What’s the cost of living in Europe? 

What’s the cost of living in Europe? 

by Laura Jones

Updated March 7, 2023

Are you thinking of moving to Europe? Do you dream of spending a month practicing French in Paris, or a year immersing yourself in the language and lifestyle of Germany? A dream is nothing without a plan behind it, so you’ll need to understand the cost of living in Europe vs. the US before you take the plunge.

Of course, Europe is a large continent of 44 different counties, each offering unique opportunities and varying costs of living. Let’s take a look at how much it’ll cost you to live in different parts of Europe. 

Learn languages at your pace

The cost of living in Europe by country

Before we get into this, a quick note on how to understand the cost of living index. We’re using numbers from Numbeo, where New York City is the basis for comparison and has a score of 100. So, if a country scores higher than 100, it means that it is on average more expensive than New York City in terms of consumer goods prices, which include groceries, restaurants, transportation and utilities. These index numbers don’t include rent, so your mileage may vary depending on where you find accommodation.

CountryCost of Living Index
United Kingdom69.7
Czech Republic48.2

As you can see, Switzerland and Norway rank as the most expensive countries in Europe according to the cost of living index; prices in both countries are on average higher than in New York City. 

In every other country in Europe, the average cost of living is lower than in NYC. Portugal, a favorite retirement destination for many Europeans, has the lowest cost of living in Western Europe. If you’re looking for the absolute lowest cost of living in Europe, turn your attention toward the Balkan state of Kosovo.

Be aware that costs within each country may vary widely. Larger cities, for example, are generally more expensive than rural areas. 

Learn languages at your pace

How much does it cost to live in Europe for a month?

Unsurprisingly, the answer depends a lot on where you live. Let’s look at the average cost of living for one month in several European cities.

These costs assume that you are a single person living in a one-bedroom apartment in the city center, or a family of four living in a three-bedroom apartment in the city center. Remember that these costs represent an average, not a prediction. Only you know your lifestyle. 

CityCost of living for a single person (USD)Cost of living for a family of four (USD)

As you can see, costs vary widely depending on where you want to live. Living in Zurich, you’ll need a fairly high salary to lead a comfortable lifestyle. Moving south — especially to Portugal, Spain or Greece — could lower your costs substantially. 

Where can I live cheaply in Europe?

As most Americans moving to Europe choose to live in Western Europe, we’ll focus there. 

First, you can save money by renting an apartment outside of the city center. As European cities tend to have excellent public transport networks, living in the suburbs is a great way to save money and still enjoy a city’s cultural offerings. 

Second, you can choose a country with a lower cost of living (again, that’s Greece, Spain and Portugal). 

You can also save a lot by choosing to not live in the largest cities. For example:

  • Rather than Paris, you could settle in Toulouse, where the weather is better and the cost of living is more than 23% lower. 
  • Instead of Lisbon, why not head to lovely Porto, where the cost of living is 15% lower? 
  • If you’re intent on living in a German-speaking country, consider Austria. The cost of living in Vienna is around 18% lower than in Berlin and 52% lower than in Zurich
  • Over in the UK, London has always been a favorite destination, but living in booming Manchester will reduce your cost of living by a whopping 32%. That’s a lot of spare change for fish and chips.

Ready to move to Europe?

Now that you know the average cost of living in several major European countries, you should feel better prepared to choose where you might want to settle. Northern European countries — plus Switzerland! — tend to have the highest costs of living, while those in the south are generally cheaper places to live. By broadening your horizons, you might find it easier to make your goal of living in Europe come true. 

Learn languages at your pace

Laura Jones

Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.


Related articles