5 Affordable Places to Retire in Europe

The falling euro means Europe is an increasingly realistic retirement choice.

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This is the best time in a long time to think about enjoying your retirement in Europe. The current euro-dollar exchange rate makes Europe a relative bargain for dollar-holders, including retirees with dollar-based retirement funds. If you’ve dreamt of retirement on the Continent, now could be a very good time to make your dream come true. Here’s a look at what these top Euro-retirement havens have to offer:

#1 Euro-Retirement Haven: France

Retirement Budget: $2,500 per month

France is a land of superlatives. Its capital has been named the most beautiful, most romantic, and most touristed city on earth. Its wines, cheeses, restaurants, shopping, castles, gardens, parks, beaches, museums, cafes, galleries, vineyards, country villages, medieval towns, art, and architecture are all among the best that the world has to offer. The typical concern for anyone who has ever dreamed of a new life in France is that it's too expensive for the average guy or gal to consider seriously.

Not so. Paris isn't cheap, but elsewhere in France you can find realistic options even if your retirement budget is modest. And, speaking as one who lived in Paris with two small children, I can tell you that it can be much more affordable than you might imagine, depending how and where you choose to live.

After scouting options in the Americas from Mexico to Costa Rica to Panama for a year, Lucy Culpepper and her family decided that life in the New World was not for them. Instead, they sought out the traditions, charms, and culture of life back on the Continent. When they decided to focus on Europe, they could have settled anywhere. They chose France, specifically the village of Cessenon-sur-Orb in Languedoc. The “other south of France” is a region of the country that Culpepper and her husband found to offer all the best of French country living at a very reasonable cost, even for their family of four.

As Culpepper describes it, France’s Languedoc is colorful, eclectic, and always changing, yet historic and rich in tradition. The feel in Cessenon-sur-Orb is medieval, but there’s everything you need for daily life. In addition, France in general, including in this region, offers perhaps the world’s best health care.

#2 Euro-Retirement Haven: Italy

Retirement Budget: $2,000 per month

The cost of living in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Tuscany might be beyond the limits of the typical retirement budget. However, that does not mean you should take Italy off your list if this is the country that stirs your imagination and speaks to your soul.

Specifically, consider Abruzzo, one of Italy’s loveliest corners. The beaches are golden, and the sea rolls out like a bolt of turquoise silk. Stitching together seascapes with lush mountain valleys, this region is one of Italy’s secret treasures, and a place where you could invest in a retirement home of your own for less than $75,000.

#3 Euro-Retirement Haven: Ireland

Retirement Budget: $2,500 per month

Americans have long dreamed of retirement on the Emerald Isle, and with good reason. What Mother Nature has accomplished on this little island competes with her finest work anywhere. Ireland is also safe, peaceful, relaxed, welcoming, friendly, hospitable, and English-speaking, making it an ideal retirement choice for many people.

The very good news is that Ireland is more affordable today than it has been in more than a decade, and the country’s property market has fallen off a cliff. Real estate prices are down over 50 percent and still falling. If you, like so many others, have dreamed of wiling away your retirement years on your own little piece of the Auld Sod, this could be the best time in your lifetime to think about making that purchase.

#4 Euro-Retirement Haven: Spain

Retirement Budget: $2,000 per month

Spain is known among expats for its coastlines, Atlantic and Mediterranean, and especially its infamous Costa del Sol. But there's more to this country than its costas. Barcelona, for example, is a world-class city on the ocean, which is perfect if you're looking for a cosmopolitan life near the water.

Spain has great beaches, cities, and people, and real estate prices in this country have fallen tremendously since the highs of four or five years ago. If retirement to Spain appeals, this could be the time to go in search of a great deal on Spanish retirement digs.

#5 Euro-Retirement Haven: Croatia

Retirement Budget: $2,000 per month

Croatia is a country with an extraordinarily complicated history, an extremely open-minded, forward-looking population, and, I predict, a very bright future. Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula serves up some of the most delightful scenery on the planet. The land seems to rise up to embrace you. Everywhere you look, something nice is growing, including olives, grapes, figs, tomatoes, pumpkins, blackberries, and wildflowers. Even the buildings seem to be of the earth, built of its white stone and red clay.

In some parts of the world, Nature outdoes herself. In others, that which man has built is impressive. In Istria, Nature and mankind have worked together over centuries, starting with the Romans, to create a land of delights you have to see to appreciate. Croatia has invested aggressively in its infrastructure for the past decade, which makes this country increasingly appealing as a place to plan to enjoy your retirement years.

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.