentials index, which looks at digital services, bureaucracy, housing, and language.
Here are the best (and worst) European cities for expats right now according to their findings.
Málaga is the best city in the world for expats right now
Málaga was voted the best city in Europe and in the world for expats in 2023.
According to the survey respondents, Málaga is the top-rated city worldwide for friendliness with nearly 90 per cent saying that locals are particularly welcoming of foreign residents.
The city also came second globally for finding friends and for quality of life.
It claims first place for its pleasant climate and weather while its natural environment came in 8th. Málaga also makes the top 10 for travel and transit and healthcare and 13th place for working abroad.
On the downside, the city ranks 41st for the local job market, although it pulls ahead in the work and leisure and work-life balance subcategories, claiming first place for both.
Expats are also especially happy with the housing situation in Málaga: accommodation is not only easy to find but also easily affordable.
In general, the city was voted a good destination for expats on a budget, ranking first in the personal finance index and topping the list for general cost of living.
Spanish cities lead as the best destinations for expats
Like Málaga, these cities did well thanks to high scores in ease of settling in and quality of life, which create welcoming cultures and affordability.
Alicante narrowly missed out on the top spot largely due to its bottom 10 ranking in the working abroad index. Expats report that the local business culture does not promote creativity, independent work or flexibility.
The ratings for personal career opportunities aren’t any better, coming in 40th.
Alicante, however, excels in the ease of settling in index and claims the top spot in the culture subcategory.
Expats say they feel at home there and are very happy with their social lives. Their lifestyle doesn’t seem to be restricted by costs either: Alicante ranks 3rd in the personal finance index.
The majority of expats (78 per cent) are happy with the general cost of living, compared to only 44 per cent globally. The city even ranks 1st globally for affordable housing.
Valencia is the best expat city for healthcare
In Valencia, which came third in the global rankings, leisure options are a major highlight and the city places first for its recreational sports opportunities.
Both the affordability and availability of healthcare rank among the best worldwide. Getting out and about isn’t a problem either: it’s easy to get around on foot or by bicycle and public transportation is affordable.
However, working abroad in Valencia didn’t score as well. Its career prospects for expats (47th place) are the worst rated among the Spanish cities included in the ranking.
If expats do manage to find employment, the lack of job security, also in 47th place, causes concerns.
However, most expats feel welcome in Valencia and consider local residents to be friendly. Eight out of ten are happy with their social life, compared to only 56 per cent globally.
Expats love Madrid for its culture
Coming in 6th, Madrid scores highly in the digital life index for its high-speed internet access and unrestricted access to online services.
However, over half of expats surveyed say it’s difficult to live in Madrid without speaking the local language, and job security and the state of the local economy leave a lot to be desired.
On the positive side, personal finances cause few problems and the city is third in the global rankings for quality of life.
Both public transportation and healthcare are seen as affordable and the city even rises to the top of the ranking for its leisure options, culture and nightlife.
Expats struggle with housing and job security in Milan
At the other end of the rankings, Milan comes in last place for expats. The Italian city scored particularly poorly for dealing with bureaucracy, opening a local bank account and securing a visa.
Over three in five expats in Milan say it’s difficult to find housing or to live there without speaking the local language.
The city doesn’t perform much better in the working abroad index, where it also ranks in the bottom five. For job security and feeling paid fairly, Milan comes in last.
While expats appreciate the leisure options, especially the opportunity to travel, they don’t feel safe and aren’t satisfied with the urban environment. A worrying 56 per cent are dissatisfied with the air quality as well, compared to 17 per cent globally.
Rome offers expats a pleasant climate but poor transport
Italy’s capital doesn’t do much better, coming in second last place. It ranked last place in the working abroad index.
Expats don’t feel paid fairly for their work and aren’t satisfied with their jobs. They are also not satisfied with their financial situation.
Although around nine out of ten expats appreciate the climate and weather in Rome the urban environment fails to meet expectations.
And, while 74 per cent express their enthusiasm for the city’s vibrant culture and nightlife, the city’s transport system ranked second last.
Expats in Hamburg are unhappiest with their social life
Hamburg comes 46th out of 49 in the Expat City Ranking 2023. And it’s the place where expats feel the second unhappiest overall.
Over 40 per cent aren’t satisfied with their social life and 35 per cent don’t have a personal support network. Close to three in five also say it’s hard to make local friends.
It’s not easy to get started in Hamburg either. The city ranks in the bottom ten for the ease of finding housing and getting by without speaking the local language.
Expats’ unhappiness is also fueled by the rainy and cold climate and the limited opportunities to travel
Survey respondents in the city are more satisfied with their work life, however. Hamburg receives its only top ten ranking for job security and 67 per cent are impressed with the local job market compared to 47 per cent globally.
What are the worst European cities for expats?
European cities sadly dominated the bottom ten of the rankings. After Milan, Rome and Hamburg came capital city’s Berlin, Dublin, London and Paris.
Berlin is among the hardest places for expats to find a fulfilling social life and residents are considered the second least friendly population in the rankings.
However, 90 per cent enjoy Berlin’s cultural scene compared to 68 per cent globally, and 85 per cent appreciate the capital’s urban environment versus 67 per cent globally.
Dublin offers expats great career prospects but this is overshadowed by high living costs and the unaffordability and unavailability of healthcare.
In London, almost three in four expats struggle with the general cost of living, compared to only 35 per cent globally. Almost half say that their disposable household income is not enough to lead a comfortable life in the UK capital.
Expats enjoy Paris’ thriving cultural scene but find it unfriendly, hard to get by without speaking the language and expensive.